Coaching for Success: Finding a Thought Partner to Help You Unlock Your Potential

by Amy Daws

It seems like each time my peers ask about my job, it makes a little more sense to them than the last time. They finally asked me to write an article explaining what I do! There are so many different kinds of coaches, the title can be confusing, so I’ll start by describing what coaching is and isn’t – to me. There are other types of coaches, and they are free to use the term as they wish. I’ll describe my own definition below. Then I’ll give you tips on finding the right coach for you.

What coaching is not:

It’s not therapy. Therapy for past trauma, childhood issues, and severe anxiety (to name but a few topics) are necessary. The coaching I do does not claim to take the place of psychological therapy or counseling.

It’s not mentoring. Mentoring is a process of training, advising, and passing down wisdom to a younger or less-experienced colleague. I do this for aspiring coaches in Heidrick & Struggles’ Leadership Coaching for Organizational Performance (LCOP) program, a post-grad certificate offered at Rutgers and American U. Although I use some coaching skills in that role, my function there is more that of a mentor than a coach.

It’s not a consultancy. A consultant is an adviser with expertise in their field, which they will use to help you problem-solve or strategize.

What coaching is:

Coaching is neutral. My background is in Communications, Business, HR, and Leadership, but in a coaching session, my knowledge is on the back burner. The reason is that research shows advice rarely works. People are more likely to change if they make their own discoveries. I’m trained and practiced at actively listening without getting attached to a certain outcome or action I’d like you to take. If you’ve ever been annoyed by unasked-for advice (and who hasn’t?), you’ll understand how powerful my active listening (without trying to control the outcome) really is.

Coaching is powerful! A good coach is specifically trained in how to ask questions in a way that opens your eyes to answers you just wouldn’t discover on your own. And thinking out loud with someone who knows what to ask and how to ask it is totally, shockingly different from sharing your thoughts with a friend or loved one. I often get client comments about the “magic” that seems to happen when our conversation leads to crystal clarity about exactly what to do next.

Coaching is a codiscovery process. What interests me is what you may discover about yourself. If this sounds too airy-fairy to you, hang on: usually, the barrier between you and the success you want is something you could change if you only could identify and face up to it. It’s like the proverbial monster under the bed. It’s a lot less scary when someone comes in and shines a light under there. By the same token, during our sessions, I help you gain insights about yourself that help you pull down the barriers that stand in your way.

What to look for if you’d like a coach as described above:

ICF qualification. Whether you’re looking for an executive coach or a life coach, make sure they are accredited and qualified through the International Coach Federation (ICF). Look for ICF ACC or PCC on their website or card.

Accessibility. Make sure your coach is local enough to easily meet with you face to face or has experience with virtual sessions. Research shows that telephone (audio-only) coaching is as good as or better than video-conferencing. But the coach should have the training and/or experience in virtual coaching to be effective. And of course, face-to-face is still golden.

A good rapport. You need to feel comfortable with your coach. If you feel intimidated or self-conscious with your coach, this will hinder your journey to peak performance. If your would-be coach doesn’t put you at your ease, you may simply not be a good match for each other. Any good coach will be plugged into the coaching community and more than happy to recommend others you could try.

A trial session. Some coaches offer a no-obligation 20-minute laser-coaching session for you to experience what coaching is like. You simply need to be prepared with a decision or challenge you’re facing that you’d like to take action on. The coach will take it from there. I offer this because I want to spread the word about what ICF executive coaching is like. Call me with questions, or text me to book your complimentary 20-minute laser-coaching call!

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