The Quiet Coach 9

March 15, 2023

What’s your Critical Turtle saying when you’re coaching?

We often start Navgati workshops by inviting participants to become aware of their Critical Turtle – this little invisible creature that sits on your left shoulder (or right) and keeps up a constant commentary all day long.

A commentary filled with judgements about yourself; the other people around you; the process you are a part of. The main characteristic of the CT’s chatter (mine is called Benjy and he wears large, round glasses) are that

    a. It’s so much a part of our heads that we sometimes don’t even notice it’s there
    b. We often accept it as true, unquestioningly

For all of us who have been drawn to this profession because of the desire to help others, these critical voices are particularly strong when we feel we’re not being of service to our clients.

When a coach doesn’t stop to question the validity of these comments, depending on what the voices are saying, it could result in them

    – not being fully present with the client
    – overdoing their part of the conversation
    – feeling exhausted and drained after
    – holding back from appropriately challenging the client
    – seeing themselves as not competent etc

So how do we work with these beliefs that are limiting us as coaches?

Step 1:

The first step, as always, is awareness. As part of our PCC program, I often invite coaches to make a list of everything they’re saying to themselves when they’re coaching. Here are some that have come up:

    • I must never deviate from the coaching process
    • Boundaries must always be protected at all costs
    • I must always remember everything the client has shared
    • It’s my job to make sure the client takes action/achieves traction
    • Clients must always see me as competent
    • I must always help my clients
    • Everything interesting that comes up in a conversation must be explored
    • Clients must not meander too much from the contract
    • I must be in control
    • I should be able to solve the problem for the client
    • The client should always find an answer in 60 minutes
    • If we have not analyzed the underlying belief, it is not deep enough work
    • I must always add value to my client
    • Conversations have to move and that responsibility is mine
    • I have to make sure the conversation has a structure
    • The client must have a solution at the end
    • There has to be a happy ending
    • I must analyze the problem statement before coaching
    • Things have to make sense to me before I can help
    • People should see things for what they are
    • I cannot confront clients
    • I must always confront clients

The next time you’re in a coaching conversation, take five minutes after the conversation and answer these questions

    – What was I holding to be true in this conversation – about me; about the client and about their situation?
    – What pressure did I put on myself in this conversation?

Do some stream of consciousness writing and pay attention to any musts/should/have tos that come up.

Step 2:

Do some self-coaching (or work with a supportive peer) and ask yourself some disputation questions (that you’re probably good at asking your clients)

    – Is this really true?
    – What evidence is there to support this belief? What evidence do you have against it?
    – Have you seen this happening to anyone else/at all?
    – Would people who care about you/work with you agree with this?
    – How might an outsider view this situation?
    – How would you see this if it were happening to a fellow coach?
    – Does it help you, or stop you, from getting what you want? How?
    – What might be the outcome of looking at things in a different way?
    – What is the price you have to pay for holding onto this?
    – What would your coaching be like if you didn’t have this?
    – What are your strengths here?
    – What pressure are you putting on yourself? Is that realistic?
    – What is the worst case scenario?
    – What is in your control?

Hopefully, in this process, you’re starting to realise that not all of these voices are true.

Step 3:

Articulate some permissions you’d like to give yourself (and put them up somewhere you can see them when you’re coaching). Here are some that my last PCC batch came up with:

    – It’s ok for the client to stay with their truth
    – It’s ok for the client to decide what value they seek
    – It’s ok for the client to take their time/determine the pace and direction
    – It’s ok for me to ask the client what they want next
    – Clients take value; I don’t give it
    – All situations don’t have happy endings in life

I’d love to hear from you – what’s your Critical Turtle been saying to you and what permissions can you give yourself to counter that?

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    One response to “The Quiet Coach 9”

    1. Roshni says:

      This is absolutely helpful Sunitha. I am naming my critical turtle Gemini on based on my zodiac and the dual voice. 😊. She keeps telling me to pick up every interesting thread and also wants me to keep adding more value to the session. I am going give myself the permission to accept it’s okay to let go of parts of the conversations. And also to accept that I am already adding good value to my client.

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