I had been a therapist for a few years when my mentor gave me a stern challenge. “Gail,” she said. “You cannot be a top-notch therapist until you have spent some time in your own therapy!” She gave me two reasons for this dictum. First, it’s important for therapists to unpack their own emotional baggage, so that it doesn’t get in the way of being fully available and empathic to their clients. Second, therapists need to know what it feels like to be a client, so they don’t do dumb things that get in the way of their client’s healing.
To be honest, I wasn’t very open to her suggestion. I had a good life, I was a happy person, I had a wonderful family and friends — why did I need to see a therapist? But I really respected her opinion, so I decided to give it a try. And she was right. It was one of the most valuable experiences of my life, both personally and professionally.
So here we are in 2021. I’ve been a business advisor for a long time, often touting the benefits of coaching in the workplace. But until recently, I never had a coach myself. A couple of months ago I decided it was time, so I approached a highly respected former colleague who agreed to work with me. What a fascinating experience! I’m learning so much and growing professionally at a rapid rate. I’m also discovering that being coached is not exactly what I thought it would be.
The lessons and benefits of coaching in the workplace
- It’s great to have someone else who is really invested in my success. I’m a solo entrepreneur, so most of the time I’m making decisions and facing challenges all by myself. It is hugely gratifying to have this smart, experienced person at my side.
- I really, really want my coach to be impressed with me. I’ve been an ambitious high achiever all my life. I want my coach to think I’m a star. That’s a powerful motivator.
- I worry about being a pest. My coach told me it’s fine to contact her as much as I like. But I hesitate because I don’t want to overdo it. That helps me understand why my clients often don’t reach out as much as they might.
- I love telling her about my successes. She is excited for me. And once again, I don’t feel as alone in my endeavors. Coaches need to push and challenge our clients, but it’s also really important for us to applaud their efforts and triumphs.
- Changing is really, really hard. You’d think I would know this already. After all, my entire career has been about helping people to change — and I’ve made my own major changes over the years, from therapist to consultant to business owner. Still, I’ve been flabbergasted by how scary it is to try new ways of working. I have to keep telling myself that I signed on for this and it would be stupid not to at least try my coach’s suggestions. But sometimes it feels so risky, I really have to push myself.
- Coaching works. If you have the right coach with the right client, amazing things can happen. I’m making fundamental shifts in the way I think about my work and the way I do it. I’m becoming a better coach because of this experience — just as my therapy helped me become a better therapist years ago.
I’m very glad I have this opportunity to experience coaching from the other side. It’s exciting and fun and nerve-wracking. If you’re ready to make some changes in how you work, I highly recommend it.
Want to start a coaching relationship of your own? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.