A coach serves a very specific purpose. They exist to help people solve problems, tackle projects, achieve goals, and excel in their life and work. Their purpose is not to psycho analyze you, probe deep into your past and manipulate your emotions so that you cry. If your coach does that, fire him…today!
The Emotions Game
I was listening to a book on coaching the other day. I won’t name the book, but I got mad. The author shared a sample conversation between a coach and a client in which the coach asked one question after another, drawing the client out. Each question was designed to probe deeper into the client’s thoughts and stir up her emotions.
By the end of the conversation the client was sad. When asked “where she was,” she described herself on a stormy beach being overwhelmed by the crashing waves of the sea, feeling as if she might drown. Really? Who talks that way? And what purpose does such a dialog serve?
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes we need to explore our feelings. It is often helpful to have someone guide us into a more open frame of mind that allows us to express them. Doing so can help us understand why we do the things we do. But if your coach seems driven to manipulate you to the point of creating strong emotions that weren’t there in the first place, you really should look for a different coach.
The Powerful Question
Successful coaches do ask lots of questions and coaching sessions can get emotional at times. In fact, if you don’t feel challenged by your coach; if your coach doesn’t make you uncomfortable from time to time; if your coach never says things that you don’t like or you disagree with, then your coach isn’t doing his job. The difference is between manipulating you into feeling like you got your money’s worth because you got emotional and actually getting your money’s worth because you made a breakthrough and the process happened to get a little intense.
To achieve those breakthroughs, good coaches ask powerful questions. A powerful question is one that:
- Doesn’t allow for a yes/no response
- Doesn’t have an obvious answer
- Isn’t leading
- Forces you to stop and think, thus creating uncomfortable silence
- When answered, often leads to another powerful question or causes you to gasp
These are very hard questions to formulate and ask. Excellent coaches are always honing their ability to do so. But keep in mind that when your coach asks you a yes/no question, or one where the answer is insanely obvious, it isn’t necessarily a sign that your coach is a bad coach. That question may actually be the right question to ask at that time. Nevertheless, the coach you should keep will ask more powerful questions than standard simple questions.
I’m Not Your Therapist
What she won’t do is ask you questions just to get your emotions stirred up. She won’t ask you questions that lead you to the discovery of some deep-seated emotional trauma that you’ve suppressed for years. She won’t ask you questions designed to make you talk like a starry eyed poet who moved from a peaceful existence to staring down the mouth of a tsunami that is poised to engulf you in its vengeful malice.
Your coach isn’t your therapist. Your coach’s job is to help you define your objectives in clear terms, create plans to achieve those objects, and help you understand and overcome the obstacles that stand in your way. Ultimately your coach is responsible to help you succeed in the way that the two of you define success. The process can be introspective. You do need to understand your motives and emotions at a deeper level than many people do but only to the degree necessary to achieve your objectives. If in the process you and your coach uncover traumas that require healing, a good coach will recommend a therapist or spiritual adviser, like a pastor, but he won’t try to fill that role himself. If he does, fire him!