When I wanted to learn driving, I was 24 and felt I was already past the typical age when people first get behind the wheels. Nonetheless, I joined a driving school and my instructor started with the basics of the working of a car. Post a few simulations, we hit the road to start practicing for real. After the initial days of struggle in coordinating the accelerator, brake, clutch, and gear, I somehow managed to get those in control. After a month, I appeared for a driving test which I passed, and was declared fit to drive.
The trouble began after that. I was too scared to take the car out as I could visualize myself only ramming it against people or walls. So, the numbers on the odometer hardly moved for the next few months. And, there was no training that could build that confidence in me.
Don’t we find ourselves in situations like these where we are not able to be our best selves because something is holding us back?
That’s exactly where coaching can be extremely beneficial.
Now you must be visualizing a ‘coach’ as someone who is up on the stage in a suit, a charismatic guru, saying inspirational stuff to pump motivation in. Or maybe someone like a sports coach or a fitness coach who is instructing you on how to go about the game or the number of reps you still got to complete. However, that’s far from what coaching in the workplace really resembles.
While a trainer and mentor both impart knowledge and advice, a coach does not tell you what to do or gives you the solutions but rather goes on the journey with you, uncovering your hidden roadblocks and underlying issues along the way to get you unstuck and propel forward. This journey raises your awareness and evokes self-discovery and helps you find your own compelling purpose to do what you really want. To do this the coach asks powerful questions to draw answers from you and mostly listens.
So, the spotlight is always on you, not the coach. It’s all about your story, your goals, what’s holding you back, what drives you, what can you do, your success, you, you, and you.
The International Coaching Federation, the most popular accreditation body in the field of professional coaching, defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. It is widely professed that the human potential is infinite. Then why is it that human performance, at times, is not par excellence? Why is it that the majority of us live a life, more often than not, in the shadow of our potential?
The most acceptable rationale to this could be that there are certain barriers, obstacles, blockades that undermine our abilities stopping us from achieving our full potential. Timothy Gallwey, in his book The Inner Game of Tennis, propounded the equation:
Performance = Potential – Interference
Working with a coach could help identify these interferences which represent the ways that we undermine the fulfillment or expression of our own potential and eliminates that one by one. Coaching can help us keep our eyes fixated on our vision and continue to take steps towards it.
Bill Gates started his TED Talk very famously with ‘Everyone needs a coach’. Eric Schmidt, the then chairperson of Alphabet, in resounding support, went on to explain that ‘[sic] one thing people are never good at is seeing themselves as others see them’. This is true because we hardly get to step out from being who we are to look at ourselves from a different perspective. Coaching provides that safe space for us to not only look at ourselves objectively but also let go of those things that don’t serve us the best.
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) celebrated 25 years of its inception as a global organization for coaches and coaching last year and they commissioned the largest coaching industry research study ever. The global study revealed that there was a 33% increase in the number of coach practitioners and the total revenue earned from this practice went up by 21% in a span of just four years. Hence, it could be concluded emphatically that more people are embracing this powerful method of personal growth with its approach scientifically rooted in positive psychology.
Author – Abhijit Bhattacharya
Abhijit is a Career Coach with a global financial services organization. He has spent more than a decade in talent and leadership development.