When people ask me what I do, or what my profession is, I answer that I'm a life coach / executive coach.
"Oh cool. That's awesome."
"But what do you do?"
"But you're so... young!" (There's a part of me that's a bit flattered with this answer, which probably tells me I'm not so young.)
I've experimented with a variety of answers to this question and received many different types of responses that show their assumptions about coaching.
Some have experienced the type of coaching I provide, thanks to the growing number of Co-Active coaches around the world. Others, especially those with international corporate exposure (or have watched this Ted Talk, are familiar with the concept (ish) and know of its benefits even if they have not experienced it for themselves yet.
Most, though, conjure up an image that's quite different from the work I do. Some picture a motivational speaker-type person who goes on stages (or produces videos) and tells people how to live their lives better. Others think of other "coaches" that are more widespread like sports coaches and vocal coaches and expect a wise expert in life who will provide guidance on how they should live. (It's this latter view that leads to people expressing surprise about my age, especially in a society such as Cambodia.)
Both of these views have an underlying dynamic / assumption / philosophy - that I ("the expert") know better than my clients. That I am paid to provide answers to the questions that my clients cannot answer by themselves. Sometimes I come across this from my clients - "Please coach, please tell me what I should do. How do I solve this problem?" Sometimes I ask the same from my coaches.
"Hit him with a quick one-two!"
My answer in response is firm, as are those from my coaches: "How should I know what you should do?" Those are not the exact words used but the gist is the same.
The philosophy that provides the foundation of coaching is that the client has the answers to their own problems. They are the experts of their lives, not the coach. After all, who else knows the details and nuances of the clients' problems better than they? Who else has spent more time and energy on trying to solve the issue? Certainly not the person who's jumping the gun to give you advice that they've conjured up on the spot.
Some reasons for the difficulty in solving the problem, and why the client comes to the coach, are because they're stuck in a certain pattern of thinking, out of touch with their purpose and natural gifts and unaware of their blind spots.
What I do for my clients here is to act as a professionally trained partner to help people find the answer from within themselves, using the various tools of coaching (holding space, acknowledgement, powerful questioning, powerful listening etc). But that's just the results that happen on the surface.
Looking more deeply, I help my clients explore, and therefore connect very deeply with, the inner purpose behind their actions and problems faced. I help my clients to regain a sense of choice and ownership in their lives. This helps them to reconnect with the enormous power that they have within them, the energy that will drive them forward in creating the lives they deeply desire. And throughout all this, to remain grounded and present in the process of life - to feel, to experience, to be human in the healthiest and most wholesome sense.
To be able to co-create these transformative experiences with our clients, professional coaches like me have put ourselves through the very same transformative experiences during our experiential training and coaching with our own coaches. We've also grounded ourselves in the deep philosophy that underlies coaching models, tools and techniques through extensive professional training.
A well-known and well-respected coach once said that as coaches we don't sell the concept but sell the experience. I very much agree that coaching has to be experienced, not explained.
Yet I know some explanation can also be helpful, so hope this is useful to some of you - whether potential you're considering getting a coach or looking to become one.