I want to start by sharing some truths about the coaching profession. First, there is literally no barrier to entry. Pretty much anyone can decide to call themselves a coach, hang a shingle, and start doing
irreparable damage to the reputation of my profession business. Second, on the heels of that first fact, there is huge variety of training programs available to someone that wants to operate as a coach.
I am deeply passionate about and committed to my work - so much so that I spend a significant amount of my time and energy to training new coaches. Not just new coaches, but the very finest new coaches. I am committed to this work making a difference, and to elevating the standards of our industry.
Because of the first two facts about coaching, there are a lot of coaches in the world that are simply not creating the breakthroughs in their clients that our work is really capable of.
You have a set of rules, and you are actively trying to impose them on everybody around you.
You're human, and by now, you've probably established a large number of rules that make up the way you operate in life. Those rules range from what is an acceptable way to behave at a dinner party, to what is okay and not okay at your job, to which laws and rules it is okay to break. (Do you speed? Do you steal? Do you take sick days when you're not sick?).
Sometimes we meet people that have created the same rule set as us, or at least have a significant overlap. We like those people. They agree with us when we have a judgment about someone not wearing a bike helmet. When someone jumps in line, they are reliable to say something out loud, even if we weren't willing to (because we've got our own rule that it isn't acceptable to speak out loud when you're waiting in line with strangers).
Most coach training programs provide a set of tools to their coaches, and then have them practice those tools with each other. I know this because I've trained in one of those programs, and have talked extensively with other coaches who have. The problem is that tools sit on top of the surface. They lie on top of the substrate that our rules create.
Coaching tools sits on top of the substrate formed by our rules
That substrate is all fine and good, and sometimes we're just in a place where we can't figure out how to navigate the path the rules have created in order to get out on the other side. Metaphorically, in those moments, we need a lawyer. We need someone that really understands the rules, how they interact, and can operate within them. We need a coach that has read the rulebook, and can help us create clarity around the path forward.
This is what most coaches are doing. They are helping you navigate through the complex substrate of rules that you have created.
The problem is that because most training programs are focused on providing you "tools" and having you practice those tools, these coaches gain very little experience or awareness of their own substrate. They believe they can see it operating in their own clients, but have a very large blindspot shaped like their own set of rules.
Anytime there is an overlap (or a clash) between their rule system and that of their clients, the ability of the coach is diminished, because they are prone to getting on court with the client ("Wow, yah, your boss really IS a jerk. That is totally unacceptable!", or, thinking to themselves, "Well, obviously the problem is just that this person needs to take more action. Let's get them taking action").
[Tweet "As long as you're solving problems within the same old rules, no transformation can happen"]
Most new coaches are eager to help their clients, and are in a hurry to shift them out of their stuff. It's uncomfortable to have a client in breakdown, especially when we're making it about us. The problem is that, by attempting to fix the problem that the client is experiencing, they're really just moving stuff around under the same set of rules.
The real work of the coach is to identify what their own rules look like first.
What is it about people boasting that I, Adam, simply can not be with? Why is it when someone around me starts to brag, I just want to send a piece of barbed wit their way to shut them up and put them in my place?
Until I'm clear on this, every time a client shows up in a way that looks like boasting, I'm going to try to craft a solution with them that has them operate within the context of my rule about boasting. I am going to either try to impose my rule set upon them, or, create a solution that operates within their own rule set.
Coaching becomes powerful when the goal stops being about figuring out how to achieve success within the current confines of your rules, and when it becomes about creating a new game in which there is no longer the same barrier to your success.
If you're playing Sorry!, you're never going to collect $200 when you pass go. If you want to start making money, you need to throw out the old box and start playing something different.
Take on auditing all of your rules. Sit down and right out everything you hold about how people should act, what is acceptable, and what is unacceptable. Now, identify everything that you currently want in your life. Lastly, identify how the various rules in the first list prevent you from attaining what you want in the second list.
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