“Your life does not get better by chance; it gets better by change.” —Jim Rohn
During the pandemic many of us decided that we would pursue activities that would help us cope with our new reality. Some pursued the arts, some took on learning new languages and even more decided to pursue continuing education on not only how to survive, but thrive during periods of change. For many of us, our personal growth focused on developing greater resiliency, self-awareness and better communication skills.
One proven method for building greater personal resiliency is to experience and learn a coaching technique, preferably through an accredited coaching certification program. Completing a coaching certification program is a powerful way to help support your personal growth as well as providing a skill for helping others grow.
Participants who completed ICF-approved coaching certification programs felt there were three main benefits:
Three main benefits:
You receive coaching during your training
The best coach training programs develop participant’s coaching skills through a series of progressive exercises that apply theory to practice.
For example, participants enrolled in the ACT Leadership and Performance Coaching’s “Leadership and Performance Coaching Certification Program” are trained in the “awareness – choice – transformation” coaching model. This model, based in modern neuroscience, is considered a best practice in the coaching community.
During the training, each component of the model is taught through expert-facilitated skill building sessions. Participants engage in practice “rounds” through either a coach-client or coach-client-observer format where each member of the 2/3-person team rotates among roles. The “client” is strongly encouraged to share topics that are relevant, real-word and current. The “coach” then practices using open-ended questions, active listening skills and staying present to support the client’s personal growth and help support a way forward. After each practice session the “observer” (when included in the process) provides feedback to the coach on methods to improve their application of the coaching model.
Experiencing live coaching sessions in an expert-facilitated learning environment supports participant’s focus on improving their technique and understanding of the coaching method. It also supports those being coached, by offering a safe and inclusive community where they can engage in their first coaching experience through a structured and guided process. Those being coached often go through several iterations of coaching rounds as they master progressive components of the model, and usually with different co-participants. This further broadens their exposure to coaching and provides multiple opportunities to work through issues.
“When I went through the coach training program I was not expecting to be coached. It was a bit scary at first, but I then realized this was an amazing opportunity to get support and learn to trust the process… having the chance to work with other coaches on real-life issues really helped me understand the power of coaching.”
You learn skills that you can use right away
Coach training programs help you develop skills that you can quickly apply in your personal life, your workplace and your community. Participants who completed coaching certification programs felt they learned three main skills:
Active listening. Active listening (often referred to as “Level 3” listening) is a technique which requires the listener to be fully focused not only on the speaker’s words, but also on their intent. Too often, people listen only enough to respond. Instead of really hearing what the other person is saying, energy is spent preparing an answer or response. Effective coaches practice active listening-listening with the expectation of hearing something new or surprising.
Per the ICF; “…active listening involves (in part) …the ability to focus completely on what the speaker is saying and is not saying, to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the speaker’s desires, and to support self-expression.”
Another definition suggests active listening allows the listener to “…hear and feel the speaker’s emotions behind the words, the tone of voice, the body language. From this “…we have a heightened sense of awareness and are able to access our intuition regarding the topic”.
Active listening skills are useful not only in the context of coaching but also for building stronger relationships among family members, co-workers and within your community.
Asking open-ended questions. Coach training prepares participants to frame and develop a method of open-ended questioning that supports a client’s self-discovery. Open-ended questions allow the respondent to include more information, including feelings, attitudes and their understanding of a topic. This then provides an opportunity for a progressive level of questioning, leading to further insights and development.
An open-ended question provides a way to respond to a question based on an individual’s understanding and experience. For example, open-ended questions are used extensively by a wide-range of healthcare providers to better understand client needs. Per the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, open-ended questions:
- Require a person to pause, think, and reflect.
- Answers include personal feelings, opinions, or ideas about a subject.
- Allow the control of the conversation to switch from the person asking the question to the person being asked the question (sometimes referred to as “giving a voice” to the respondent). Subsequently, this questioning approach begins to support trust building between the coach and the client.
Open-ended questions are a wonderful way to engage others in conversations that move beyond the typical “yes/no” responses. Graduates of coaching training programs have shared that structured training in asking open-ended questions has better prepared them to have deeper, more meaningful conversations across a wide range of relationships.
“I was having a challenge engaging my new team members on how they felt about their workload. After completing coach training, I took it upon myself to start using open-ended questions the next time the topic came up. I was amazed at how quickly my new employees opened up to me about their concerns, and I was able to develop a deeper understanding of how to move forward.”
Being present. This can be one of the most challenging, and subsequently the most rewarding skills to develop. According to the Ken Blanchard Companies’ definition: “Being present is about being in the moment with a laser focus on the client. To do this, you must eliminate any potential distractions and filters—including your own preconceived thoughts and judgments. Being fully present means listening to understand and asking open-ended questions to help your client explore himself or herself more deeply.”
This skill has been further defined as a method for building deeper trust with a client. Per the ICF: “With coaching presence, a coach transcends from “doing” coaching to “being” coaching. It allows the client to connect with a deeper self (being) from the superficial one (doing). Coaching presence also contributes to higher-order trust between the coach and the client and leads to superior and lasting outcomes. Finally, coaching presence helps develop presence in the client too. Research into clients’ behavior establishes that they start to unconsciously develop their own presence, thereby moving from quick fixes to permanent solutions.”
Coach training provides participants tools and skill building experiences to help participants remain present and “in the moment” with their clients. Some sample techniques include:
- Mentally clearing and developing a readiness for the coaching process
- Deliberated mindfulness and
These skills help remove distractions to effective conversations. They are also useful when preparing for work-related events such as staff meetings, performance reviews and client-facing conversations. Family members and others you care about will also benefit from your ability to be present, especially during this period of almost infinite distractions.
You become part of a coaching community
Coach training is done in a group setting with expert facilitation and subsequent mentored development. During this experiential learning participants invest in each other’s development and actively collaborate to support learning through shared experiences and mutual skill-building.
During a coach training program, you are learning a progressive level of skills and techniques with others who are going through the same experience. As you co-create your learning, you build a level of trust and insights with your co-participants that lasts long after the completion of the formal learning program, and often form the basis for a sustained learning community. This trust is also reinforced through the application of rigorous ethical standards which are taught during all coaching certification programs.
Participants felt that:
- Learning together as a cohort
- Follow-on structured group mentoring and
- Staying connected during their initial 12-18 months after completing the in-class portion of the program
Greatly improved their ability to apply and improve their coaching skills.
Feedback from an ACT course participant regarding the value of an experienced mentor-“I am grateful for their enthusiasm for our growth and willingness to make a safe place for our growth”.
As a best practice, ACT Leadership and Performance Coaching’s leadership team has taken the added step of proactively engaging their alumni community in ongoing professional development activities such as book clubs, skill-building webinars and the creation of a coaching referral network.
Being part of a coaching community also helps those that wish to document their coaching sessions in order to pursue coaching credentials. Completing certification requires documenting coaching hours completed. Through mentored training and peer support, participants are given guidance on how to record their coaching hours in a coaching log that meets ICF requirements for certification.
Dr Mike Beckmann
Dr. Mike Beckmann is an experienced leadership coach and strategic workforce development executive.