Lessons from the Certifiers

by Nina East, IAC-CC and Karen Van Cleve, IAC-CC

How do coaches really become masterful?

It’s often said that when you hear masterful coaching, you’ll know it. When you listen to truly great coaches, they seem to sense what is going on with the client before the client even knows. They come up with the perfect question or perfect exercise, seemingly out of thin air. They help the client shift their entire perspective, and it seems so easy for them.

Because it appears to be so effortless for the masterful coach, you might get the impression that coaching is easy, and therefore should be easy for everyone. But that would be wrong. The truth is that masterful coaches have done things quite differently than those who do not reach the masterful level.

In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell studied what it takes to become masterful – at anything. What is surprising is how little talent and luck have to do with whether someone becomes a world class expert, regardless of the field they are in.

While natural talent or affinity affects whether you end up being drawn to a particular field –if you have a natural talent for engaged listening you may have been drawn to coaching without thinking about it –it will not determine whether you are a “success” as a coach or become masterful. And though opportunity and luck play a role in your journey toward mastery, they are not reliable indicators either. Talent and luck are not enough.

The key distinction, according to Gladwell, is that world-class experts have already put in 10,000 hours of practice BEFORE they “burst on the scene.” Yes, you read that right. Ten thousand hours. Gladwell provides many examples in his book, but here are just two we think you will be familiar with.

When The Beatles “burst on the American scene,” they had already banked more than 10,000 hours of performance time. Performance time, not just practice time. They credit those hours – which sometimes came in the form of 8-hour performances – as perhaps the most important factor in their success. Playing those long sets required them to improvise and entertain at a level far different than if they were playing a couple of one-hour sets. Long hours of being on the spot and having to do their best forced them to get better.

Another example is Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and clearly a world-class expert in computers and programming. He was lucky that he attended a high school that invested in computer access – but so was every other student who attended that school. He was fortunate that the university he went to kept their computer center open 24-hours a day – but every other student also had that same access.

What set Bill Gates apart is that he USED that opportunity and access to log hours and hours of computer experience. In one 7-month period he logged 1,575 hours working on programming. That comes out to 8 hours a day, 7 days a week. There’s no doubt Bill Gates was blessed with a great mind and some great opportunities. But the real difference is that he put in tens of thousands of hours “practicing” before he “made it.”

Now think about your own expectations of mastery. If you are new to coaching and you think that taking a couple hundred hours worth of classes will bring you to mastery, you will to be disappointed.

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Nina East, IAC-CC, is the IAC’s Lead Certifier and the founder of www.PersonalGrowthPrincess.com, a site for women professionals and business owners who are enthusiastic about personal growth but don’t have the time to read all the books they buy.



Karen Van Cleve, IAC-CC, ACC, has been an IAC Certifier since 2005. She is also a Results Coach for the Anthony Robbins coaching organization. She speaks on a variety of coaching topics and provides personal coaching for a wide range of clients. Her website is www.KarenVanCleve.com


Please send your questions on the IAC Coaching Masteries® and the certification process to certification@certifiedcoach.org.

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