Why Coaches Need Coaches – another lesson I’ve learnt from my children!


I’m a coach. I go to work aspiring to create an environment for my clients where they are empowered to unfold, think free, and become the very best versions of themselves. I offer full unconditional attention, freedom from judgement, assumptions or expectations and I watch as their brilliant minds shine bright. Sometimes I draw on theories of psychology or neuroscientifc research to add a different perspective or I use techniques from applied psychology and even ancient wisdom traditions to help them view things from a new angle.

Then at the end of the day, I go home….

The front door opens and school bags, shoes, coats, wet swimming things and musical instruments are flung across the floor in the hallway. One child punches another. I retreat to the kitchen to rustle up something quick (and sadly less healthy than I’d ideally like). One strops because they don’t want to turn off the TV when the food is ready. Another throws a wobbly because they got the yellow plate and they wanted the orange one. Then, SNAP! I turn into the very worst version of myself. If they’re lucky my family are treated to my sulky teenager act – on unlucky days they get the full-blown toddler tantrum.

So, where does all that empathic presence I’ve been practising all day go? What about all those theories and models that I could use to so clearly and rationally to explain what’s going on? Why can’t I access them? Triggered, I too, fall into the old and unhelpful patterns of behaviour laid down and engrained through a lifetime of self-limiting thoughts and honed to perfection to suit (or not suit!) my family and me.

Oh, if my clients could be flies on the wall…. what would they say? Would they run a mile and get a ‘better’ coach? Maybe. Or maybe they’d be encouraged to see that I am authentically human too. I don’t have all the answers (which is why I won’t give them to you, by the way, all I can do is help you find them!).

What I do know is that something that makes us uniquely human is our ability to reflect – to think about our thinking. And through reflection we’ve come to understand more of what is going on – we understand that we have it in our nature to be imperfect. When we are ‘under attack’ the parts of the brain we share with the animal kingdom react in the way they are supposed to – the higher thinking capability of the cortex shuts down and the limbic survival system kicks in. Either we flee from the predator in front of us (in this case manifested in my 4 year-old’s impossible demands) – or, when we’re feeling really brave – we confront it with our full-blown anger!

No scientist has yet has found any way to prevent our emotions – and society is slowly coming to accept that in fact it would be unhealthy and wrong to try and do so – it’s just our limbic system doing it’s thing! The good news is, that there is a lot we can do to understand what our triggers are – and through understanding better we can take action to prevent us getting triggered so often.

I spend a lot of my day helping clients to understand their triggers and uncover the self-limiting beliefs that block them from finding ways to have the uncomfortable conversation with their boss, delegate more effectively or motivate their team. And I think I’m pretty good at applying the wisdom of my trade to my own professional life. But, what I know from my clients’ stories, and from my own, is that the closer the people are to us the more easily we seem to get triggered.

So, what my children have taught me is this; that coaches need coaches too!

Oh yes, I can think about the patterns of behaviour in my family, analyse my interactions with significant people in my life and understand my personality in the context of a myriad of theories of psychology. It’s easy on an intellectual level. But to delve deep down into my self-limiting beliefs, to see what I am blind to or what I am hiding from – how my unwanted behaviours – at work and at home – are in fact strategies (albeit unsuccessful ones) that I’ve practised since childhood in an attempt to get my most fundamental needs met. For this, the empathic presence of another is far superior to any solo soul-searching. Thank goodness for my wonderful colleague and Thinking Partner, Moriah. We meet every 2-3 weeks for no other reason than to offer each other beautiful generative attention and thinking space for half an hour each way. My children have a lot to thank her for!

To be heard, to be seen, to matter, to be ‘got’ – this is at the core of the ‘magic’ in coaching. This is what ignites the mind and brings out the intelligence, creativeness, beauty and brilliance in each of us.

And I need it as much as any of you!

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