We at Coachilla have talked to a lot of people about coaching in the past year. We always ask people we meet what they think coaching is, what they’d expect from a session with a life coach and what they think about coaching in general. With a few exceptions, the answers are always quite far from reality.
Thanks to a few con-men, some ‘Hollywood expectations’ and some misconceptions in the back of the mind, many people just don’t seem to know much about real coaching, or recognize its benefits.
Well, we couldn’t let that stand.
Starting today, we’ll be posting some conversations with successful real-life coaches to shine some light on coaching and what it can bring to a person’s life. Tune in regularly for our #coachconversations.
We could think of no better coach to start with than Sophia Fromell, the founder of Ithaca Life. She is a certified Life Coach with a degree in Life Coaching Skills and Practice from Newcastle College, UK and a member of The International Coach Federation, (ICF). Sophia has dedicated her life to helping people achieve their true goals, and now she’s here to help us spread awareness of coaching. She’s also a contributor to Entrepreneur.com, and her articles are great for entrepreneurs looking to understand coaching.
Chitrak: Let’s start with coaching itself, since many people don’t know what exactly coaches do. I’ve read that you offer five different types of coaching. Could you explain what they are?
Sophia: Of course. As you said, I specialize in five areas:
- Life coaching — When you feel overwhelmed, struggling to make sense of your life and striving to find a balance, a life coach will help you improve the areas of your life that are not giving you the results that you want. Working with your coach, you will identify what you want to achieve in life, and get to learn the right tools to define and reach your goals.
- Career coaching — Career coaching is not about finding you a job, but about identifying the career path that fits your skill set and passion. With that done, you can set up professional goals, make career decisions and overcome negative feelings such as ‘being stuck in a rut’. Our aim is to eliminate ‘career dissatisfaction’ and move towards a genuine level of contentment in your professional life that will impact all other areas of your life as well.
- Corporate coaching — In corporate coaching we work with teams within an organisation. Through our sessions, we help the team members identify and define their professional goals and ensure that these are aligned with the organisational goals. This way we work towards optimizing the team performance which will impact the organisational bottom line.
- Leadership coaching — leadership coaching is tailored around a specific business purpose. It brings a unique combination of business, behavioral and capability awareness to enable leaders to master new attitudes, approaches and behaviors. Through this, they can enhance their capability to achieve short and long term goals.
- Change management — Change Management helps you see yourself from different angles, perspectives and viewpoints. It challenges the way you see the world around you by allowing you to think outside the box to better evaluate and assess different situations. It enables you to increase readiness and adapt to change, reduce resistance and welcome change as a necessary step in life.
Chitrak: Yeah, it’s important to understand that coaching isn’t therapy. It’s intensely goal oriented, and geared towards helping you move forward, not look back. So is the first session always focused on identifying goals?
Sophia: The first coaching session is exploratory in nature. During that time I try to achieve 3 things:
- Understand more about the client: Where they have come from, where they are now and where they want to go.
- Understand whether coaching is right for the client: the client needs to be ready to move forward and he/she needs to have the level of commitment and dedication to complete the work required in order to bring change in their life.
- Understand whether client and the coach can work together: the coach needs to be honest with the client and explain whether he/she can help the client or not.
In the session, a good coach will also explain how the following session works, will explain the ground rules, address confidentiality clauses and will discuss the coaching agreement with you. If your coach doesn’t do these things, you should insist on it or find a new coach.
If you reach an agreement, you will work together the next session will be about getting started with your goals. You and your coach will start with some practical exercises such as the wheel of life to get you started on thinking about your life.
For every session you will have a set of clear deliverables and you should be prepared to be held accountable for your progress.
Chitrak: Almost everyone who’s been coached by a real, professional coach keeps the relationship going because of the value they gain. But outsiders can be skeptical. What would you say are the unique benefits of having a coach?
A life coach can provide you feedback and help you see yourself as others see you; at the same time a coach can help you look at your life as a whole, not just the area that is currently preoccupying your mind.
Through coaching you will get to appreciate that all areas of your life (career, finance, family, relationships, self development, social life) are interconnected and if one area is not giving you the results that you want, the others will be affected.
