Celebrating my first year coaching full time: 10 learnings
As seems to be a trend recently, 2021 was an eventful year. It felt like a lot happened and not much happened in equal measure! It was a significant year on a personal level. Following a few years of training alongside my full-time job and coaching part time, last January I launched my coaching business.
To celebrate one year of being my own boss, I wanted to share 10 things I’ve learnt about coaching, people and myself along the way:
1. The ease of making assumptions
Every day, we make assumptions and paint our own pictures of what might happen in the future. I do it. My clients do it.
I’ve noticed that as soon as you question someone about these assumptions, it becomes clear that many come from the person's inner critics rather than from fact or evidential reasoning. Often they are projected as worries, anxieties and self-doubt.
I always try to keep this in mind when I’m coaching too so that I don’t make assumptions about the client, their situations or their wishes.
If you find yourself worrying about future choices or decisions, try asking yourself what assumptions you are making? A quote from my coach I always remember and share is:
‘If you’re going to make stuff up about the future, at least make up good stuff!’
2. Small changes make the biggest difference
People come to coaching for support and direction on some big topics: changing jobs, moving house, having children, relationship problems, improving their lifestyle etc. Many people understand coaching is not a quick fix but a step by step process.
What I’ve found with a lot of clients, however, is that it’s often the really small changes or adjustments they make that can have the biggest transformation in their lives.
Some examples from clients include: committing one night a week to a ‘date night’ to help a struggling relationship, blocking slots in their calendar to protect their time for strategic thinking, buying new sports gear so they were more inclined to use it and putting a photo of their hero on the office wall for motivation and a reminder of the qualities they want to embrace.
Clients have shown me the smallest acts can sometimes have the biggest impact. A recent article by The Guardian provides 100 tips of small things you could do to improve your life. Give one or two that resonate with you a try and see what happens!
3. Values and purpose are there for a reason!
I remember a client who had interviewed for a new job, but when he questioned the organisation about what their values meant, he realised they weren’t in line with his own or what he was looking for or needed. It made the decision for him not to pursue the job much easier.
I work with clients on values and purpose early to ensure they have a good understanding of who they are and what is important to them. This always pays off when addressing bigger issues.
4. The topic you choose isn’t always the topic you need coaching on!
People come to coaching with specific topics or problems they want to be coached on.
However, when I ask ‘what’s important about that to you?’ the client often reflects and often it isn’t really the topic they want support with but something else underlying.
Sometimes it can be your own inner critics, internal pressures or external pressures that present something as a problem. What can happen through further questioning is that we end up addressing a completely different, but more important, topic or area of your life.
One client came to coaching to discuss their fear of networking. As the session unfolded, it became apparent that networking wasn’t important or a priority for my client, it was just something they felt that they should be doing for the sake of keeping up appearances.
5. I like to move it move it
A big learning from this year is the impact movement can have, particularly during sessions when we’re discussing a heavy or emotional topic.
Standing up, looking out of the window or shaking off the limbs changes the energy and releases tension. It can be incredible what looking out the window can provide you in terms of perspective when relating it to a topic.
People in the past have felt more hopeful, a sense of new beginnings, or felt more grounded just by changing their view.
So if you ever come to me for coaching, don’t be surprised if I occasionally ask you to stand up and move!
6. Championing someone goes a long way
I try to recognise my clients achievements and their positive qualities. Many of my clients are so courageous with the things they want to change in their lives.
Acknowledging this can really move people and they are often taken aback, as it’s clearly not something they tell themselves in the process of trying to make the change. Being kind goes a long way.
7. The importance of body language
Describing a person’s body language, or mirroring it and questioning it, creates a new awareness in people that they may not have noticed.
Is a person open and energised or are they hunched over with their arms crossed? What could that be telling us about their feelings on a topic?
It provides me with a lot of information as a coach and is a great tool to use with clients to help build their self-awareness. I’ve learnt to tap into this and become aware of what my own body language may be telling me.
8. The power of not talking
A common misconception with coaching is that you’ll be given advice. Especially in situations where I have been through something similar, it can be hard not to step in and offer my thoughts.
I’ve learnt the importance of not giving advice and how letting a person get there on their own makes a much bigger impact. It also goes back to my first point, we can’t assume that what a client is going through is going to be the same as what we experienced.
9. The impact of active listening
Along with not talking too much, I’ve learnt the importance of active listening. This takes a lot of practice and is something I’ve improved on over the past year.
I’ve worked out the set up I need to do this well. This includes getting ‘in the zone’ before a session, taking care of myself and trying to book sessions at times I know I’m more alert.
I plan my week around this and based on my findings, it’s unlikely I’ll suggest a session on a Friday at 4pm!
10. The value of my own coach
Throughout this year I’ve had sessions with my own coach. This has proved invaluable in helping me achieve my goals whilst setting up my business and dealing with my own inner critics.
Topics often come up with clients that have affected or affect me, so it’s a great way of self-managing my emotions. This has also prevented me from approaching sessions with any biases.
The thing I’ve loved the most about the past year is it’s shown how unique and different everyone is. Even those with a similar purpose or the same values approach them or view them in different ways.
Coaching is really personal and from doing multiple sample sessions last year, it’s clear that success with a coach is all about connection. If I don’t click with someone, don’t feel I can help them, or if someone feels that way about me, there’s no point in working together.
It’s been an adjustment not working as a part of a team but readjusting and seeing my fellow coaches as my new team has meant I’ve always had people to bounce ideas off, get advice from or to turn to for motivation.
I’m really looking forward to another year of coaching and I’m excited to see how it grows. If you’re looking for a coach and would like to try a sample session, get in touch for availability this January (just not last thing on a Friday!).