Coaching as an Ecosystem: the Coaching Mindset

Since I started my training program to become a professional coach, I found myself thinking a lot about the specific nature of this discipline, which is also a way of living.
I have been reflecting and considering this approach in relation to all other professional approaches, such as counselling – a discipline I’ve also studied – mentoring or psychotherapy. The more I learn in my coach training, the more all these disciplines appear to me as ecosystems, sometimes very similar, sometimes distant and distinct from each other.

If an ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the non-living components of their environment, interacting as a system, then psychotherapy could be the deep ocean, a multiform and mysterious place where hidden dynamics should be carefully explored.
Counselling reminds me the sea near the coast: clearer, colorful and crossed by waves that come from very distant places and shaken by underground movements that provoke reactions on the surface.

And what about coaching?
For me coaching is the mainland, no matter if forests, plains or hills.
Coaching is for me like a massive territory, a concrete and natural field of action (at least for human beings).

Mentoring would be the last piece of this natural puzzle and I personally associate it with those ecosystems where a way is naturally traced – you just have to follow it – such as a valley or a river.

Associating an image with these disciplines has helped me clarifying the deep nature of these disciplines. Following the line of evolution that brought life on earth – from the depths of the oceans to the exploration of the mainland – allows me to better understand their characteristics and to distinguish the common ones from the more specific and peculiar ones.  In my very personal way of looking at and understanding the two professions that I am learning to practice, it immediately seemed clear to me how close coaching and counselling are, yet very distinct. For example, comparing coaching to counselling – the two disciplines I’ve been specializing in – the challenging and practical character of coaching emerges clearly, as well as its active and peculiar energy: don’t ask yourself “why” (counselling), instead ask yourself “what can I do with it and for what purpose” (coaching).
Do not look back at the past (counselling), but live in the moment and look after new horizons (coaching).
Do not think you need to fix something (counselling), just focus on your destination and build your own way to get there (coaching).  Counselling and coaching are very different energies and approaches – both when we work on business issues or personal issues – that allowed me to understand what ICF (International Coaching Federation) means with one of the core coaching competencies “emboding a coaching mindset”.

Martin Buber in his “I and Thou” – an authentic masterpiece in which the author reflects on the path of a deep human growth in harmony with the whole world – argues that there is a simple rule to reach happiness: do what you say, say what you think.

In other words, live a life where actions, words and thoughts are on the same path.
That’s all.

By applying this simple principle to the practice of coaching, it seemed even clearer that to be a good professional coach it is not a matter of understanding or agreeing to embrace a specific mindset, but it is a matter of being that mindset and act upon it every day.

This is the only way to give power to our way of coaching, to promote trust and empathy with  customers and to show – beyond our verbal expression –  that everything is possible and viable.

No tricks, no shortcuts, no deceptions: that’s the way it is.

What you are as a human being reflects in you as a coach. Any dissimulation or deviation from this mindset shines out with your client. As simple as that.
Is it challenging? Yes, it is, that this is the most beautiful and innovative part of this discipline, because it is the result of a never-ending work on ourselves and our way of living.

If it wasn’t challenging for us, how could it be for our customers?
How could we partner with them along the path they decided to take with our support?
So let the challenge begin. And let it continue. Always.

________________________________________
(Italian version)

Il Coaching come Ecosistema: il Coaching Mindset

Da quanto ho iniziato il mio percorso di formazione per diventare una coach professionista, sono state tante le occasioni in cui mi sono ritrovata a riflettere sulla particolarità di questo lavoro, che è anche uno stile di vita.

Ho riflettuto soprattutto considerando il coaching in relazione ad altre professioni limitrofe, come ad esempio il counseling, disciplina in cui – pure – mi sto specializzando, il mentoring o la psicoterapia. Più procedo nella mia formazione, più questi ambiti mi appaiono come ecosistemi, talvolta vicini, talvolta più distanti e distinti tra loro.

