Coaches know a lot about the unembellished truths of human nature and have a broader view of what it means to be normal. They have close-up experience, proximity, working with people who have experienced serious traumas—harassment, layoffs, discrimination—as well as the smaller pains and paradoxes: a grudge provoked by a side look at a person in a meeting that took up the better part of three years; an otherwise amiable person who punched a wall in frustration after a meeting; a smart, capable manager who is no longer performing well or feels stuck; a senior director in midlife at the same level for ten years and getting anxious about retirement; a general manager dealing with self-sabotage and severe reputational damage; a corporate vice president incapable to confrontation.
Because of their orientation, coaches grounded in psychology know that inside every adult there are feelings of confusion, anger, frustration, anxiety and longing to have their say and their reality recognized. Coaches appreciate that we need to know what we know and feel what we feel in order to really know ourselves again. They know we will want to be heard, perhaps through tears or the clenched jaw of frustration, which might be at odds with the surface maturity and self-management normally associated with executives and high performing managers.
Coaches understand what people are like, and how they operate. Therefore, they do not to need to censor or deliver judgments. This experience does not come from theory or books, but by being courageous about knowing their own nature. Coaches may not share our fantasies and anxieties exactly, but they accept that their own are as colorful and as complex as ours. They are just as well acquainted with the powerful and peculiar fears that hold us all hostage.
Coaches have a broader view of what it means to be normal.
Coaches can start to help us because they have a much broader view of what is actually normal versus what we insist on pretending is normal. They have perspective at a time when we probably do not. They don’t require us to be any particular way to protect their fragile sense of self or of reality. Their only requirement is that we admit, without too much defensiveness, to some of what is going on inside us. They ask us to feel what we might have been avoiding or know what we might have been lying to ourselves about in the pursuit of greater self-awareness. Greater self-awareness leads to deeper insights. Deeper insights leads to clearer thinking. When we think more clearly, we can start to take meaningful action.
This blog post is part of a series related to The Little Book of Coaching pending publication.