Understanding the Coaching Experience

Whether you want to shore up weaknesses, build on strengths, or simply master new skills, growth is essential and coaching can help speed that growth.  But, what can you expect when you work with a coach?

Whatever growth you want to gain from coaching, expect it to come incrementally rather than as a sudden transformation. Consider, for example, the process of learning a foreign language. It takes a step-by-step approach to reach that goal.

The steps of learning a language

  1. CoachingLearning the basics – You learn a few words and basic grammatical structure. After a few lessons, you feel your growth beginning, but still would be lost listening to a native speaker.
  2. Reaching greater understanding – Having a grasp of the basics, you keep learning more complex words and grammar. You can now imagine yourself conversing with native speakers, but are likely to do so only in limited situations.
  3. Practicing what you’ve learned – You have gained enough skills that you can practice limited conversations with others. Hey, you’re actually speaking the language! It’s stilted, but your confidence is growing.
  4. Integrating your skills into regular use – You keep practicing and engaging in increasingly complex conversations. You slowly integrate the language into your thinking so you don’t have to consciously plot out how to fit what you want to say into that language’s grammar. Eventually, you find yourself seamlessly putting what you’re thinking into that language. Congratulations! You’ve accomplished your goal.

Applying those steps to coaching

The same dynamic occurs in coaching. Whatever growth you seek takes time and effort.

  1. Learning the basics – Gaining the growth you seek starts with basic understanding. This requires self-awareness and simply recognizing what it will take to reach your goal.  The basics also include the beginning stages of self-assessment and skill development.
  2. Reaching greater understanding – Just as with learning a new language, you find there is more to reaching your goal than just the basics. You keep building on what you’ve learned as you begin to attempt to bring change through your enhanced awareness and by testing out new skills.
  3. Practicing what you’ve learned – As you become more comfortable, you start using what you’ve learned and experimenting with it on a small scale. Making this effort may prove difficult as it requires bravely attempting something new, but each time you put it into practice, you gain confidence in what you can do that you couldn’t do before.
  4. Integrating your skills into regular use – As you get past the barrier of fear (trying new things can be hard) you will find that integrating these new skills becomes increasingly easier and more rewarding.  Over time, you find you’ve become adept at engaging with this deeper awareness, and all that you’ve learned comes naturally to you.

What does this mean for you?

The effort you put into achieving your goal through coaching pays off. It just doesn’t pay off immediately. Some may attain their goal quicker than others. Just as some people have a natural gift for learning languages while others must work harder at it, you may respond to coaching and integrate what you learn into your life quickly, or you may find it takes longer to get to where you want to be.

If you fall into the former category, congratulations! Go on building those skills or qualities in yourself, or move on to new goals.

What if you fall into the latter category, though? Does slow progress mean you’ve failed? Does it mean you’ll never reach your goal? Absolutely not! It just means you need more time, more guidance, more encouragement.

Each person navigates these steps at a different pace. Continued coaching helps. It brings structure to your efforts. It engages someone who is skilled in helping you sort through the many directions you could go, and guides you in a direction that best leads to your goal. It brings you someone who can encourage you when you’re frustrated, someome to help you recognize the progress you’ve made – even when you struggle to see it yourself.

Take a realistic approach to achieving your growth. Recognize that, while coaching helps you speed its attainment, you’re involved in an ongoing process rather than an instantaneous transformation.

With continued effort, you will grow and improve. It’s the way the process works.