5 Tips to Improve Your Coaching Game
This is a guest post written by Terry Sidhu. Want to contribute? Check out the 2018 publishing calendar.
I’ve been coaching for just over five years now and it everytime I reflect, I remember the lessons I had to learn to improve my coaching game. I’ll soon be launching my life coach training program and I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of my favorite pieces of advice:
1. Your client, their world
A great life coach, in my opinion, is able to see the world through their client's eyes and this is a great exercise to establish an understanding of who you’re working with. When I want to learn more about a clients perspective, I set them a homework task to ‘people watch’ sometime before their next session. It may sound odd, but it is interesting to see what conclusions a client comes to, when they explore their curiosities about other people's lives.
I'll give them a $5 coffee shop voucher as an incentive and ask them to sit at the cafe for about 20 minutes and watch people interact with the world, to not stare, obviously, but to just ponder another person's existence.
What they describe could help you understand how your client feels about themselves and how they view the world. You may get a peek into their desires, perhaps uncover a buried truth that they’ve been avoiding or even learn about an unexplored interest. For example, I had one client who described the life of this young man in his 20’s who he thought “..looked lost in the world.” After a lengthy discussion, the client started talking about how he had once wanted to become a teacher, which is something he had never expressed before. Before we knew it, we were exploring teacher training courses and volunteer programs to help the client explore their dormant desire.
Bonus: This also works as a great ‘getting to know you’ exercise too.
2. Decisions, decisions, decisions...
There is no one way to live your life and every coach should know this. We’re not here to impose an ideology or suggest how a client should be living their lives. Therefore, it’s crucial to present several options to your client so that they can make a more informed decision moving forward.
Your clients are looking to you for guidance and direction and it’s so easy to suggest a path you’ve personally taken. The world is changing rapidly and as coaches, we need to be aware of social, legal, environmental, technological, political and economic developments aka the external environment. There is never one guaranteed path to success, also every decision is always half chance, therefore, be sure to present your top suggestions after thoroughly researching them.
For example, if a client comes to you seeking support on going back to school, talk them through the different options available, from traditional educational institutions to online independent learning and even overseas development. In these three categories alone, there are several sub-opportunities at varied costs.
Do your research, know your client and paint a realistic picture of how each option could pan out. I’ve learned that the path to success isn't at all to do with positive thinking, it’s actually maintaining a clear, neutral and focused mind and that’s exactly where I want my clients to be. So, when it comes down to presenting options, I present a brief external analysis so that clients feel prepared for whatever may come their way.
Bonus: Send your client an email of broad suggestions and have them whittle it down to a prefered list. The last thing you want to do is invest your time in researching something your client wouldn’t be interested in.
3. Help yourself
Drop the ego and don’t forget you’re human too. You’re prone to stress, exhaustion and an array of other mental health concerns, so don't forget to seek support if you need it. Noomii’s Coaching Circle is a great resource, you can network with fellow coaches and even source advice for that coaching fatigue.
It is easy to adopt some of the negative viewpoints of your clients too, because some of them can be really convincing! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself agreeing with a client’s frustration and ended up taking that frustration back home with me. So, if you find yourself overwhelmed, vent out.
I started recording videos of myself on my computer, expressing my own concerns and frustrations. It’s an instant feeling of relief to just vent at something so inanimate, especially when you’ve been dealing with people the entire day. The real value in this however, is in the next day or next week when I return to watch the video. When you watch yourself objectively like this, you’d be surprised at how much you learn about yourself. Put on your coaching cape as you play this video back and start thinking about how you would advise yourself in this situation. It helps me develop my ‘coaching tolerance’ if you will, for when you progress your career, you’ll find yourself wanting to take on more challenging clients.
Bonus: These videos double up as a source of inspiration for developing content such as blog posts and social media interactions.
Give your clients a break. After 30 mins or so, put the session on pause for two to five minutes. It’s crucial that you do not repeat yourself over and over again in the same session and a short break will not only help you gather your thoughts, but give your clients the opportunity to digest everything they’re learning. It’s always good to start the session with a brief overview of what you’re going to discuss and follow-up each session with a session evaluation. My clients love their post-session evaluations because it helps them reflect and track progress.
Bonus: A short break also presents the opportunity for a bathroom break. Which many clients will not feel comfortable asking for in those early sessions and new coaches fear asking for in an attempt to maintain professionalism.
5. Coach al fresco!
One of my favourite things about being a coach, especially here in Vancouver during the summer, is coaching al fresco. A change of scenery and a breath of fresh air can really help your client develop a fresh perspective and also present new information which could aid their personal development.
When clients get used to the rhythm of seeing you once a week, they can fall into complacent behaviours. Sensory stimulation really helps get those mental processes working, and a change of scene could refresh the coaching experience for you and your client.
Bonus: This presents a great opportunity to help your client develop confidence. Challenge them to speak to new people and encourage them to engage in spontaneous activity like running through a kit of pigeons! You’re right there for support if things don’t go to plan, so don’t be afraid to have some fun and engage with the world.
How have you improved your coaching game? Let us know in the comments below!
About Terry Sidhu
Terry Sidhu is a relationship, life and family coach with an advanced level diploma in psychology, based out of Vancouver, BC. You can connect with Terry through Noomii, his Website, Blog, Facebook and Twitter.
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