I just got off the phone with a high powered consultant who writes strategic plans for Fortune 100 companies. I’ve coached her for about five years. I have watched her grow her business from her spare bedroom to an office in NYC with a view. I am amazed and proud of all she’s accomplished as she has honed her skills, handled the finances of a growing company and navigated the staffing to add value to her business. That’s what a good executive coach does–walks alongside a client and helps point out the pitfalls while encouraging each and every action item on her goal list.
But that’s not all I have witnessed with Peg. In the time I have known her, she’s gone through a messy divorce, lost a parent, launched a child and ended a toxic business relationship. I bet I just made you relax a little–you know as a therapist exactly how to handle each of those issues. With your eyes closed. The part that gave you pause was the first paragraph.
How do I help someone with their business plan?
What if I don’t know the first thing about their business?
Do I have to know basic accounting to talk about financial growth?
The answer to the last question: No and you’ll learn. Just as we sit with a therapy client and hear about the day-to-day events that define her life, the same is true with the coaching client. I have a business background, so the lingo is familiar to me. But understand, my sessions with Peg were not about the nitty-gritty details of her business; they were about the why, when and what’s it all about? Most of the “how” was left up to her. Sure, I asked a lot of questions at the beginning– starting with — ”What do you do all day?” “Teach me some of your language so I understand the mechanics” and the all important–”I don’t understand that, Peg. Can you give the “just enough” education on it so I can help move you forward?”
So, here’s the punchline. Therapists make great coaches. Why? Because there is not one event that happened with Peg that wasn’t colored or triggered by her worldview, feelings or past behaviors. Not one. And since she was a coaching client, I knew my job was to move her forward in her goals. However with my training? I could easily (with my eyes closed!) know when it just wasn’t by chance or luck whether her action items weren’t checked off; I knew if something else was at play. That was my cue to ask the question: “Is there something else going on here?” And that was her cue to sigh, dig down deep and with our trusting and respectful relationship, admit to herself that yep, a trigger was present interfering with her progress. I hope you know what I did next: I asked her to set up an appointment with her therapist, and then, we tackled the next item on her list.
So there you have it. This is how we as therapists stand out as great coaches. I’ve met and worked with some great non-therapist coaches in my career, and I can unequivocally say it’s because they are strong in emotional quotient and typically operate with some personal insight. Sound like a therapist you know? So, if you are hesitating to coach because “you don’t know enough,” you do. Therapists make Great Coaches.