Monday, October 31, 2011

Manifesto for Effective Coaching

This should be considered Part 2 of my series on what real coaching is or should be – whether on-line or in person.  We need to think more thoroughly about the role of Big “C” coach in the on-line fitness industry. (see my book, The Abel Approach) What passes as “coaching” right now – is in fact, a travesty. And I will keep repeating this until I see any signs that it is getting better.
We need to outline the parameters by which a real coach is supposed to add value to a client’s experience – and then we need to ensure that as coaches, we fulfill our side of the bargain in satisfying that responsibility. There are too many weak, unskilled and talentless people out there “appointing” themselves as coaches without nary any due consideration of the true requirements of the role. You think because you won a physique contest or have a few certifications that this is somehow “qualification” for coaching others. It’s not even close.  A real “Big C” coach must live and be that role. It is not because his ego wants to dictate to people, but because his spirit is called to serve people. And there is a fundamental difference between these two perspectives. Below are some the main essential ingredients and pre-requisites of the craft of coaching. Let’s look at some of them. The real Coach must be able to -
  • Act and live by the principles that you advocate
  • “Be” a role model, don’t “act” like one
  • Be of noticeable integrity, don’t just talk about it in others
  •  Impose principled values
  • Be part of someone else’s solution, not detached and separated, like some kind of “boss”
  • Help someone establish reasonable and achievable performance goals, not absolute ones
  • Be truly concerned with long-term client-progress and growth, not just short term profits for yourself
  • Provide useful and constructive feedback within the triangle of awareness (physical, mental, emotional)
  • Emphasize cooperation and interaction, not a one-way dictatorship
  • Keep the client engaged, and focusing on what they need to do and know, not on what you as coach, do and know
  • Be encouraging in sincere and individual terms
  • When being encouraging or critical, be fair and understood in both
  • Don’t use negative emotional “tactics” ever to try to coach someone – e.g. don’t try to scare potential clients about how demanding you are as a coach. Treat others professionally in the ways and means you would expect to be treated if roles were reversed – in other words, as an adult!
  •  Realize that often what you are seeking from the client as a coach is insight, not just constant evaluation
  • Keep interaction real – personal methods of obtaining client-feedback will always yield deeper and more meaningful insights than some questionnaire-type approach. There is no substitute for real interaction. 

But along with the above - are the character traits required of good coaches as well. And I will get into that in another article.  And you cannot “learn” these as you go. A real coach has to be honourable, genuine, noble, have high standards for himself not just others, be of high integrity, be sincere, have it known what he stands for without having to announce it all the time. He must be enthusiastic for clients in a mature way, not because it looks good to be so. And the coach must have domain knowledge mastery beyond “certification levels.” He must have good instincts for knowledge, information, and diplomacy in interaction.
The unfortunate thing about the character trait requirements of a real Big “C” coach – is that these elements are easy to fake on-line, and easy to manipulate people of lesser skills and intelligence to believe. There is no way around it that the consumer needs to also become more educated about what real coaching is or is not. I know complete morons with a pro card and a bucket full of pharmaceutical enhancements that makes them think they are somehow equipped to “help and service” others. Does that even remotely make sense?
Real coaching is about developed and enhanced interpersonal, psychological, emotional, sociological and evaluative, communication skills. You don’t acquire these things in a weekend certification but in a life-long career experience devoted to the cause - not of your own self-interest - but for helping someone else. You also don’t receive these skills all of a sudden, because you won a high-level physique contest at some time. Neither of these things translates into coaching skills or prowess. But until consumers understand this, the lowest common denominator will prevail. And coaching will continue to be little more than a joke – its current state.
 But more to the point – the real Big “C” coach who does possess these skills and has honed them over years of practice should indeed warrant a premium price for it. There is a reason motivational speakers make hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars speaking to corporate heads each year. And that is because they produce intangible value. And real Big “C” coaching works the exact same way.
Real coaching requires a complex mix of social, interpersonal, psychological emotional and relational skills, ON TOP OF higher intelligence and the domain knowledge and technical skills within any field or practice. Only all of these things together will create Big “C” coaching value that rises to the top of the hierarchy of what coaching is supposed to be.
The most effective coaching mandate boils down to this – passion, people, principles, and professionalism.
Real coaching should never encourage room for coaches who want to play Boss-Cop or use the role of coach to enhance some personal sense of status of glory. Real coaching is service-oriented not ego-driven. The job is to help other people achieve, succeed, or otherwise enhance their life-experience in a positive way. A real coach does not pat himself on the back for that. That just illustrates selfish motivations. And these websites need to stop “glorifying” coaches who seek that very thing!
As a coach, if you are going to hold people accountable for their behaviour and performance then you must surrender yourself to that same level of accountability – and not because you feel you have to – but because this is just how you live your life. I have no respect for so-called coaches whose lives are a mess – and yet they have no tolerance for clients who are having troubles with application and process.
In real Big “C” coaching - understanding people – one by one – and one on one – and how they react and respond to you as an individual – is not an optional skill – it is an essential requirement.
I think this is enough to absorb for one article. And let’s call this The Manifesto for Effective Coaching
As usual, some of you will get it – some of you will not.
For those of you who sincerely want to become better “Big C” real coaches, I suggest you also read and do all the homework assignments in my book, “The Coach Whisperer.”
And I think we also need to look at the consumer side of this equation as well in future articles.

