It seems like everyone has a coach, is a coach, or knows a coach. But very few people can actually explain what coaching is, why to work with a coach, or how it really works.
One of my favorite phrases is, “You just have to experience it.” Who in their right mind is going to fork over time or money to someone promising “transformation” with zero explanation?! So, here is probably more than you ever wanted to know about coaching…
WHY work with a coach?
Work with a coach to make meaningful, accelerated, and lasting change.
Coaching is designed to support people and organizations who want to make big changes and make them quick. Think:
Oh shit, I just got promoted and now have to manage people. Starting tomorrow, a group of people will report to me and look to me for answers. I want to be a great leader and I’m not sure what that actually means.
Man, I gotta make a change in my career. I’m in a job I hate; honestly, I’m in a profession I have grown to despise and I can’t imagine spending the rest of my working life doing this day in and day out. I want to make a change, but I don’t even know where to start.
I’m ready to make the leap I’ve been talking about forever. It’s now or never, and I need to set myself up for success. I have some big ideas, some lofty goals, and I need a partner for brainstorming and accountability.
These scenarios are ripe for coaching. In each case, the potential coachee has a challenge and a change to make.
Why hire a coach?
Hire a coach to stop spinning your wheels and force yourself to take the time to reflect, to say the hard things out loud, and to create plans to move the needle forward. Hire a coach to stop thinking about what could be and to create what will be.
WHAT is coaching?
Coaching is a partnership designed to support clarification, planning, action, and reflection.
Coaching is a process that focuses on achieving the client’s desired results (usually even more). It begins with the client’s vision for success. A coach hears the client’s vision and digs deeper, finding out what’s important about it, what’s missing, what’s getting in the way, and what will be possible if the client achieves this vision.
It sounds like an arduous process, but it’s an important one. If you tell someone in your life about what you want, you’re often met with bias, advice, and doubt. A coach holds a different container, one that doesn’t judge and opens possibilities. Coaching creates a space to brainstorm and understand what’s at the heart of the desired vision. Sometimes the vision changes, sometimes it’s even more strongly desired.
With the end state clear, coaching focuses on moving you forward. A coach will work with you to set goals and benchmarks to move you toward your goal. It might look like this:
If you want to create a team that is psychologically safe, we’ll work with you to figure out what types of processes you need to put in place and how to connect with your colleagues more powerfully
If you want to make a major career shift, we’ll work with you to figure out what skills you need to acquire, what type of network you need to build, and how to develop the brand assets that will stand out to future employers
If you want to create a thriving coaching practice, we’ll help you figure out who your ideal clients are, how and where to connect with them authentically, and what practices you need to get in place to build a sustainable business
With your vision clear, your plan in place, it’s time to act. Working with your coach, you design actions to move forward with intention and focus. Some call it homework; I prefer fieldwork. You aren’t in school and there is no such thing as a bad grade in coaching. Rather, fieldwork is an opportunity to take what you’re learning during coaching sessions and put it into action.
Having a coach creates a new level of accountability. It’s not that a coach will call you to check up on you, rather, it’s that the relationship and commitment to the vision is so strong that you will do what you said you’d do. A coach will ask, “Wait, when will you actually do this?” You’ll look at your calendar, put a date down, and get ‘er done.
Once you take action, your coach will push you to reflect on what you did and the results of it. What was it like to take action in this new way? What did you learn? How can you use what you learned going forward?
Coaching is an opportunity to reflect on how your actions are or are not serving you. What do you need to change? How will you do it?
As you work with your coach and go through this process, you learn how to apply this methodology to other challenges. Coaching offers a new way of thinking and doing, and that lasts way beyond the coaching engagement.
WHEN is the right time to work with a coach?
Work with a coach when you have the time and mental space to commit to deep work and courageous change.
Coaching is a commitment, and it’s not something you should take lightly.
In terms of time, each coaching engagement is slightly different, but a good rule of thumb is four to five hours per week. There is usually a coaching session every other week (about 45-60 mins), and fieldwork in between those sessions. You will want to allocate space for thinking, writing, and acting.
In terms of effort, part of this work is your own mindset and grit. A coach can support you in finding new perspectives, but you have to be open and willing to push yourself, hear hard feedback, and be prepared to get knocked down and stand back up again.
We created a decision tree to help you see if now is the right time for you.
WHERE does coaching take place?
Coaching can take place almost anywhere.
The beauty of coaching is that you can do it anywhere you can get a phone signal.
A Yale study confirms that our sense of hearing may be even stronger than our sense of sight when it comes to detecting emotion. “We are more accurate when we hear someone’s voice than when we look only at their facial expressions, or see their face and hear their voice. In other words, you may be able to sense someone’s emotional state even better on the phone than in person.”
Coaching by phone allows you to find a coach anywhere in the world. At Launch Project, we’ve worked with clients from countries as diverse as South Korea, France, and the UK.
And many coaches (myself included) will also work by Zoom/Skype/Google Hangouts or in person.
The one place you can’t be for coaching: a moving vehicle. You’ll also want privacy and quiet to make the most of your coaching session (yes, a non-moving vehicle is fine!).
WHO should I work with?
Look for a coach who has experience in the type of change you want to make and with whom you have chemistry.
Choosing a coach is personal, and there must be chemistry. Coaching is deep work, and you can only do that work in a meaningful way when you feel connected and able to trust the person on the other end.
Every coach I know offers an opportunity to speak before you make your choice. It’s not so much about experiencing coaching as it is about checking for fit. If you feel awkward or even that something small is off, go with your gut.
Many coaches speak and write, so you can get a sense of their style and philosophy through their online presence before even speaking with them. Many have professional bios so you can get a sense of their experience.
I’m a strong believer that a coach does not need to have a similar background as their client. In fact, I often find it more challenging to coach people who do have a similar background because it’s hard to manage the urge to just tell the client what to do. That said, it is important that if you’re looking to make a specific type of change (e.g. career change, leadership growth) that the coach has experience in helping others make that type of change.
My hope in writing this is to end some of the mystery around coaching and help it seem less esoteric. At the same time, I’m aware that I’m in the thick of it. So let me know what I’ve missed. As a profession, we owe it to our clients and to ourselves to make coaching simple and easy to grasp.