3 Pillars of Coaching Impact: Personal Development, Integrity, Time
- POSTED ON MAY 15, 2023
"Who you are is how you coach" sums it up, I believe.
As a seasoned, aspiring coach or “coach-in-training,” the impact of our conversations finds its roots in very personal practices, which have much less to do with the technology or the skills we use than about who we are in these moments.
I would like to share some lived-in perspectives on how personal development, deep integrity, and time free us from the need to create value and be comfortable with the idea that it might happen. This simple shift unleashes magic.
My Personal Journey
I have lived in Asia for 20 years and have worked as a coach for more than 12, taking part in more than 5,000 coaching conversations, either in one-on-one or team coaching sessions across fast-changing organizational contexts and countries. To support this work, 10 years ago, I joined CTI's community of front-of-the-room leaders, who help passionate adults to develop their coaching skills professionally. In 2020, I decided to become a coach supervisor to help resource and nurture coaches′ reflections for the sake of the people we serve and society in general.
Today, I want to highlight the importance of the 3 pillars that will support and unleash coaching impact. Hopefully, this will resonate with you and generate reflection and insight as you engage with your clients. After all, what I share here is just a mirror of the work our clients come to do with us.
The Three Pillars
- Personal development is the pillar that guarantees access to scope, depth, and space where the conversation and transformation take place.
- Deep integrity is the pillar that creates psychological, emotional, relational, and spiritual safety, allowing these dimensions to blend and weave to facilitate authentic transformation.
- Time is the least considered and yet the most important axis of the coaching conversation, as it opens the gate to transcend solidified beliefs and conditioning. It is space itself, where it all starts and ends. It unlocks worldviews and roles, liberating our narratives from their all-too-often linear constructs. It is an essential ingredient of letting go and letting come and of calling our attention to the root of societal transformation that's within each of us.
Personal development is the process that constantly and tirelessly transforms us into a vehicle for life exploration.
Most developmental and transformational coaches come to coaching for very personal reasons. As the saying goes, tell me what you want for the world, and I will tell you what you want for yourself.
In my case, I engaged with coaching to find deep-rooted self-confidence and enable simple and authentic self-expression. Early on in life, despite being the poster child of my parents′ familial and societal expectations, I could not feel a sense of confidence. For most of my childhood, I felt like an imposter, could not own my successes, and life felt like navigating a gray zone of acceptable discomfort. This led me further away from my authentic self until the consequences of my numbing strategies compelled me to turn my life around and finally discover who I was and what I wanted. This long developmental process of exploring, cleaning up, and waking up could not have been a better training ground for the profession I am in, yet it was only when I agreed to dive as deep as possible that my coaching impact took off.
Discovering ourselves is the greatest gift we can offer to our clients as we can only share what we have, recognize what we know and include what is recognized as excluded.
Our clients don′t come to see us, coaches; they come to meet themselves. When we have done our personal work, we can offer them a space wide and deep enough to allow them to do the same. The wider and deeper our emotional capacity, the more inclusive our relationship. I like to say the work of inclusion and diversity starts within. The more inclusive we are of ourselves, the easier it is to support others to do the same.
Deep integrity guarantees vulnerability and courageous authenticity.
If personal development helps create stability and capacity to include the width and depth of our clients′ longing and emotional explorations, deep integrity helps to create the safety and the robustness of an environment where our clients′ experiences, hopes, and aspirations will allow themselves to show up, reorganize, and let their meaning-making algorithm evolve. Pretty essential.
Let′s start by naming the respect of the code of ethics by which all credentialed, and certified coaches abide. This central piece is essential to support the common ground we can safely navigate in any coaching session across any certifying schools and training centers. Both exploring ethical dilemmas and investing time to explore the limitations and boundaries of the coaching conversations are instrumental. They liberate our capacity to engage in trustworthy discussions with our clients. In these discussions, they can open up, feel seen as they are, and explore the edge of themselves. Only then will they be able to show up fully in their world.
Deep integrity is about exploring our stance as professional coaches as we navigate the various contexts of our professional and personal lives:
- How do you work on developing yourself? Do you work with a coach regularly?
- Have you joined an individual or group coaching supervision process?
- Are you a lifelong learner? Do you keep yourself informed on the latest trends and research?
Too often, I see people who make the transition to the coaching profession and start by negotiating the “deal” by missing the opportunity to work on themselves and postpone hiring a coach for as long as possible. How come?
One of the best investments I made when I enrolled in my CTI core curriculum was to immediately hire a CTI-trained coach, the fantastic Avital, to support my personal development while I was engaging in my professional development practice. This work was instrumental in leveraging the curriculum but also helped me feel integrity with the work: I could speak from experience and make sense of it with a seasoned coach. I was in integrity with my colleagues and the clients I was recruiting as part of the program.
When we negotiate with our integrity, we are deceiving ourselves, our clients, and our colleagues. We lose stability and end up duplicating the patterns we hope to recognize and let go of.
Integrity is the name we give to the quality of our life practice and the way we integrate our whole selves across all the contexts we live in.
The energy we convey during our session is what the coaching does. The words, questions, ways of listening, and so on are simply the outcome of the way we live our lives. For every master, whether musician, painter, writer, sports athlete, or leader in the organization, what you see over the long run is the mirror of their life practice. Everything mirrors everything; at all times, there is no way out. It does not mean everyone will see us as we are, but this is not the issue, is it?
Time is the ultimate meaning maker. It is the space where everything and nothing happens, a source of magic.
The third dimension is time. I consider it essential to the impact of coaching conversations.
It is often explored in terms of the cadence and duration of the coaching sessions and programs. It can be played with to modulate the rhythm of the relationship as needed on a seemingly linear structure.
When we start to pay attention to time as a construct and, therefore, variable, we learn to follow and can start to observe more accurately its distorting capacity to rewrite, unleash emotions, and dissolve knots. It has the capacity to retain, let go, and blend perspectives in a way that is so magic that we tend to believe it is real and definitive. It is the ultimate and invisible meaning maker, like water to the fish.
In a coaching engagement, time is a flexible dimension. Its depth and impact are a function of the quality of the space we create with our client for the coaching session to extend beyond its territory, bridge and blend with the space in between sessions. The quality of the space we create during our time with our clients defines the quality of our time when we are not together.
Investing in Yourself as a Coach
The more we invest in ourselves and the deeper our integrity, the safer and more creative our relationship with time and all life dimensions. From there, we can then support our client's resourcefulness and creativity to create the change they aim for and welcome the transformation to take place.
As we started a few minutes ago: “Who you are is how you coach.” At the community level, that means “Who we are is how we coach.”
Coaching as a conversation, as a service, has never been so popular; we seem to be in a commoditization phase — so much so that some of the people who offer coaching services long forgot to invest in themselves and are sometimes ready to delegate part of the personal development work to AI models. How ironic!
Beyond the joke, these self-deceiving and costly trends seem to show the path for a more mature conversation where the way is up and forward is within. What supports our coaching impact supports a post-carbon world; the more human and in touch with our developmental ecosystem we are, the tighter we get to reconnect our relationship with the planet.
Thank you for your attention.