Monday, October 17, 2011

On-Line Coaching: Retail Commodity or Essential Service?

One Night Stand, or True Romance?

I have stated frequently that what passes for coaching in the Fitness and Diet Industry is simply a travesty. And I stand by that statement. But what strikes me most is how YOU the consumer do not seem to understand what you are purchasing or should be purchasing when seeking out a coach, on-line or in person. It seems this type of ignorance is what allows such shoddy quality to flourish. So I would like to take a few Blogs over the coming months and help you undertake an understanding of what coaching really is, or should be. And then you will be a more aware consumer.

Right now the number one fundamental problem in all of this is that both the coach and consumer seem to have a retail “transactional” attitude toward coaching. But real Coaching is not a ‘retail event’ it is a relationship. So right from the beginning the mindset of “shopping and procuring a coach”- like it is some kind of “item” of purchase – is just faulty thinking. Think of any of the helping industries, like psychiatry, psychology, ministry, choosing a doctor etc – These are not ‘retail’ events where price-shopping and ‘deals’ are the fundamental emphasis. In relationship-orientations, the fundamental focus must be on ‘a good fit’ and the service itself. The fundamental focus must be on the relationship element of coaching. That must come first.

But currently- both coaches themselves and potential clients prefer the “transactional/retail” approach to coaching. Why? - Because it is so much easier in conception, in thinking, and in “buying.” And that will work for the coaches, but for you the consumer, you cannot “buy” coaching this way. But what this does is reduce the internet to one giant “Wal-Mart” of potential coaches. They market and offer “coaching” as a retail commodity. But it isn’t – real coaching is a committed relationship. And there is a reason there is no “Wal-Mart” service for this kind of thing in real life. (counselling, psychiatry, ministry etc)

The relationship elements of coaching mean building real bonds. Most people who want to call themselves coaches do not have the patience of the wherewithal to do so. After all relationship-building requires deeper commitment and obligations – and these go beyond being married to a coach’s high opinion of himself, his program, his diet, or especially his own bank account.

But on the ‘real’ Coaching side of the equation it also means being selective. A real coach cannot just chase every opportunity. Viewed this way, the retail/transactional coaching is a lot of the same mentality that goes into a ‘one night stand.’ You need to watch out for coaches who try to sell you other “goods” as soon as you are on-board. Many go from one pyramid scheme to another, selling Isogenics, VI, and other so-called “opportunities” that line their pockets - but illustrate little concern for the client as a client – but show a perception of the client as merely a consumer with a bank account. At my last workshop, one attendee certified in “biosig” approached me and advised me to get on board. His exact words were, “You don’t even have to believe in it, but it’s a great money-maker.” Well, I’m sorry but I do indeed have to believe in it. But his comments reflect exactly what I mean – just viewing you, the potential client as a retail item – someone for whom a transaction is waiting. And unfortunately on the potential client end of purchasing coaching, you clients do not think much differently.

But while the retail/transaction mentality is more the “one-night stand” approach – elements of real coaching could be compared to ‘romance’ by contrast. The difference between ‘one night stand’ and actual romance is that the coach must care about this other entity named “client.” And he must care more about this client than he does the money the client represents. And he must care about the client more than he does about protecting what he thinks is so special about himself, his programs, or his diets. And this requires a complete reversal of attitudes and behaviours beyond what exists right now in the Fitness and Diet Industry - what is labelled as ‘coaching’ but clearly is just higher end retail/transaction mentality. The transactional/retail approach to coaching relationships in this industry are common and are the norm because they involve less real hard work and fewer real-world coaching skills. Think of buying an item at a store, vs. working alongside someone who created that item. All this retail/transactional mentality does is invite into the scene the internet marketer. And this just makes the whole thing even worse.

