I have recently reached the number of 100 coaching clients, which I have worked with individually in just under 4 years. It’s been an awesome learning and development experience, not only for my clients but also for myself. I feel like one big chapter in my career has closed and another one is opening.
Like the end of any big chapter, it’s a moment for celebration as well as reflection for me. Looking back at these communication coaching experiences, there are 10 essential lessons I draw, which I want to share with you. The first part of the lessons is about the coaching process in itself, the second part is about people skills and how to improve them.
1. If you want hardcore results, go for coaching
You can read book and articles, you can go to trainings and seminars, but if you want to see the fastest, most powerful self-improvement, often in unexpected ways, choose coaching. The fact that it’s a 100% customized experience and all the focus is on you, provided that you work with a good coach, makes coaching one hell of a learning experience. I have rarely seen people improve and have such breakthroughs as they did in the coaching process.
2. Revealing blind spots is the key benefit of coaching
If there is one positive effect you can get in coaching better than through any other self-improvement process, it’s seeing your blind spots: revealing ways of thinking or behaving you had no idea that you had, or realizing their real impact. Often in working one-on-one with a person, the moment when she sees one huge blind spot she had is very meaningful and emotionally charged. It is an opportunity to make big decisions and create great change.
3. If you don’t follow-through, you are making a huge waste
One of the fundamental roles of coaching is to help you discover things which set the foundation for solid and effective future improvement. This is why strong follow-through is very important. If you don’t apply what you discovered through the coaching process and you don’t practicing between and after the coaching sessions, the results you’ll get will be considerably lower and less impressive. It’s like buying a Ferrari and only driving it at 50 mph.
4. Specialization is power
I don’t do coaching on anything. My niche is helping people put their best foot forward in communication and improve people skills; my approach is based on developing underlying attitudes just at much if not more than actual skills. This specialization helped me grow very fast as a coach and learn how to create the best result for my clients. After working with 100 clients, I feel that I am a true professional in communication coaching, and I have the real-world results to back it up.
5. Honesty is money
I once told a friend that one of the reasons a person or company is paying you in coaching is the fact you are willing to tell and show someone things others are not. For example, to the intimidating manager with poor listening skills that nobody is willing to give some honest feedback about. I am now even more convinced that honest feedback is one of the most valuable things you can provide as a coach. I think it’s a pity that such a scarcity of honest feedback exists, but that’s where a big coaching opportunity lies.
6. Communication skills are the thing to invest in
Sometimes I am asked why I chose to help others improve their communication skills instead of improving something else. It is because I believe that cutting edge communication skills are the thing worth having and worth developing. The right people skills in general and the right communication skills in particular can skyrocket your career, your relationships and your life. Everyday, I see the huge difference having and sharpening them makes.
7. The big difference comes from working on attitudes
You can’t really have awesome communication and people skills without the right attitudinal foundation. This is something which I think applies for many other soft skills as well. At the end of the day, your attitude will make or break your aptitude. This is why I put a lot of emphasis on attitude transformation and I work with many of my clients on changing beliefs, thinking patterns and emotional reactions. Often, it’s all downhill from there.
8. It’s about creating a unique social style which matches your strengths
I don’t believe there is one exact style of interacting socially which works best. I think there are multiple styles, with common patterns between them. This is why I don’t teach exact formulas for communication and social interactions, but rather principle and guidelines. The thing is to find a social style for yourself which capitalizes on your strengths instead of ignoring them or opposing them, and to develop that style.
9. A huge part of the improvement is expressing yourself
Most of us don’t really express ourselves authentically, outside of very specific contexts. We have learned to play games, to put on facades as a way to try and get the approval of others. This rarely works and it does a lot more harm than good in the long term. What we really need to learn more of is how to put our real selves out there, more and better: our needs, our dreams, our ideas, beliefs and feelings.
10. We need to teach people skills methodically from the age of 5
Well, we don’t really need to; we would definitely benefit tremendously from it however. Many of the problems our society has are the result of people not knowing how to relate to other people effectively. Even some of the problems which seem caused by poverty, corruption or crime at a first glance are often generated and maintained at a deeper level by people having bad skills with people.
For me, coaching others to improve their communication and people skills, combined with tuning my own skills is a very fulfilling process. One I will definitely keep at for many years to come. The journey continues…
Image courtesy of Voj