If this is a slightly self-indulgent post, I will ask your forgiveness. I’ve been thinking a lot about my role as a coach and what that means to me.
Absolutely, without question, the best part of my job is working with the wide array of wonderful clients that I get to see and talk to every day. Knowing that I can help make a difference in the lives of these incredible people is an honour and a privilege. My clients are an inspiration to me and their energy, commitment and insights into the coaching process are utterly essential to achieving the results we see.
There is another, more personal, reason that I love working with my clients. This is something I’ve been discussing with many of them recently, and I thought it was worth talking about.
With the crazy world we’re currently living in, we are all facing new challenges and these are different from any of the challenges we have prepared ourselves for. What’s noticeable is that I find myself facing those exact same challenges alongside my clients. In these extreme times, there can be a real feeling of solidarity in knowing that the person you’re talking to and working with is wrestling with the same questions you are.
Many years ago, when I first became a coach, I would have recoiled from the idea of telling my clients that I was having the same struggles that they were. I would have told myself that it was unprofessional to do so, but a more honest me can accept that it would actually have been that it would have felt too vulnerable. I’ve come to realise that the aim of a coach isn’t to be a Zen Master sitting atop a mountain holding all the answers but doling them out in cryptic one-liners. Though I have to say, if that job’s going I think I might apply! It’s worth it for the job title alone.
Working as a coach is about leadership, but it has to be leadership by example. I like to think of it as a journey. If a coach only shows their clients a ‘finished product’ with all the answers, it’s like showing someone a picture of their destination and assuming that they now know the way. Sure it can be nice to know what your destination might look like, but I’d rather have someone walking next to me suggesting that we might take a right turn up ahead. I want to walk with my clients on their journey, which means I need to be travelling as well.
It’s also worth remembering that my destination and yours will differ. If I stretch the journey analogy a little further, working with a wide variety of different clients means that I get to see all kinds of different destinations. And with each one, I lean a little more of the map and become a better guide.
Seeing myself in this guide role makes it much easier to face the things I need to deal with. Firstly, I don’t think it will surprise anyone to say that it is always easier to have clarity when looking at someone else’s struggles than it is with your own. Watching from the outside gives you the distance to see patterns and (yes, we’re back to the journey analogy) avoid dead ends or endless loops. This is particularly obvious when I notice many clients falling into the same patterns. It encourages me to look at my own approach to that same issue and can give me some much-needed clarity.
It’s also a question of integrity. Being able to show a client my vulnerabilities shows, unequivocally, that I live by my principles of honesty and openness. It allows my clients to know that they’re not alone and that the issues they’re facing are both real and totally understandable.
The rewards I receive for working with my clients are enormous. They give me hope, inspiration and motivation. Most of all, they make me always strive to learn more and to develop, because I honestly believe that they deserve the very best I can possibly offer.
Every day, I work to deserve these blessings.