Furthermore, there is a stark difference in being a supervising expert to a client and being a true advisor. The expert’s job is to “be right.” - to solve the client’s problems through the application of technical and professional skill. (and this can easily become a dictatorship when the so-called expert also selfishly attaches emotional pride to his expertise.)

But the coach as advisor behaves differently and with a different attitude and emotional investment. Rather than needing to always “be right” - The coach as advisor seeks to always be helpful – to provide guidance, input, and counselling to the client’s own thought and decision-making process. It is the client who should retain control and responsibility at all times. The coach is not raising a helpless child here after all. The coach as advisor does seek to engage and grow the client however, and this is done through interaction and engagement. It cannot be accomplished by “do ‘this’ for three weeks then get back to me.” Yet the coach as ‘expert’ seldom engages this kind of real interaction for two reasons -1) it is just too time consuming and labor intensive, and 2) they coach in volume so they cannot devote the time, even if they had these relationship skills – and trust me, most of them do not.

So when you look at it this way, coach as advisor, or coach as expert – it is easy to understand why so many so-called professional coaches may talk the talk of being an expert advisor – but in actuality they do not really want to be one. They do not want to advise within a two-way functional relationship. They do not have the patience or the personality for it. It is simply easier to dictate protocol.

So, as a potential client you need to ask yourself which type of coach will best suit your needs, not for just right now, but for long-term. Because trust me, if you need a coach, you should be considering a long-term equation, not some short-term fantasy goal (but that is a whole other article). So, in a coach, who do you need right now and for the future? – Do you need the expert approach, someone who will dictate and approach you from the point of view of dominance, where they are always right, and you do what they tell you – or do you actually seek, an ‘expert advisor’ whose mandate is more about being an expert at being helpful. - Because these two categories are widely divergent. And you are not likely to find many of the latter types in this industry, trust me on that.

And of course it is foolish for the ‘expert’ to try to play the role of helpful advisor. Usually their egos cannot handle it – and/or they simply do not possess the appropriate communication, listening, or social skills to do so. The mentality of expert advisor is just different than the mentality of ‘expert knowledge holder.’ The mentality of advisor is just different, more compassionate for one thing. The personalities are different. The work experience is different. An expert ‘trying to be’ an advisor is going to be miserable and do miserably poor – and more than likely he will end up resenting the client all through the process as well.

Remember, a purported “fitness” or “diet” expert is someone claiming to have advanced knowledge in these areas. This does not automatically translate in to being a competent advisor to other people. What you know vs. what you can teach or instil in others are different things. Of course the best case scenario is a blend of domain knowledge expertise and advisory skills – but with more emphasis being toward the advisory capacity and just enough emphasis on the expert ability and knowledge.

The problem with a sole/soul emphasis on expertise becomes a problem of arrogance and pride. The expert starts thinking, “I am the one with all the knowledge, I am just fine – it’s the client who needs to change.” And this is just that retail/transactional mindset in action. - Because an expert who is focused on coaching as a relationship would not think this way. All that kind of thinking does is separate the expert and the client – both end up perceiving the other as “an object” in the working end of what is supposed to be a relationship. At this point you no longer have a mutually engaging relationship. And this is completely predictable. The retail/transactional – “I’m the expert and you are not” mentality – melts away the human relationship factor which ‘should be’ at the center of any service industry mandate.

Again, developing these relationships requires a long-term emphasis. Moreover it necessitates creating commitments and obligations most ‘experts’ do not want to incur. It is simply too time-consuming and too long-term oriented. They would rather attend the latest symposium and learn the latest studies or techniques for diet and training – things that are short term and change almost yearly.

But for the true Coach-as-advisor – developing the coaching relationship is precisely the intention – and then so is the long-term focus. This is what is missing in the Fitness and Diet Industry. This is the travesty I allude to. And I’ll say it again. Expertise is different than expert advisory skill and ability – which is what most clients actually need – they just don’t realize it.

