“What is it exactly that you do?”

What a coach does is difficult to describe to other people. At least in my opinion. Every time someone asks me, “Sandro, what exactly do you do?”, I have to take some time to come up with an answer. That’s because coaching keeps me evolving, changing and growing. It shows me every time that life always comes with surprises when “I think I know what I know”.

There seems to be a need in human beings to keep moving, and at the same time a need to stay where they are. I see life as the climbing of a giant set of stairs: first we experience the need to move to the next tread. After that the need to walk its whole depth, till we are confronted with the next riser, and then move up again.

But sometimes we don’t know whether we’re climbing a riser or walking a tread. Sometimes we don’t know if what we are doing is what we should be doing, if the way we’re climbing is the way we should be climbing. Sometimes we want to keep moving but don’t know where our walk will take us, or where we want to go to. Sometimes we know where we want to be but don’t know what to do to get there. And it is at such moments that people experience the need of hiring me as their coach.

When people hire me as their coach, I interpret it as an invitation to experience their own staircase. My experience has shown me that trying to help them climb it does not help them. Trying to solve their challenge does not solve it. However, sharing my perception of their staircase makes them think. Asking questions about what I see makes them think. Sharing what I see when I look at them try to climb their staircase makes them think. It makes them think in a way they don’t usually do. It makes them reflect.

Reflecting usually leads to awareness. Awareness usually leads to clarity, and then they know it again. They can clearly see where they are, where they want to be, and can come up with a strategy which will take them there. But that’s only the beginning….

On their way from where they are to where they want to be they find obstacles. Obstacles which a) tell them their strategy is not good or b) ask something new from them. Changing the strategy will sometimes be enough to keep them moving, but at encounters like these (between a coach and a client), the second option seems to force its way through. And this is when clients tell me they experience change.

Weird enough, “I have changed but I haven’t changed, Sandro” is what clients tell me. I now understand that clients don’t change because of coaching: they develop themselves. Because they are willing to listen to what life is asking from them and are open to it, they allow hidden or dormant sides of themselves to flourish, to awaken. They experience learning and consequently development and growth. That growth and development are responsible for a new way of experiencing the world around them and also themselves. It’s different compared to what it used to be. That’s the reason why they say they’ve changed, I guess.

Oh, and what do I do? My clients say that I’m a positive catalyst in this development/growth/change process. According to them, I seem to not to be consumed by the process itself but to speed it. And I have the feeling this explanation is right at this moment of my life.

What about you? What exactly do you do as a coach?

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About Sandro da Silva

Sandro da Silva is a Dutch executive, business and life coach who from time to time shares his experiences with coaching in this blog. He starts his days by reading, selecting and tweeting his favorite articles about leadership, management, business, change, diversity, development and start-ups. A different selection of articles, targeted at executives and the C-suite, is posted everyday on his LinkedIn page. He talks to his life coaching audience via his Facebook page. You can read more about him on his website (translation in progress) or contact him by sending an e-mail to info@sandrodasilva.nl. View all posts by Sandro da Silva

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