Most coaches can talk the talk. I personally would prefer one who WALKS the talk. I mean someone who practices what is preached. The person in the role of coach matches the person that carries over into civilian life.
It’s a fairly common thing to watch a trainer put a client through a challenging workout then head straight to the bar to pound a couple of cold ones. Or a health coach who preaches on releasing unhealthy food attachments, when she herself is visibly overweight. Someone who talks about cheat days, doing whatever makes you feel good and YOLOing it up. No. Color me uninspired.
What gets me all excited is a coach who raises your energy, shares relevant and inspiring stories with you, and has healthy and empowering conversations.
You can have the most knowledgeable instructor, but if she has unhealthy habits (like diving into a bottle or trough of froyo at the end of the night), that energy will come out.
Think about water that travels through a rusty pipe – it picks up debris along the way, right? The same can be said for any coach you work with. They are the pipes – the conduits for the information you’re receiving.
One can be instructing seamlessly, but if one does not have one’s shit together, then what you receive will be nasty energy that’s laced with fear, doubt and self-deprecation. Beware of this “one” and the power she has to influence you.
I share this as part of my own frustrations that I have experienced over the years with coaches. It goes back as far as elementary school with the P.E. coaches and health instructors. Let’s just say they were not pinnacles of balanced health and lifestyle. Hacking up lungs from years of smoking, walking with a limp from injuries and subsequent surgeries, drinking sodas and eating candy, all while reminding us to get enough calcium and never have sex before marriage.
In my adult life, I’ve experienced trainers at different gyms eager to share their excitement and plans in cheat days. I’ve been in workouts lead by hungover coaches and overweight coaches. Coaches who curse and yell and judge the shit out of other people.
Maybe you’ve had similar encounters. Or maybe you haven’t experienced any coaches like this – every coach you’ve had is a shining model of health and balance. If so, awesome! I’m not trying to make the point that these rockstar coaches don’t exist. They absolutely do. I work with and am coached by an amazing group of them. I just think there is also a large supply of the other kind, and it’s helpful to know what differentiates the two so that you both can have a successful and empowering relationship.
This actually goes for all kinds of coaches, not just health related ones. Whether it’s business, music, therapy or academics, the most effective kind of coach provides the following: Energy, Stories and Conversation. In case you forget that, think of it this way: a powerful coach helps you push the ESC button on the pain and problem you’re facing.
Can you measure the energy level of your coach? Do you have quantifiable data on her lifestyle? Ask for it!
The other “E” at play here is environment. Environment is everything – it can support you in achieving your goals and creating growth or it can tear it down. What sort of environments (and invariably energy) are you putting yourself around and in by receiving the coaching? Think about how much they align or misalign with where it is you want to go.
Every great coach has a plethora of tales and examples from people they’ve worked with or encountered. These are useful tools in the coaching process and relationship building. You want someone who has a story to match something you have a question on or are experiencing, so that you can learn both the effective and ineffective methods.
When I work with clients I use stories to demonstrate that when you make a certain move or action, it can likely create a certain consequence. However, autonomy and free will are beautiful things – they allow us to process the outcome of other circumstances and either move in the opposite direction or choose to bump our heads against the wall a few times to experience the denial for ourselves. Neither are wrong. But the stories are there to teach, regardless of what we choose.
If you want to see where someone’s consciousness and level of awareness is at, just listen to his conversation for 10 minutes (sometimes even less). When we speak, we reveal our context around life – the beliefs we have, the paradigms we subscribe to and the lens through which we see the world. The language a person uses discloses his relationship to the world around him. This of course is going to affect the coaching.
Words or phrases associated with disempowering conversation sound like: sucks, worst, not having a choice, ruining the day, victim. Some words associated with empowering conversation sound like: having the power to choose, creating, responsibility, accountability, healing.
Pay attention to the conversation of a potential or even current coach. It might seem inconsequential and easy to ignore disempowering jargon (again, especially if they are skilled in what they do – but I believe that the skill set is just the tip of the iceberg), but our words carry energy (back to that E word!). If the conversation does not support a healthy and synergystic partnership with your coach, this will eventually cap the the potential for this engagement.
To conclude, I don’t hold coaches to a standard of infallible beings who do not experience challenges and/or occasional imbalance. They’re human after all. I’m more so advocating for taking the time to see the character of any coach you work with, to look at their ESC. That she is a consistent, competent, integrous guide you want influencing your life. Don’t search for perfect. Search for powerful.