This short article is for beginning and seasoned coaches who may feel burnt out, listless or in doubt over their practice. I have practiced coaching for several years and have noticed three themes that have surfaced from time to time in my own and other coaches’ work. To be aware of these potential patterns can help keep your practice liberated and maturing. Here are the three traps and potential ways to navigate them:
By depersonalization I am not necessarily referring to extreme forms of detachment that would be categorized as dissociative personality disorder. Here I am referring to more subtle and coaching contextual habits of detachment of oneself and one’s personalness out of a belief that this is of service to the client. These are the moments when we check out or take an overly disengaged observer or witnessing role out of unconscious habit. Or, we don’t speak up. A part of us is there but we are not ‘wholly’ there. After a session where we have depersonalized we might feel depleted, left out, or even rejected. In such cases this has to do with how we are holding ourselves in relation to the client. We need to do both as coaches–be a participant in holding space as well as present and engaged (i.e. fully with ourselves).
If you notice this happening to yourself in a coaching session I recommend making conscious inner contact with yourself again such as feeling your feet and arms, your bones, nervous system, etc. In other words, presence yourself and re-engage.
2. Not Prioritizing your Needs.
There are many kinds of coaching, containers for coaching and optimal conditions for the kind of work you do. In this time of technological accessibility it is easy to do coaching online but it is not best for everyone and especially not initially. When I started coaching I did a lot of work with people outdoors and I still do sometimes. I also engaged the body quite a bit through movement. This isn’t as much of a need for me today as it was then but sometimes I am called to do it. Trust what you need to get coaching and to unfold your coaching. In addition to context, timing is important. Respect your limits. And finally, your process is your process and you may, depending on your work and your client’s work, need to entrain your clients into your process. For instance, you may need to pause to take something in, to really get your client. Tell them and take the space you need. In this you are also modeling leadership in taking care of your needs. Likewise, if you intuit your client needs a particular movement to integrate something invite them to do so.
Not taking care of your legitimate needs in the coaching space won’t help your practice grow, it will disengage you and you may feel dis-empowered. Know and learn about your needs as you coach and act on them.
3. Let your personal unfoldment have a place in your practice.
What is going on in our personal evolution may sometimes seem like an impediment to our practice or to our clients but this belief is worth challenging. First of all, you are always likely going to be unfolding new meaning and complexity personally so we can forget about thinking we need to have arrived somewhere as a coach. Mastery does not mean completion. Secondly, it is possible that this personal edge or major transformation you are going through is of potential benefit to your client as well as an entirely new demographic you could open to work with. Coaching is not only about skills it is about you, what experiences you have integrated, what territory you have lived and know that others would feel safe with you guiding them through it. To clarify this is not about us taking over the coaching session though you have to trust your style and attune to what is happening in the coaching space. Sometimes the raw experience I share that I initially felt I needed to hide opens the client’s connection to their authentic voice and it creates more efficiency in the coaching space.
Be willing to bring yourself in in ways you intuit as appropriate. This will leave you feeling like you made a deeper impact then simply demonstrating your listening skills. Further, this is also what differentiates you.
Finally, let your practice breath. Sometimes you might need a break, a different experience or two, or new projects to engage which, when you come back to your coaching practice, will make it even stronger.
I hope this helps, beginners and masters alike. If you want to talk about your coaching practice in more detail feel free to send me a message.