Se l’ecosistema è quell’ambiente autosufficiente e in equilibrio dinamico, all’interno del quale organismi viventi e materia interagiscono, la psicoterapia potrebbe essere l’oceano profondo, multiforme e ricchissimo tesoro di fenomeni delicati e da esplorare con cura e cautela.
Il counseling potrebbe evocare il mare più vicino alla costa, più chiaro e colorato, “visitato” da onde che vengono da lontano e da movimenti sotterranei che scatenano reazioni in superficie.

E il coaching? Per me è la terra ferma, sia essa pineta, foresta, pianura o collina: un territorio multiforme ma solido, campo di conquista e di azione (almeno per gli esseri umani).
In questa immagine naturalistica mancherebbe il mentoring, che personalmente associo a ecosistemi in cui la via è già tracciata, basta solo seguirla, come ad esempio in una valle, fiume o percorso naturale.

Associare un’immagine a queste discipline per me è stato estremamente chiarificatore perché seguendo la linea evolutiva che ha portato la vita sulla terra – dalle profondità degli oceani all’esplorazione e alla conquista della terraferma – immaginare un filo logico e consequenziale, almeno idealmente, tra questi diversi ambiti mi ha aiutato a vedere meglio le loro caratteristiche, distinguendo quelle comuni da quelle più specifiche e peculiari.

Perché – nel mio personalissimo modo di intendere almeno le due professioni in cui mi sto formando – mi è sembrato subito chiaro quanto il coaching e il counseling fossero vicini eppure nettamente distinti. E qui emerge il carattere sfidante e pratico del coaching, nonché la sua energia attiva e pro-attiva: non chiederti “perché” (counseling), ma “cosa posso farne e con quale scopo” (coaching).

Non guardare al passato (counseling), ma osserva il presente e scopri nuovi orizzonti (coaching).
Non pensare di dover mettere a posto nulla (counseling), focalizza solo il punto di arrivo e costruisci la via (coaching).

Si tratta di energie e approcci professionalmente – e umanamente – molto diversi ed è stato grazie a questa riflessione – e continua osservazione di me e delle dinamiche che mi abitano – che ho iniziato a comprendere davvero cosa si intenda per “incarnare il coaching mindset”, una delle competenze core per un coach professionista delineate da ICF (International Coaching Federation).

Più che in altre discipline, nel coaching diventa centrale non solo il lavoro interiore del Coach, ma anche l’aspetto pratico ed esteriore di un vero e proprio stile di vita.

A questo proposito mi torna in mente un’espressione di Martin Buber, che raccoglie il suo insegnamento chassidico ne “Il cammino dell’uomo”, autentico capolavoro in cui l’autore riflette sul cammino dell’autentica crescita umana in armonia con il mondo intero.

Buber sostiene che la vera felicità stia in una semplice regola di condotta: fa’ ciò che dici e dì ciò che pensi.  Allineamento profondo e autentico tra azione, parola e pensiero. Questo è tutto.

Applicando questo semplice principio alla pratica di coaching, mi è parso ancora più chiaro che per essere un buon coach professionista non solo sia necessario aderire a una forma mentis, ma occorra agirla ogni giorno, perché solo questo dà potere al nostro metodo, crea fiducia ed empatia con il cliente, trasmette al di là di ogni parola l’idea che tutto sia possibile e percorribile.

Non c’è trucco, non c’è possibilità di inganno: quel che sei, come coach, si vede. Ogni tentativo di dissimulazione o deviazione dal coaching mindset traspare.

E questa è la parte più bella, ma allo stesso tempo sfidante, perché frutto di un continuo lavoro su se stessi e sul proprio stile di vita.

Ma se così non fosse, sfidante per noi, come potrebbe esserlo per i nostri clienti? Come potremmo collaborare con loro nel percorso che hanno deciso di fare con il nostro supporto?

Quindi che la sfida cominci. E continui. Sempre.

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