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Coaching? Can’t I just Google it?

business spa coaching cant i just google it

What do people talk about when they have a coaching session?
Is it an hour of whining and moaning about their boss, or sobbing inconsolably about their irreversible life choices?
Do they ever come with ideas for tech start-up opportunities they’re excited about?
Isn’t it just for people who can’t think for themselves? What do people actually get out of it?

I am asked questions like these all the time and it would be easy to pass them off as politely polished versions of the “so what do you do?” conversation starters. But it’s clear to me there is an enduring sideways curiosity about coaching conversations that take place behind closed doors – people often ask like it’s slightly private and taboo. They’re very curious, but obviously they don’t need it – just asking for a friend.

There’s no denying there remains a whiff of stigma about asking for help – and, in a way, looking for coaching might be considered owning up to some shameful weakness. Perhaps because of this, and the rising popularity of coaching, I’ve been noticing a growing trend of people questioning whether they can get the same results using AI or “Googling it”. You could well find something of value at the bottom of some of those rabbit holes, but you won’t be surprised to learn that I don’t recommend it.

I’d be very naive if I used this opportunity to bang on about how “people want to work with people”, “the machine will never replace human connection”, or “that AI makes stuff up you know” because the simple truth is, there certainly are other ways of gaining knowledge and introducing change in your performance. You can find support online, in books, podcasts, email newsletters, social media and websites. There is literally no end to the information, tools and teaching all available without investing a penny in a coach. The point of this piece is not to convince anybody that one route or another is better – indeed, one of the best decision-making strategies I know of is that, once the decision is made, one should simply commit to the conviction that it’s the right decision. The alternative is the perpetual and inconclusive second-guessing and ‘what iffing’ that not only holds you back, but will fuel your slow but inevitable descent into madness.

So I’m not going to get into justifying why you should work with a coach. Instead, for those who’ve asked me at networking events, and those who would have, had they been there, I’ll share with you some stories of the kind of work we do – raise your hand if you recognise yourself in some of the examples.

So what do people experience when they have a coaching session?

Let’s take a look at what they bring to the sessions. Over the course of this month, the key issues I’ve been supporting people with are:

Team Alignment and Managing Organisational Change
People are generally not keen on change, particularly when they don’t feel supported or aligned with others. Many coaching sessions are centred around establishing what ‘good’ looks like and then creatively exploring the ways the good outcomes can be achieved.

Sometimes, after some working through issues, clients go away, execute as per the conclusion reached in the session and we get to celebrate the next time we speak. Sometimes they go away, continue the thought process, and decide to do something entirely different instead.

You may be thinking that this sounds like I’ve offered nothing of value at all and their time was wasted. Of course I occasionally have thought this myself.

I often ask the client whether they feel their time had been well spent – feedback is crucially important but I’ll cover that another time – and unanimously (so far) they tell me their coaching session opened their thinking process so that they were able to explore different perspectives, identify their blindspots and, in many cases, determine whether the challenge or opportunity being considered was worth the investment of their time and resources.

They often learn new language which can improve communication and the rapport they have with their people. We explore metaphors and relatable case studies to help expand thinking and bring clarity as to where to direct focus. So even if it doesn’t give them the answers straight away, it’s clear there is value in applying the tools and creativity inherent in the process. The outcomes are often more innovative, inspiring even, and the results exceed not only the client’s expectations, but we see a greater, more productive impact on the teams with whom they work; in fact it’s often only through third party observation that my clients realise the changes they’ve made.

Strategy, Mindset and Execution
Deep thinking time is often hard to come by. You have people waiting, people needing your expert opinion, decision deadlines, and home life schedules to juggle. To be successful, especially if you are highly ambitious and feeling like you may have bitten off more than you can chew, thinking time is the oxygen required to make things happen. We coaches encounter a fair amount of casual scepticism based on the perception that we’re peddling snake oil, woo woo or just plain fluff. Coaching must be for the cognitively impaired – those who are ‘hard of thinking’, right? And that’s not me, because I’m a Type A high achiever with a Myers Briggs of WXYZ. But here’s the thing: it is invariably Type A performers who DO spend all this time in their heads, who do have to juggle conflicting priorities, who really need space and time to consider objectives, strategy and tactics for numerous parallel challenges. The coaching space is incredibly well placed to provide this. It’s not just top performing sportspeople that rely on their coaches to achieve their best results.

Coaches are trained to regard their clients as being “naturally resourceful, creative and whole” so whatever the noise is in your head, you get to spill it all out in that space. No idea is too crazy and all thoughts can be expressed in a judgement-free zone. Then you can get to work sorting, deleting, enhancing those things you know will fundamentally move you towards the vision you imagined for yourself and your people. In the past month, I’ve helped my clients work through everything from eliminating the potential conflict in introducing a new shift pattern, through redundancies, to applying for a role they never imagined they’d ever consider. It may be that they need help to find the space, time and energy to do the thinking, or they want to explore their options within their sessions. Any and all desired outcomes are reasonably accommodated (within the boundaries of what’s morally and legally acceptable, obvs).

Coaching provides the perfect environment where you have complete freedom to give yourself permission to stop, think, deconstruct issues and, with the help of some new perspectives, insights and considerations, reassemble with a clarity that makes sense and facilitates confident action.

