Episode 81: What It Means to Be a Coach with Clarity

What is coaching? In this episode I’m going beyond the standard definitions and sharing my definition of coaching, what it means to be a Coach with Clarity, and how this definition incorporates the process and purpose of a coaching relationship.

81: What It Means to Be a Coach with Clarity

I'm going back to square one. One of the very first topics I covered on the podcast was breaking down what we mean by "coaching". We explored several definitions from pioneers in the field, but at the end of the day, I have to admit that I don't feel like any of them fully represent my approach to coaching.

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Show Notes

I’m going back to square one.

One of the very first topics I covered on the podcast was breaking down what we mean by “coaching”. We explored several definitions from pioneers in the field, but at the end of the day, I have to admit that I don’t feel like any of them fully represent my approach to coaching.

At first, I remedied that by cobbling together parts of different definitions but as I started writing my next book, I had the audacious idea to create my own definition of coaching. That’s what I’m sharing with you on this episode.

Today we’re talking about why I wanted to expand on the existing definitions of coaching, what it really means to be a Coach with Clarity, and how a Coach with Clarity approaches the coaching relationship.

Topics covered

  • Why big, bold actions bring out our inner critic
  • My definition of coaching
  • The dynamic nature of coaching
  • What it means to center your clients in your work as a coach
  • Why coaching is a co-creative process
  • Defining the union between coach and client
  • Focusing on the doing and the being in your coaching

Resources mentioned

Now it’s time for you to show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity! Screenshot this episode and tag me on Instagram @coachwithclarity and let me know what you’re more excited to explore in future podcast episodes!

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Want to connect further? Follow me on Instagram and continue the discussion in the Coach with Clarity Facebook group.

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Well, hello, my friend. Welcome to the Coach with Clarity Podcast. I'm your host, Lee Chaix McDonough, and I am so honored that you are joining me today for another episode of the show. If this is your first time listening to the Coach with Clarity Podcast, well, my friend, you have picked a terrific episode to start with. Because we are going back to basics today. I am going to be sharing with you the Coach with Clarity “definition of coaching”, and we're going to talk about what it really means to be a Coach with Clarity, and how a Coach with Clarity approaches the coaching relationship. So you really could not have picked a better episode to start with. And if you are a longtime listener, I am so grateful that you are here week after week joining me for this podcast. I make every episode with you in mind. And I trust that you will find this episode to be just as informative and helpful in your coaching practice as well. I love creating this podcast for you. And I want to make sure that it meets your needs and it answers your questions. In fact, I am putting together an episode of my most frequently asked questions. So I would love to hear from you. If you have a question about coaching, if there's a topic that you would like to hear me talk about on the show, please let me know. The best way to do so is through a DM on Instagram. So if you're not already following me on Instagram, head on over, my handle is @CoachwithClarity, give me a follow and then let me know in the DM's what you would like to see me cover in a future episode. And if you're not on Instagram, that is totally okay. You are welcome to send me an email. The best way is at info@CoachwithClarity.com, let me know what you would like to hear more of in the show. And that will help me as I create new podcast episodes and new ideas moving forward. But today, we are going back to square one. And we are taking a deeper look at what coaching is, what it means to be a coach, and specifically what it means to be a Coach with Clarity.