With simple technical skill and domain knowledge and expertise for which most ‘experts’ advertise themselves – none of these skills have any bearing on the emotional, psychological, mental, or sociological milieu and nuance of what is actually required in a “relationship.” So we are back to that professional, “one night stand” mentality of experts – because that is how they are trained to think. But real relationships are not so clear-cut, and real relationships involve all of these nuances mentioned above – far beyond just “expert knowledge.”

And what about the delivery system of this knowledge? Who is teaching that?

This is why “Head Coaches” earn far more money and are more valued than are “head-trainers” in professional sports. And this is what I am talking about here. This industry spits out low level “trainers” who try to advertise themselves as high level trainers – and high level trainers who try to advertise themselves as “coaches.” But they are not “coaches” in the real sense of the term – because they do not emphasize the relationship elements of what coaching entails.

There is very little about learning field expertise of say being a fitness or nutritional expert – that would prepare any of you for the psychological complexities of coaching and helping actual clients. What you know or have learned is simply not enough to guarantee effective coaching leadership.

The whole problem is that our culture and reward systems are built around transactional approaches, not relationship-building concepts – built around the one-time, ease of the one-night stand mentality – vs. the complexities of the true romance inherent in any real relationship. But these relationship-building elements – the romance if you will – these are the requisites for good qualified coaching.

This tremendous focus on outcome pretends to bypass all the stages it takes to build someone toward true success – or more importantly, to be able to move someone toward achievements that are sustainable and wellness-promoting – not unsustainable and destructive. –Ok, so you pay Guru X – and you buy his new diet product and become part of his pyramid selling scheme as well. You may even drop 20 lbs in 3 months. But 4 months later you have gained back 30 lbs, and now you feel humiliation and feel like a failure. How is that progress? How is that coaching success exactly? As a client, how is that even a wise investment? When you care about outcomes to the exclusion of not caring at all about how you achieve them, you enter the world of the one-night-stand mentality. You fall prey as well to wolves in sheep’s clothing. You will more than likely be willing to subject yourself to all kinds of damaging practices – taking illicit drugs etc. When the end justifies the means, you are in dangerous territory. And the competition-end of the fitness/physique industry represents this all too well.

We need a fundamental shift in attitudes from the top down, and from the consumer up. Coaching needs to start being accredited. The wild wild west of the internet needs to die a quick death. We need to stop thinking in short term retail/transactional approaches, to both coaching and achieving goals – that shallow ‘one night stand’ approach. And we need to embrace the romance – the real thing – that real achievement is not something you purchase, but something you nourish and nourishes you -all along the way.

Some of you will get it – some of you will not/

And if some of you are offended – GOOD – I suggest you take a long hard look in the mirror.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Food Issues and You: Finally Facing “The Phantom Menace”

Because Life is Too Precious to Let Something so Inane 
Occupy Your Mind and Dictate Your Emotion

Well after two years of research of tens of thousands of pages – and over a hundred pages of notes – the “Food Issues” project is finally ready for purchase.

  • If you suffer any kind of eating issue, mild to severe, then this project is a must for you. It doesn’t matter if it is binge eating, overeating, mindless eating, nervous eating, unwanted snacking, etc.
  • If any of these types of eating issues describe you, and you struggle with it – then this project is for you.
  • Moreover, if you are even mentally preoccupied with food too often, then this project is for you.
  • If you find you are always in a mental battle within yourself regarding food, then this project is for you.
  • If thoughts of food engender feelings of anxiety, guilt, reward, shame or any of these emotions within you – then this project is for you.
  • If thoughts of food change your feelings about yourself or make you anxious then this project is for you.

Anyone who would even remotely use the word “struggle” to describe their relationship to eating or food or weight or diet or even body image – would behoove themselves to investing in this project.
And this project consists of not one, but TWO books regarding eating and food issues. And to help even further there is a third component of this project – workbook, which has exercises and discussion which will fundamentally alter your approach to food – and help you solve these issues once and for all.
Below, Scott describes the various components of the project.

If you even suspect you may have an attachment to food or eating issues – you should invest in this project!

Book 1 – Dealing with Excesses and your own created “External Solutions” to Deal with Your Phantom Menace

Far too many people out there suffer from food-related issues and most of you suffer in silence. Whether it is an intense preoccupation with food or some kind of eating issue – the truth is that for many of you food is taking over your mind and your life in a very negative way. I wrote this project for those of you who suffer. I have witnessed it in my coaching practice for years and it was simply time to do something about it.

