As a leadership coach, I receive many inquiries about the value of coaching. The other day, I had just such a call. The man had gotten my name from a trusted friend who recommended my services. As he described the details of his challenge, I heard the familiar ring of frustration. He catalogued what he had tried that should have worked. Not wanting to appear the fool, he established that he was accustomed to successfully solving his own problems, yet was baffled as to why this particular issue plagued him.
I actually like it when I hear this level of frustration: not because I’m cruel or unfeeling. When clients are frustrated, this signals that the issues are personally important and relevant to their business but there is something blocking their way. They seek out coaching, often with the mistaken notion that I’m going to have all the answers.
As I fielded questions about my business experience, the prospective client tried to sort out whether he thought I had the background and knowledge to come up with the right solution. The truth is, I don’t have a solution; I do have proven approaches that facilitate the client’s personal development that empowers their progress towards their goals.
While there are many aspects of coaching I could highlight, some of the most rewarding coaching engagements relate to clearing blocks. Blocks can be internal or external but what they have in common is that they persistently hold us back.
Beliefs as Blocker
All of us hold misaligned or outdated personal beliefs that hold us back. The coach’s job is to facilitate the identification and expression of the client’s unconscious beliefs. By raising our unconscious beliefs to a conscious level, we can choose a more constructive and truthful mindset that enables us to see with new eyes.
Emotions as Blocker
At times our block is an unexamined fear or worry. The most disabling cases seem to be when an undeclared fear is conjoined with a declared desire. When this happens, it’s like we’re driving with our foot on the brake and the gas at the same time; there’s lot of energy but it’s going nowhere.
The coaching environment creates the confidential context where these emotions can be voiced and disempowered. Once the foot comes off the brake, forward mobility occurs.
Lack of Confidence as Blocker
This blocker may be a lack of confidence turned inward or may be projected externally onto others. When we are internally focused, low self-confidence dampens our performance since we habitually withhold our best effort. This in turn creates a self-fulfilling dynamic of perceived inadequacy and failure. This is resolved when our self-sabotaging is replaced with a more realistic and supportive mindset.
When the lack of confidence is projected on to others, it seems to manifest in the perceived need for control that often generates unintended negative consequences. Once the underlying beliefs are surfaced and examined we can reframe our perspective that holds others as capable and well intentioned.
Strength as Blocker
It seems that many high-performers are challenged with the overuse of their signature strength, which is understandable. After all, their success in the past may be largely attributed to this approach. By supporting the client’s identification of the optimal use of their strength and identifying where they are overusing it, we are able to create space for experimentation of new skills and approaches.
Whatever your block, a coach can support and facilitate your ability to move forward, without telling you what to do. Really.
Marion Howell will be continuing the dialogue on overcoming barriers to performance at the next THRIVE Leadership breakfast on April 7, 2015 at the Tyndale Leadership Centre. If you’d like to join us while spots are still open, register online now.