Someone asked me the other day what sort of coach I was. I think they were expecting me to say I had a particular specialism – careers or relationships perhaps. However, I don’t consider myself as having a niche as such, so the question got me thinking. How should I describe what I do? Well, to start with, I work mostly with teachers, which makes sense given my long service in the education sector. Many of my clients come to me because they are ‘stuck’ – either trying to navigate a critical moment in their personal or professional life; or perhaps needing to build confidence or momentum to tackle a particular decision or issue. Others have a dream and they need some help taking the first few steps towards achieving that dream.
I often use metaphor to help my clients get ‘unstuck’ so it is apt that the following story is the thing that came to mind as I finally answered the ‘What kind of coach are you?’ question.
It’s a story about one of my clients from a couple of years ago, who was working with me to develop her profile in terms of her new business, which had been set up after a long career in teaching. The client was achieving tremendous results, but during one conversation she happened to mention that she was anxious about walking on her own across the moors behind her house. So our coaching sessions became ‘walk and talks’ – our conversations may have been focused on her business, but our walking helped build up confidence of another kind.
On our first outing, I explained we would take a circular route, during which we would always have sight of our starting point – a gate that lead to the path by her house. We walked up a steep hill and as we climbed the view became more and more expansive. When we reached the top, she was overwhelmed with what she could see – the coastline stretched before us and the suns rays glinting on the ocean in the distance. We sat in silence; words simply unnecessary. When she was ready we made our way down. Looking back, I realise that the experience changed her forever. Once she had seen the view; once she knew it was there, she wanted to visit that place more often.
This is a metaphor for the kind of coach I am. I guide my clients to a place that’s close to home; to a place where they might not have been before. I show my clients the view and then stand to one side whilst they savour the beauty of what they see. I show my clients the view, so they can gasp in wonder. I show my clients the view so they can be inspired. The view had always been there, she just needed help seeing it.
Photograph: Copyright N Chadwick and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.