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Coming in from the cold: How coaching reveals the solution is all about you

Coming in from the cold: How coaching reveals the solution is all about you

by Moyra Mackie on May 25, 2013

The other day I was stuck.

My friend and fellow coach, Andrew Jones, suggests you need a coach if you are stuck. Stuck with a problem, an opportunity or a plan.

I was stuck because I wanted to know how I could grow my company and stop working longer and longer hours for less and less reward.

Like many other coaching clients I had been stuck for some time without realising it. Once I became aware of it, of course I spent a lot of time thinking about what I might do and asking my trusted contacts what they would suggest.

And then I had the opportunity to be coached.

The only catch was that the coaching would last for just twenty minutes.

“Twenty minutes”, I thought. “We’ll never get anywhere. I’ve really thought about it, I know what all my options are.”

What can a coach do for someone like me, stuck like this?

What would YOU do if you were my coach? What would YOU ask if you only had twenty minutes?

Would you focus on:

  • Where are you now and where do you want to be?
  • What is the gap and what have you tried?
  • What are your options and what should you do next?

Well, my coach didn’t ask any of those questions.

Sure, she spent a bit of time listening to my torrent of concerns, hopes and anxieties. She checked she understood where I was now and what I’d like to achieve. And then she asked:

“What’s stopping you?”

“Sales,” I said with a huge intake of breath. I’d known the answer to this, but I’d never said it out loud. There’s something quite powerful in sharing a truth for the very first time. Saying it out loud.

After remarking on my intake of breath, my coach just nodded and waited. You soon learn as a coach that it’s not all about asking questions. It’s about being present; fully focussed on what is happening in the room.

“I can’t sell. I’ve got a background in marketing and advertising, but I’ve never sold to people. You know, picked up the phone and tried to sell something,” I continued.

And then my coach asked the breakthrough question. The question that would get me unstuck. The one question I had never asked myself:

“Why? What makes you believe you can’t sell?”

“Apart from the fact that I’ve never really done it?”

“Yes, if you’ve never tried it, how do you know? But also you made a really big sigh when you said ‘sales’. That suggests that there’s a very strong attachment to that word and to that idea. Someone told you you could not sell, who was that?”

I really had to think now. Think deeply. No one had told me that.

My coach waited and watched.

Then I remembered. About ten years ago I had gone into a sales meeting and been asked a question that I could not answer and the meeting had unravelled. I had felt humiliated.

It was the last pitch I lost for the next six or eight years because I made sure that I researched, read and prepared so thoroughly. In that instant, in that coaching room, I realised that the failed meeting was the start of my reading. Now, with a full bookcase, I consider myself one of Amazon’s very best customers.

Then my coach asked:

“So what did you learn as a result of that meeting?”

I then realised that a meeting I had forgotten had been in many ways the catalyst for my thirst for learning and the root cause of my ensuing success.

But it was also the thing that was now holding me back.There was an invisible thread connecting that meeting in my past with the conversations in my future.

With that insight came the realisation that I was very different to that humiliated person in that sales meeting all those years ago. My coach made me realise that I needed to change the unconscious dialogue in my head from:

“I failed then, so I’ll fail now,” to

“I failed then and I’ve learnt now.”

With that change in thinking, the action plans and the advice I had already received and conceived have the possibility of success. A plan will always remain a plan, if the obstacles are not cleared first.

Being coached has re-taught me that truly effective coaches know it’s not about the WHAT or the HOW. A good coach will know that getting unstuck is about discovering the WHY.

It really is about YOU and not the problem.

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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