Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Coaching Equation

Most folks are content to live ordinary lives. But some of us are curious to see what we can make of life. We want to explore and to discover what we can become. That need to grow and to achieve is the force behind the burgeoning coaching profession.

There are many different kinds of coaching available today. You can easily find a coach for virtually any game you want to play. In fact, high performance players often employ several coaches and trainers to enhance every arena of their lives.

I started my career as a therapist at a mental health center. Then my curiosity got the best of me. Instead of specializing in one approach, such us psycho-analysis or behaviorism, I chose to master several methods. I figured that more tools made for a better toolbox. So I explored gestalt, rational emotive therapy, family systems, hypnotherapy, non-directive therapy, and learning theory, to name a few. In each case, I searched for a highly accomplished mentor so that I could learn from the best.

Every therapeutic system offered a new lens for my mental camera. But finally I realized that all those theories were focused on what was wrong with people. Every theorist employed a problem-solving approach. So each method was forced to pigeon-hole people into categories based on their perceived dysfunctions. I became an expert in diagnosis, able to label people based on anything from a questionnaire to a drawing they made. That whole reality was a real downer for me.

Then I met a vivid man--a psychiatrist--who woke me up from that trance-like view of people. He genuinely liked people. He saw each individual as unique and gifted. As my perspective changed, I started up a class in positive psychology to reflect what is bright and wonderful in people. My work caught on like a wild fire. After a couple of years one of my students came to me after class. "You aren’t a psychologist anymore,” he informed me. “You are more like a life coach.”

That was 1980 and the only coaches that people knew about then were sports coaches and performance coaches for people with extreme talent. But the idea of coaching for everyone caught on. As I travelled through the US and Europe, I spoke about this new profession. In those times I was probably the only life coach in Texas. When I started working in Germany a few years later, people had never heard of coaching outside of football. I was the only one in Europe, so I had to spend a lot of time explaining it to people. Less than thirty years later, there are more than 60.000.000 listings for professional coaches on the Internet.

The field is new, so it still lacks a clear theoretical foundation. Most coaches aren’t very well trained. So Mia Sage and I created Coach TV to provide free training in theory, practice, methodology, style, ethics, and practice building. The only shows on Internet TV more popular than ours are bootleg football and pornography.

Mia and I role-play coaching situations and share the procedures that proved useful over the years in building an amazingly successful international practice. Mia created the Global Coaching Network as a management company for Sage University and to provide organization for thousands of coaches worldwide. Her eclectic approach provides training in a variety of coaching methods, as well as business training in leadership, relationship, salesmanship and entrepreneurship. Coaches and leaders who watch regularly are improving in leaps and bounds.

This wonderful new coaching profession offers people a chance to step off the battlefield and onto the playing field. There are plenty of diagnostic professions to handle what is wrong with you; and certainly enough lawyers to exacerbate your fights. But the coaching is the first field that is based on what is glorious and beautiful about being human. This discipline has carried me through everything that life threw at me, and never failed to restore my radiance and return me to the pleasure of living life to the fullest.

You might want to explore the coaching field. You can start out as a client, and like me, you may want to always be a player. But then I recommend that you begin to learn the fundamentals of coaching. You may want to use those skills in your personal life to create deeper connections with other people. Or you may want to move on the point where people pay you to assist to help them reach their goals. If you are taking steps into that direction I would love to hear from you.

Martin Sage