When working with a coach, you will set goals that will stretch you and challenge you. Your new goals will take you outside your comfort zone; that might often feel uncomfortable, however getting outside your comfort zone is the only way to grow as an individual and learn.
Chitrak: Eeppi, our founder, often tells us that accountability is one of the most valuable benefits of coaching. But is that really true for the successful entrepreneurs and businessmen who employ coaches? For example, Bill Gates is a huge fan of coaching and recommends it highly. What makes it worth his time?
Sophia: Albert Einstein said once: “If I had one hour to save the world he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.”
No matter how senior one is within an organisation, getting honest feedback and perspective is one of our biggest challenges. In fact, feedback often gets less honest as you move up the ladder.
It is often the case with entrepreneurs and successful people who are driven by results, that they are so eager to resolve a problem that they take little time defining it. What we don’t realize is that the solutions we come up with and their effectiveness, and as result their quality are directly related to how accurately we have defined the problem we try to resolve.
An experienced coach will help an executive define the problem in a way that inspires creative solutions, for example instead of asking how can we increase sales the problem may be rephrased as how can we make the customer experience better.
Even senior people who are used to working at a strategic or tactical level are often caught up in the organisational paradigms and when working on a solution may be limited by a number of assumptions and beliefs which may not be true.
An experienced coach will expose and challenge such assumptions and will help an executive look at it from different perspectives.
Chitrak: You keep mentioning experienced coaches. What warning signals could let a person know that their coach wasn’t experienced, or wasn’t drawing out their full potential?
Sophia: The biggest sign is if you are comfortable in your sessions. Coaching isn’t therapy. Coaching is all about being challenged and being pushed outside your comfort zone. This is the only way to learn more about yourself and get what you want in life. If you are not feeling challenged, even uncomfortable at times, then your coach is not getting the best out of you, yet.
Another sign is if nothing has changed after a few sessions. Coaching is a process and as such it takes time to complete, so do not expect results overnight. However, after a few sessions you should be slowly feeling more optimistic, focused and positive, (provided that you are committed and you are working on bettering yourself). If such feelings are lacking you may need to address the issue with your coach and/or get a referral to a different coach.
One sign that most people don’t think about is if the coach keeps giving you advice. A good and experienced coach should not give her clients advice. Providing advice presumes that a coach knows exactly how the clients feels, what he wants and how he reacts. Even if the coach feels that he has been in the ‘same situation’ as the client has, there are often huge differences in age, gender, experience and background. Providing advice reflects the coaches context, interpretation, culture, experience and background which may be similar but can never be the same as that of the client’s.
Chitrak: On the flip side of that question, what makes a good coach great?
Sophia: A good coach needs to have a wide array of skills. He/she needs to be properly trained and certified, have good communication skills and the ability to move the client from point A to point B.
A great coach however doesn’t only know the coaching philosophies but he/she also knows how to apply these skills on one-to-one settings in order to build strong, trusting relationships with each client.
A good coach is a good communicator however a great coach understands that he/she needs to listen more and speak less. A great coach is listening not only for words but also for those unspoken signals and uses silence to allow the client to reflect.
A great coach is not only focused on helping the client to achieve the results they want, but they ensure that they motivate the client when their morale is low, the inspire and support and ensure that successful milestones are recognized and celebrated.
Chitrak: No matter how great the coach is, it’s often very difficult to ask for help. How would you help someone get over this barrier?
Asking for help can indeed be a daunting task for many of us, not only because it requires we admit we are in need of help, but mainly because we make a conscious decision to allow a third party in our personal affairs.
When we refuse to ask for help, we do so out of fear; fear of whether the other person will be able to help us, fear of being criticized, fear of finding out something about ourselves that we do not like.
Many of the individuals who come to see me are often undecided as to whether they need a coach or any kind of help for that matter. However, even without knowing it, when an individual decides to see a coach, even for an exploratory session, he/she has done of the biggest and most important steps; he/she has accepted the fact that he/she needs change.
When I first meet my clients, I offer them a complimentary exploratory session, where we discuss what the client wants to achieve, we explore whether I can support them and whether we can work together. At this point, we decide whether the client is ready for action, prepared to take the challenge and go after what they want in life. It is up to the coach to offer help and demonstrate how coaching can transform one’s life. it is however, up to the individual to accept and follow up on that offer for help. And this is ultimately the biggest challenge for the client: if you ask for help, you may get it!
