I would like to start answering this question the same way Michael Neill – one of the world most renown coaches – answered it. His lessons inspired me to write this article in the first place and some parts of what I say here are his direct quotes. They perfectly describe what needs to be said and are completely aligned with the way I see this topic so I´ve decided to keep them unchanged.
First, let us look at what coaching is not by pointing out a distinction between coaching and consulting. In consulting we bring on the table our own expertise to help solve clients problems.
Coaching, on the other hand, is about bringing out the best in a person and making the best better.
It is about helping the client to get more out of themselves than they can get out of themselves. Helping a client get more out of life. Specifically, executive coaching and business coaching is about helping people do what is it that they do, better.
Coach in this scenario needs to be an expert in why people do what they do, not an expert on what they do.
To understand this better, Michael uses an analogy with a sport. Best football coaches were almost never the best football players. Same goes for any other sports.
The coach needs to be an expert in human performance and human creativity. He or she should have a profound understanding of how human beings create their perceived reality and also be able to access “flow state” when working, so he can easily transfer the understanding of those states onto the client. Achieving this is an essential part of high performance, which so many business people seek.
An excellent coach should be able to help people close the gap between who they think they are and who they think they need to be to do what they want to do or who they think they need to be to get their life or business to the next level.
When it comes to coaching, I often use an analogy of mobile phones. At first, and not a long ago, we had huge and heavy phones with attached antennas. Those devices were able to store a very low amount of data and their only ability except sending text messages was to call people or play snake. Look what we have now, just two decades later.
Coaching is undergoing the same transformation as mobile phones are, bettering itself as more excellent coaches dive deep into this field. When most people think of coaching, they think of assisted goal setting (so-called SMART goals) and creating an effective strategy to achieve those goals. As this is and probably always will be an important part of coaching, it is a very old fashioned way to look at it. If you still think of coaching this way and it is not your main area of interest, it is fine and understandable. However, if it is your main area of interest, you should definitely expand your horizons. You don’t know what you are missing.
To differentiate from the old fashioned style I mentioned above, coaches nowadays – including myself – use various other names as Transformative coaching, Exponential coaching, etc. It is to ilustrate how far coaching can go. Most great coaches are extremely familiar with words like “Oh my god, I had no idea this can be changed” and hear those words in one way or another from nearly every new client they work with. Coaching I am interested in could be defined as transformative and exponential.
What is transformative coaching?
Michael Neill differentiates coaching to three levels.
Level one coaching is about getting best out of yourself in the moment, for a big conversation, meeting, before a performance or a match.
At level two coaches explore how do you get the best out of yourself in the whole area. How do you get the best out of yourself in the relationships, in business, as a public speaker, etc. Such a coach is looking to help you with a particular category of your life or a whole life itself.
Level three coaching can be referred to as transformative coaching. It always includes a meaningful conversation about the nature of human experience, so we can even begin to utilize all the benefits transformative coaching has to offer. On this level we are no longer looking to get the best out of ourself in a particular moment or even get more out of ourself in a particular life area. Here we are taking a deeper look at who we are and how we work, what life is and how life works. Its almost as though a whole new way of being in the world is what emerges.
So it’s not you as you know yourself but a little bit better. It’s you unleashed.
Transformative coaching unleashes you from all the ideas you’ve got about your self, about life, about the past, about what’s possible and not possible for you so you can experience yourself moving in the world with that level of freedom and joy and aliveness.
There are three things that happen in a transformative coaching session. The first is, you come alive. In one of his books, Michael shares a great analogy to illustrate this.
Imagine you are the coach and a Bill Gates comes to you for coaching, but he has amnesia. He cant remember that he is Bill Gates. He is just this kind of slightly geeky older guy who wants to learn about how to run a business because you are really good business coach.
The question is, if you had Bill Gates in front of you, with amnesia, would you spend your time trying to share your top business strategies or would you wanna spend the time waking him up to who he really is? Waking him back up to what’s already inside him.
Well, that’s what transformative coaching is all about. Waking up to our aliveness, waking up to who and what we really are on a deeper level. It doesn’t matter if you already know who you are or if you have no idea who you are, because it’s non-conceptual. Here we are not looking for you to come up with an answer. We are looking for you to have an experience of that inner aliveness, of an inner spark, by allowing you to see what’s before all the ideas that we all have about who we are and how life works.
Second to that is to learn to navigate life beyond your psychology. It’s not about fixing your psychology which is a huge trend in today’s world. No matter how broken you think you are or how together you think you are, as you learn to navigate beyond your psychology in a way almost from that place in you that was always there before you even developed the psychology, you’re gonna find out life so much easier to navigate.
Nevertheless resolving inner conflicts and any emotional baggage you may carry from the past, so you can fully focus on what you want, is also a result of working with a transformative coach.
The third thing which comes out of transformative coaching is, you get to create cool stuff in the world. Literally. For that, you need to be able to navigate relatively free of your psychology.
Exponential coaching is about continually breaking through what you now perceive your limits to be. Over and over again. Becoming who you now only dream of becoming and designing a new version of yourself again and again. Reaching it over and over. Exponential coaching is an absolute game-changer.
As a result of coaching you are able to perform on a higher level, be more productive, make better decisions, experiencing less stress and pressure and handling the pressure and stress you feel better. You simply do what you do, better.
Coaches and clients job in a coaching conversation.
In a coaching conversation, both coach and a client have a job to do. The goal of coaching should always be an impact.
To achieve this goal, clients job is to intend to be impacted.
To make themselves as open as they can to seeing something new and allowing themselves to be impacted by what they see.
The second job is to stay in the conversation. Stay in the coaching conversation even when all of their prior problems have vanished. Reason for that is that no matter how much you see, there is always more to see. And more you see, more impact it has.
The third job is to stay in the game. Game is whatever game you are playing. Because the impact of coaching shows in the work. In the way you do the work.
Coaches job is to facilitate insights in clients.
Help them see what they do not see. Make the invisible visible. Help them not just become aware of their patterns, but become aware of what’s behind them. Help them become aware of the incredible freedom that they have behind what they currently do.
Second thing is to help them see a possible future. In a way, inventing a possible future with a client. Methaforicaly speaking, the coach uses a mirror and a flashlight for that. We either show them the mirror so they not just see what they are doing but also see what’s behind it. And sometimes we use a flashlight to look around in the dark to see what’s hidden and see what’s ahead, to see what they might not yet seen is possible.
There is a lot hidden under the word coaching. Never assume what a coach can do for you, always ask whether he or she can help you with what you need or want.
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