Gay Men Who Coach Gay Menby Tim Kincaid
Coaching is a powerful force for personal change. People from all walks of life are benefitting from working with a coach, and even using coaching skills in their own lives. And I also believe that gay men can especially benefit from working with a coach who is also gay. I find that gay men often connect more easily with someone who they believe really “gets” them and their journey. That has certainly been my own personal experience, both as a coaching client and also as a coach, too. This is why the Gay Coaches Alliance exists (but more on that in a moment).
It is surprisingly challenging to describe what coaching is. Sometimes we try to define or explain coaching using dry, theoretical definitions, and also with analogies and metaphors. Neither feels very complete or satisfying to me, so I find it useful to make some distinctions between coaching and similar other development approaches – mentoring, consulting, training, or counseling. All these share some common characteristics, and each one is ideal for specific situations.
A distinguishing feature of coaching is that the coach is not the expert (as the mentor, counselor or trainer, or consultant is); rather, the client is the expert on his own life. Coaching is not about giving the client advice (though we often help clients brainstorm or to connect with resources). Coaching is not about looking back to heal the past (as in counseling or therapy); instead, coaching is present- and future-focused, and with a bias for action. Virtually every coaching session will end with the client making a commitment to take specific action(s) (we call it homework) that will move the client toward a goal. The coach holds him accountable for the commitment.
The coach sees their client is “naturally creative, resourceful, and whole.” Nothing is broken, so there’s nothing to fix, even if the coach could. The client really has their own answers, and the coach uses deep listening, curiosity and powerful questions to help bring forth the client’s ideas. Sure, the coach may offer suggestions, insights and expertise, but the major focus in coaching is on facilitating the conditions for the client to come up with their own best ideas and insights.
Coaching is a process of facilitated deep learning about one’s self:
“Give a man a fish. . .” = consulting/mentoring/training/counseling
“Help a man learn how to fish. . .” = coaching
A typical 30-60 minute coaching session – whether F2F, by phone, or via videoconference – will likely follow a five-question path from beginning to end: 1. What do you (the client) want? 2. What blocks you? 3. What help do you need? 4. What actions could you take? 5. What will you do, and by when? The coach is there to help the client to navigate through these questions during a coaching session, listening deeply, asking powerful questions. The coach serves as the client’s thinking-partner, truth-teller, accountability-witness, and commitment-holder. Remarkable things can happen from this simple process, from making incremental progress on a problem, to a dramatic shift and transformation.
Earlier I mentioned the Gay Coaches Alliance. GCA is a remarkable group of gay men who are coaches, many who also coach other gay men. Our three-part mission is to promote the field of coaching, especially for gay men to find a gay coach; to support individual gay coaches to develop and sustain successful practices; and, to form a global community to develop a greater of gay coaches in the world. To find a gay coach, or to learn more about becoming a coach, visit the GCA’s website www.thegaycoaches.com
This April 30-May 3, GCA will host the 4th Annual International Gay Coaches Conference at Easton Mountain Retreat Center, near Albany, NY. This unique gathering is for gay men who are coaches now or who have a strong interest in becoming coaches. Also attending are gay men from similar helping-professions – psychotherapists, counsellors, social workers, educators, clergy, consultants, non-profit organization leaders, sacred intimates – who wish to bring stronger coaching skills into their own practices. (You don’t have to be a GCA member to attend.) Visit http://gaycoachconference.com/