Research Paper By Anuj Sharma
(Business Coach, INDIA)
My journey in ICA from a skeptic to a believer~ Anuj Sharma
Coaching is still a very new phenomenon here in India. I have been a student with ICA since August 2015 but till today I find difficulty in explaining it to even my family what is it exactly that I am studying. When I say that I am studying to be a “Life Coach” or “Leadership Coach” or “Executive Coach”, they all think that I am trying to be some “Guru” or “Motivational Speaker” or something like that. When I say that I am going to Coach people or establish my own coaching practice, they all think that I am planning to open some tuition classes for the students. Even after three years, I still cannot explain what is it that a coach exactly does because people find it to be incredible and even unfathomable what a Coach and “Pure Coaching” can do for a person!
I was also very skeptical about the process of “Pure Coaching” that is taught and practiced in International Coach Academy (ICA) for nearly two years of my journey until I started to practice being a coach myself and experienced how the process is changing me as a person and how beautifully yet subtly it is affecting a change in my peer clients!
As a part of our graduation requirement with ICA, we are supposed to write a Case Study or a Research Paper where we share our learning from a real life case or by research. I was thinking since a long time about what should I write for my Case Study or Research Paper as I was completely clueless.
I have never been a professional coach and have had no paid clients of my own that I could pick and write a case study about. I thought of writing a research paper on a topic called “Mood Management” but I never believed in that topic per se. I would have been simply doing it by Googling stuff and copy-pasting random articles to just fulfill a part of my course requirement and wouldn’t have put my heart into it.
But when I started experiencing the power of coaching and started believing in the process that is taught at ICA I realized that this is what I want to write about! I thought about doing a case study on myself and sharing with everyone out there how coaching has helped me and how it can be used to make a difference in people’s life, albeit a very small yet very powerful one!
I must confess that when I joined ICA my entire perspective about coaching and what a Coach does was completely different. I thought it was all about learning to be a motivational speaker or how to be a good trainer or presenter or a consultant, mentor, advisor etc. But after taking a few teleclasses I was completely confused! I was told that coaching is none of these and we are not supposed to offer any advice or any help whatsoever!
I very vividly remember Leon Vanderpol’s class on the topic “What is Coaching?” that I attended in September 2015. At the end of that class I was totally lost and I couldn’t help asking Leon what am I supposed to do if I cannot guide or advise a client! He explained very patiently how coaching process works in allowing the clients to unlock their own potential and I admit that I learnt the theory and admired it a lot but my brain was still being skeptical and I kept asking myself, “Do I really think that people here in India will actually pay me for just listening to them and asking them powerful questions?!” This skepticism was heightened even more when people around me – my family and friends – started asking me this same question when I tried to explain the theory behind coaching to them.
This is till I started coaching in the Mentor Coaching classes. This is where things began to change for me and I started to move from being a staunch skeptic to a doubtful person and eventually led me to become a believer.
Be a Coach ASAP!
Let me take you back to that basic question once again. What is Coaching? Well we all know the theory that we have read in coaching and how coaching is not mentoring, consulting, therapy etc. But what exactly is coaching is something that has to be experienced first-hand and it simply cannot be explained to you by anybody else.
It is like tasting a new dish for the first time. You may know all the ingredients that have gone into making the dish. You may know how they taste individually. You may even have all the tasting notes available with you that are written by Masterchefs and Connoisseurs and people might describe in plenty of detail how a dish tastes but you would never truly understand how it tastes until and unless you eat it, taste it, feel it and savor it for yourself!
For coaching, it has to be done both ways. Experience being a Client (a Coachee) and a Coach as soon as possible and as early as possible during your coaching journey here in ICA. This was a big mistake that I made! I thought that I would finish all my theoretical teleclasses first and then begin my practical coaching like mentor coaching, peer coaching and observed coaching after that. I was learning everything about the dish and the ingredients and the methods and all but I was simply not tasting it and experiencing it myself! This was perhaps the biggest reason why I simply couldn’t comprehend the power of coaching and was turning into such a skeptic!
