Coaches are human beings – they did not descent from heaven. Coaches also play several roles in addition to being Coaches – they are spouses, parents, children, colleagues, managers, leaders, Board members and citizens in this society.
Their training to become a coach as well as their professional demands of being a coach or coaching oriented leads them to show respect, listen empathetically, respond with understanding, refrain from giving advice and display humility. By and large, when well trained coaches are “playing the role” as coaches or coaching oriented leaders and managers they manage to uphold these values and demonstrate these skills. Otherwise, they may not be in business.
The question is – how are they when they are not “playing the role”.
Let me explain this with a personal example. There are times when I am not fully present or listening attentively when my wife is speaking to me. Sometimes she lets it pass because she realises I am preoccupied and at other times she reminds me that I am a Coach, albeit jokingly. Similarly, my executive responsibility sometimes requires me to give instructions and not remain tentative.
I say this to emphasise that it may not be possible or even necessary for a coach to behave in a coach-like manner at all times.
Having said that, it might be very important for a coach to lead a congruent life. In other words, the manner in which a coach conducts himself or herself “in the role” cannot be incongruent with or contrary to the way he or she plays other roles or lives his or her normal life. So, what are the areas where congruence is an absolute necessity?
1. Whether one is coaching or not, one needs to demonstrate respect. This will include the way one treats others, the language one uses, the regard that one shows and the extent to which one makes others comfortable in one’s presence. Incongruence in this area is unacceptable.
2. Suspending judgement and being more accepting of others is critical even when a coach is not coaching. The ability and willingness to suspend judgement and be more open is crucial. Incongruence in this area is also unacceptable.
3. The propensity to offer advice to others or tell others what they ought to do is most dis-empowering. Coaches must attempt to refrain from offering unsolicited advice irrespective of whether they are playing the role of a coach or not.
4. Whether one is coaching or not, the quality of one’s conversations needs to be superior. A high level of presence, good listening and empathetic response must be present in all conversations, coaching or otherwise.
5. In or out of the coaching role, Coaches need to display a certain level of comfort with self. Comfort enough to not have the need to talk about one’s accomplishments or acts in egocentric ways. Humility is an essential sign of congruence in the lives of coaches.
6. Whether one is coaching or not, coaches need to display a certain hope and optimism about the people around them and their chances for realising their potential.
7. Finally, given that coaches swear by self-awareness and feedback, they must serve as role models when it comes to investing in their self-awareness or receiving feedback with openness and humility.
Coaches are human and are not infallible. Coaches are also not perfect and blessed with all goodness in their life and personalities. The only difference is that, having chosen to become a coach it becomes necessary to constantly ask if one is being congruent and if one is attempting to live up to what one is preaching.
Coaches must get richer by their experiences and be willing to allow the benefit of those experiences enrich their clients.
Coaches must be aware of their shortcomings and struggles and learn from it and must be able to let that learning stand out for their clients.
Above all, coaches must be fully human, fully alive and even vulnerable and through that humanness, touch the lives of the people they come in contact with.
It is by being related and not right that coaches make a difference. Congruence is the key.