Much is made of ‘accountability’ in the context of it being a punitive, ‘face the consequences’ reprimand. In the coaching context, ‘accountability’ is about keeping your commitment to yourself, to ensure you take action and that you remain aligned with your “big why” and the determination to keep going when it looks like it might be harder/longer/riskier than you had first thought. Most of us know how easy it is to justify abandoning a commitment we’ve made only to ourselves. Being kept on track is one of the greatest reported benefits of working with a coach; it becomes easier to stick with your plan when somebody else is asking whether that excuse is really a valid one and how we’re going to keep on target and achieve the objective. We are pre-programmed to work better together.

Once upon a time, the greatest danger to our survival was that we got separated from our tribe, and that wasn’t just because of the many predators that would make a meal of us. We need that connection with each other in order for us to thrive (indeed, longevity research now identifies human connection as one of the key factors determining lifespan – don’t knock it!).

Work-Life Integration, Stress Management, and Personal Fulfilment
Coaches work with humans which also means that there are times where an entire session will be devoted to why they’re not getting enough sleep and not a single word is mentioned about the project they are overseeing or the HR issue they’re battling with. I’ve even told a client that I thought she was so wrung out and neglecting her own fundamental needs, that on this particular day she was completely uncoachable. I suggested she go for a walk instead (I have been coaching this inspiring leader for over two years, we’ve built a lot of rapport and I was confident she’d get far more from that walk) she came back to the rescheduled session, grateful for having had the opportunity to take time for herself. I know that if my client’s basic or fundamental needs are being neglected, then we will be challenged to get a great outcome and my personal goal for every session is a great outcome for my client.

For the whole time I’ve been coaching, I’ve had a niggling sensation that the whole “work-life balance” ideal was an illusion. Not because people can’t do it, I bet you can point me at someone who has nailed that. There are endless coaches, therapists, trainers and gurus offering systems, strategies and meditations all designed to help you achieve this balance. The problem I have with all those I’ve come across is that they fundamentally require that we separate these aspects of our lives, such that while time is spent in one we must function on the presumption that the other does not and must not exist, which can be fine for much of the time, but on occasion, pretty stressful. Human history is littered with accounts of walls built to keep things apart, not a single one achieved balance. Go on, prove me wrong.

So instead of helping my clients find ways of separating the different parts of their lives, I help them find ways of integrating them. I help them to see how to clarify what’s important, make space for those things and then to allocate their time and attention towards the exclusive pursuit of that. One Dad now finds the time to attend his son’s assessment sessions, this has helped him to identify his own traits that are similar, leverage them in his work so he was a better leader, and begin the work of role modelling for his son, how to live a life where it’s entirely ok to be himself. I’ve helped a leadership team communicate the needs of the business in a way that helped their people volunteer for new roles that played well to their strengths rather than try to force a new set of tasks into a team that wasn’t resourced to do them. In helping people to communicate what is important to them, what they’re brilliant at, and be brave enough to admit when they’re not playing to their strengths, the businesses they are working in have found productivity, performance and employee happiness have all increased as a result.

Building Confidence, Overcoming Limiting Beliefs, and Fostering Empowerment
As Type A humans, we are all fundamentally goal driven, that is, every decision we make is oriented towards an outcome, a goal. Even to the extent that you clicked on a link with the goal to read this blog. You stretch out your arm to pick up that glass, bring it to your mouth, and drink the liquid from it, all in service of the goal to rehydrate your body.

It’s not unusual for my clients to come to their sessions with goals they’re often not fully conscious of. The leader who has seen his team grow by 50% thinks he needs to find the time to get them all on board and trained and wants to explore how he can improve his time management. We ultimately discovered his real goal was to gain more confidence in his leadership skills, where he felt sure that all his people felt supported, trusted and valued. He celebrated that he already had great people in the business who were excited by the prospect of doing the onboarding and they had the new people up and running in record time.

By clarifying and committing to what’s truly important to them, my clients can see more clearly how they can lead, develop and grow initially within themselves and then through their people and the teams with whom they collaborate. It’s one of my favourite perks of the job, when my client realises that just by showing up more true to their own human nature, they can lead more effectively. One of my clients told me they had transformed their relationship with their team to such an extent that they felt largely redundant – we had a whole session about why this was a good thing!

I hope this gives you a snapshot of the kind of conversations and breakthroughs we have in our coaching sessions. Many of you will have great managers or leaders who use coaching skills to support you in similar ways, I think we will see a lot more of this in the coming years. Until then, I hope I’ve helped a little bit to demystify the ways professional coaches are trained to support people, teams and businesses in their big adventures. I believe it is good business planning to take advantage of the growing number of professional, certified coaches who can help you navigate the exponentially more complex and rapidly evolving time in human history. Whether it’s in pursuit of your own growth and development, or that of your people, a professional coach is a powerful ally. Do you really need a coach? No, nobody does, but then you don’t need chocolate either!

But, we are trained to identify whether you’re asking the right questions and that’s perhaps not the right question. Perhaps the right question is ‘can you achieve your next level of goals, objectives, and aspirations using the same tools and resources that got you here?’ That question is the game-changer.

If you would like to explore how coaching can help you, your people and your business, then get in touch and we’ll find time for that conversation. You’ll forgive me if I abstain from the discussion about whether or not chocolate is a fundamental need. I have both a conflict of interest and long-standing relationship with the mindful consumption of it – I’m only human after all!