How Do You Keep Your Edge as a Coach?

I mentor other coaches, in addition to working directly with clients.  One of the coaches I’m currently mentoring wrote to ask how I keep learning.  
She wrote: I was noodling about learning this morning and thought of you.  I’ve been meaning to ask you about resources you’ve used to learn more about and master coaching.  We’ve talked about learning from others — and you’ve mentioned your group that has continued to meet over the years.  I also believe that working with a mentor coach can be a powerful learning experience.  And, of course, practice, practice, practice.
Beyond that, are there books, websites, articles, classes, etc. that you have found that made a significant impact in your learning process?
My response, which I share with you: 
Here are some things that I believe have made me a better coach over the years: 

Ongoing conversation.  First, with my study group, with whom I maintain a connection six years after my initial training — we learn together.  Also with my local coaching community, always being in conversation and learning situations — we have monthly meetings, actual coaching “clinics” several times a year, etc.  Keep talking w/ people from whom you can learn different perspectives and tools.
Coaching.  Have a coach.  I am typically working w/ one or two different coaches, for different reasons.  Sometimes I’m hiring them as my coach, other times we barter as we hope to learn from each other (e.g. alternate who gets coached each time).  One part of me comes to the work as client, with my needs.  Always another part of me watches their style, their approach, their presence, and I will often spend some of my coaching time (every few months, maybe) speaking w/ my coach about why they did “that move” or how they learned something they just did in the prior call, etc.  Most of the time, anyway.  Last year I worked w/ a Marketing coach, and he is not trained by any coaching school, and while he tries hard to be a “coach” he is in the end a marketing consultant who occasionally has coaching conversations.  I learned a lot by watching him — the marketing stuff he REALLY knows well, and I benefitted tremendously from working with him.  He would likely be sad to know that what I learned about coaching from him was… stuff NOT to do!  You see, it’s all learning.
Read:  I’m always reading stuff.  I subscribe to the TED newsletter and to Harvard Business’ blog newsletter.  Every week I make time to watch ONE 20-minute TED talk for inspiration and ideas, and read one HBR blog post (usually long essays) just to keep sharp and on the edge, and aware of topical issues of relevance to my executive clients.  I also read other people’s websites, books of fiction or non-fiction, etc.  I always look for something to add to my coaching repertoire, ESPECIALLY when the book has nothing to do with coaching (there’s always a lesson if you look for one).  I read a lot of books in the realm of Happiness, of course.  Some really fabulous books that I continually return to include these:
  • Language and the pursuit of happiness, Chalmers Brothers, which is of course a textbook for Newfield, now.  (it was not yet written when I took the course, and we had to work with a much denser, drier text)
  • Building Trust, by Solomon and Flores.  Fernando Flores was a partner w/ Julio at one time, and writes deep stuff.  this one is really useful for working w/ senior leaders and teams.
  • A General Theory of Love, by Lewis, Amini, & Lannon.  This is a very deep book that offers an emotional catalogue plus teases out the distinctions between Limbic resonance, limbic regulation, and limbic revision.  It is a wonderful book for a coach to work with, as it takes the emotional and physical realm and goes much deeper.
  • I also like Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Bradberry & Greaves; and any of Gallup Organization’s Strengthsfinders series, the most recent being Strengthfinder 2.0.
  • Finally, if you’re not already familiar with it, read Loving What Is by Byron Katie. Foundational work, really powerful.. You can also learn much about The Work (defined in this book) on the web — just search for Byron Katie or The Work and you’ll find a wealth of materials, video, etc.  The Work is a powerful tool for working with clients stuck in assessments about other people.
I hope this is helpful.

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