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5 Things You Should Expect From Your Coach

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by Janice Holly Booth

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So you’ve decided to work with a professional coach to help you go for the glory. Great! We know you’re chomping at the bit to burst out of the starting gate. But before you head off at a full gallop, check that you aren’t being saddled with unrealistic expectations. It’s true that an experienced and professional coach can help guide you into the winner’s circle faster than you can get there on your own, but your coach is not the one holding the reins. To make sure your expectations are on track, here’s a list of what you can and cannot expect from your professional coach. Life Reimagined talked to Kelley Doyle and Dave Wondra, both Professional Certified Coaches through the International Coach Federation.

It’s true that an experienced and professional coach can help guide you into the winner’s circle faster than you can get there on your own..

DO expect your coach to be curious and to ask questions that dive below the surface into deeper waters. Your coach should create an environment where you can be curious together and seek meaningful answers to provocative questions.

DO expect your coach to focus on advancing you based on your strength and potential, not on what’s happened in the past. While everyone will grow in a unique way, your coach will help you past obstacles like fear or doubt while focusing on the future. By exploring your values and beliefs, your coach will help you find the courage to move through your current state to the change you want to make.

DO expect your coach to challenge you. Coaches want you to discover the wisdom within, and that’s not always easy (for you or for your coach). It requires asking bold questions and sometimes even calling “bull!” on your answers. Humans have an amazing capacity to hold true ideas that are inconsistent, often without noticing the disparity. A professional coach, by virtue of paying close attention, can help identify inconsistencies that are getting in the way of progress.

DO expect your coach to use some kind of diagnostic tool or personality test so s/he can understand where your strengths lie and where you might need extra help. It’s a way for your coach to learn more about how you think and operate; it’s not designed to pigeonhole you.

DO expect your coach to help you become optimistic about your future. Especially if you’re stuck, it can feel like your life is just an endless loop of same-old. You can count on your coach to reveal possibilities you never thought existed. That’s pretty exciting!

DO NOT expect your coach to run your life. If you’re looking for someone to hand you the quick and easy answers, then coaching is not for you at this time.

DO NOT expect your coach to intervene on behalf of someone. All professional coaches have, at some point in their career, been contacted by a well-meaning parent, friend, or employer, offering to pay for coaching sessions for someone who won’t seek coaching on their own. The desire to grow has to come from within, not from without, so save your money and your energy. No amount of professional coaching can help someone who isn’t ready.

DO NOT expect your coach to do all the work. Just because you’re paying your coach to help you figure things out, that doesn’t mean you can coast. Professional coaching is a collaborative endeavor, and you need to bring everything you’ve got to the table. 

Whether you seek coaching for better health or for a better life, Wondra says you should expect your professional coach to take a holistic approach. “Coaching involves the whole person, and a coach should consider all the pieces of the puzzle. Life purpose, values, aspirations—all those parts inter-relate. We really work as a system and need to explore all of that to get to the best solution.” Wondra also says that clients often believe that the most value in the professional coaching process is derived from the time spent with the coach. “It’s the time in between,” he says, when the client completes homework and engages in reflection. “It’s during those times of reflection that we’re able to spark new ideas within ourselves.”

Finally, Wondra cautions that we should not expect shortcuts. “It takes time to replace current practices with better ones. It’s just the nature of human changes—we need to work through the process, really believe in what we’re moving toward, and have the courage to move toward it in order to get there.”

Try our Complete Your Goal with Self Control to learn how to take control so you can achieve your goal.