Friday, December 19, 2014

What Do You Want?: An Invitation to Consider Professional Coaching

Guest Post by Sherri Spelic

One of the conundrums of being a coach and describing my work is that the process and its benefits which are entirely clear to me can seem mysterious and potentially dubious to newcomers. The statement “I am a leadership coach” may land on many people rather oddly. “Leadership coach? What does that mean?” Confusion, skepticism, or doubt may arise along with genuine curiosity and interest – all options are possible. Putting myself in my inquirer’s shoes, I can begin to imagine where the confusion may have its sources. Professional coaching has many areas of specialization (i.e., leadership, executive, financial) and here I will use the term “professional coaching” to encompass all of those.
In professional coaching, client and coach form a partnership of choice and are considered peers with differentiated areas of expertise. The client is the expert on his life and experiences and the coach offers process expertise in assisting the client in “forwarding his agenda.”  At its core, the coach-client relationship revolves around a single question: What does the client want? While many other questions may arise in the process of responding to that central question, it is critical to the integrity of the relationship and an ethical understanding of professional coaching that this question forms the basis of the client’s agenda at all stages of the process.
As a partner in this endeavor, the client brings his or her desires and goals to the process and must also demonstrate a reasonable degree of intentionality– a willingness to engage in the necessary inquiry, learning, experimentation and action to move forward with ideas and plans. The client must both want forward movement and take the steps to enact it.  The coach creates a safe, non-judgmental space for the client to express and examine her desires by listening deeply – to what is said, as well as to what is not said. Consistently taking a learner’s stance, the coach expresses interest and curiosity while also providing direct feedback to the client in the form of observations. As an observer, listener, supporter and challenger, the coach offers each client a palpable attentional presence that is distinct from other day-to-day encounters with friends, colleagues and family. The coach’s capacity to be fully and deeply present for the client creates the canvas upon which the client can paint her desired future.
If this is still sounding kind of “out there” for you, consider this scenario: You have a great idea for a start-up company. As you begin researching the market and seeking potential partners, you also decide to start working with a professional coach. You and the coach meet every two weeks and in your 60 minute sessions you focus on topics relevant to getting your idea off the ground. When you leave these sessions, you always feel buoyed and eager to start on the next assignment. Over the 4 months (8 sessions) that you work with your coach, you make substantial strides in your business plan. You anticipate a successful launch within 90 days of the end of your coaching relationship.  A friend asks you what you got out of coaching. Here is your response:
“Here’s what I learned: I actually do have good ideas and I also need to have more patience with myself and other people if I want the ideas to fly. Surprisingly we talked quite a bit about my previous work in a non-profit organization and how my learning there could be relevant here. I didn’t really see that before. It’s funny, it often felt like we were just talking but the way she asked me these questions that really got me to think deeply or to look at something I wasn’t even thinking about – that kind of changed the way I was working with my start-up partners and the atmosphere in the team changed for the better. I listened to others’ ideas without butting in with my own, for instance. I didn’t really know I was doing that before. I also realized where I was getting stuck on “being the boss” so that I forgot the fun I had in sharing my ideas in the first place. Remembering what’s fun about my ideas has helped me be a better team player, I think.  So, yeah, I learned a lot and I’m much clearer about where I need to go next. Coaching was totally worth it.”
If you’re wondering how coaching might fit in your situation, consider it a unique professional relationship designed to put you in the path of success. Take advantage of coaching to build on the skills and capabilities you already possess; to integrate the knowledge and experience you have cultivated in order to create something new. Or use the process to clarify and synthesize your priorities for yet another adventure. Seek out coaching when you’re ready to step up your game or change it entirely. When you’d consider redrawing the map rather than following the path someone else has set for you, that’s when coaching may well be the vital call you need to make.
About the Author: Sherri Spelic is a leadership coach and owner of Sherri Spelic Coaching based in Vienna, Austria. Two decades of teaching elementary physical education and coaching track have strengthened her conviction that mind-body connections form the foundation for all successful learning. Check out her blog: and follow her on Twitter: @edifiedlistener, or send her email

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