A Coach's Motto: Measure Twice, Cut Once

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The carpenter’s motto urges care. In fact, it’s more like an ethical imperative. It's responsive to a virtue of excellence in one's trade. But it’s also a virtue of promise-keeping: “You can rely on me. I’ll do it the right way. No shortcuts.” So, too, with coaching we owe our clients nothing less.

We use neither a tape measure nor a saw. Rather, we use cultivated relational skills to enter the world of our client, to listen and discern themes of importance, to press with compassion for more disclosure where hesitation or fear might close off access to issues of consequence. We do this jointly, collaboratively. 

We do this because it's only through our allied efforts of exploration and discovery that we build the will and confidence of our clients to see things as they really are. Their defenses so often protect them from harm by sounding retreat, but, like an overprotective mother, they can over-learn this function. 

In the intimacy of a coaching relationship we create conditions of trust, openness, and care. As a pair, we calm fears with assurance that looking will not harm us and examining will free us. Free us for what? It will free us to gain perspective, the query assumptions, to consider alternatives. 

Even this simple norm and skill of critical appraisal is enough to calm the “overprotective mother.” We are telling her, “Fear not, we will be prudent, we’ll act with care, and a path of retreat, support, and encouragement will always be available. Looking and examining is not yet decision-making.” 

These normative considerations create the safe space for clients to reappraise their capacity to face their fears, to assert their claims and control over deliberation and decision-making. This kind of strength, first cultivated in the coaching alliance, becomes the voice of a more self-possessed person (client). 

The contents of our conversations, the focal themes of our experiments with new ways of thinking, feeling, and acting, and all that has meaning and practical relevance, becomes visible, meaningful, and manageable because it arises within a relational context that empower the client to assert control. 

In doing this, clients not only establish an internal locus of control and increased self-efficacy, they adaptively shape their sense of self and identity as persons. Our self adaptively grows and thrives, or it retreats and stagnates. The challenges that create pain, evoke fears, and prompt self-doubt, they’re our call to action.