Part # 4: Coach the Client, Not the Problem.
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Building off of the 2nd part of this series – Holding the Client’s Agenda –
we take another step toward going a level below the client’s agenda to help create learning and insights more powerful than actually solving the original problem.
When we work on this level, we solve not only the immediate problem but create tremendous value for our client to move forward in life.
Let’s jump in and explore the power of coaching the client and letting the problem dissolve itself.
One of the most important things you need to know about the life coaching profession is this: At the heart of life coaching is an assumption that your client is not broken and does not need to be fixed.
Coaching assumes that the client is not broken, and it functions on the notion that clients have all the resources they need to manage their lives and successfully overcome their challenges.
As a life coach, your job is to help clients identify and gather the resources necessary for them reach their goals and learn about themselves in the process. You are not an expert with all the answers, you are your client’s partner. In other words, you are working together, with your client, to help her or him develop more self-awareness and understand how the habits he or she has developed thus far have contributed to the current situation.
Why does Coaching the Client, Not the Problem Work?
By removing the expert role from the coach, an empowering partnership is formed. Clients begin to look inward and reflect on the mindsets, perspectives, and thoughts that are both holding them back and propelling them forward in different areas of their lives.
From this deeper understanding of themselves, clients will discover that the next action they need to take is obvious. What previously seemed like an unsolvable problem will begin to seem like an opportunity for growth. In fact, the “problem” even ceases to be seen as such. Looking at a situation from this point-of-view takes away any negative judgement of failure and refocuses the failure as feedback for how to create a better system.
Here is an example from a coaching session with a junior in high school:
Jessie got mostly A’s and B’s but had one class where she was uncharacteristically failing: Chemistry.
Jessie’s meeting was with her coach was on a Wednesday afternoon at a coffee shop and she told her that she had a Chemistry test that Friday – just two days away! Jessie was incredibly nervous and wanted her coach to review the chapters in her Chemistry textbook that she would be tested on and work through the practice problems.
Instead, Jessie and her coach took a step back from looking at the Chemistry chapters and focused on her overall approach to studying, academic thinking, and motivation. Jessie’s coach used simple curious questions, Core Motivation, and a few other tools from her coach training, to help Jessie become aware of her patterns in thinking and motivation. The goal was for Jessie to make lasting, significant changes in the way she thought about Chemistry, her study habits, and her motivation.
By focusing on Jessie instead of on the Chemistry test, Jessie and her coach were able to meet the challenge not as a problem that needed to be solved, but rather, as an opportunity for her to learn more about herself, test out new habits, and see different ways of approaching her work.
Think of a “problem” that you are having in your life.
Think about what it would look like to create a solution that is based on immediate action.
Then, use a tool, such as Core Motivation mentioned above, to gain more self-awareness and understanding of your motivation style.
Revisit the initial “problem” from the perspective that it can be an opportunity to use personal awareness to create a new system of action. The problem is now feedback on your old system, not judgement or failure.
If an immediate change you can make jumps out or seems crystal clear, great! Go for it. If not, sit with it for a day and see if anything comes up. Hint: Part #5 of this mini-series also focuses on designing action, and may help you if you get stuck.
Part Five: Anatomy of Effective Action
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