I know we are lucky to do the work we do and to work with the clients with whom we work. I couldn’t feel more honored and lucky. I get to – on a daily basis – witness my clients learn and grow and be their best, most Thoughtful, selves.
I was on a Zoom coaching session with a client the other day, and he was stuck. He was facing a tough situation with a peer at work – in fact, he felt as if his peer was intentionally sabotaging him – and he didn’t know how to handle it. I knew he wanted me to tell him what he should do and how he should handle it, but the truth is, I’m not close enough to his situation to know that. My “job”, as his coach, is to ask thought-provoking questions and to provide space for him to figure it out for himself. Which I did, and luckily, he did as well. He found a way to change his stuck beliefs about his peer and then to approach his peer in a way that helped them work through their differences.
When we were first trained as coaches, we were taught that our clients already have their answers inside of them. This approach saves you, as a coach, from thinking you know better than your clients about what might be best for them and from thinking you have to save them or solve their problems for them in order for them to learn and be okay. We were taught that our clients are “naturally creative, resourceful, and whole.”
We were also taught that “the client does the work.” This also helps you, as a coach, realize that it’s not your job to make things better for your clients. It is, instead, your job to support them as they figure out how they want to make things better for themselves…and how they’ll do that.
Don’t get me wrong. However we show up for our clients – coaching a leader, coaching a team, facilitating tough or strategic conversations, teaching leadership best practices and tools – we pull from our seemingly endless toolkit of models, resources, creative applications, pithy sayings, etc. to support our clients as they change old behaviors and build stronger relationships. I personally might recommend songs, comic strips, Harvard Business Review articles, quotes – anything and everything I think might help a client see their strengths and worth or see how they’re getting in their own way, making up stories, and possibly hurting themselves or their relationships.
It may start with simply suggesting that a client get more sleep. We share how we’ve fallen victim to misunderstandings ourselves and forgotten to believe the best about someone. We provide a sounding board for clients as they try to have a difficult conversation with a co-worker (or loved on) and help them get better at being open to each other’s needs and perspectives and sometimes just highlight the simple misinterpretations and miscommunications we see and hear. We (appropriately) share with our clients how we have learned to choose a different thought or action, recognize the false truths or myths in our head, and create habits that help us be our best selves and become more Thoughtful – present, intentional, and authentic. We celebrate our clients – and remind them to celebrate themselves – when things go well and even when things haven’t gone well yet.
We know that we are all human and fallible, and we remind our clients that they are human and fallible as well. And that’s okay. We do our best to refute the leadership myths – that you need to know it all, do it all, never show emotions, etc. – and to model being as real and authentic as we can be. We get to talk with our clients about how real and authentic they want to be, and how we can support them as they bring their realness and authenticity to their work and life.
Being a coach to such amazing clients is a gift. Such a gift. I feel so lucky to share all that I know and have learned with my clients, and I feel even luckier to learn so much from them.
What have you learned from your Executive Coach (or someone else) that helps you most?
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If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.
If you want support in getting out of your own way and stopping making up stories and hurting yourself and your relationships, contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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