Chitrak: How fast should someone expect to see results from coaching?
Sophia: Coaching is very different from person to person. While many clients begin to see results within the first few sessions the speed and the quality of the results you get largely depends on you and how committed you are in working on your goal and applying the the tools and techniques you learn in the sessions.
Clearly, to achieve large ambitious goals, which is what you should be aiming for, can take some time however with diligent work and commitment you’ll find that you are becoming more positive, you gain clarity of mind, and your stress levels can reduce.
Chitrak: What, for you, is the most interesting thing about coaching? What got you started, and what convinced you that you wanted to stick with it?
Sophia: The most amazing thing about coaching is the change you see in people’s lives. I have certainly seen the difference coaching has made in my life and I also get to see daily how coaching is impacting and affecting my clients’ lives; I see first hand how they change and develop as individuals, session after session.
For me as a coach there is bigger and better reward than seeing the change in my clients’ lives. The moment they say to me ‘you have changed my life’ this gives me all the motivation and reward I need.
Chitrak: Do you often find yourself coaching people in the same way at first, or is it different every time? How do you tailor your coaching?
Each client who comes to see me is unique and even though some individuals may share a number of common concerns it is their individual experiences, background and beliefs that make them all very different to each other.
As two clients can never be the same, equally each coaching session is very different. While there is a general guideline as to what happens during coaching, each individual session is very much guided by what the client wants to discuss. What is common however amongst all clients is that in each and every session, the coach should listen without judgment and help the client identify what they want to achieve in their lives and help them to get there, without being criticized, interrupted or judged as they speak. A conversation between the coach and the client will always be kept in the strictest confidentiality.
Chitrak: If it’s okay to ask, what’s the most unusual / offbeat advice you’ve ever given?
I try to avoid giving advice to my clients. My role is to ensure they get to figure things out themselves. I support and guide them in this process but I tend to not advise them. And most people do not want to be offered any advice either.
Think of how many times a friend, family member or colleague offered advice about how you should live your life. How many times did you respond: “You know what? You’re absolutely right! I’ll change right away.” Probably never. Instead you are more likely to think “Mind your own business!”
As helping professionals, if we want to encourage behavior change in a client, we need to ensure that we are an example for others to follow. Research in psychology and observational learning supports the theory that people will resist unwelcomed advice; they are however more likely to follow the behaviour of others, especially when the individual perceives to have a good outcome out of following such behaviour.
Chitrak: We’re planning to do a bunch of these interviews with many coaches, and we’d like to start a chain of questions between each one. So, off the top of your head, could you think of one question that you’d like to ask another coach? It can be as weird or straightforward as you want :)
Sophia: I’d ask what makes them an expert in their field and why do they stand apart from the crowd.
Chitrak: Let’s end on something a bit different. What’s the story behind the name of your company? Why Ithaca Life?
Sophia: According to Greek mythology, after the end of the Troy war one of the Greek kings Odysseus, left Troy to return to his island Ithaca. On the journey back he encountered a lot of misfortune, he lost his men and fleet but also had a lot of adventures and experiences till arrived in Ithaca many years later. his desire to reach Ithaca was why kept his going through all his hard times. however when he finally arrived in Ithaca he was a bit disappointed as Ithaca was not how he remember it and he felt disappointed.
Metaphorically, Ithaca represents one’s goals in life. We often strive to achieve our next goal but often when we get there we are left with a feeling of ‘is that it?’. what is important however is not so much the goal in itself but rather the journey we take to achieve this goal as the experience and knowledge we gather on the way makes us who we are.
Chitrak: That’s amazing! I hope Eeppi has something that good up his sleeve when someone asks him about our name. We’re not gonna top that, so it’s a good time to call it a day. Thanks a lot Sophia. That was exactly what we were hoping for, and we hope the readers agree.
We hope that chat gave as much to you as it did to us. Be sure to drop by our website to sign up for our early access. We’re already matching people to coaches, so as always, right now is the best time to get started on the road to a better life.
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