Today I received the certificate from the elite coach training institute – Transcend, as a certified professional coach. My next goal is obtaining the accreditation by International Coach Federation, the gold standard of coaching, as an Associate Certified Coach (ACC). I am very glad that my time “in between jobs” was well spent as I had the mental space for myself to learn and practice. I could still recall the hours and hours of coaching, reviewing, reflecting, providing and receiving feedback. And here I am today, ready to embark on a new journey!
Looking back on the past 10 years, I have gone through a transformative period when I studied my MBA at the top school in Asia (HKUST), where I was immersed in new knowledge, thought provoking discussions, overwhelming project work and intelligent classmates. I have become a more confident, business-savvy, and internationally minded woman and started my new life in Hong Kong thereafter. And now, it is the second transformative period when I learnt about myself, about communications, about all the soft skills required to be a qualified coach, and the goal of this learning journey is to be able to serve the clients better and more professionally. Here I summarise what I have learnt:
Let go of my own ego. Coaching is not about coaches, it is ALL about the clients. In the past, as a business woman, I always wanted to take control of things, demonstrate my capabilities, and provide solutions. It has become automatic for me to take ownership. But through the learning of coaching, the first thing I had to do was to let go of my own ego, the desire to control or lead the conversations, the desire to solve issues in a given session, and the desire to demonstrate my capabilities. Coaching is all about empowering clients, trusting them to figure things out, and letting them be the owner of the journey. Coach is the partner to support them.
Be in the flow. This is not new: we have been talking about “flow” since Psychologist Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi published the book <Flow> in 1990. In his book, “Flow” refers to a state of consciousness where people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. As coaches, we want our clients to be in the flow, where they deeply enjoy our conversations, think creatively and communicate openly. We also should be in the flow with them, forget about the time, and noises at the back of our mind, be hyper-focused on what the clients are saying and not saying, and create the safe space for them.
Be patient. Personally I am very results driven and productive. I hate wasting time on things that I think wouldn’t contribute to the goals. However, everyone is different. We are different in so many ways, including our thought process, life values, priorities, background, life situations, the list can go on and on. The differences determine that, coaches, in order to better serve the clients, have to play the role of a good observer, not a leader. Because in every subject that the client is talking about, the client is the subject matter expert. So the flow should follow the clients’ thought process, not coaches’ agenda. To be honest, I have struggled a little bit on being patient, so I printed a piece of reminders and put it on the wall to remind myself.
No judgement. A coaching session wouldn’t work if the coach mixes his/her judgement, clients will only trust coaches who make them feel safe and respected. It is the coach’s job to build the trust and intimacy with clients, “no judgement” is the foundation. It is not so easy to let go of our own judgement, because everyone has their own unique filters, which frame how we view the world. The bottomline is, keep your judgement to yourself.
Listening is not just about listening. Nowadays, everyone can claim that they are “a good listener”, but are you really? Are you present in the flow? Are you listening with acknowledgement? Are you paying your full attention, even to details? Are you able to extract and detect the clients’ concerns, goals, values and beliefs? Are you about to listen and reiterate to ensure clarity? Are you able to listen without judgement? I have to admit that listening is quite exhausting, because your brain is constantly processing information, and in the mean time, fighting with your own tendency to comment, judge and give advice.
Things are constantly changing. I am sure everyone has heard of the saying: “The only constant in life is change”. But a lot of times, when people are stuck in some situations, they are also caught up by their emotions, so they couldn’t foresee the changes: they focus on what has been bothering them now, instead of focusing on how to solve the issues and move forward to the future. As a coach, my job is for people to work on a better future. The first step is to acknowledge that the current situations will change, and they have the power and resources to do it.
Listen to what is not said. I used to get hooked by what is said by clients, and not dig deeper. But a coach’s job is to go beyond what is said, to help the clients identify typical or fixed ways of perceiving themselves and the world (what’s working and what’s not), and to create greater understanding, awareness, and clarity. In order to help clients discover new thoughts, beliefs and resources, a coach needs to be able to identify the clients’ underlying values, concerns and beliefs. It takes a lot of practice, and communication skills.
A goal without a plan is just a wish. A coach helps you make plans and clarify accountabilities. That’s why I think coaching works, because it is not an empty talk, we set goals, we make plans, and we execute them.
A coach is not only a coach, but also an entrepreneur. When we project something in the future, we tend to focus on the wonderful results we desire, but overlook the process of getting there. Same thing happened to me. I was imaging myself as a successful coach who can help my clients achieve their goals. But where do I find these clients, how do I convince them I have the skills to coach them, and how do I build my credibility in this industry? There is a lot more to do than just obtaining the skills to become a certified coach. I need to learn how to build a community, how to engage with potential clients, how to convert leads into sales and so on. In the past, I worked for corporates, in sales and marketing roles, the platform and products are established, the brand awareness is already in the market; but now, I have to build everything from scratch and I myself, am the core product. I love the challenges of learning new things and building something on my own.
There is no such thing called “work life balance” for freelancers. A lot of people equate freelancers with “work life balance”, they think people working for themselves could work anywhere, any time they want. But this is not true. As long as you want to build a sustainable business, and you have clients to serve, say goodbye to “work life balance”. Often, I have to work on weekend or after 8pm on weekdays, because clients have jobs during the regular business hours. The ideas of “weekend” and “holidays” have become blurrier and blurrier. It is helpful to enhance my time management skills and practice some routines to keep my work productive and remain in normal hours.
Everyone has their own stories about how they started their coaching journeys, but mine started from seeking for self-development. I am excited that I am learning exponentially, with the support from some peer coaches. It is wonderful to build a new network, and these people are driven and supportive! I am still learning and growing, it will take time to build sustainable business, but I enjoy the transformative learning process and the creativity I have to develop!
ICF Definition of Coaching
ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.