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When I first started this podcast, and when I first started my certification program, one of the very first topics I covered was, “What is Coaching?”. In fact, if you head back to Episode One, you're going to hear a really great episode about other definitions of coaching, including the International Coaching Federation, and other pioneers in the field. And that's also what I taught in Day One of my coaching certification. There are some wonderful definitions out there. But I have to admit, at the end of the day, I didn't feel like any of them fully represented how I coach and my approach to coaching. And as a result, I felt like I was either adding to, or clarifying, or just having to go a little deeper into some of the existing definitions. Then as I started writing what will be my next book, I had the audacious idea to create my own definition of coaching. And I'm not going to lie to you, my very first thought after “Hmm, maybe I should create my own definition”, was, “I'm sorry, who do you think you are creating your own definition of coaching? Don't you know there are plenty of other people, and agencies, and organizations out there that have already done that? Who really needs to hear from you?”. Just as soon as I had that thought I recognized it for what it was, there goes my inner critic at work. And I've done enough work to know that my inner critic shows up whenever I am about to take big, bold action. And yes, coming up with one's own definition of coaching and sharing it on a podcast, or in a book, definitely qualifies as big, bold action. And so anytime we do that, it makes sense that our inner critic would show up and say, “Whoa, whoa, this could be potentially unsafe, you're putting yourself out there, people might ridicule you, maybe you shouldn't do this”. And so that's why I have those thoughts about “Who am I to do this?”. So if you have those thoughts too, first off, know that you're not alone. And secondly, remind yourself that this is simply a safety mechanism at work. And you get to decide whether right now is a time to be safe, or whether it's a time to be bold. Sometimes safety is the right choice. Sometimes it will be prudent to maybe not put yourself out there at this time or in front of this audience. But you and I, we've developed a relationship over the last 80+ episodes. And I feel safe sharing my big, bold definition of coaching with you today. And again, I would love to hear how it resonates with you and what it inspires in you. Because that is the purpose of sharing it. It's not to put myself out there as some expert and here's my definition. No, it is to inspire conversation and connection. And to encourage you to take this definition of coaching, and make it your own. Adopt what works for you, modify what feels more authentic to you. And let's allow this to be a springboard for further conversation around what coaching is, what it's not, and how we can best serve our clients. With that in mind, I am going to share with you what I have created so far around the definition of coaching. And in many ways you are getting a sneak peek behind the scenes of the book that I'm currently writing, because I suspect this will find its way into my book in some form or fashion. So with that, allow me to share with you the Coach with Clarity “Definition of Coaching”. “Coaching is a dynamic, client centered, co-creative partnership that empowers clients to define, explore, and embody the fullest expression of the self”.
Okay, so I know that was a lot in one little sentence. So why don't I kind of break down the key pieces of that definition. And why I chose each word, because each word was placed in that definition intentionally. And I want to start with the first one which is “dynamic”. That was really inspired by the fact that what I love most about coaching is the possibility of an unexpected and delightful surprise. Whether it's a brand new idea or epiphany, a fresh take on an existing concept, or a moment of clarity, there's always the potential for something exciting to emerge. And to create space for these opportunities, we must make room for the magic. And that's where this idea of dynamic comes in. Now those of you who have been listening to the show for a while, know that I am a researcher at heart. So of course, when I went about creating a definition and choosing words, I went to the source. I went to the dictionary because I wanted to make sure that I was using each and every word properly. So when I went to the Oxford Dictionary, and I looked up “dynamic”, the first definition was, “of a process or system characterized by constant activity, change, or progress”. And that is exactly how I view my approach to coaching. Our clients come to us because they want to create some form of change. Now that change itself will differ from client to client. One client may wish to strengthen their relationship with their partner, another client may want to improve their health, another might dream of starting their own business, and yet another may wish to deepen their spiritual practice and so on. Yet no matter the desire, creating change and making progress is at the heart of the coaching process. And that's what makes it dynamic. And actually, the word “dynamic” describes not only the coaching process, but hopefully the coach and the client as well. Because the second definition of “dynamic” is, “of a person positive in attitude and full of energy and new ideas”. This means our energy, our experience, and our wisdom are essential elements in the coaching relationship. It's why the best resource you have at your disposal is yourself. And that's also why one of the four pillars of Coach with Clarity is Intentional Use of Self. When you show up dynamically, you shape the flow of the session, and you inspire your clients to create new ideas and to refine existing ones. That's why dynamic is such a key component of the Coach with Clarity “Definition of Coaching”. Now, the second piece of this definition is “client centered”. In coaching, the client's vision, goals, and needs are paramount. And that's what anchors the entire coaching experience. As coaches, we guide our clients through a structured process to create a plan for the overall coaching experience. And we also help our clients create agendas for each coaching session. However, and this is really important, the content of those plans originate with the client, not with the coach. It's not our role to dictate what we think our clients should do, nor should we be the ones creating goals and objectives on our clients behalf. We want it to originate with the client. That's what makes this a “client centered” process.
