Master coaching tools submitted by Sharon Woodhouse: coach, small business consultant, mediator, author, book publisher, and publishing project manager.
I have come to think of coaching as two distinct but intertwined things. To begin, consider coaching to be a mighty process, a relationship between two people. The second is coaching as a growing collection of ideas, techniques, and practices of an evolving and flourishing field.
In the first, relational sense, a client has one of the best implements possible for making desired changes and expanding their life…the coach!
In the latter sense, there is a treasure chest of tools available.
Think about it, when we coach ourselves, we can skip straight to investigating the other powerful tools of coaching—big ideas like creativity and responsibility, practices like finding balance and self-care, techniques like open-ended questions and idealizing, hacks like making yourself right, right now and something I call video game hero.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
In both types of coaching, there are four master tools that clients/coachees—YOU—can keep in mind to support the work you’re doing. Keep in mind, all four will help you with shifting, goal achievement, making the changes you want for your life. Explore them all, make them your own, come to understand their superpowers more deeply, and apply these elements of the Meta Toolkit to your life.
Master coaching tools for both coaches and clients
1. Silent Stillness.
Generally speaking, silent stillness refers to any informal or formal meditation or relaxation method—your personal favorite/s or a mix-and-match version. Lie down, get comfortable in a chair, sit cross-legged on the floor or a pillow…as you wish. Sometimes you may want to take a passive or receptive stance in which you wait for inspiration on a matter to show up. At other times, being still and silent may allow your mind to shut out other distractions, freeing you to fully and intentionally address what’s vexing you through active deliberation and reflection.
Coupled with other tools or by itself, walking is easy, practical, healthful—and a terrific way to sort things out. On top of that, walking gets your blood flowing and your arms and legs moving rhythmically. It’s not surprising that a flow of ideas and answers is often not far behind. Like with meditation, sometimes a receptive, wait-and-see approach is what’s called for. Walk without an agenda, just for the enjoyment and to clear the head, and notice what pops into your mind. At the other end of the spectrum, you can bring a big question to your walk and let the motion support active discovery and strategizing.
Whether writing by keyboard or with pencil and paper, this tool harnesses the powerful way that writing organizes and frees one’s thinking. Figure something out by writing it out. Tap your inner world for direction (this is a more exploratory, receptive approach), or create as you go (this is a more active use of writing). When you want to brainstorm, generate options, sketch out your free associations, pick up a pen and start making headway.
Lastly, just do it and do it again and again. Practice means rehearsal, finding real-world ways in everyday life to test out a coaching concept. Once you’ve tried it, do a little review. How did it go? How did it feel? What will you do differently next time? Where else can you implement this technique? When can you use it next? It might help to think of this in two steps: pause, then practice. When encountering something you suspect requires something other than your usual go-to, pause. In that pause, choose your coaching tool to wield, decide how you want to proceed.
“We shape our tools, and then our tools shape us.”
Putting these tools into practice…
But coaching is not simply learning about things. It’s taking action and making the shifts that make the difference. You’ve now been introduced to the tools. Next, it’s time to put them into practice and begin integrating them into your life!
Think through how these four tools do work or could work for you, and prime yourself to begin using them to support you and your goals.
Take note of which silent and still methods you currently use to access your internal resources. Which do you like best? Which have been most effective for you? Are there ones you want to try? Select the one you will use first.
Consider the regular intervals of walking that are already part of your day. If none exist, think about where you can insert them…before or after work, dinner? While doing errands? At lunchtime? Imagine taking a moment before your next walk, and making the choice to use that time to reflect on a coaching concept, flesh out ideas, make decisions, imagine ideal scenarios, etc.
Think of the areas of your life where you may want to focus your practice and attention as you proceed. After that, consider the full spread of themes, roles, concerns, projects, and goals currently knocking about on your radar. You may decide to practice in different areas of your life or you may want to target specific concerns.
Whether working with a coach or on your own, these four components of a Meta Toolkit are now yours!
Sharon Woodhouse is the owner of Conspire Creative, which offers coaching, consulting, and conflict management services for the book publishing world and related fields. This article is adapted from her book, The Coach Within: 28 Big Ideas for Engaging the Power of Your Own Wisdom, Creativity, and Choices (Everything Goes Media, 2017). You can read about the other 27 big ideas online at The Coach’s Tool Chest. Follow her on Twitter @ConspireCreativ.