As a part of my college course work I’m taking a class on something called “Conflict Coaching.” The idea is that someone is doing something that drives you crazy and you don’t know how to handle it. So, you go find a coach, who listens to your story and helps you craft a strategy to change the situation and helps you resolve your conflict. The coach is not a “mentor” not someone who tells, you, from experience, how to handle the situation. Not at all, a coach is someone who simply allows you to dig deep and find your own answers and then holds you accountable. The coach doesn’t have to be experienced, have knowledge, or even own wisdom in your particular problem, he only has to be good at asking open ended questions and holding you to a course of action. The coach doesn’t try to mediate, hear other sides of the story, or give you any advice. Instead, he listens to your story and emotions, and then he helps you find your own best solution to the conflict. You are paying him, so there is a good chance he won’t simply say, “You know, you really F’d this up and you need to go apologize!”
I like knowledge, experience, and wisdom. When I need help, I prefer to find someone who might have been through the situation and, maybe, might be able to get both sides together to find a resolution. We don’t call this type of person a coach, we call him a leader. I’ve had bad experiences with coaches, there are tons of charlatans out there calling themselves coaches who have learned to ask open ended questions and nag you into taking acton, even if it is bad action, while collecting checks from you. I had a particularly nasty experience with a California guy named Jim Bunch who decided to exhibit his coaching skills, unsolicited by me, at an authors conference I attended. I’d flown across country when I had completed The Affluent Artist and I had specific questions about selecting a literary agent and working with a publisher. Despite the fact that he wasn’t a writer, Bunch decided to demonstrate to the room that he was a great coach. He intercepted a question I had for Chicken Soup for The Soul author Jack Canfield to “Laser Coach” me, telling me that I was stuck in “I don’t know” and that I needed to commit to ACTION and stop asking other people what to do. And so on… Later, he and I had a conversation that could be described as “lively.”
There is something to be said for mentorship, for wise experienced leaders, and for grizzled old veterans. Anyone can ask open ended questions, and nag but it is rare to have the opportunity to draw on the experience of someone who is an actual expert. Last night I started a very interesting 4 week class at a local wine shop. The subject is Italian wines and, even though I have been to Tuscany wineries and even made my own wine, I am realizing how much I have to learn. The teacher, the manager of the shop has done more than read a few articles about wine, he is a true expert and it is wonderful to hear him explain the depth of knowledge he posses about this fairly narrow area of expertise. Today, when all it takes is an internet connection to gather bumper stick like knowledge to SOUND like an expert, I truly enjoy hearing an actual expert.
So, as I said in my college course, coaching is a joke. It’s a way to generate income for people who haven’t done anything themselves and want to get paid for telling other people how to get something done. I’m in favor of experts, of mentors and in wise old friends. I’m in favor of wisdom and well thought out answers that enlighten you.
So today, I toast smart people, people who have learned a lot about a subject and are willing to share their knowledge. Ciao!