Reflections on coaching

I am new to coaching. Both new to being coached, and new to being a coach: in a formal sense that is. In some ways I am more familiar with coaching then anything else. The supportive conversation. The guiding hand of a friend or colleague, the suggestion of a helpful supervisor, guide or mentor. Sometimes a book has acted as a coach – the author’s words spoken long ago and their echoes still creating meaning for me, here, in another time and place.
So it is appropriate that I find myself studying how to be coach under the tutelage of an author whose books have coached me at various milestones and crossroads in the last 8 years. During career crisis. In the bath with a cup of tea. On trains on long journeys. When existential angst has curled its misty fingers around my neck and threatened to squeeze. Like very few books on my shelves these few called to me again and again in times of reflection or crisis. And now I am learning to be a coach under the coaching and guidance of the woman who wrote them – it seems fitting somehow.
Early in this journey of coaching three memories that stick out to me are these:
– in a crowded room in Frankfurt, huddles knees together, doing speed coaching with strangers. The sheer enthusiasm with which people generate ideas to help me. Ideas come thick and fast once I tell them my wishes – no matter how simple, or ‘silly’ they might seem. No one, read no one, tells me my wish is not a good one, or says ‘yes but are you sure that if you got that wish you’d really be happy?’. I feel cradled and supported with a circle of smiling, intense and enthusiastic Germans.
– by Skype with a fellow student in Slovenia. My coach is humble, tentative and earthy. She suggests that to grow my identity as an artist I might like to go to more exhibitions. She asks whether I can get business cards made. Whether I enjoy doing classes. I feel the uncomfortable but warm glow of attention, of curious, gentle and well-meaning problem solving.
– by Skype with a fellow student in Tasmania. I am coaching a woman at least a decade older than me, who has been a counsellor for just as long. I feel daunted and like I will fumble and fail. I do fumble. I don’t fail though, because she is open to hearing ideas, and even though the best ideas seem to come from her, I realise that our session has given her time to reflect and let these thoughts percolate to the surface, and she seems happy with that. I feel how much more I have to learn, and that is not a bad thing.

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