Now I am a business coach.
Then I was a career coach. And for several years my job was to help people with disabilities find employment.
So much of what I learned Then is powerfully helpful Now.
One story in particular comes to mind… I attended a 4-H club that was geared toward young people with developmental disabilities. There was a young girl who used a power chair and who had extremely limited dexterity. Her mother was there, too. The agenda for the evening was making chocolate brownies from scratch. This meant the girl had to level a cup of flour, among other things. This small task was extremely difficult for the girl, and her mother immediately jumped to do it for her. I boldly (unwisely, to be honest, but I got away with it) interrupted mom and asked her to stop.
“Don’t help her, mom,” I might have said. “If you keep her from struggling or failing now, she may never learn her true limits, let alone how to make brownies! She might even learn to avoid the struggle.”
Somehow I got away with this intrusive interjection; in fact, the mom later thanked me for the lesson she learned.
Answers or Questions
People often confuse the role of a coach with that of a consultant. If a child asks you how to spell a word, for example, and you provide the answer, you are serving as a traditional consultant. The child learns nothing about solving future spelling challenges.
On the other hand, if you help the child learn how to spell by asking him to speak each letter-sound and syllable, you are developing and reinforcing a skill that the child will use for a lifetime. As a coach you are developing the potential of the child, providing long-term benefits, rather than just solving short-term problems.
Good coaches resist providing answers to your questions and solutions to your problems. They help you address current issues while learning how to address future ones.
More often than not, business professionals seek training or hire consultants when what they really need is a good coach.
As a coach, my core values include these:
- You already have the basic skills and knowledge you need to be successful.
- No one knows you, your work, your business better than you do.
- You gain more from testing your own knowledge, ideas and assumptions than from anything someone could tell you.
- The right questions will help you find your own right answers.
- I never tell someone anything that I could ask them instead.
One final lesson from back Then.
The difference between the people who were successful and found jobs rather quickly compare to those who failed had little to do with their disabilities. Success or failure had little to do with barriers or discrimination. It had little to do with experience or credentials.
Success and failure had little to do with circumstances at all. The determining factors were the individual’s goals, daily habits and, most of all, his or her attitudes about current those circumstances. Attitude about disability. Attitude about barriers. Attitude about discrimination. Attitude about credentials or the lack of a solid vocational history.
Your success or failure has little to do with your circumstances. I’m guessing you have access to adequate training. I’m guessing you know your business and how to do your job. I’ll even bet that you face some challenging circumstances yourself. You can always benefit from learning more, but what you really need is someone to help you get more from what you already know and have. Someone who will help you develop your right attitudes, habits and goals regardless of your circumstances.
Someone who skillfully allows you to explore the true limits of your own potential. A coach who will show you the way to The Intersection of Purpose and Now.