My two years of research resulted, in not one book for this project, but two separate but related books. And on top of these two books there is a workbook as well. If any of you out there suffer any eating/food or diet and weight related issues, at the very minimum you should purchase the workbook.
The project breaks down this way. Book one is all about the modern world we live in and how it creates “excesses.” Your food/eating issues are actually a result of excesses you have created which you may not even realize. And these excesses in thought or behaviour lead you to falsely seeking “external” solutions to what are in fact, internal issues of excess. Book one addresses several different chapters that discuss various personality types or situational circumstances where you create your food and eating issues as a reflection of other continuing unresolved issues of excesses and internal struggle. This book discusses and explains how you seek “external” solutions to food issues – things like new diets and such – because you cannot truly understand that the food and eating issues themselves are external issues of excess.

The first part of eradicating any problem you have is that you first must understand it. Book 1, which deals with your issues of excesses and external solutions, will help you truly understand what you are dealing with in terms of the phantom menace of your food issues. The book includes details and chapters that you have probably never considered are contributing to your current struggle with eating and food. The subject matter contained within this book, and the exercises and questions posed –will go a long way in helping you to properly understand your issues from their point of origin. And from this vantage point and understanding you will be more effective in dealing with them.

Book one finishes by walking you down a path of wellness and explaining to you how and why you can - and need to – restore emotional balance.

Book 2 – Your Diet Mentality “IS” Your Phantom Menace

Once you understand the operating emotional factors from book number one, book two addresses your food/eating/diet/weight issues from the actual mindset you have adapted – what I label as “the diet mentality.” Book two helps you to understand your own “stinkin thinkin” regarding your food/eating issues. In book two you will explore how your diet-mentality is not only the servant to your struggles – but actually supports and reinforces your struggles with food and eating as well.

In book two, you will be able to unravel how you do not really have food and eating issues per-se, you actually have awareness issues. And the reason you cannot solve your food and eating issues is because your diet-mentality is blocking your path to real awareness.

In book two you will understand that your diet-mentality that you have adapted over time - is in fact the phantom menace that continues your problems in the areas of food and eating.

Moreover, book two expands upon book number one by examining the emotional positioning behind your diet-mentality. Book number two looks at how you deal with your emotional life – or not deal with it, and how this creates not only awareness issues, by emotional suppression and repression as well. And both of these play out in the phantom menace of your mind as food and eating issues – when in fact, the reality is – that your phantom menace is the result of unresolved emotion – anything from just day to day avoided stress – all the way to intense past emotional pain that is still unresolved.

BOOK 3 - The Workbook

The workbook is designed to work on its own, or as an excellent adjunct to both main texts of this project. Because this whole project is formulated on the premise that your food and eating issues are emotional and awareness issues – the workbook focuses on these elements of yourself.

The focus of the workbook is an emphasis on developing self-awareness by focusing on three key components of it that have been disrupted by the phantom menace of your diet-mentality. These key areas are perception, perspective, and emotional courage. The workbook contains many exercises as well as key delineations and markers which will help you empower yourself by developing self-awareness. And as you do the exercises and change your perspective, and perception, you also develop the emotional courage to see the phantom menace of your food issues for what it actually is – a phantom.
And as such, over time you no longer need to fight with the phantom as you have been doing. You merely see it for what it is and slowly but surely you are able to let it go.

This workbook will take you in a direction you would never have imagined for dealing with so-called “food” and “eating” issues. But as you study the data and do the exercises – the journey you are on will make better sense to you. And the emotional courage and awareness that results – will strengthen you in all facets of your life – but specifically for appropriately dealing with your phantom menace/diet mentality.

Now of course, I suggest anyone suffering food and eating issues of any kind – mild to severe – should purchase all three components of this project. Each are components of the other and strengthen your understanding better - as a totality, than as any one single component of the project.

But some of you will find one of the books speaks to you specifically more so than the other book. And this is why I wrote two of them, from a different, but related vantage point. And this is also why I offer each component of this 3-part project, as separate items for purchase as well.

I put two years of my life into this project in the hopes to help those of you with food/eating/diet/weight issues. My sincere hope is that this project changes your life, and you can finally rid yourself of the phantom menace. Life is far too precious to let something so inane occupy your mind and dictate your emotion.

Good luck to you in this journey. Let’s get to work !

God bless