Mike Hands with headphone near window.

Mike Hands with headphone near window.

Do you want to help someone get better results in their life or work?  There are many ways to go about doing this.  One of the most effective is how a professional coach might approach it.  This article is about how anyone can use coaching principles to help move someone else forward.

Professional coaches maximize human potential.  They help others identify and live their own wisdom and align their actions with their values in ways that respect their core needs as individuals.  The title “coach” originally came from the word used for a vehicle, as in a “stage coach”.  A coach is simply what gets you from Point A to Point B.  Likewise, professional coaches get you from Point A to Point B.

I believe that everyone can be an effective coach.  Doing so, you become a powerful agent of transformative change in the life of another.  If you want to improve your ability to positively impact someone else, what are some of the principles and practices a professional coach might use?  Here are a few fundamental guidelines:

The client is the expert.  The coach is not.

Coaches are not experts in the life or business of their clients.  Coaches do not give advice.  Coaches don’t “fix” or try to improve the lives of their clients.  If you want to maximize a person’s potential, it is important “to see” that person as the true expert in their lives.  They, not you, hold the key to moving themselves forward.  Professional coaches root all they do in the principle that the client is the expert in their own life.   The client is already competent, resourceful, and whole.  If you want to really help someone transform and grow, let them hold the role of expert in their own life and process.  This is the key to empowerment.

Don’t set the agenda.

Professional coaches require their clients set the agenda for every session.  What do you want to accomplish today?  How will you know you’ve achieved that?  What makes this agenda important right now?  When you show up with your own best answers to these types of questions, there is ownership and buy-in.  You’ve taken leadership in making it happen.  You’re proactive.  If you want to coach another person, be it a co-worker, friend, or colleague, let them set their own agenda.

Ask powerful questions.

By asking powerful questions, professional coaches invite clients to get clarity and insight from within.  Neuroscientists tell us that there is a profound difference in the brain between when you tell someone a new fact and when you ask someone a really good question.  In answering a question the person must make connections they’ve never made before, and in the process new neuropathways are created in their brains.  This doesn’t happen when a person simply records some new bit of information.  Very little brain activity takes place when you tell a person what to do.  Ask them a question and their biological evolution takes a step forward.  Questions change people.  So ask lots of really good questions, and hold back on sharing your own pre-formed ideas.  This is a key to effective coaching.

Make distinctions.                   

Professional coaches help clients see new possibilities for their lives by making distinctions.  A distinction points out a fundamental difference between two seemingly related concepts.  Making a distinction allows the person to look at their situation from an entirely new point of view.  When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Two silhouettes of heads facing each other, topless, with the image of ideas going between the heads.

Two silhouettes of heads facing each other, topless, with the image of ideas going between the heads.

For example, a coach may make a distinction between a goal and a result.  You might tell a coach you want to hire him because you want to increase your monthly income by 25%.  The coach may ask you, “If you raised your income by 25%, what would that give you?”  You might share you’d feel less stress and have more freedom to enjoy some of things you love.  Using this distinction, the coach may point out that the result you want is a more relaxed life where you do more of the things you really love.  One strategy you’ve identified would be to increase your monthly income, but is that the only strategy?  Is it even the most effective strategy to get the result you really want?   Making the distinction between goals and results would open you up to a much broader conversation with many more possibilities. 

Professional coaches make hundreds of innovative distinctions to open new possibilities that a client might miss entirely if they kept looking at their situation in the same way.  If your goal is to help someone turn a stumbling block into a stepping stone, learn to make key distinctions.  In addition to goals & results, I find it very powerful to make distinctions between understanding & learning, complexity & complication, mind & brain, ambition & mission, ego & self, gratitude & appreciation, control & mastery, and truth & reality.  What key distinctions do you make?

Hold people accountable to themselves, not to you.

Coaching has a bias toward action.  Clients do things they probably wouldn’t have done in the time frame and with as consistent follow through, as they would without a coach.  Coaches request their clients to create action steps they’re committed to taking.  Coaches ask clients to set goals that are SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.  Furthermore, coaches invite their clients to identify needed resources, partners, and potential obstacles.  Finally, coaches ask their clients if they are ready to commit to their actions and by when.  The client is accountable for what happens.  Accountability doesn’t mean blame for not being successful.  Rather through coaching, the client is invited to evaluate what happened.  What worked?  What didn’t work?  Did they get the result expected?  Did they get any other result?  What was learned?  This is true accountability, and a world of difference from simply being asked, “did you do it?”  If you want to use coaching principles to help others succeed, let them hold themselves accountable for their own progress and share what they’re learning with you.  Be a curious, interested observer of how they move forward in their lives.

Learn how to coach better.

May 5-7, 2017, a Friday to Sunday weekend, at Easton Mountain Retreat Center, Damian Goldvarg, former global president of the International Coach Federation and a Certified Master Coach, will be leading a retreat called Introduction to Life Coaching.  You’ll learn how to apply the principles and practices of professional coaching to your own life and how to bring out the best in others.  This is a great weekend for anyone who teaches, manages, or holds a position of leadership.  In the process you’ll learn how to have an amazing life yourself!  Wil Fisher and I will join Damian in making this a weekend of growth and learning as we all discover how to maximize human potential.  This is also a great weekend for anyone potentially interested in exploring becoming a professional coach.  Damian Goldvarg teaches the LGBT Coach Training & Certification at Easton Mountain.  A new class begins in the fall. Wil Fisher and I are both graduates of this amazing program.