Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Get a Coach. Be a Coach.

Why a coach?

The simple fact of it is when we’re under stress, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to be fully rational. When you’re stuck in the thick of it, a coach can help you see beyond the drama of the moment.

I’m sure you’ve had an experience like this:

  • You’re out of work, or you don’t have quite enough freelance gigs to keep you afloat.
  • You hear about a great opportunity and you find yourself just plain desperate to get that gig.
  • You feel “stuck” in a job that’s making you miserable, and you can’t just quit.
  • You’re so desperate (for whatever reason) that you can’t imagine any other alternative.

You’re stressed. Your stress has taken over and your normally rational mind is unable to bring any balance to the matter. Your feelings are in control — and unless you can put them to rest, you stand a pretty good chance of blowing the opportunity you’re so desperate for.

And this works both ways. When we hear about a friend or a colleague behaving irrationally, we can’t imagine why they can’t seem to make the choices that seem obvious to us. I often find myself thinking, “How could he be so out of it?” I bet you’ve thought that too. But when we’re operating rationally we find it hard to understand our own stress-driven behavior in retrospect, not to mention that of others.

During times of stress, we often feel that no one understands, or that no one is willing to listen. People may want to help you, but they don’t know how. That makes them uncomfortable, so they avoid the issue.

Yet, talking it out is exactly what’s needed.

If you can find the right person to talk with, it will help you understand the situation better, and give you a clearer sense of how to move forward.

This is where a coach can help. Her guidance, or his, can make the difference between feeling like a success or like an utter failure.

So, Where Do You Find a Coach?

Sure, you can hire a professional coach to work you through a tough situation, but professional coaches are expensive, and it takes time to find someone who understands your specific needs, and who you can trust enough to share your fears with. Fortunately, you can use a friend or a colleague as a coach to help you through a rough spot.

What Should You Look for in a Coach?

  • Someone you trust.
  • Someone who cares about you and wants you to be successful.
  • Someone with experience in similar situations, who can understand the broader context.
  • And most of all someone who will listen, but who is not as emotionally involved as you are.

Next You Need to Ask for Help.

Here’s how to ask:

  • “I need a little help.”
  • “You know that I’ve been going though a bit of a dry spell, and now I have a great opportunity. Can you give me some advice?”
  • “Do you have time to talk with me about this?”
  • “Could you listen and help me sort through the issues?”

Ask your friend or colleague to spend a little time talking it over with you. You’re probably pretty overwhelmed at this point, so don’t over-prepare — just sit down and be honest, and willing to listen.

Characteristics of a Good Coach:

  • Listens to the description of the situation and makes notes of any questions or thoughts that come to mind.
  • Doesn’t interrupt.
  • Asks clarifying questions.
  • Listens to the answers and asks follow-up questions.
  • Encourages and supports throughout the conversation.
  • Reminds you of your strengths and helps you focus on them.
  • Challenges your assumptions, but does so gently.
  • Helps you see alternatives.
  • Makes sure that you are open to their observations before offering suggestions and advice.
  • Works out positive action steps that you can take, with your contributions acknowledged and included.
  • Shows that they really care throughout the conversation.
  • Concludes the coaching session in an hour or less.
  • After a successful coaching session you will notice how the conversation sharpens your understanding and reduces your fears, even if you disagree with your coach’s advice.

Become a Coach for a Friend or Colleague.

The best way to learn something is to try teaching it to others. A great way to learn what you need from a coach is to help someone else through a difficult situation. Use the thoughts above to shape your coaching skills and reach out when you notice someone in your life who seems to be struggling.

“I noticed that you seem a bit stressed. If that’s so, I’d be happy to help, if you’d be comfortable with that.”

Coaches Get Good Results By:

  • Building trusting relationships.
  • Providing insightful assessments.
  • Challenging assumptions.

… while being supportive and encouraging.

Try it. You could really be a help for someone in need — and help yourself along the way.

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