Coaching, The Way I See It
Written by Mariateresa Romeo
Coaching is an international word used in business, sports, entertainment, education, and other contexts, with myriad meanings and nuances. Generally speaking, coaching is a form of development in which an experienced person, called a coach, supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal. However, the ideas people have in mind when approaching a coaching relationship or the criteria people use to call themselves coaches are numerous and sometimes ambiguous.
Although I have been in the coaching industry for several years already, it amazes me how even professional coaches who underwent certification training and credentialing programs recognized internationally have different opinions about their roles and ways of operating with clients.
I established my coaching practice on some cornerstones that help me effectively lead and support clients and clarify to them what to expect from my services. Other amazing and successful coaches might approach things differently and not fully agree with me.
How I work with my coaching clients
Only clients, no patients: Professional coaching is not therapy conducted by a licensed medical health care provider and does not substitute for psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, or mental health care. We don’t work to solve trauma, addictions, or mental disorders. Most importantly, we base our work on the assumption that the client can be responsible for their choices, make decisions autonomously, project themselves in future situations, and evaluate the risks and consequences of their actions.
No gap, no coach: My role is to help people move from a present situation they cannot carry over or find not in line with their needs and values to a desired future state, working on the gap between them. Coaching is about setting and achieving goals. It helps people clarify who they are, what they want from their lives and careers, and how to get there. It may sound paradoxical, but “defining your goals” can be the scope of a coaching program if you are willing to build your vision and explore your purpose. However, people not ready to embrace changes in their personal or professional lives or uncomfortable with an objective-driven approach might not appreciate this way of working.
I prefer short journeys over long-term engagements: I recently ran into a fellow coach who told me they worked with a client for seventeen years, which sounded unusual. Honestly, I struggle to see value in long coaching relationships. Coaching is, by nature, a short-term process because working towards goals requires you to define what you want to achieve and by when; therefore, both the coach and the client work together, having a clear idea of when their relationship will end.
A professional coach must be able to offer an outside and independent perspective on clients’ challenges, avoiding that their own biases and beliefs affect the coaching relationships. The more you know and see someone, the more you can be influenced by your judgments and interests. Most importantly, one of the pillars of effective coaching is helping people be responsible for their lives. Long-term coaching relationships increase the client’s risk of addiction to the coaching setting, reducing their self-efficacy.
No soft fluffy conversations: One of the most common false beliefs is that coaching is all about having someone to talk to. Undoubtedly, one of the critical components of the coaching process is to provide the client with a safe space where they can feel listened to and not judged. However, nothing is left to chance in an effective coaching conversation. Each session with the client follows a specific structure from the beginning through the end.
A coaching conversation aims to help clients become more aware of their limits, needs, and beliefs, explore new possibilities, and embrace new behaviors. To make this happen, we use communication tools and techniques that promote neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change, reorganize, or grow neural networks. In a nutshell, we stimulate the client to become aware of their thinking so that their brain can change their neural pathways, creating new ways of seeing and interacting with the world. It is not psycological or emotional manipulation, as someone might imply. As I usually say to my clients, it is like you are going to buy a new pair of sunglasses, and I am the shop assistant who offers you a variety of models to try, with different lens types, colors, and shapes, until you find the sunglasses that fits you well.
Effective coaching is not cheap: Based on what I have said so far, coaching is a process that cannot be improvised, and to be effective, it must be managed with the proper competencies, knowledge, and expertise. At the same time, clients can quickly evaluate the return on investment of coaching. When you work by objectives, you establish what you want to achieve and how you will measure it. At the beginning of our journey, I always ask my clients: What will make you say this coaching program has been successful? It helps us both be committed and aligned towards the goal and gives them a way of measuring if they are going in the right direction, making progress, and getting what they are paying for.
Italians call it “dolce far niente”. It means “the sweetness of doing nothing.” It consists of enjoying the place and the company you are with at that moment, without plans, schedules, and most importantly, without the urge to do something and be busy.
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