Here are a couple of big questions: Do you have a ‘live’ Coaching Practice and are you practising coaching regularly? If you are not practising your coaching regularly, how are you keeping fit for purpose? If you are practising regularly, are you getting feedback on your coaching to ensure you haven’t slipped into any poor habits. Either way it’s so important that we use our skills. The adage ‘use it or lose it’ really applies.

Why is it important as a coach to ensure we have a ‘live’ coaching practice if we want to be called a professional coach? As a mentor, I work with coaches who want to have their professional credentials to demonstrate their skill to the world at large and position that they are competent and capable and safe to be a coach. I support them to pass their credentialing exams. However, sometimes I wonder if perhaps there needs to be more than just passing an exam or passing an assessment at a specific point in time. I’m mindful how at school we would learn, revise, and then pass an exam by playing back what we have learnt. Then how much did we go on and use that knowledge? That knowledge then often diminishes or even disappears as time passes.

If we look at the Core Competency 2 – Embodies a Coaching Mindset, there are two sub competencies that speak to me about ensuring we are regularly coaching and developing our skills. They are:

2.2: Engages in ongoing learning and development as a coach
2.3 Develops an ongoing reflective practice to enhance one’s coaching.

Recently, a mentee came back to me having had a break from mentoring of nearly two years and wanted to continue with their mentoring and get their credential.  As I reviewed the audio, I looked back on previous notes and saw that the same development areas we spoke about 2 years prior were still needing to be addressed. In conversation, the mentee shared they had been coaching and yet had received no feedback or reflection on their coaching in that time. There was little forward movement in terms of skill.

In other instances, mentees can find it challenging to send in audios as they have very few clients and what then often happens is that they try too hard to ‘hit’ competencies or markers and the coaching often appears very formulaic. A bit like when at school we revise and then simply regurgitate our most current knowledge for the exam.

With my love of metaphor, it reminds me of when we go to the gym. If we go regularly our muscles get attuned to the exercise and we hurt less and less each time after a good workout.  We also learn what we need to do and why. The same is true in coaching. I feel coaching is a muscle that needs to be worked by coaching regularly.  A Mentor Coach is like the personal trainer in the gym. The personal trainer tunes the exercises to our needs, observes the progress we have made and remind us of where we could do it more effectively. They tweak our exercises and then encourage us on to do even more complex routines. Without that feedback we may injure ourselves, and not progress with our fitness. A Mentor Coach does the same.

It’s also possible to do some self-mentoring. We don’t always need a Mentor or another experienced colleague. By listening to ourselves regularly and understanding the Core Competencies, we can often hear where we are doing well (what is shining) and where perhaps our coaching needs some tweaking (what needs polishing). This is where having a reflective practice and recording ourselves regularly helps. However, if we are not coaching regularly that is not going to be possible and just like not going to the gym, our coaching muscle may shrink.

What can you do to have a livelier coaching practice and get more feedback?

We know that sometimes it’s challenging to find new clients, especially if coaching is not your full-time job. There are opportunities out there such as:

Coaching Circles – we at Coach Advancement offer that opportunity to our alumni community, where you can coach other coaches and give and get feedback.

Reciprocoach – is an offering which is managed through ICF and where you can coach other coaches and who often come from around the world. That can be useful as you get to coach other cultures and contexts.

Coaching Groups – are there any local coaching groups in your area. Many groups offer some coaching opportunities within their meetings.  It’s also a great way to build your network and create coaching colleagues. Coaching can become quite lonely and so this can help us reduce that loneliness, and you might also get referrals to help build your practice.

Note: There can be a challenge when coaching coaches, and that is that, as coaches, we know the process and often coach ourselves, and so sometimes we as the coach don’t get much chance to flex our competencies. However, you are still using your coaching muscle which is vital.

Pro Bono Coaching – There are organisations who would welcome coaching to support their people. If you have a favourite charity or local community, it’s a great way of giving back and at the same time keeping your muscle going. A percentage of your coaching, when you are going for credentials, can be pro bono. Indeed, we are encouraged to offer pro bono coaching in the world.

Finally, if you have a credential, and if to renew that credential you need more mentoring, don’t wait until the time when you need to renew it. Spread your mentoring over the three-year period that your credential is valid. That way, you will have what’s needed at the time of renewal, but more importantly you will have been learning and developing that muscle over that time so you will be an even better coach. You can also spread the cost. Very important in today’s environment.

Here’s the next big question:

What will you do to keep your coaching muscle, not just fit for purpose, but to keep strengthening it to ensure you do have a ‘Live and Lively’ Coaching practice?

Hilary Oliver, MCC

Hilary Oliver is a Master Certified Coach (MCC) with the International Coaching Federation (ICF). She is also a trained Coaching Supervisor and Mentor Coach. Hilary trains coaches and works with managers and leaders to develop their coaching capability. She works as an International Corporate Executive and Board Level Coach, a leadership development designer and facilitator working with a wide range of organisations. Hilary also specialises in working with organisations to support them develop coaching culture. She has been the President of the UK ICF Chapter and is a Past Chair of the ICF Global Board.

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