Having dinner with old friends last weekend, the conversation eventually turned to work amongst our band of merry business owners. They were telling a funny story about seeing an ex-boss recently (who just happened to have been such a bad boss that they credit him with inspiring their sudden move into self-employment!). When they ran into him at a networking event a few weeks ago, they couldn't believe the changes they saw. In the past, his "professional look" meant wearing the jeans with only a few stains and on extra-special occasions, a clean t-shirt.
How things have changed...
Now, he'd had a full a makeover and was dressed sweatily in an ill-fitting shiny suit, complete with slicked-back hair and a budding professional speaking career on the side. While they made polite conversation with them he awkwardly handed over a business card, asking them to his next free workshop, and uncomfortably invited them to check out his new blog. Did I mention his business is in domestic electrical work in rural Victoria?! As we were all laughing in surprise at this very out-of-character new behaviour, I asked what they thought could have led to the transformation, which sounded like it didn't really suit him at all. The conversation stopped. My friend turned to me with a horrified look on her face, said, "Oh! Sorry....he's been working with a Business Coach"!
We're not all the same!
After gently explaining to my friend that there are lots of DIFFERENT kinds of Business Coaches and that I was potentially a different type to the ex-boss' Coach, it really got me thinking. And kind of made me mad. Really mad, actually. Now of course, I don't know the full story...and I don't know why this ex-boss had chosen to work with this particular Coach, or why they thought the move from good old-fashioned Sparky to Super-Polished-Electrical-Man with Entrepreneurial Powers was necessary, but it made me realise; I see, and hear, about far too much of this. Too much of this "fake it 'till you make it, just follow my formula to business success, we have to push you outside your comfort zone" talk!
Do you know what? A great Coach doesn't try to make their Clients into something that they're not! A great Coach doesn't use a cookie-cutter model of how clients "should" look and behave if they are in business. And they definitely don't take their clients so far out of their comfort zone that they look like a fish out of water!
Working with clients to help them create a transformation in their working lives is one of the coolest, most enjoyable experiences that great Coaches are lucky enough to experience. Because it starts with discovering who they ARE. Who they REALLY ARE - the best bits of them, their strengths, their natural, authentic skills that they quite often don't even see themselves.
Great Coaching is...
Great Coaching is not about telling Clients to forget everything about who they already are - it's about taking the best bits, and turning them up, or leveraging them differently, to help Clients deal with the parts that they DO want to change. Great Coaching is not slapping a silly suit on someone whose target market are more comfortable with a well-dressed Tradesman - it's about making sure that when that Tradesman (or Manager, or Dentist, or Salesperson) shows up for work, that they are feeling authentic, strong, comfortable and ready to do great work, because change has happened on the INSIDE.
So please - Sparkys, Tradesmen and Tradeswomen, Managers, Dentists, Salespeople and other Professionals of the world - be SURE that your Coach is not trying to make you into something you're not. You know, even when we put on a Superman suit, we're still just us on the inside, underneath the suit. No superpowers and (unfortunately for the gym-averse like me) no instant bulging muscles! The real superpowers are already within you - and the right Coach, a Great Coach, will help you draw them out to create AUTHENTIC, SUSTAINABLE and LASTING CHANGE - helping you flex the muscles and grow them in ways that are right for you - so that eventually, you don't even need the suit at all.
Don't turn into a caricature of yourself, or who you think you "should" be - because that's only surface work and it won't last. I believe that who you ALREADY are is great - and if there is extra learning to be gained, new mindset and behaviours to try out, or other changes to be made, ultimately, a Great Coach will help YOU to do that work authentically, in a way that suits YOU. Who knows, they may even help you pick out a new look that actually works better for you - and that's OK too!