Once I started coaching in the Mentor Coaching classes and started receiving feedback from our ICA trainers I began to realize how helpful coaching is to not only to my clients but to me as well. The positive feedback that I received, not only from my trainers but from my peers as well, helped me to understand how to be a better coach and how to use this beautiful process in making breakthroughs and creating a difference in people’s life!
There are few lessons that I learnt during my time in ICA and especially when I started practicing as a coach during Mentor Coaching Sessions that I would like to share with everyone. These lessons helped me to melt my skepticism and understand how coaching works. They are:
i. There are no Frivolous topics!
This is the biggest mind-block that one needs to overcome to believe in the process of Coaching and hence I have mentioned this on the top! When I started to coach during the mentor coaching sessions my clients would bring me topics like “My recipe is not turning out to be as it is being shown in that YouTube video” or “There’s dog poo in my driveway every morning and it upsets me a lot” and I would literally roll my eyes (thank god there was no video during mentor sessions!) and ask myself in disbelief “Is this what I am supposed to coach?” or “Is this why I paid such a handsome amount of money to be a coach?”
But that is where I was so wrong! A topic or a problem might seem frivolous to me but it is not to the person who is experiencing it or going through that problem. Also, I started to realize that ICA is a community of intelligent, busy and driven people who pay a lot of money to get their certification. For them their time is their money and if they bring a problem on a call where at least 8 to 10 other people are listening to them talk about it then it must be really important to them or else they wouldn’t bring it to the call and waste their time in the first place. Once I realized this, I started paying more attention to the person I was speaking to rather than the topic or problem that they were bringing to the call and I started to understand how I am helping them to overcome issues that are deeper than the ones that they are talking about.
ii. Release the judgment
Once you realize that there are no frivolous topics in a coaching conversation and what may seem frivolous to me is causing a lot of grief to my client you need to let go of that judgment. It is really easier said than done! Especially when you are dealing with a lot of inward skepticism within yourself. The feedback given at the end of Mentor Coaching Sessions helps you to understand where you are being judgmental without you even realizing about it. We all would like to believe that we are fairly understanding and non-judgmental individuals but there are certain prejudices and biases that are hardwired into us and we need to release them while we are in a coaching conversation and listen simply to our client and understand their lives from their perspective.
iii. Don’t try to save the world!
This was another major root cause of my skepticism towards pure coaching that is taught in ICA. I come from a culture where if somebody comes to you with a problem you are supposed to give them a solution. You are supposed to help them out. Or else you are simply wasting their time or are not as smart as the person thought you are supposed to be. Sort of trying to be their savior, their hero!
But coaching is not about being a hero. We, as coaches, are not here to “save” anyone or help anyone out with their problems. While coaching my peers I realized that sometimes people do not need any help. They are not asking for any solution. They have all the answers within themselves. Sometimes all they need is for someone to listen to them. They just need to talk-out-loud and figure things out for themselves. This is all that a coach is supposed to do. Just be there. Just listen. Just ask powerful questions. Just share observations. Just challenge them. Show them a different perspective. That’s all. There is no need to save the world; we are nobody to do that!
iv. It’s not about you!
A very big mistake that I was making while entering a coaching session was that I used to think that is about me. The client has brought me an issue and I have to help them out. I have to be the best coach out there and I am supposed to have all the right answers (or right questions) for my client and show them how awesome I am.
Even during the mentor coaching sessions, I would try to impress my instructors by showcasing my “Coaching Techniques” and trying to be this perfect coach instead of listening to my client on a deeper level.
You need to understand that it is simply not about you at all. You are dealing with someone else’s life. You are listening to their problems, their issues and helping them to arrive at their solutions – not yours! Also, you need to be comfortable with the fact that you are not supposed to have all the answers or right questions all the time. It is okay to be in a space of unknown and not having any solutions at all. In fact that is the biggest help a coach can provide to their clients by helping them to get comfortable with this state of unknown and trying to gain awareness about them.
It is never about you as a coach. It is always about them, it is always about your client!
v. Less is More!
In a coaching conversation, always remember that less is more. I have had mentor coaching sessions and observed coaching sessions where I was working so hard and I was thinking that I was really helping my client to achieve breakthroughs but then I realized in the feedback that I absolutely bombed during those sessions and I was not coaching at all. I was getting into the advice mode, judgment mode or problem solving mode when I was getting so involved in an issue.
