What is a coach anyway?

May 06, 2011

When I first started coaching, I worked with a client who was honest enough to tell me that he felt a bit intimidated by coaches, who are surely “all-knowing in their infinite wisdom” (I exaggerate here for effect). I’m sure I let out a laugh. I understood where he was coming from, however, because generally there is a sense of calm and ‘wisdom’ that coaches, counselors, and therapists tend to convey in professional settings. In any event, I reminded him that coaches don’t have the answers at all—our job is to ask the right questions!

It’s this aspect of coaching (not providing answers, rather keeping an eye on process and staying in the moment) that helps me stay calm, self-assured, and steady on my feet as a coach. Yet I got here only through a healthy dose of self-reflection and self-examination. Each training (and now, session) in which I participate allows me the opportunity to look into a mirror and recognize both my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve learned to feel empowered by and grow from my strengths, while simultaneously remaining aware of my personal pitfalls so that I can improve upon my weaknesses. Coaches learn to recognize this in themselves in order to grow and develop, and only then can they help others do the same. So yes, there’s ‘wisdom’ here, but the reality is that the journey of growth and development never ends. In fact, the more I learn about myself (or about anything, really) the more aware I become of how much I DON’T know, and that there is always room for expansion.

In short, a coach helps others help themselves. It’s about being a mirror and reflecting others’ qualities, competencies, and growth potentials. It’s about empowering others so they can remove their internal barriers, the ones hindering the achievement of desired future results, goals, or developments. It’s a beautiful process, different every time, and I look forward to working with many more people, helping them on their journey.

For a nicely-illustrated explanation of “How coaching works,” watch this four-minute video:

Cara Crisler
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