Now, that's not to say you won't have ideas and opinions about whatever it is you're discussing during your coaching sessions, you absolutely will. There may even be times where it's appropriate to share them with your client. But as coaches, we trust that our clients know the best path forward for themselves. Our role is simply to help them discover the next best step. We may be the expert in the coaching process, but our client is the expert in themselves. So when we prioritize their needs, and when we highlight their wisdom, we engage in a client centered approach. And that is a critical component of ethical coaching practice, and why it is a part of the Coach with Clarity “Definition of coaching”. So we have dynamic, we have client centered, the next component is “co-creative”. Now earlier, I talked about how we make room for the magic within a session. And that magic often leads to that unexpected insight, or breakthrough, or result for the client. And those moments are an act of co-creation. It's not simply about the skills and expertise that the coach brings to the process, nor is it strictly about the strength and wisdom the client inherently has. It's not even only about the connection between coach and client, although coaching is definitely an example of the whole being more than the sum of its parts. The act of coaching goes beyond what the coach brings, what the client brings, or how those things work together. Really, coaching is a “co-creative” act because it includes the coach, and the client, and something else. It's almost like an intangible energy that we can't see and yet we sense, we know it is present nonetheless. Now some people view this quality in a spiritual sense, perhaps they call it God, or source, or universe, or spirit. Whereas others might describe it as a synergy, or a collaborative flow state. What you choose to call it is up to you. And to be quite honest with you, it's really no one's business but yours, what you call it or how you define it. Yet, let's recognize it's there. And that it is an integral part of that “co-creative” process. Because when we approach coaching from a place of co-creation, we acknowledge that there's more at work than what meets the eye. We are open to new ideas and opportunities no matter the source, and we're able to view existing ideas and processes from a new vantage point. And this perspective reminds us that transformational coaching starts with creating a container that nurtures co-creation, and it facilitates co-creation through powerful questioning and deep partnership. You can see why I chose the words dynamic, client centered, and co-creative to describe the next part of the definition, which is a “partnership that empowers”. And I'll be honest with you, this was the part of creating the definition that took the longest period of time for me. I wanted to be really clear around how I was defining this union between coach and client, and that's ultimately why I selected the words “partnership that empowers”. This is very consistent with the International Coaching Federation definition. It states that coaching is a partnership. And as with any high functioning partnership, it has to be anchored in mutual trust, respect, safety, and equality. And although it's the clients goals and agenda that lead the way, neither person is more important than the other in the relationship. This is a partnership of equals. And when both coach and client are fully committed to the process, there's really no limit as to what can be accomplished. Now ICF also uses the word “inspire” to describe the coaching process. And when I first read the definition, that made sense to me. Because whenever I wrap up an amazing coaching session, regardless of whether I'm the coach or the client, I always leave feeling inspired and ready to take on the world. However, when I looked up the meaning of “inspire” in the Oxford Dictionary, which hello, it's me, so you knew I was going to do that. This is what I found. So the definition of inspire is, “to fill someone With the urge or ability to do or feel something”. And when I read that, something about that definition felt off to me. And I really had to take some time to reflect on why. And that's when I realized, in this case, the word “inspire” feels passive. So the best way I can describe that is to share one of my very favorite quotes. In fact, I think I've shared this before on an earlier coaching call episode. But this quote is from Leonard Bernstein, and he said, “Inspiration is wonderful when it happens. But the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time, the wait is simply too long”. And this is true not only for writers, but for anyone and everyone. If we wait until we feel inspired, or if we delegate our inspiration to someone else, like a coach, or to something else, like the coaching process, then we become dependent upon something outside us for our inspiration. And so in coaching, this means that the client is on the receiving end, they are being filled with the urge or ability, by someone or by something else. And this runs contrary to a commonly held belief among many coaches, myself included, that clients already have everything they need within them to create the change they want to see in their lives. They don't need to be filled by something outside them, when they can tap into what they already possess. You know, to do so strips the client of their agency and their ability to create the change they want to see. Clients don't need to be inspired. But instead, they deserve to be empowered. That is why I chose the word “empower”, to describe the coaching process. “Empower” means to give someone, or rather to find or reclaim, the authority or power to do something. So our clients have always had access to their own power, coaching simply helps them discover it or rediscover it. So kind of like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, who always had the ability