The coach’s best performance is based on their mind frame when using the coaching skills, knowledge, and tools, bracketing their other specialist knowledge and skills while in the coaching conversation.
Considering that most of a person’s limitations are self-imposed, the right mindset sees beyond believed limitations, approaching life as a constant learning journey by opening to and welcoming feedback as a means to improve. How do you respond to critical feedback? Does it leave you feeling like a failure? If so, this is partly a sign of a fixed mindset. One way to develop and strengthen the growth mindset is to notice and take ownership of the positive you achieve.
Exercise: Think of some recent negative feedback or a disappointment or failure you have experienced. Now sit in a balanced, relaxed, upright position, keep your eyes above the horizon and identify at least two positive takeaways from the incident. Useful learning may be one. Then, for a few seconds, stay with that positive and notice how much better it feels.
The positive coach mindset brings several attributes. First, the positive coach must think as a coach with the right “head on” and keep their attention in the present. Second, appropriate humility is a strength and helps the coach to keep to the client’s agenda. Third, developing a strengths approach is fundamental for coaches and how they work with their clients. Finally, continuing professional and personal development keeps skills and thinking up to date and helps one avoid falling into a fixed mindset.
Humility has four main elements: an accurate self-assessment, including both strengths and weaknesses, neither one unduly favored; an openness to new information, including ideas contradicting former opinions; keeping one’s place in the world in perspective, including being less inclined than the general population to show self-serving biases; an ability to forget oneself, to move out of the middle of the frame.
Coaches must develop themselves constantly, and these four humility elements guide a coach’s development focus. When interviewing a coach, ask, “What have you done for your personal and professional development in the past year?”
Present moment awareness and flow
Keeping their attention on the here and now is hard for many people. For example, people at work are constantly interrupted and feel pressure to deliver the next thing. So, very often, planning, which is present moment thinking about the future, is done in haste or with a lack of attention and constant pressure toward action.
Learning to have our attention in the present moment helps us be better coaches and greatly benefits the client.
Practicing mindfulness improves emotional awareness, communication, and interpersonal sensitivity. At the same time, workplace benefits include improved job satisfaction, creativity, and decision-making.
Flow is full, conscious attention and engagement with the present, which is not self-conscious. Coaching is a present-moment conversation with another person, where listening, thinking, and inquiry are paramount, making the coach’s presence most essential. When the coach gets distracted, becomes self-conscious, or starts driving for action, the current focus is disrupted, rapport fails, and the client finds it hard to progress.
Congruence is the authenticity of self and the ability and readiness to say what one means honestly but with respect for the other person. Congruence is linked to presence. Being fully present enables the coach to be in touch with the client’s verbal and non-verbal language and emotions and to pay attention to how they are experiencing the session, including their emotional responses to the discussion, their wonderings, metaphors, or images that come to mind, and their hot buttons, becoming aware when they are agreeing, disagreeing, or their own strong opinions are being hooked.
The only way into the present is through one’s senses. Therefore, reflecting one’s present moment sensations to the client mirrors the impact the client is creating and can be vital data for them.
Exercise: As a coach, you must get into the right mindset or mental space before coaching. Map out the 15-30 minutes before meeting the client; what are you doing in that time? What must you do to get to the physical place and mental space? Project yourself into the preparation for your next coaching session and write what you visualize.
Developing as coach
Keep an annual record of your development and demonstrate your ongoing development plan following the golden rules for being a successful coach:
Set goals: Use visual aids to create vivid images of your direction. Then, keep it somewhere visible to keep your goals in mind. The process of agreeing on the goals is as important as what the goals are or the output of the process. You should be able to tell at any time what you are working on to develop yourself and your skills.
Develop the mindset: When entering a learning experience, set aside your existing concepts and frameworks, and don’t try to map or reduce the new ideas into your existing knowledge. Since the coach helps the client reconsider their assumptions and taken-for-granted beliefs to learn and grow, the coach must adopt this policy. Work with a supervisor or coach.
Be a role model: Practice staying authentic; be the best you can be.
Play to your strengths: Approach important issues from your strengths to stay motivated and tap into what you are good at instead of a “having to deal with” negative or deficit stance that drains you and that you will never be good at. Use the strengths questionnaires to clarify your strengths and use these frameworks to apply your strengths to the challenges you face.
Manage your weaknesses: It is ok to have weaknesses; own up to the things you are not good at. However, playing to our weaknesses drains our energy, and we will likely do the task poorly. Be aware of your weaknesses and address them the way you would help a client do the same. Be clear about your strengths and weaknesses and regularly pass work on to others when it is not your specialism or work you are not energized by.
Get supervised: Relationship is the fundamental learning vehicle in coaching. Therefore, the relationship quality you establish with your client is of supreme importance; through this relationship, they truly learn. If so, it must also be true that you, as a coach, only learn and grow through relationships. You, therefore, need a coach or supervisor to help you set goals, develop the best mindset, raise your self-awareness, and build your insight and understanding.