“I don’t get this conversation with anyone else” are words many coaches will have heard from their clients. In one case, I have worked with one client periodically for almost twenty years. He trusts me to listen to him in a way no-one else does. He expects me to ask him questions no-one else will ask. He anticipates that I will challenge him to make choices and take actions that, without our conversation, he would hesitate — or avoid — contemplating. He can talk through thoughts, ideas, worries, concerns and challenges that he doesn’t share with anyone else.
The keys to such a prevailing and privileged relationship lie, I believe, firmly in my commitment to the IAC Masteries. This particular relationship is firmly rooted in the trust (Mastery #1) that has built up between us. A trust which was established in the early days of working together. My client refers often to the original visioning exercise I guided him through. It was an exercise which turned into reality. The vision came to life. It set him on a path to personal and business success. For my client this provided the foundation for a decades-long trust that anything we work on together would serve him achieve his goals. He knows that coaching works and this brings him back time and again when he’s faced with challenge or change.
Next to establishing trust, I believe Mastery #3, Listening, to be the next most vital mastery in creating a positive and healthy relationship with my client. My client works in strategic, complex and high-pressure leadership. In his busy world there is little opportunity to create real listening time with others. Coaching time gives him breathing space. It’s that one time when it’s all about him. And I don’t have any of the agendas, conflicts, or debates that he might experience in conversations with his colleagues. He doesn’t have to be “the boss”. He doesn’t have to impress me or worry about being right or wrong. He simply feels listened too and truly heard. He knows too that I’ll hear things in a neutral and exploratory way. That I’ll hear the questions he needs to ask himself. And as I listen to him, he hears parts of himself that he doesn’t get the chance to slow down and hear otherwise.
The intention I take into each coaching conversation is simply to be curious and to truly tune in to what my client is experiencing. I seek only to ask the questions which open up new perspectives and invite my client to explore his or her situation in a different way. And I come to each coaching conversation from a place of love for all the possibilities that I have come to know lie within each person. To do so, I know that I need first to be in love with my work and contribution as a coach.
A couple of years ago, I found myself a bit jaded and worn out. I was questioning whether to stay in coaching. I wondered if I needed to move on to something else. In this state of mind (reminding me that all coaches are firstly humans too and we do got through such cycles) I found myself listening to some of the leading lights in the coaching world at the annual WBECS conference. And I heard something that went straight to my heart and literally made me fall back in love with my work. Today, refreshed and invigorated, I go beyond simply loving coaching as a job. I am truly in love with the difference it invites me to make in the lives of others.
When I’m in love with my work, when I’m in love with my clients and their dreams, and when I’m in love with the difference each conversation can make in the world, then I can see where my clients too can be in love with their life. And I truly appreciate what makes each coaching relationship so special.
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.”