Provision #365: Coaching Anyone?

Laser Provision

Ever wonder about the “coaching” in LifeTrek Coaching International? We’re more than just the distributors of a weekly newsletter. We’re professional coaches who assist people to put passion to work for exceptional results. This Provision explains our approach to coaching before we start interviewing some of our current and former clients. Then they can speak about the process themselves.

LifeTrek Provision

With this issue of LifeTrek Provisions, we launch a news series on the art of coaching. And starting next week, you will read all about the how and why of coaching from our clients themselves.

Most of you reading this Provision • some 50,000 subscribers in 138 countries — know LifeTrek Coaching International only as the free source of a great weekly newsletter. Every Sunday (or Monday if you live on the other side of the International Date Line), our content arrives in your email inbox or on your handheld device through AvantGo.

That’s the end of our interaction with the vast majority of our readers. We spend many hours each week to generate fresh, original content in order to put it out as our free gift to the world. And we are happy to do so. In some small way, it is our hope that these Provisions touch lives and make a difference in the trek of life. We consider it part of our calling.

But every once in a while, something we have written prompts a reaction and one of two things happen that deepen our relationship. First, you send in a reply for the Reader’s Forum. This feature of Provisions was added after the events of September 11, 2001, when our wrestling with the meaning of those horrific events provoked an avalanche of reader replies. Since that time, the Reader’s Forum has become a favorite platform for clarifying questions, alternative views, and new ideas. We encourage you to keep those replies coming!

In addition to editorial replies, we also hear from readers who contact us for coaching. Through direct email replies or the submission of our online Contact for Coaching form Click, we receive a steady stream of inquiries from those who want to apply the wisdom of Provisions through personalized coaching.

It’s not uncommon for someone to begin the conversation by saying, “I’ve been reading Provisions for the past eight months, and they have really touched a chord. Lately it seems as though you’ve been writing directly to me. It’s almost as though you’ve been reading my mind. So I thought I would inquire about coaching. Perhaps, if we worked together for a while, I could sort out what’s going on in my life, make plans for the future, and successfully put them into practice.”

We celebrate those of you who call and contract with us for coaching. You are the ones who make this entire operation possible. Without coaching clients there would be no LifeTrek Coaching International and there would be no LifeTrek Provisions. We, along with many readers around the world, thank you from the depths of our hearts.

Over the years LifeTrek Coaching has worked with hundreds of clients in 26 states and 6 countries around the world. Although their stories are all unique, they share many things in common.

In order to take the mystery out of coaching, we are interviewing some of our current and former clients to gain insight into why they called in the first place, how long they worked with their coach, what they worked on, what shifts were experienced, what behavioral changes were made and sustained, what benefits they received, and how coaching assisted them to grow.

We hope that you are as excited by the prospect of this series as we are. We all stand to learn a lot about coaching • what it is and how it works. The interviews • which, of course, will be shared with you anonymously and only with permission • will make us better coaches and will make you better students of life.

That is, after all, what lies at the heart of coaching. If coaching is anything, it is a personalized system for learning and mastering the game of life.

Take athletic coaching, by way of analogy. Why do athletes retain and work with a coach? To improve their performance. To try new approaches. To become more consistent. To invigorate their attitude. To develop a game plan. To get out of a slump. To play as a team. To overcome adversity. To rise to the occasion. And to be the best they can possibly be.

There’s really no difference between athletic coaching and LifeTrek coaching. People come to us for the exact same reasons, regardless of the game they are playing. Some people are playing the health and wellness game. Others are playing the career transition, company building, conflict management, creative expression, flourishing child, or loving partner games. There’s no end to the games people play and, in turn, to the opportunities for retaining and working with a coach.

Although we’re as curious as you are to see exactly what our clients have to say about coaching, there’s no doubt they will bear witness to the four core technologies we use across the board with our clients.

(1) Attentive Listening. Here is where all good coaching begins. It is also where coaching breaks with teaching. As a first-year college student, I was one of 500 students in Biochemistry 101. The professor, Dr. Hoffman, would come to class every day, coffee cup in hand, to present his next lecture regarding the fundamentals of chemistry. It didn’t matter who was sitting in those seats. He didn’t need to know our names, let alone our unique learning styles. His job was to present the material; our job was to learn it. And we were both, more or less, on our own.