to return home, our clients have always had the ability to create the life they want. Coaching just helps them do so more effectively, more efficiently, and hopefully more enjoyably. And so ideally, coaching is that partnership that empowers clients to do so. We've just explored the first half of the definition, which really looks at what the coaching process is. And the second half of the definition really looks at what coaching allows clients to do. And my hope was that I could encapsulate that in the second half of my definition, which says, “to define, explore and embody the fullest expression of the self”. So if the first half of the definition describes the process, the second half describes the purpose, to discover and express who we really are. I believe this is true regardless of your coaching niche, or your ideal client, or even your promised result. It doesn't matter whether you are a business coach, or a health coach, whether you're a corporate coach, or a relationship coach or a life coach, whatever your client wants to achieve, is a reflection of what matters most to them, and how they want to show up in the world. So our role is to support them not just in accomplishing their goal, but to do so in a way that honors their values and their principles. I find that clients typically seek coaching because they want something. Whether that's a better relationship, a successful business, a healthier body, whatever it is, and for whatever reason, they haven't been able to attain it thus far. As coaches, our training and experience make us well suited to help them achieve their desired result. And it's not surprising that many coaches start off in the land of “how to”. They focus their attention on the doing, and they engage the client in identifying specific steps they should take to get from point A, where they are now, to point B where they want to be. Now this is not a bad place to start the coaching relationship, because when a client experiences success early on, they are motivated to continue. And yet, while focusing solely on the “how to” can garner a quick win, it doesn't always lead to lasting progress. Creating sustainable change requires connecting the “how to” with the who and the why. Within coaching, we have to focus on not just the doing, but also the being, because that's when truly powerful coaching takes place. So the Coach with Clarity Model of Coaching allows clients to identify and align with their vision, mission, and values, so that their external behaviors and actions are consistent with their internal beliefs. It's from this place that they're able to achieve their goals, yes, but in a way that feels good. And this is where we as the coach need to assess where our clients are in this process. Some of our clients will engage in coaching already clear on what matters most to them, and others may need guidance in clarifying their key values. This is something that I talk about and teach within my certification program. And it's certainly something that I explore within the chapters about meaning in my book, “ACT on Your Business”. And the reason why focusing on meaning is so important is because it is the pathway for our clients to embody their fullest expression of themselves, so that they know what matters most to them. They know how they want to live their lives, and they can link those ideals with their actions. And that's why coaching becomes a container in which we can help our clients define, explore, and embody that full expression. So that's it, my friends, that is the Coach with Clarity “Definition of Coaching”. Coaching is a dynamic, client centered, co-creative partnership that empowers clients to define, explore and embody the fullest expression of the self. With that, let's go into this week's Clarity in Action Moment.
For this week's Clarity in Action Moment, I want to encourage you to come up with your own definition of coaching. What does it mean to you to be a coach? What does the coaching process involve? Now, you are welcome to use the Coach with Clarity definition as a springboard. You may also want to take a look at other coaching definitions, including ICF’s definition, it is a good one and one that I think we should all be familiar with as a foundational component of our approach to coaching. And yet, coaching is such an individual process that I want you to feel free to develop your own language and your own definition for coaching. I hope that this episode will inspire you to think about the words that resonate with you and with your clients. And to think about how you wish to describe the process and the journey that you take your clients on through coaching. And once you've had a chance to reflect on that, and to jot down your thoughts, I also hope you will share them with me. Again, you can do so over on Instagram @CoachwithClarity, or you can send me an email, info@CoachwithClarity.com is the best way to reach me. And I would love to hear more about your personal definition of coaching, and how it informs the way you work with your clients. And that brings us to the end of this week's episode of the Coach with Clarity Podcast. I've had a good time, I hope you have to. And as always, I'm so grateful that you've chosen to spend the last 25 minutes or so with me. I would ask that if you enjoy the podcast, maybe consider sharing it with another coach or friend that you think would get a lot out of it as well. Because that is the best way that we can grow a community of intuitive, innovative coaches who are here to serve and to make the world a better place, one client and one coach at a time. So if you would go ahead and share the link to this podcast with a friend, I would be very grateful. I will be back in your feed next week with another episode. And it's going to be a pretty good one. It's another coaching call. And I am so excited to introduce you to one of my Coach with Clarity Members who is developing a course and has questions about how to market it. So if you have questions about how to market your coaching programs or your coaching packages, you will definitely want to tune in to next week's call. So until then, my name is Lee Chaix McDonough, reminding you to get out there and show the world what it really means to be a Coach with Clarity.

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