March 11, 2013

Living the dream…walking the talk…what you see is what you get

Filed under: Coaching — by xrematon @ 10:15 pm
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The above phrases came to mind after I had read two pieces of material in close succession. Though they are very different bits of writing – one is a thoughtful article in the New York Times (NYT) and the other is an international French best-selling book – they prompted me to question how I present myself as a coach.

The author of the NYT article is Lori Gottlieb, who was a full-time journalist but retrained as a psychotherapist. However, she found herself virtually unemployed after several months and ended up having to resort to marketing to attract clients. Gottlieb was not comfortable creating a brand for herself and her practice. She goes on to observe.

If we give modern consumers the efficiency and convenience they want [through non face-to-face, possibly even tweet-based coaching], we also have to silence our nagging sense that we may be pandering to our patients rather than helping them…The more we continue in this direction of fast-food therapy — something that feels good but isn’t as good for you; something palatable without a lot of substance — the more tempted many of us will be to indulge.

These comments are subtly damning of coaching but, in coaching’s defense, I would argue that for many, the simple self-awareness that often comes with coaching, engenders good habits for mental wellbeing, not mental flabbiness as is implied.

However, the point I do wish to pick up on is around the idea that to succeed, you have to effectively sell yourself. This is something that Gottlieb is not keen on. My second piece, ‘Lhomme qui voulait etre heureux’ (The man who wanted to be happy) by Laurent Gounelle, offers a different perspective.

Gounelle – as he describes in an interview to Pyschologies magazine – trained as a accountant and got a good first job. However, he soon realised that he didn’t get the satisfaction and happiness he had hoped for on growing up, and was in fact rather miserable. He took the bull by the horns, did some drama classes to change his views and had his big moment when he read a book about NLP. He was hooked by the ideas and realised he had found his vocation – to help people to live better. He had a particularly formative moment when on a course in Bali which he wrote up as the book I have mentioned.

Very simply, without any grand ambitions, Gounelle describes that he wrote the book because he wanted others to read it and learn what he had. It is his experiences that he is sharing with others (albeit it is not written as an autobiography but as fiction). Though I am tempted to digress and comment as to whether what effectively becomes coaching as a novel delivers good literature, there is one aspect I am clear about – that it is not inappropriate for coaches to present themselves – not just their skills and capabilities – to their prospective clients. It is matter of integrity -people should be able to see the impact of coaching in their coach. Coaches should be continually coaching themselves – it was for my own benefit that I first got into coaching. Perhaps, in fact, I will have been my own best customer.


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