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5 lessons you won’t learn at most coach training schools

This blog is intended for coaches and trainee coaches looking to deepen their capability and confidence in coaching.

Lesson #1 : It's not about the methodology

What some are calling the coach industrial complex, is a mixture of untrained 'coaches' and graduates from a forest of different schools who have ‘named, claimed and framed’ specific coaching methodologies. Keen to develop, we coaches pick our way through the forest, trying to figure out which schools to choose and then what to discard and what to integrate from what we learn.

Last month’s blog explored the idea that it’s not the tools and techniques but how we learn to show up in coaching relationships that makes a difference.

So what should we be looking for if not methodology alone?

One factor to consider is whether there is a coherent philosophy behind the methodology and from what domain that is drawn. What is its theory of change? What are its assumptions? Does the methodology embrace the full biological, social and philosophical aspects of being human?

Furthermore, for developmental coaching of any kind, we also need to be on our own path of development. So finding a school which creates the conditions for that is key.

Keep reading for four other lessons you wont learn at most coach training schools....

Lesson #2 : It's not about erasing your past

In practice, many clients will choose you precisely because of your prior professional experience. The creative tension is in avoiding advising or mentoring rather than coaching.

Your client benefits when you learn to skilfully re-purpose your past and use it to feed the coaching by being:

  • an informed partner: composting your industry experience into efficient questions that reflect the language and structures of their world, not coach training school jargon

  • a creative partner: transforming your well-honed professional skills to a new coaching purpose eg lawyers surfacing powerful distinctions or counter-arguments on a coaching issue, engineers using structured thinking to help a client organise their thinking, creatives helping their clients create colourful metaphors to re-imagine possibilities

  • a generous partner: connecting your client to resources and networks that will benefit them

Lesson #3 : It's not just about the coaching conversations

Just as a restaurant experience is more than just the food, a coaching relationship is experienced in many ways.

If you say you’re ‘human-centric’ and your 4-page contract says you’re a paranoid AI lawyer-bot, guess what your client’s experience is?

Being human-centric doesn’t mean abandoning all boundaries though:- it means navigating them authentically. If you are frustrated with your client’s frequent re-scheduling/ lack of punctuality/late payment: how do you bring that topic into the coaching relationship?  How do you attend to the whole of the relationship and the context in which it occurs, whether it is a guest client, or a corporate engagement (in which you have at least two clients, company and coachee and possibly other stakeholders).

And P.S.: things going sideways, breaking down and getting stuck are grist for the developmental coaching mill - bring them to your coach community and learn from them.

Lesson #4 : We learn most from coaching in real life

Like tennis, or cooking or riding a bicycle, coaching is an embodied practice and the way we learn best is by doing and learning from what we did. The problem is that In coach training school or coaching workshops, we’re usually coaching guest clients or each other. It’s the equivalent of learning to drive at the car-drome. There is no substitute for coaching “in the wild” and learning from that.

Advanced coaching courses, especially online*, may even impede you when you are starting out! Watching masters coach other coaches can be like watching stunt drivers in the movies: risky to replicate and an uncomfortable reminder of your own current skillset. Remind yourself that coaching Joe Bloggs who was sent to coaching by HR and thinks you’re a waste of his precious time is actually more challenging than most demo coaching. Most advanced coaching courses focus on methodology and this can be a challenge for us to apply until we have gained more practical experience of the basics of navigating coaching engagements generally.

*P.S. If you are one of the people who actually manages to “watch the recording later if you miss it” (rather than collecting a DropBox full of oddly labelled MP4’s): please email me cos I would like to buy you a coffee and learn your secret Time Expansion methodology

Lesson #5 : The tribe sets the vibe

My first coach training in 2007 was in a hotel room of about 80 random people and even though there were probably folks there I could’ve continued to journey with, the setting didn’t allow for much connection. Since then I have attended numerous trainings, workshops and retreat and learned that, however great the teaching, what I learn depends a lot on the environment of learning and how much I can integrate is a function of peers I can continue to journey with.

This has been especially true in Asia where I need to localise what I’ve learnt to meet the context and culture of my own client practice.

At Bamboo Being, we believe in curating intimate workshops and events with a dozen or so lovely humans mainly from within overlapping communities. We’ve found that we learn best through doing and being in the company of simpatico fellows with whom we can safely experiment and ask questions without losing face. We’re a pretty diverse group, but congregate around values about what coaching means for us.

Coaching can be a lonely business with a lot of emotional labour: a community of practice and care in which you can ‘be, become and belong’ creates the best conditions for your coaching practice to unfurl and for you to become the most creative, effective and fulfilled coach you can be.


  1. It’s not about the methodology

  2. It’s not about erasing your past

  3. It’s not just about the coaching conversations

  4. We learn most from coaching in real life

  5. The tribe sets the vibe


  • Keep Coaching! If you are short of clients you can join the Bamboo Studio Groups: our Social Impact Group connects us to pro bono clients with real coaching needs, our Coaching Connections to individual coaching opportunities and our Peer Coaching Group to fellow coaches for coaching practice

  • Join our monthly Coaching Clinic sessions for practical tips on the brass tacks of working with real clients “in the wild”!

  • Keep a coaching reflections journal so you can reflect and learn from each coaching session you do: see our suggested reflection prompts in the Tool Shed.

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