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6 ways to spot real coaching

 

A Cinderella story-style stagecoach powered by DALL E3


 

If you were a coach twenty years ago, people asked “which sport?”


Now the world and her wife are ‘coaches’. Not to mention AI coaching. In our growing gig economy, advisors and consultants are ‘coaches’ and in the digital realm, ‘coaching’ is a go-to-market strategy for the cottage industry of our times: Content Creation.


So, if you’re a certified coach struggling to distinguish what you do, or someone wondering whether coaching IRL might support you, here are 6 ways to distinguish real coaching from other 'coaching' out there :


1. Real coaching is about our world not the coach’s


‘Content creators’ have to create and own niches to get attention. Whether rigorous research from Ivy professors or the lived experience of TikTok life hackers, the issue is not quality of content but applicability.


Creators entice us to “scroll up, scroll up”, click for the magic beans of information and climb a monetization beanstalk. In our brave new digital world, it’s easier to sell a silver bullet than a struggle and once you've made a content hammer, even a really useful one, everything must become a nail.


But there is no single playbook for Life and IRL, where all the stress, stuckness, and suffering happens, context, not content, is King. Real coaches are trained to help us explore and embrace our world, not theirs.


2. Real coaching gives us a ‘damn good listening to’*


We humans are complex creatures. As gregarious primates who are oriented towards meaning and make sense through language and story we have biological drives and states that wax and wane. We want to both stand out and fit in with others. Our heads are full of stories inherited from culture, upbringing, and prior experience. As author David Brook's writes “We are players in a game we don’t understand. Most of our own thinking is below awareness.”


Coaching isn't about getting the ‘right’ perspective on a problem but about getting a different perspective on ourselves. The hidden ‘blind spots’ and tensions we carry are often only revealed with someone we are comfortable with, paying close attention on our behalf.

Real coaches are trained to listen not only to what we say, but how we say it and what we are not saying.


3. Real coaching gets to the heart of what matters to us


What we find out about ourselves may surprise us. Wealthy shipping magnate and second husband of Jackie Kennedy, Aristotle Onassis, famously said that “if women didn’t exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning”.


What is meaningful for each of us is individual. It's like an evolving tapestry woven from strands discovered within, given by others and found along the way.


Whilst learning feels good because it makes us feel more competent, development is often painful and messy because it always involves unlearning part of who we are. Think caterpillar to butterfly: transformation breaks down the present way of being in service of the future way of being. In that vulnerable process, a protective cocoon is essential.

Real coaches are trained to hold space for us to find what is meaningful to us not them.


4. Real coaching helps us get into action


With information so widely and freely available, how do we choose the best practices for ourselves? Arguably, the best practice is the one we actually do.


In “Make Time”, authors Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky write about the importance of experiments and James Clear is an advocate of tiny changes in his bestseller, “Atomic Habits”.

Real coaches are trained to help us plan, act, reflect and iterate on what works well for us  and our lives.


5. Real coaching creates runways as well as results


Being supported in a safe space to reflect, discover, plan and experiment creates the biggest opportunity of all: discovering more about our own creative process. In real coaching relationships we don't just learn and develop, we learn how we learn and develop which allows us to keep learning and developing way after the coaching has ended.


Real coaches are trained to help us flourish after the coaching has ended, not keep us coming back for more.


6. Real coaching helps us dance to the beat of our own drums


We live in rhythms and cycles. We go around and around in virtuous spirals or vicious ones. Learning to notice where we are in a spiral and how to either get out of it or continue along it is the path to a more effective, creative and fulfilled life, no matter our goals.


What's more, a supportive relationship with another role models how to better relate to ourselves. We learn to make more space in our lives to question ourselves more skilfully, listen to ourselves more deeply and act more purposefully.

Real coaches ensure that whether we “go big or go home”.... we’re dancing all the way.


WRAP UP:


1. Real coaching is about our world not the coach’s

2. Real coaching gives us a ‘damn good listening to’*

3. Real coaching gets to the heart of what matters to us

4. Real coaching helps us get into action

5. Real coaching creates runways as well as results

6. Real coaching helps us dance to the beat of our own drum



If you would like to work with a real coach or become one, please be in touch with us at team@bamboobeing.com


*crediting this phrase to my colleague in coaching supervision, the lovely Peter Hutchinson, who is a master at it

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