Lessons in the Non-Transferrable

Socrates. Asking questions. Not giving advice.

If I have 100,000 hours into anything other than just life, it’s in coaching others. Countless hours of crafting curriculum, learning techniques, expanding my skills. Then countless more hours in coaching sessions — cajoling, encouraging, challenging.

Coaching, like any practice, is accepting a state of continual learning. (I jokingly say that when a coach stops learning is when they become a consultant. I’m only half kidding.) What shifts the most over time is where the learning comes from. For me, about 10% of my learning now comes from formal study, structured programs, etc. The other 90% is what I learn in an actual coaching session. The students (client) have become my teachers. Which, in turn, the next student benefits from and contributes to.

I have learned enough about and from coaching to fill a book. But this is what I’ve learned the most …

Most important things are non-transferrable.

Here are just a few …

Belief

Faith

Motivation

Action

Wisdom

Perspective

I could list a dozen more …

In each case, I can’t transfer these to another person. I can’t make you have belief. I can’t give my faith to you. I can’t motivate you. I can’t make you take any action. I can’t transfer wisdom. I can’t transfer my perspective.

In this, I’ve discovered the hallmark of being a true coach. A true coach does not give advice, nor provide a formula to follow. Advice and formulas are strongly biased towards the assumption that all or some of the above are actually transferable. I think this creates disservice to the client. It encourages co-dependency. It keeps the client a victim of their circumstances rather than a creator of their future. It perpetuates the problem they hired you to help them solve.

So where does that leave me as a coach? What can I do? What is transferrable?

I can ask good questions. Questions that challenge assumptions, challenge the bullshit we all tell ourselves, hold up a mirror of examination. This is an ancient principle that is easily forgotten because we are awash in information, books, podcasts, e-courses, systems, formulas. None of which are more efficient — and more integrous – than asking good questions.

One of our mantras at Root + River is “love ’em where they’re at”. This means extending to a person unconditional love and acceptance in whatever state they come in. This why true coaching requires the coach to see the soul, not the role. The role(s) a person plays is an important part of their identity but they are not the soul of a person. And it’s the soul that needs to be loved where it’s at.

I can distill. I can take an idea, a fear, a hope, a vision and begin to extract and analyze it’s meaning in a collaborative way with the client. I can hold it up, let them examine it and decide whether or not to accept it.

I can give voice to what I am hearing from their soul or observing from the sub-conscious. But I might be wrong. Because I’m human and I have my own biases, assumptions and need to be right. So giving voice is never done without permission from the client.

I can encourage. Or a better word is “edification” (which) is an under-used word these days). My definition of edification is to remind people of the truth they already know. In this reminder, there’s a return to the two main powers that every human has: 1) The power to choose and 2) The power to create.

I can co-create with the client a path forward. Not a formula for them to follow and then judge them against. But a co-created plan that contains milestones, accountability, reward that we mutually agree to.

So I have no answers, no prescriptions, no judgement, no pre-conceived outcomes, no pre-determined solutions. I just have a heart, a mind, ears, intuition, words — and 100,000 hours of learning from you.

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