How much knowledge do we need (to coach well)?

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How much knowledge do we need (to coach well)?

This photo made me smile. Sometimes I meet people with a wall full of certificates. It makes me wonder: How many certificates, knowledge and validation do we need to do something well and feel good about what we are doing? And do certificates actually matter to others?

Earlier this year, I joined parts of the World Business Executive Coaching Summit (WBECS). It’s a great online event for Executive Coaches with some of the best executive coaches sharing their insight, tips and techniques. It is impressive what that team has put together over the last years.

After most of the webinars and slideshows, my eager-to-learn mind always felt nurtured and excited. Yet, I realized that my body was in a contracted place some of the time. I didn’t understand why at first, but after some introspection I realized what it was.

It has to do with a feeling that I don’t know enough yet as a coach or actually as a human being. Somehow all these slideshows, models and terminology let me believe that I might not be good enough yet and that I need to accumulate more knowledge and ‘add to me’.

I notice I then go into a contracted state where I forcefully try to remember models, acronyms, bullet points and other content so I can reproduce them later. It’s like I am back at high school trying to remember to reproduce. I’ve learned that great coaching does not come from that place.

I think many of us deal with the belief at times that we need more knowledge or insight in order to start practicing something. This idea of us lacking something is well played into by dozens of clever online programs out there that bombard us with some kind of variation of ‘you should know more’.

This contracted feeling of needing more knowledge out of a place of lack is the exact opposite feeling I have when I leave a meditation retreat.

In those moments, I realize that all the wisdom that I need is already inside. I just need to practice diligently myself, understand my own mind better and then create the right conditions for any wisdom to arise when I am with my clients. Practice is much more important to enable that than constantly adding new knowledge.

In short: I need to trust in my intuition and insights I already gathered over the last decades.

This doesn’t mean that we should stop learning or even getting certified in certain ways or forms. I have done several coach trainings and probably still read about 2-3 books per month on the area of leadership, personal development and mindfulness.

However, I realized that the attitude towards that learning should not be from a place of lack or a need to validate myself or feel better about myself or prove myself. It should come from a place of curiosity to listen to things that resonate with an innate wisdom that I know is already true from my own experience. It it not an addictive hunger for more or to fill in a gap, but an invitation to explore and enrich.

And after I sponged up new material, I purposefully aim to let it go at the end. I try not to hold on to it. I take a few deep breaths and go back to my own solidity and trust. I don’t try to remember as much as I can. I know it got stored somewhere in my subconscious mind and trust it will arise in the right moment when I am with clients or my Triad groups.

Mindfulness can help us enjoy learning much more. It helps me be at ease when I don’t read books, keep track of the news or watch the latest TED talk. It helps me to review instead my inner TED talks and observations of how my mind and emotions work. Many times, these reveal more insight than a library of books.

You might wonder: But don’t clients care about certificates and diplomas? Actually research shows that coaching clients care very little about certificates or coaching approaches. It’s one of the very last considerations, also in my own experience. Generally, they only want to know one thing: Can you help me?

I am curious to hear your thoughts on his: How do you relate to gathering new knowledge and ideas around the job that you’re doing? How do you combine it with your inner wisdom that is already present?

Mindful regards,

Gaston is co-founder of the TeamUp Triad Coaching Program, a 9-week mindful coaching program which helps you be better at the stuff that really matters. Check out our new website!

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