Three things I learned from my coach training

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Training to be a coach is a weird thing. It’s a mixture of neuroscience and pop psychology and, frankly, cultural appropriation. It’s got complicated spiritual metaphors and evidence-based research on how the brain responds to stress. It’s a big information download, mixed with constant practice on how to use that information. Everyone coaches in their own way; you have to figure out which part of the big information pile is the part you can use. I like evidence-based research myself, but I’ve been surprised by how much I took away from the other parts.

  1. I learned to really, really listen. To stop multi-tasking, stop planning, stop thinking of what comes next. To just sit there, in the moment, listening. It’s surprisingly hard and shockingly powerful. I had more than one acquaintance accidentally tell me deeply personal things before I learned that you shouldn’t always listen that way. Being able to listen is core to being a coach, but it has also made me a better mother and friend.
  2. I learned to have awkward conversations. My training actually had us practice going through difficult conversations. I learned to name and own the awkwardness, and bring the subtext into text. It’s an evolving process. I’m still getting better at it. But it has already improved my ability to deal with difficult things, and to ask my coaching clients the questions they need to be asked.
  3. I learned to let people have feelings. I’m a fixer. I’ve always been a fixer. If you’re sad, I want you to be happy. If you’re lonely, I want to keep you company. But that’s not what a coach does. If you’re sad, a coach wants you to know you’re sad. If you want to stop being sad, a coach can help you identify ways to do that. But the coach doesn’t fix you. If you’re lonely, your coach helps you recognize your loneliness; she doesn’t hang out with you to make the loneliness stop. And sometimes you have to be sad or lonely to learn what you need to learn. Having someone fix your every negative emotion doesn’t lead to growth. Coaches help people grown. Becoming a coach meant learning to turn off my need to be a fixer.

2 thoughts on “Three things I learned from my coach training

  1. Hi Alanna,
    First off, thank you for your blog(s)- which I have found extremely useful as a budding global health professional. Because I have been freelancing at career-coaching for almost 2 years now (based on my experience as a soft-skills trainer), and would like to take it to the next level (i.e. get certified), I am curious as to your coaching training. To be more specific, what organisation or route did you use and from your experience why (or why not) would you recommend them? Would be nice if you could also include general tips for someone with big dreams in this niche but with a low budget for formalised training (I have seen really pricy training packages). Thanks!

  2. @Lade,

    I went through the Healthcare Coaching Institute and I am not quite sure what it currently costs, since the program has changed since I began. I loved the program, but I kind of fell into it because I liked the lead trainers and their approach. I didn’t research other programs to compare cost or content. I’m on the path to ICF certification right now. I think the ICF portfolio path is the least expensive approach to ICF-certification, but it is still definitely an investment. I need certification because I just took on a major new role in a coaching capacity, and they will want me to be certified. You may find you don’t need the credential.

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