The process of Executive Coaching is such that I, the Coach, do not provide direct advice. The one receiving the Coaching wants something, a change, an improvement, more of something, less of something. The conversation centers upon self discovery for the one being Coached. Sometimes there is not much to work with, at least not much in the usual sense.
I once Coached a rather senior professional, George, who expressed desire to improve his fitness but did not have easy access to a gym. He did not have or want exercise equipment.
“I really need to do something to get more fit”, George told me.
“What are you doing presently?” I asked.
“Nothing, really,” he replied. “And I honestly don’t have time to fit anything extra in. My calendar is maxed out.”
“What do you do every day, or at least every work day, that involves exercise, maybe without even thinking about it?”
He frowned. “Hmmm….the only thing I can think of is maybe the walking I do when I get to and leave from, work. My parking spot is a few car lengths from the building entrance. Then I usually take the elevator to my 2nd floor office … though lately I’ve sometimes tried taking the stairs instead, but it wears me out and feels like it takes too long. It’s a high-ceilinged building so there are maybe 30 steps, or more.”
“I wonder, George, what is the time it takes you to complete the climb?”
He didn’t know, just said it took too long as far as he was concerned. But he seemed curious about the question, so I asked, “what might happen if you were to note the time, every time you climbed those stairs?”. We left it at that. Notice I gave him no direction, just left him with a question that seemed to intrigue him, at least a little bit.
Five weeks later, I was walking from my office to get a coffee, when who should I meet but George, walking energetically toward me with a grin on his face.
“Guess what? That noticing the time idea really worked! When you first posed the question I couldn’t see the point of it, but I felt like I needed to know so started to monitor the time. Funny thing is that I now always take the stairs every day, and I’m feeling so much better!” he exclaimed.
“Really? That’s great. What else is happening?”, I asked.
“As I arrive at the parking lot each morning, I find myself mentally getting ready as I approach the building, and by the time I get to the stairs I am actually eager to engage them, keeping an eye on my watch. I really feel energized,” explained George enthusiastically. “I’ve even starting monitoring the time from the entry door all the way to the office, and experimenting with starting the time right from the car. In fact, I’m even taking stairs other places and timing my walks up those stairs, too. Turns out I use less time on the stairs than I used to in the elevators! For anybody watching me, it probably looks like the only change I’ve made is glancing at my watch. Yet, it’s turning into a fun habit. And I’m getting more fit. I can climb the stairs faster, and I don’t get so out of breath!”
This little bit of entertainment became a habit. This man now gets energy from any stairway he encounters. He feels more fit and is proud of taking stairs whenever he can. There was no added time, no special equipment, no clothing to buy and actually no training regimen. Not even any accountability. He just noted the time it took, without going for the Olympic Gold, just noting the time. Indeed, George’s new ‘fitness regimen’ was created from nothing. His mental state and physical ability improved. Nice. George (not his real name) lives and works in the south Okanagan.
Not every Coaching conversation produces such tangible and vivid results but all increase self awareness, the entry point to any change. And, indeed, some Coaching conversations can produce even more than the one with George did.
Creating from nothing, by getting people to notice themselves. I help folks to notice themselves, and I love it. Noticing self is fundamental to growth. Self awareness is the foundation of better leadership and greater personal success on all levels.