When I started my coaching program to learn how to be a coach, I was pretty sure that I already knew everything. I walked in, cocky as all get out, with my 15+ years of Human Resources experience “coaching” leaders. I could not have been more wrong. Turns out, coaching, true coaching, is completely different than feedback and has nothing to do with mentoring.
It was hard for me, I had been in Human Resources for so long, I thought for sure that I had been doing coaching all along. I’ve helped leaders with handling difficult conversations, I worked with leaders on how to help their teams work better together, I spent years and years helping leaders. But the work that I did was not coaching.
There is a lot of silence in coaching. You have to give people space to think. If you’re doing your job as a coach, you should be asking difficult questions. Questions that aren’t easy for the person that you’re coaching to answer. You aren’t giving them information, you are drawing things out of them. It seems like such a small distinction but it makes such a huge difference.
When you give someone the answers, how long do they stick? When you engage a consultant and the engagement ends, and you stumble across something that you don’t understand, you have to call the consultant back to get the answers. When you engage a coach, you can go back to the tools, exercises, and resources that the coach has equipped you with and once again draw the answers out of yourself.
How is coaching different from giving feedback or mentoring?
Why does coaching work?
It’s done in a safe space and is non-judgmental
It helps you build confidence, trust, and dependence on yourself
It creates an action plan and accountability process
According to research done by the International Coach Federation, people who have engaged a coach say that they would do it again. It can be truly transformational, I know that I was for me. As a part of my coaching training and accreditation process, I had to engage a coach and it changed my perspective greatly. I’m extremely grateful that my coach is now one of my mentors and was able to give me this advice. When a leader engages a coach, you’re not just transforming their life, you’re transforming the lives of their whole team. The team will see a difference in their leader as they develop and grow. When their leaders employ their coaching skills, their team will develop and grow, it is an exponential factor. That is why it is important to truly coach, coaching can change the world.
So, let’s get back to the original question. Why coaching? The best answer that I can give is the only answer. Because it works.
I am a part of an awesome mastermind group. But because we are not pretentious in the least, we don’t call it that. We call it the Ambition Alliance. That’s my crew. We haven’t been a team for very long but in the short time that we’ve been meeting, I have come to rely on them for insight, motivation, comfort and lots of laughter.
We meet every other week, via phone. I’m not sure that any of us are even in the same state. The only thing that we have in common, really, is that we are all entrepreneurs. We aren’t even all in the same type of business, we have a Marketing Expert, a Psychologist, a couple Coaches and a Business Consultant.
I think that the uniqueness of each individual is what makes this group so incredibly powerful. We are of different ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. We all see things from very different perspectives. I never hang up from a chat with them without having an ah-ha moment. And how did I find this merry band of business owners? Partly due to sheer luck, partly because I live on the Struggle Bus. No, who am I trying to fool, I drive that thing!
I’m a member of several Facebook groups, probably more than I should be. I’m not active on a lot of them but I was scrolling through a group and a post stuck out to me. It was someone asking if they felt like most of the people around them weren’t 100% honest about how business is doing and are embellishing a bit. She was struggling and felt like those around her were just soaring and leaving her in the dust. Of course, I reached out immediately.
Here is what I told her. I still struggle. I work a full-time, more than 40 hour a week job. My children are out of the house but they still need my help from time to time. My son struggles with mental illness and my daughter struggles with life as a 23-year-old in a hard and harsh world. My coaching business is still growing, I’m not a 7-figure coach and I’m not sure that I ever want to be. My main goal has always been to help make significant change in corporate America so that people who grew up like me, poor, brown and struggling but eager, can navigate that world more effectively than I did. I had my son at 18. I struggled through that. I met a beautiful little girl that would become my daughter, sealing the deal with an adoption symbol tattoo, I struggled through that, too. I struggled through student loans, layoffs, late car payments and online classes at 2 a.m. to get my master’s degree. Horrible bosses, racism, classism, sexism, I struggled through it all.
And here I am today. I do well financially, I have an amazing family and friends that I am truly in awe of. I love my jobs (FT and my side hustle), but I still struggle. But through my struggles, I have polished my lens and now I see struggle for what it is. A means to an end, a motivator, a push to get you where you need to go. I embrace my struggle because without it, who knows where I’d be. I always told my son that he was my reason for getting up in the morning. I mean literally, I had to take him to school… Without him, would I be who I am today? Doubtful. My struggles paved the way for my successes.
To my Ambition Alliance, thank you. You are truly everything. And to those reading this, keep struggling! It’s ok to struggle. It’s ok to admit that you aren’t where you want to be just yet. Get mentors to help you struggle. Get friends that want to see you go far. Find internal motivation and know that the struggle is so worth it because if there is no struggle, there is no progress.