From the President

by Bob Tschannen-Moran, IAC-CC

The IAC: An Attractive Organization

The coaching industry was an early adopter of the so-called "law of attraction." Founder Thomas J. Leonard, who jumpstarted this industry back in the early 1990s by founding the International Association of Coaching (as well as Coach U, the International Coach Federation and CoachVille), was an articulate spokesperson for what he called the Principles of Attraction or the "Attraction OS," as in operating system. Thomas believed that anyone could become more successful, not by working and pushing harder, but by adopting principles that would unleash our brilliance and make us irresistible in both life and work.

The idea dates back to the early decades of the 20th century, made popular by Napoleon Hill’s 1928 book, The Law of Success in 16 Lessons. What Thomas saw more clearly than others at the time, however, was that coaching could effectively deliver those principles to people over the telephone and Internet. That insight, in the era before Facebook, Skype, Twitter and smartphones, was the insight that launched the modern coaching movement.

And it could not have come along at a better time. Old ways of coaching were breaking down, along with many traditional social structures. Heretofore, coaching was mostly face-to-face in local settings such as families, schools, teams and professions. Older generations would apprentice or coach younger generations using, "show and tell" pedagogy (teaching) techniques that are still with us today. Andragogy, however (the methods or techniques used to teach adults), began to change dramatically as people became more mobile, literate, connected and empowered. Suddenly, older generations were not around in the same way and their expertise didn’t carry as much weight as before. People not only wanted to figure things out for themselves, they also had amazing new capacities for doing so.

Thomas saw the potential for a coaching movement anchored in the Principles of Attraction, which would cross all traditional boundaries: distance, language, culture, position and even training. The bottom-line concern was just-in-time information, in Thomas's words allowing people to "become stronger and better and more successful in a well-rounded, lasting way." Where that information came from didn’t matter. What mattered was whether or not it met people’s needs. Thomas articulated 28 principles designed to do just that. Consider just a few of those principles, taken from his 1998 book The Portable Coach:

  • Add value just for the joy of it
  • Become irresistibly attractive to yourself
  • Promise little, deliver everything
  • Tolerate nothing
  • Perfect your environment
  • See how perfect the present really is
  • Orient yourself around your values
  • Simplify everything
  • Master your craft

That’s not a bad list for more than 13 years ago and it’s not unrelated to what Napoleon Hill came up with in 1928. Apparently the "laws of attraction" don’t vary much from one generation to the next. What does change, however, is the delivery system. And in the past 25 years, that delivery system has been taking the world by storm. It’s now estimated that there are more than 50,000 coaches worldwide, in virtually every developed and developing country. Why do people seek out coaching? A 2010 study conducted by the International Coach Federation, involving more than 15,000 respondents, indicated the following top five concerns:

  1. Optimize individual and/or team performance,
  2. Expand professional career opportunities,
  3. Improve business management strategies,
  4. Increase self-esteem / self-confidence and
  5. Manage work/life balance.

Notice the mix of skill and confidence building. One involves being better able to meet the challenges of a particular situation. The other involves raising awareness and shifting responsibility to an internal locus of control. Although everyone knows that we can’t have one without the other, the mark of masterful coaching lies in our ability to address both the situation and the inner environment of coachees. That’s what underlies the Principles of Attraction. When we change our way of being in situations we change the situations. Thoughts become things, and great coaches coach to the thoughts more than we coach to the things.

Of all the global coaching associations, the International Association of Coaching has incorporated this consciousness into its standards for masterful coaching. In fact, that has been one of the reasons that people find it so challenging to get certified by the IAC. When someone shows up for coaching, it is tempting to define and dive into the issue at hand. That certainly represents one level of coaching and may, in fact, be the most common understanding of what coaching is all about. When someone asks, "May I give you some coaching about that?" they usually mean, "May I tell you how to do that better?" The focus is the issue and the coach shows up to help with the issue.

But showing up to help with the issue can hamper the learning of the person, since it more often generates resistance rather than openness to change and since it can easily ignore the underlying as well as the environmental factors that may be causing the issue. Masterful coaches avoid falling into the helpfulness trap by making effective use of the nine IAC Coaching Masteries™. Instead of asking diagnostic questions and providing expert advice about the presenting complaint or stated goal, masterful coaches do the following:

  1. We create an evocative coaching space and relationship.
  2. We challenge limiting beliefs and expand potential.
  3. We listen for and explore core dynamics.
  4. We process information and feelings in the present.
  5. We communicate effectively and maintain appropriate boundaries.
  6. We clarify understandings and build confidence
  7. We perceive and keep conversations focused on what matters most.
  8. We invite new possibilities and celebrate progress.
  9. We explore and develop supporting environments

When those nine principles and practices are fully incorporated into a coach’s way of being, they not only make coaches irresistibly attractive, they also spill over into our work with clients and our associations with each other. The "Attraction OS" that Thomas Leonard was talking about back in the 1990s is like a viral meme that spreads dynamically and wildly from one person and one system to the next. Unleashed in the world, there’s no telling how far and how fast it will go.

That truth is what keeps the IAC in business. The IAC is an attractive organization because it is the guardian of distinctive and attractive Masteries. Over and over again, people come to the IAC voicing a common refrain: no other professional association expresses such a clear and appealing commitment to coaching mastery. That is what brings people to the IAC and what they hope to learn from the IAC. It’s not about degrees or training hours or tenure. It’s about coaching beyond the situation to the very being of the people we are working with. When that happens, when we master the art of coaching to the core, then people become more attractive than they perhaps ever thought would be possible.

If you would like to become more attractive, in just this sense, then I invite you to get more involved with the IAC. Join or renew your IAC Membership, complete an IAC Learning Agreement, subscribe to the IAC VOICE, read the IAC Blog and follow the IAC social media outlets such as Twitter and the IAC LinkedIn and Facebook groups. Catch the meme and see where it leads.

May you be filled with goodness, peace and joy,

Bob Tschannen-Moran, IAC-CC, is CEO and Co-Founder of the Center for School Transformation and President of LifeTrek Coaching International. Bob is the co-author of Evocative Coaching, which incorporates the IAC Coaching Masteries® in a coaching model designed for leaders and coaches in schools.

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