Why The Work Isn't Coaching (Yet, Coaches Love The Work
Posted Oct 22 2008 6:28pm
Every now and again I buy the story that my former creative marketing consultant self—who still lives in my head—likes to tell, and I start wondering if I could reach more people more effectively if I were a business or life coach.
However, every time I check out these options, I change my mind quickly. For my comfort level, there is too much emphasis in coach training programs on "effecting change," which is something I'm not interested in. Not that change isn't good; I just don't see myself as wanting or needing that for my clients, since I've largely stopped desiring change (even while I certainly welcome change) for myself. The Work has this way of making one realize that nothing ever has to change, no one ever has to change, I don't even have to change in order to be perfectly okay...although change for the good may indeed occur in an atmosphere of clarity.
This shift in consciousness doesn't allow me to write the kind of promotional copy that typically attracts business clients, so hoards of corporations aren't approaching me (yet). However, I can't think of a better skill to have in business than self-inquiry. (See my eBook, Transformational Inquiry, Working on Your Work, on this page.) Communication, mediation, stress reduction, Emotional Intelligence, crisis management...the applications of The Work to the world of work are numerous, and the modality is a natural for the executive coach with visionary clients.
Today I was looking at a website that shall remain nameless, a coaching institute in Southern California that I'd heard good things about. Their site is filled with terminology like "developing long term change strategies," "measuring coaching effectiveness," "assessment," "vision," and "executing and sustaining change." I lost interest in this school very quickly.
How is the effectiveness of coaching measured? I think it translates to this: you want something, I coach you, and if you get it, then my coaching was effective.
I try hard not to make promises about The Work based on what I think people want to hear. That's not the modus operandi of some practitioners, who promise the moon, with bonus stars and planets included if you act now. It always gives me pause to see this, because it's just too tempting for people to do The Work with the motive of "getting the goods." This, to me, misses the point of inquiry entirely.
Some business and life coaches latch onto The Work in this way: "Let's do The Work on the beliefs that are holding you back so that you can find direction, fulfill your vision, get what you want."
That's one way to use The Work, and here's what happens: if we don't appear to be getting what we think we want, we say, "The Work doesn't work." That's based on a belief: "It's working if I get what I want." We've been conditioned to live lives of wish-fulfillment, so no wonder the corporate structure is built on this. Try selling a business on the idea that "everything is unfolding as it should." It takes an enlightened captain of industry to recognize that sometimes, if we don't get what we think we want, we are spared...or that there are no mistakes...even while the success stories of Post-It notes (3M was looking to create a super-glue) and Ivory soap (it wasn't supposed to float), both product "failures," are legendary.
Say I am using The Work as a way of addressing body issues: I want to lose weight, or get buff. I work on my stressful beliefs about dieting or exercise, and I notice I'm going to the gym and eating better. Great; how long is this going to last if I have not touched upon underlying beliefs about the body and health? What happens if I don't get to the gym one week, should I do a worksheet and force myself? If I gain back a pound, does it mean I didn't do my work, or that The Work doesn't work? It feels almost violent to use The Work this way.
The Work ceases to work when we do it with a motive (other than out of the love of truth), because motivation is a stressor, loaded with shoulds, wants, and needs—the stuff of uncomfortable beliefs. It ceases to work when we don't answer the questions, because we're so attached to outcome. It doesn't work when we use the turnarounds as affirmations. ("I can't be a billionaire." "I can be a billionaire! Woohoo, I'm a money magnet!")
We may want to have a spouse, a slender body, or a fat bank account. We may want to bring our company to the next level. There is nothing wrong with these things; they are wonderful. How are we doing in the meantime? If I love what I am, what I have, what is, I am so much more available to my coach's coaching than when I am coming from a place of criticism, frustration, dissatisfaction, or greed.
So I love that coaches add The Work to their toolkits for clients to know themselves better. (That's what my coach does.) And in the world of work, it could be that we can be more present and efficient, more approachable as supervisors, more creative as leaders, when we come from a place of clarity rather than a stressful place of the desire to effect change.
To learn more about The Work at Work, join my mailing list at ClearLifeSolutions.com. With your complimentary subscription to the Transformational Inquiry ezine, you'll receive The Nine Proficiencies of The Work at Work as my gift.