Not so with coaching. Coaches who don’t pay attention to their coachees are no coaches at all. Athletic coaches typically watch their coachees in action. Then they debrief together about what’s going on and what adjustments to make. LifeTrek coaches typically listen to our coachees as they reflect on their actions. Then we work together to design new actions for the future. Without watching and listening, the learning process would be shortchanged and short lived.

Attentive listening starts with the preparations we make. It’s about getting into the listening frame of mind. Then it’s about designing an environment with minimum distractions. There’s no way to listen well and be doing email at the same time! The use of paraphrase then becomes a great listening tool. When people see what we see, and hear what we hear, it often generates surprising discoveries and forward movement. Attentive listening may well be the most powerful tool in the coaching toolkit.

(2) Artful Inspiration. When most people think of coaching, they think of motivation. This probably goes back to our early experiences with athletic coaches. You know the type. Some were screamers, giving us a kick in the pants when we didn’t try hard enough or follow through on our commitments. Others were huggers, giving us the encouragement to believe in ourselves, to persist in our efforts, and to triumph in our endeavors. It was certainly an art to know when to use the carrot and when to use the stick in order to generate optimum performance.

The problem with motivation is the external frame of reference. To motivate means to “provide with a motive; to move; impel; induce; incite.” From that point of view, even the worst of tyrants can be said to motivate others. The movement is from the outside in. But as soon as the tyrant is toppled, the motivation ceases.

That’s why great coaching focuses more on inspiration than on motivation. To inspire means to “draw forth; elicit; arouse; become enthused; breathe life into.” From that point of view, inspiration is a spiritual experience. The movement is from the inside out. Once we become inspired, the shift can endure forever. It’s no less a work of art to know when and how to inspire someone. It requires active imagination, values clarification, gift giving, and intuition. But once the spark is lit, there’s no stopping the fire.

(3) Appreciative Inquiry. One of the hardest things for coaches is to not become consultants. Consultants are problem-solvers with expert knowledge and expert advice. They are paid big bucks in order to size up situations and make their recommendations for improvement. But that is not the way of great coaching.

Those who go looking for problems are sure to find them. And the process of looking for them often has a way of making them worse than they were before. Coaching takes a more appreciative approach to the discovery process. We look for what’s working in order to find examples of excellence. We assist people to discover their strengths in order to build a reality where they can be great just by showing up.

This may take a variety of internal shifts, external boundaries, and environmental modifications, but once people get the hang of the conversation they become enthused by the coaching project. It becomes a fun approach to personal development. Instead of wallowing in the problem areas, we end up soaring in the winds of change.

(4) Actionable Planning. Some people work with coaches for just a few months. They deal with one tiny piece of the puzzle, that particularly interests them, and then they move on. Other people work with coaches for years, because they find they do better with a routine and a partner for actionable planning.

The routine may be as important as the partner. In our fast-paced, go-go world, many people find it difficult to stop the action long enough to step back and look at what’s going on. The discipline of a more or less weekly coaching call, together with the preparation for that call, enables people to become more reflective and to make more progress in the development of their lives. More than one client has remarked, “Knowing that I talk with you every Tuesday morning, inspires me to accomplish more than if I didn’t have that weekly check-in.”

Of course the partner puts the magic into the routine. Clients look forward to showing up because they know the conversation will be positive and that it will generate new ideas for action and awareness. Most coaching calls end with two kinds of homework. Some are action steps. And others are feedback loops, designed to increase mindfulness around those action steps in order to occasion real-time adjustments through the time-honored process of trial and correction.

These are the four technologies of great coaching: attentive listening, artful inspiration, appreciative inquiry, and actionable planning. Over the next few months, you will read real-life stories of coaching clients who have experienced these technologies in order to improve their performance, accelerate their learning, and enhance their joy of living.

Coaching Inquiries: How do you pursue life-long learning? Have you ever thought about working with a coach? What’s to stop you from getting started right now?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.

I love this Provision on the Top 7 Values! Wow!! This is what I really needed to see today as I have been dealing with difficult people who have a “dog eat dog” attitude at work. This has created so much stress for me personally, as I am an advocate for the seven values listed and also just want to be a “love cat.” Can’t wait to learn more.

I liked what you wrote about the Top 7 Values, but I’d like to find the people who put them into action. Who, for example, will take responsibility to spread the word about saving the world from lack of ozone in space. The problem with this world is that we can spout principles in front of crowds but who ever does something? When all is said and done, there is always more said than done!

Your summary of those Top 7 Values was excellent. Thanks for your partnership in seeking God’s glory. 

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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