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So You Say You Are a Coach!

So You Say You Are a Coach!

By Mary Verstraete

There is a familiar phrase you may have heard, "I'm a coach." It seems that helping people attracts the label, coach. I often hear:  

"Everyone is a coach nowadays." 

Many people are under the impression that coaching is an easy profession to master. There are numerous people who are called coaches because their employer added the title to their job description and didn't provide training.

Yet here you are, you've invested thousands of dollars in coach training, worked hard for your certification, and now diligently take classes to add mastery to the art of coaching. 

How do we respond to those who have limited or no formal coach training? How do we create conversation that bridges the gap between the art of masterful coaching and the idea that coaching consists simply of basic listening skills and action steps?



Check your mindset before moving headlong into conversation. The focus shouldn't be pointing out their limited training and skill set. Our job is to create an environment for people to hear and understand the larger picture of coaching and then allow them to draw their own conclusions. 



Acknowledge the importance of the person's role. More than likely, the person has an affinity for supporting and helping people. Don't minimize that experience, but rather affirm it and extend respect. When we are sincere in our acknowledgement, a person becomes open to hear what we have to say. 

Example: “Coaching is about helping and supporting people and you’ve incorporated these beneficial traits into coaching on your job. That’s commendable, Troy." 



Ask permission to add understanding. This communicates respect and extends an invitation into a conversation. 

Example: "May I add additional dimension to coaching that we can dialogue about?"



State facts. Introducing facts into the conversation when appropriate adds credibility to the importance of skilled coaching.

Example: "I'm encouraged by the proven results of coaching in the workplace. A recent study of Fortune 100 executives by the Manchester Consulting Group in Economic Times reported that those who started employing professional coaching skills for people management had an improved bottom line—an ROI of almost six times the program cost.” 



Be inclusive. Taking a “you need to get more training” posture shuts the door to interactive and open conversation; acknowledging their role opens the door to understanding.

Example: "It's rewarding that we are in a field with these kinds of results." 



Present a big-picture perspective. Discussing coaching from this perspective creates a framework for conversation.

Example: "Here's what I have discovered. Within the framework of helping and supporting people, coaching is a profession that includes the need to understand the nature, structure, and process of a conversation. It requires a core mindset on how to best develop people and skillful application of specific coaching competencies to achieve optimal results. Even understanding Neuroscience 101 and how a person experiences words is important in knowing how to best communicate in a conversation. I've been coaching for ten years and I've realized that the longer I'm in the profession, the more there is to learn about coaching masterfully."



Bring detailed clarity. Explain coaching topics concisely as they emerge in the conversation. 

Example: "We often think of questions as basic in any conversation. But in coaching, well-crafted powerful questions are especially important. They grab the person's attention and create a focused state of mind because of the mental images they create, highly motivating the person to explore the answers. These kinds of questions reach deep inside a person to generate insight and the ability to see his or her situation with more reality and less bias. This can result in a person discovering answers within himself or herself, generating a greater degree of ownership of the solution.”



Invite conversation along the way. This keeps the dialogue conversational and sets up the tone of collaborative conversation to explore the information together.

Example: "I would enjoy hearing your feedback." 



Be authentic. Tell the story of your own development. 

Example: "For several years, I thought my coaching skill set was adequate. On my path to certification, I had to complete several additional classes, and it was only then I realized what I didn't know. I've come to see that coaching is a profession like any other—it takes time and knowledge to become skillful. My goal now is to continually hone my skills and learn all I can about coaching."



After more than ten years as a professional coach, I've found that many people are not aware of the characteristics of masterful coaching. If we can bring conversation and insight to the subject, this gives an opportunity to bring awareness for the need of continued development and sharpening of coaching skills.

Particular concepts extracted from Kouzes, James M.; Posner, Barry Z. (2012-06-19). The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations (J-B Leadership Challenge: Kouzes/Posner) (pp. 203-204). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Mary is a business and leadership consultant who works with organizations to establish a culture of synergistic teams, systems and processes for greater employee engagement, employee loyalty, and communication effectiveness. She trains leaders to maximize leadership competencies, develop greater agility, achieve and sustain leadership influence.

Mary is President and Cofounder of the Center for Coaching Excellence, a distinctive training organization that focuses on developing highly competent coaches through a mentor-training approach and a training model of coaching that easily transitions into professional and personal conversations. Mary continues to expanded coaching into diverse industries by developing customized coach training used in companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, and MJ Senior Housing