Have you ever noticed the many dichotomies in our world; product and service, production and consumption, young and old, male and female. “Such dichotomies are even implicit in the move to relationship marketing which is profiled as consumer-centric as compared to the product-led approach of transaction marketing.” What I have been pondering recently is the dichotomies presented by and in people. Specifically, the opposing motivations of abundance and scarcity, and love and fear. And unlike every other living thing and animal, these dichotomies often manifests in the contradictions between what is said and what is acted out. Unlike a duck which walks and talks in perfect harmony with its duckness, people are much more complex, paradoxcial and even hypocritical.
Take the bursting profession of coaching for instance. Coaching is an ongoing partnership that helps people produce fulfilling results in their lives – professionally and personally. Through the process of coaching, people deepen their learning, improve themselves, and enhance their performance and quality of their life. Sounds good so far don’t you think? However, I have observed how some coaches espoused altruism is contradicted by blatant self-promotion. It is different than a healthy sense of self respect and confidence in that the conversation focuses on them, how good a coach they are and the great job they did changing someone. The idea of being responsible for changing another person is interesting in itself because ultimately the movtivation, responsibility and accountability this lies with those 3 inner selves – me, myself, and I. In the case of a coaching relationship, the coach is only an effective as the coachee’s motivation or will and desire to apply the learnings from the coaching.
To be fair, there are many excellent coaches who are truly alturistic – motivated and satisfied by watching others take centre stage in their life. They influence and support by skillfully creating a safe environment where others become motivated to do the self-work. By gently posing thoughtful insights and provacotive questions, a coach faciliates process for a coachee’s self-reflection. As such, like a good teacher, doctor, nurse or any people-assisting professions, a gifted facilitator is about others not themselves. They are able to get out of the way, temporarily shelving their own ego and needs to meet people where they are at and see another’s perspective through their eyes. Another analogy a play where the coachee is the lead character, deserving of the loudest applause, while the coach plays the supporting role enabling the lead to shine. The next steps in the process – self-understanding, self-acceptance, and ultimately healthy self-esteem – are all owned by the coachee. Understanding the coachees perspective – what is important to them and why – is critical for asking questions that help the coachee to think better and find solutions that will work for them. To do otherwise results in options that may work for the coach, but fail miserably for the coachee.
To those considering engaging a coach, I encourage you to go for it. It can be a wonderful experience. Rich with self-exploration and learning, and a means to become the best that you can be. As stated by Paula Ketter, Editor for T+D Magazine, “With formal training, coaches can be invaluable in inspiring clients to maximze their professional potential through a creative and thought-provoking process.” Subsequently, when seeking and finding a coach that is right for you, remember …
- Coaches are just people and as such who they are, their BEACH (Belief, Expectations, Assumptions, Concerns, and Hopes) plays out during their coaching.
- Like everyone, coaches are doing the best they can with the skills, experience and self- awareness they have currently .
- Managing our own hyprocrisy and often conflicting egocentric and altrusistic dichotomies, is difficult for everyone despite the knowledge, training, experience and expectations indicating otherwise.
- Get a free consultation session – at least an 90 minutes in length – the amount of time it takes to have effective learning conversation to prepare, uncover, learn, search and explain the coaching process, content and plan.
- This amount of time should also be sufficient to be able to discern where they truly come from as a coach aside from what they say, i.e. what and where does the conversation focus; them or you?
- During the session, pay attention to listening behaviours, verbal language and non verbal body language, that give cues about who the coach is as person and their BEACH.
- Being self-aware and vigilent to your responsibility for keeping our own ego in check.
- Practicing detached awareness, listen and observe carefully to gage their responsiveness to your needs, wants and desires;
- Does what they are saying or doing they resonate – feel on the same frequency – with you?
- Or does it feel ‘off’ somehow even if you are unable to specifically identify how or why?
- How do they engage with you? Do you feel you are the focus of the conversation or does it drift away from you to them?
In summary, listen to you gut instinct – your intuition – about those contradictions between what is said and what is done. If it talks like a duck, walks like a duck, then it”s a duck even if it says its a coach. Quack! Quack!
1 Exploring the Use of Dichotomy in Marketing: Celt Verus Saxon Revisited, Deirdre O’Loughlin and Isabelle Szmigin, Irish Marketing Review, January 1, 1007.
2 Paula Ketter, Editor T+D, Editor’s Note, T+D Magazine, August 2008, p. 8.