Then there would be some sessions where I would be doing nothing at all. I would be keeping quiet and simply listening to my client in absolute but attentive silence and at the end of these sessions the client would tell me that they have made such an important breakthrough or how positive they feel. Even the feedback at the end of these sessions would be really encouraging and at first I couldn’t understand why I am being praised for doing nothing at all!
This is when I realized that by keeping quiet or doing less and giving my client an open and inviting space I was helping them to realize their own potential and to achieve their own awareness instead of imposing my views on them which had a more positive and lasting impact in their lives.
Hence, in coaching, be okay with just being there for your client and doing nothing at all. Remember, we are not here to fix anything for anybody.
vi. Have faith in your Instructors
Have absolute faith in your ICA instructors. I mean this very very very sincerely! I have honestly never seen a more open and more supportive community than ICA and the instructors here are always there to help you in being a better Coach. They selflessly give all the help they can and I have felt that they are very invested in all the students personally as well as emotionally.
Remember, the instructors are your best friends and not your worst enemies!
The feedback that you might get in mentor coaching sessions or observed coaching sessions would feel strict at times. You might feel that the instructor is being a bit too harsh on you but they are doing this only for your own good. They already are excellent Master Coaches who are making their living out of their Coaching Practices, quite successfully! So, they know what they are talking about. If they are giving you some feedback it is only for your own good. It makes no difference to their lives whatsoever.
There were times where I would get annoyed or irritated by some feedback and it would push me back in my progress. But then, when I would think about the feedback with an open and relaxed mind I would realize what was being explained to me and when I would implement that in my next session I would see the difference it was making to my client and to my own coaching style.
vii. Coaching changed me as a person
I joined ICA to be a coach. To help other people. To make a difference in other people’s lives. To help them change their lives. These are the reasons that perhaps we all tell ourselves. But, little did I know that coaching would change my life!
My time with ICA has changed me as a person. Not only do I feel this myself but this has been felt by everyone around me. My family, my friends, my community, my co-workers, my employees, everyone can sense this change in me.
This change has been very subtle and it wasn’t something that happened overnight. But over the past three years that I have been with ICA I have sensed how differently I am reacting to certain situations and problems. How my entire worldview has changed with respect to certain prejudices that I held and how I have become more understanding and patient while dealing with others.
People around me have been complimenting me about how I have become a calmer and more pleasant person. They are surprised when they see me reacting differently to the situations than how I have done in the past and that is all thanks to my time in ICA.
Subconsciously on some level I have been continuously coaching myself and I am also being coached by each and every one at ICA all the time whether it is the instructors or my peer colleagues; whether it is in teleclasses or in sessions when I am coaching; or even in those sessions when I am simply observing others. I am slowly and gradually being coached on a very deep and personal level which has brought a very positive change within me.
This change that I have experienced first-hand has, more than anything else, helped me to realize the power of “Pure Coaching” and has helped me to change into a “True Believer” from a skeptic that I was.
Pointers to future ICA Students
I have gone through a very interesting journey with ICA and I have made some huge mistakes along the way. I would like to share some pointers with future ICA students or new students who have just joined ICA so that they can perhaps learn from my mistakes and this might help them during their coaching education.
i. First and foremost, download the ICA calendar on your phone / computer. You will see this option under the schedule tab on learnsite. This schedule will help you to stay on track and will allow you to plan your each day as you know which classes are happening on that particular day. This is very important to plan your journey so that you finish on time and do not allow your course to lapse as it happened in my case.
ii. I did the mistake of going linear with my course and tried to take the classes in the order of courses one by one. I thought this will give me proper understanding. But I was so wrong with this!
First of all, it slows you down a lot as the classes might not necessarily happen as per your desired order.
Secondly, it doesn’t matter in whichever order you learn any topic. It is all unrelated, so just go for the classes as per your convenient schedule. It will automatically make sense to you as and when you progress
iii. Set a very small yet realistic goal for yourself when it comes to your ICA teleclasses and coaching sessions. We all have different schedules and work commitments and we all learn at our own pace.
