I asked my Doctor of Chinese Medicine how his field of expertise would support Alfie in his growth and development. Chinese medicine, he said, would seek to strengthen the affected organs in Alfie’s body so that they could function in a way superior to the condition by which western medicine labels him. He would be seen as whole, with all the potential he needs to overcome his limitations. The imperfections would not define him.
How perfectly this describes how we look at coaching — and indeed, how our clients experience coaching. I never presume my clients to be in need of healing. Rather I want to find and strengthen the muscles they’re not fully using to deal with the challenges or to reach the healthy state they define for themselves. We are all perfectly imperfect in our wholeness and my job as a coach is to inspire you to remember that.
Take my client who after years of therapy and counseling, was referred to me for coaching. After one conversation she felt the shift. I saw her as more than her past story and made it clear that coaching was to be about moving her forward to claim her full (whole) potential again. She’s now reclaiming her role as mother, wife, and seamstress — a passion she had dropped from her life. I don’t consider this to be about healing. I do think it is about her remembering what makes her whole.
Then there’s my client seeking to expand her leadership impact. Outside work she’s a trained yoga teacher and brings up this area of her life regularly in our conversations. She has a vision of integrating her business experience with her yoga training and running workshops to inspire others. First, as our conversations reveal, she has to practice integrating both fully in her own life. Again, it isn’t that she needs ‘healing’. It’s about creating a more complete and healthy approach to her life.
There’s my client who is working in what I would call a ‘toxic’ business environment. Were we not regularly checking that she’s using her inner strengths to speak up with truth and courage, she may well end up sick and in need of medical ‘healing’. As it is, she has developed the strength to hold her ground and influence upwards in ways which not only feel good to her, but which also create a healthier environment for the team members around her.
As coaches, we fail our clients if we approach them as western doctors might. Offering a pill for when they question their own self-worth or a prescription with some self-help tips when they look to us for a quick-fix for their stress and time management worries.
Rather, when we see them through the eyes of potential and possibility and believe – even when they don’t – that they start out whole, our work is to unlock their ability to build on their own strengths, to clear away the scrapes, bumps or bruises they’ve acquired along the way and equip them to thrive independently of any long term medications or salves.
My hope for Alfie, like for all my grown up clients, is to live life not in need of ‘healing’ but being inspired by and listening to the thirst for life that his precious new-born wholeness offers.
Aileen Gibb: “My work has taken me around the globe and to conversations with people from many different nationalities, cultures and organizations. Wherever I’ve gone, the power of real conversation, founded on intentional listening and enlightened questioning, has been welcomed. It’s a core piece of our humanity to create the space for conversations that matter and to build connection and meaning with members of our family, our business and our communities.”