Image by williamnyk via FlickrBy Nick James Smith
What To Expect
Firstly, a coach should help you to achieve what you want to achieve. In the Harvard Business Review's article about executive coaches, Ram Charan says they will help you 'in understanding how to act'. This is true for a personal coach at any level, in whatever field they are operating, because it is through understanding how to act that you see the clear path to your goal and you can get on with achieving it.
How they go about that will be different depending on you, the coach and what you are aiming at. It might be in clarification of goal setting, helping you break things down into bite size chunks to let you see more and quicker results to keep you motivated.
Alternatively it might be in bringing you to your realistic senses to make your goals more manageable for the circumstances you find yourself in. It could even result in you evaluating who you are and what resources you need before you even set out on the path.
What tools they use for that will also vary. Expect any coach though to ask deep, probing questions that get to the heart of the matter quickly; they will challenge you and make you think, process and make decisions about what you want. Other aspects of the methods they use to get results should be clearly explained if you ask for it. If not, wonder why not.
Next a coach may help you by assisting you to alter your view of the world or your view of yourself to something that is more resourceful and allows you to act in a better way. Sometimes our predictions about our own poor performance, negative thoughts about ourselves or other people's interventions in our life or a slightly squint take on things will prevent us getting the results we desire.
I have a friend who regularly sets herself up for poor performance so that she never has to deal with the failure of disappointment. A coach can change that. Again, a variety of tools exist, with NLP-related techniques being key in this area of altering your brain's processing patterns (if the initials bamboozled you, ask your coach to explain it to you).
I agree with Michael Maccoby (again quoted in the HBR article) who says that a coach should leave you 'more competent and self-reliant'.
Sometimes, all you need from a coach is a certain amount of accountability. You know what you need to do but you put off doing it because it isn't essential, you don't have enough self-discipline for something that's a bit tough or there's actually no-one expecting results because it's purely an improvement in your own personal life.
Having a coach challenging you and checking if you have completed the goals you set yourself is often all the extra push that you need to actually achieve.
Finally, a coach will listen to you. It's another of the key skills of a good coach, like questioning. Sometimes, this is the only skill you need of them because you find that speaking words out loud makes you process internally in some way.
To say it you need to own it so a decision has already been made in your head. At other times, as you bring the words out, you realise in some way the absurdity of them and change your thinking because of that.
See the Possibilities
All of this though barely hints at what you can be like after working with a coach. The positive changes in you and your power properly harnessed and put to work can do great things that generally have to be experienced at a personal level to be understood. If you are still in doubt about what is possible, listen to some people who have experienced it for themselves.
Most coaches will have a section on their websites for testimonials or what others say. Read them, and even with a pinch of salt thrown in to counter the self-promotional nature of the page, you will see some of the results that are possible.
What Not To Expect
There are some things that you might expect from a coach that I would hope they will not do for you. In some cases it would be ill-advised to expect them to and in others it would verge on the fraudulent for a coach to offer.
Coaching focuses on the future, not the past. Whilst there are some coaching techniques, particularly within NLP, that may get you beyond obstacles from the past, if you need to actively deal with something then you need a therapist. Now, it's fair to say that some coaches will also be qualified as therapists of some sort, so they might be able and well-qualified to do both.
If you think you need the services of a therapist then be careful who you hire. Conversely, if your coach meanders off down a therapy kind of line, get them to explain themselves and if you're uncomfortable, stop them.
2. Getting What You Don't Want
This leads on to the second thing they shouldn't do which is anything you don't want them to do. Coaching is about helping you get to where you want to be. If you don't want to go where they are taking you, say so.
If they explain it as a means to an end (they will hopefully understand their own processes and know how they will assist you in getting to your destination) then it might be viable, but as the service purchaser, you need to be happy with what you are getting.
If a coach gives their opinion I would expect it to be prefaced with, 'Would it be okay if I gave you some feedback', or similar words. Coaching tends to be non-directive in its very nature. You might choose to hire a coach who has been through similar experiences to you but still don't expect them to advise you. For that you should try a consultant, trainer or mentor.
A coach is aiming to help you to get the most out of the resources you already have and if they offer you new ones then it should be clear that this is a different process to the coaching conversation. Their role is not primarily to give you advice.
4. Someone To Do It For You
A coach will help you put in the work to get the results you want. They will provide help and assistance along the way but essentially they are a facilitator, not a doer. If you want someone to do things for you, it ceases to be about personal growth and achievement and just about getting stuff done instead. This is fine; just hire someone other than a coach.
A coach will listen, challenge you and help you to be accountable. They will help you achieve your goals better, and possibly improve how you deal with the world. What's not to like?
Nick Smith is an Outdoor Life Coach and Trainer. Within his company, Square Pegs Coaching, he uses outdoor experiences to help people develop themselves. To understand better what this means in practice and to take greater advantage of his expertise, go to http://www.squarepegscoaching.com or read his blog at http://www.nickjs.co.uk
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