I would suggest taking at least 1 class every day. If you can stretch it to 2 to 3 classes that would be great. But try to be on at least one coaching call every day. I tried to take it easy by going at a very slow pace and was in a big mess because of it!
iv. Don’t get too overwhelmed with the course outcomes. You will be required to post a course outcome like Coaching Model, Coach Development Plan, Power Tool etc. Don’t worry too much about this. We can write as little or as much as we want. It just has to be meaningful. Write from your heart and it will make sense not only to you but to anybody who reads it and it will be helpful to everyone in the community instead of merely being a mandatory program requirement.
v. Start Mentor Coaching as soon as possible. This was the biggest mistake that I made and the one that I regret the most! I kept putting off mentor coaching thinking that let me learn the theory first and then I will start attending mentor coaching classes as it is more practical. However, I would totally request anyone who reads this to not do this!
Mentor Coaching Classes are actually where all the practical learning happens and these classes are the thing that will benefit you the most to clear ICA and understand quickly what “Pure” coaching is. Start sitting in mentor sessions as an observer as soon as possible and try your hand at being a coach as soon as possible. Don’t worry about failing. We all do in the beginning. The ICA instructors are very supportive and their feedback will definitely help you to improve and gain confidence very quickly.
vi. About mentor coaching, I would like to share one more big mistake that I made and something that one should avoid.
As a part of my course, I had to attend 21 mentor classes. 9 as a coach and 12 as an observer. Now here I made a very big mistake. I thought I will first be an observer for 12 classes and then will start coaching once I learn everything by observing other people. I couldn’t be more wrong with this!
First of all you don’t always get to be the coach as a lot of people are trying for the Coach’s spot to complete their graduation requirement. Especially during Nov-Dec or May-Jun sessions as everyone is trying to graduate. So you may not get a spot to coach every time you dial in and then you are just stuck in the session if you have finished your observer hours, which happened with me. Secondly, you don’t get enough room to improve as you don’t have preliminary feedback and everything that you learn as an observer isn’t really useful until and unless you keep on practicing it as a coach simultaneously.
It would be better if you observe for 4 or 5 mentor coaching sessions and also attend a few core curriculum classes for a couple of weeks. Then once you get the hang of the structure of a coaching session then maybe you can try your hand at being a coach.
Don’t worry if you don’t do too well in the first few sessions. It is natural. Just listen to the feedback that the instructor provides you with at the end of the session and you will definitely learn very quickly. But don’t wait too long to start being a mentor coach. You will learn the most about the whole coaching process (and overcome your skepticism as it happened in my case) once you start practicing being a mentor coach. Trust me on this!
vii. Visit the ICA forum as much as you can. The forum is a great place to learn about course outcomes. Just read a few samples that people have posted and you will figure it out and get an idea about how you want to do yours. Especially the coaching model and the power tool.
Also, the forum is a great place to interact with other coaches and learn from them and their experiences. Whenever you have some time, try to log on to the forum and read the latest discussions that are going on. I promise you that every time you will learn something new from them.
Also, try to participate as much as you can. This will not only keep you interested in the discussions but will also allow you to make some amazing friends. It is also a great place to network with fellow coaches and grow your practice.
It has been almost three years since I embarked on my journey to be a coach with ICA. This has been a really interesting and at times tumultuous journey with a lot of ups and downs.
There were times when I had no idea what I was doing over here. I felt like an impostor! There were times when I felt I am wasting my time and a lot of money because I had no idea what Coaching is and didn’t even know if I could ever be a Coach.
But as I persisted, as I kept on learning, as I kept on going forward with an open mind and as I was supported more and more by my instructors and fellow students, I begin to realize that this is one of the best decisions I had taken in my life. I became more and more comfortable being a coach and I gradually started accepting the fact that I can be a coach and can really make a difference with the help of pure coaching and by simply following the process.
Today, when I have almost reached at the end of my journey, I can very confidently say that “Yes, I Believe in the power of coaching!” “Yes, I Believe!”
The path of sound credence is through the thick forest of skepticism~ George Jean Nathan