Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Reluctant coach

Lately I seem to have encountered a number of people who want to be life coaches. They generally impress me as being alert, intelligent, insightful, and caring people of above average social adjustment. Occasionally, one will be a tad on the zealous side, displaying the fervor of the recently converted, but for the most part, they have definitive life skills that they would like to share with others. I am very glad these folk are in the world.

As for me, my office is intentionally client-centered. Few demands on my time can trump the needs of a person who walks into my office with an issue that has some relation to my function—employment, entrepreneurship, difficulty of finding space, conflicts with co-workers, need for training. Sometimes, I get caught up in personal tragedy less overtly linked to my role. It’s not that I mind any of it, not exactly, but the drain on my time and energy can be substantial.

I have one of those faces, you see. The kind face that somehow encourages a homeless man to walk from the far end of the subway car to talk to me, to tell me how he came to be living on the street. The open demeanor that says “Tell me all. I want to help.” A friend recently convinced me—if only for a few days—that it wasn’t that I attract people who need to talk; rather, she opined, people who need to talk will talk to everyone. It is just that I let them. Why?

I let people talk because I have a soft heart. I let them talk because they need to talk. I let people talk because occasionally I have a skill to share. I just let people talk. Sometimes they solve their own problems and thank me for it, but more often they not only don’t do what I suggest, but somehow feel driven to explain to me that I am wrong. Well, okay. I am learning not to be surprised that most people don’t really want new ideas, they just want to talk, and a non-judgmental person like me is a prize audience. I am cautious about whether or not I have skills to offer, or even whether I have adequate skills myself to deal with some of the things with which I am tasked. And I am very cautious about playing God with other lives, assuming that I know how it is to be in some of the ever so daily tragedies that play out in human lives around me. I don’t know how it is, and I don’t know what to say.

Over the last several months, I have become comfortable with taking on less. I don’t do financial models for clients—they need to have their own modeler. I don’t try to figure out clients’ accounting issues or their hiring problems or even how their website should look. Rather I refer them to the specialists—the bookkeepers and recruiters and web developers and marketing consultants and others—whatever they need to move their businesses to the next level. Perhaps I should add a category for personal coach. While it is difficult to displace a clingy client onto a professional clearly in the mental health arena, perhaps a more neutral helper will be able to take over some of the long, long hours of listening. It’s not that I don’t care, it's not that I mind, but a more specialized and well trained resource can surely do a better job than a reluctant coach.


Lorianne said...

Your last paragraph pretty much describes what a life coach is "supposed to" do. It's not about listening to someone wallow in their present condition, nor is it about fixing all their problems. Instead, it's about helping people take the next step so you're no longer needed.

So maybe you're training to be a life coach after all! ;-)

Karen said...

You know, I have spent quite a bit of time musing on this. While I have done several very hard things because I felt called to do them, in this case, I confess, I feel called to refer. Perhaps this sense is in synch with my major life work, which seems to be getting better at saying "No" and "Goodbye."

I will continue to try to rise to each occasion that is presented to me, but I don't think I will be looking for more of these opportunities.

I am grateful that people seem to think I have something to offer, but I am not ready to build a pracice around their perceptions. Still, I am glad that other people want to do this work.

'Thought & Humor' said...

We work like a horse.
We eat like a pig.
We like to play chicken.
You can get someone's goat.
We can be as slippery as a snake.
We get dog tired.
We can be as quiet as a mouse.
We can be as quick as a cat.
Some of us are as strong as an ox.
People try to buffalo others.
Some are as ugly as a toad.
We can be as gentle as a lamb.
Sometimes we are as happy as a lark.
Some of us drink like a fish.
We can be as proud as a peacock.
A few of us are as hairy as a gorilla.
You can get a frog in your throat.
We can be a lone wolf.
But I'm having a whale of a time!

You have a riveting web log
and undoubtedly must have
atypical & quiescent potential
for your intended readership.
May I suggest that you do
everything in your power to
honor your encyclopedic/omniscient
Designer/Architect as well
as your revering audience.

Please remember to never
restrict anyone's opportunities
for ascertaining uninterrupted
existence for their quintessence.

There is a time for everything,
a season for every activity
under heaven. A time to be
born and a time to die. A
time to plant and a time to
harvest. A time to kill and
a time to heal. A time to
tear down and a time to
rebuild. A time to cry and
a time to laugh. A time to
grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones
and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a
time to turn away. A time to
search and a time to lose. A
time to keep and a time to
throw away. A time to tear
and a time to mend. A time
to be quiet and a time to
speak up. A time to love
and a time to hate. A time
for war and a time for peace.

Best wishes for continued ascendancy,

P.S. One thing of which I am sure is
that the common culture of my youth
is gone for good. It was hollowed out
by the rise of ethnic "identity politics,"
then splintered beyond hope of repair
by the emergence of the web-based
technologies that so maximized and
facilitated cultural choice as to make
the broad-based offerings of the old
mass media look bland and unchallenging
by comparison."

'Thought & Humor' by Howdy
CyberHumor, CyberThought
CyberRiddles for your divertissement!!!