Darren Lawrence

What is this thing called coaching?

I was at a networking event recently, where a fellow networker glanced at my name badge, then looked me straight in the eye and asked ‘so what kind of coaching do you do?’

Slightly unnerved by his direct approach and steely gaze, I froze for a second. What kind of coaching DO I do?? As it was an Institute of Directors event, I responded along the lines of, ‘business coaching – helping individuals, teams and organisations to improve what they do, and find solutions.’

That’s partly what I do, with some clients. But really, clients can bring any issue to a coaching session. So it can be personal development coaching, business coaching, life coaching, career coaching, confidence coaching, parent coaching…or a mixture – the list goes on.

Life is not as neat and tidy as many of us would like it to be, and we flex between personal, business, social and many other issues in the course of a day. Our lives are like a series of overlapping circles, a large scale Venn diagram, where we have various demands, responsibilities and ‘things’ filling our lives, as well as different roles – at one point in the day we might be in parental mode with our children, asking them to ‘please get your arm out of the letterbox!’, then we are managers or work colleagues, and the next moment sons/daughters/wives/husbands/partners/brothers/sisters/friends and so on. 

Navigating these roles and responsibilities not to mention associated tasks can be challenging, bewildering even, and inevitably we sometimes run into difficulties. We are only human! Having a coach means you have some help, and unlocking and/or unblocking an issue in one area of your life could bring all kinds of benefits to other areas and your life as a whole.

For organisations, teams or managers, investing in staff to provide coaching can lead to benefits not possible through traditional training programmes, and unlock potential in your people by raising their self awareness and encouraging them to find their own solutions to problems. 

However, unless you have experienced it, coaching may appear to be a bit of a mystery. ‘You just talk about stuff? How can that help me? I don’t need therapy!’

As my colleague Anne Green from Springboard Wellbeing Coaching says:

‘I believe that there are a lot of people who could benefit from what life coaching has to offer who don’t actually know it exists.’

I would definitely go along with that. Many people have certainly shown interest in what I do, but may not fully ‘get’ it (I need to work harder on that ‘elevator pitch’!).

Hopefully this short blog will shed some light on what coaching is and how it can help.

Helping You to Get What You Want

I have asked a number of people recently ‘what is it that you really want?’ What I have noticed is that people find it difficult to answer. They either can’t answer, or they respond in a flippant way, possibly as a deflection tactic. It may be that they have never been asked, never thought about it, perhaps fear ridicule, or maybe think what they really, really desire just isn’t possible.

Do you ever stop to think about where your life is heading, and are you on course? That is a BIG question, and one that coaching can help with. There are of course many other smaller everyday questions and issues we face in life. Coaching can help with those too.

Personally, I’m not keen on the term ‘life coaching’, as I believe it has negative connotations that devalue it, and also carries a suggestion that I, personally, as a coach, have cracked this life ‘thing’ therefore I am qualified to coach people on their lives.

I have not cracked life. Far from it! Have any of us? But that isn’t what coaching is about. Coaching is about giving time and space to people, listening to them and connecting with them in a way in which questions emerge that give rise to an insight, idea, create some new thinking about a situation, and thinking they may not have arrived at by themselves. It really is as straightforward as that.

When put like that, it may not sound a big deal. But can you remember a time when you were reallylistened to? You were talking and the other person was actively listening, rather than thinking about what they were going to say next? In my experience, it doesn’t happen very often. What was the impact of that? How did you feel? It can be a revelation to take some time out of our busy lives, say the words out loud to someone without being judged, and start to think about how things could be, what you could do to make things different. I believe the real magic in coaching starts from being listened to.

Then, through listening, and asking the right questions, what coaching does is challenge people’s ideas of what’s possible for them.

Coaching, not Mentoring, Counselling or Therapy

The other key aspect about coaching is that I do not tell people what to do. I am not a mentor, in most cases I don’t have the expertise in the area being discussed. This is not an issue in coaching, as the focus is on the client finding their own way forward – as the coach I am not the expert in that person’s life, they are. Therefore my views, opinions, thoughts and suggestions are quite frankly irrelevant! Mentoring certainly has its place, and many people have benefited from both coaching and mentoring running alongside each other – but there is a clear distinction between the two.

There have been some consistent topics that have come up with my clients over the last 2 years – for example career progression and transition, interpersonal challenges with colleagues, time management and finding ways to work more effectively. But in general the topics I have coached people on are wide and varied, sometimes unpredictable. What can start as a business coaching session can move into other areas quite quickly, due to the overlapping nature of life touched on above.

If, in one or more of these areas, things are not quite how we want them to be, we might feel uncomfortable or irritated or worse still – anxious or depressed. And although we are very used to investing in our physical health (exercise classes, gym memberships, clothing and equipment) – do we invest an equal amount in our mental health?

Coaching is not counselling or therapy, which is a different type of intervention and I am not qualified to do that. But a coaching session or series of regular sessions can really provide some timely rocket fuel to an area of your life and therefore considerably improve your life and wellbeing as a whole.

The Game-changing Benefits of Coaching

The work I do is not about me, it’s about you! It provides you with the opportunity to:

  • Talk to someone and say the words out loud
  • Be properly listened to
  • Put your thoughts in order, and gain clarity
  • Consider things from different angles and viewpoints
  • Generate new options and ideas
  • Find the best way forward for you with an action plan in place
  • Be accountable to someone who is independent, non judgemental and empathetic.
  • Coaching can provide space to self-evaluate and set realistic, positive, and achievable goals for any area of life. It can be a game changer! But don’t just take my word for it – please take a look at the testimonials provided by my clients here

If this sounds like the kind of thing that would benefit you, and you would like to know more about coaching and how we could work together, I would be delighted to hear from you.

Darren Lawrence is a qualified Personal Performance Coach helping individuals achieve their goals in sport, career and life. For an initial conversation about how coaching can help you, please call 07703 359673 or email Darren@Darren-Lawrence.com