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About Being a Coach

08/14/2013 by Catia Oliveira

Here are some thoughts, based on my experience, about being a coach.

I realize it's not about technology, processes, and frameworks. It's not about teaching people how to do stuff, although it helps if you can show them a new way or help them find a solution. But that is not at all the most important thing about coaching people.

Coaching is about inspiring.

People are smart enough to study and find better ways of doing their work, but only if they are motivated to do so. Or if they realize they have a need and that they must create their own time for personal and professional growth.

My experience says that if you want to be a good coach, you need to inspire people.

Inspire so they feel motivated and eager to come to work.
Inspire so they feel worthy, useful.
Inspire so they feel eager to learn.
Inspire so they feel happy and have fun.

Inspire people to do and be better, to be all they can be, because that's all they need: inspiration. Just a little push. All the rest they can handle pretty well. And, oh boy, once inspired, you can't imagine the potential ahead of you!

And last, but not least: Inspire them to be empowered.

Empowerment -- not given but taken 

Empowered people can change the world, or at least the things they touch. But empowerment is a tricky thing. Most people, maybe due to education or culture, think that empowerment in a business environment is something that must be given by someone having a position of power. Meaning, if you are a developer you feel like you can only be empowered if your line manager or technical lead says so in front of everyone else.

This is not true. This is not empowerment -- this is task attribution or delegation.

Life in an office is not that much different from life in . . . well, life. As such, empowerment is not given but rather taken (taken as in "assumed," not as in "steal from someone"). Once you put your mind to solve something in your personal life, there is no one who can stop you, just as there is no one who can actually give you the energy and willpower to do it, except you yourself.

It's the same in the office. You should not expect to be empowered, you should take the chance to change or do something and embrace the power and greatness of doing it. Take it, don't wait for it.

Really powerful people are not placed in that position of power, they make it. They're the ones you recognize as leaders, the opposite of those you consider just fools with an illusion of power, the ones you comply with but whom you'll never follow wholeheartedly.

Gandhi was a powerful person. And he did not have any high position in the hierarchy of lawyers, he was not "Dr." or "PHD" or "MBA" Mr. Gandhi. He was powerful because he chose to be so, because he took every single chance to make the difference and change people's lives and/or mind-sets.

It’s up to you to be powerful. It’s up to you to be different and create for yourself your own path. If you choose to do so, then you might as well consider yourself a coach.

What about people who don't want to change?

Yes, they exist. Sometimes out of fear, sometimes envy, sometimes ignorance, but yeah, they are out there. You can bring knowledge to people, but only if they want to will they learn. And some, let's face it, just don't want to. And that is OK. If we were all alike and all inspired people, life would be boring and expectations too high.

So know when to give up. Some people don't want to change and they won't let you make them. Just go and use your energy somewhere else. You deserve it, as do all the others waiting for you to arrive and waiting for the chance to evolve with you.


Expectations are good, they drive you. They help you aim and they lead you there. But, on the other hand, expectations can also be a time bomb in your hands. I've always had problems managing both my temper and my expectations. I'm not a patient person, so it's difficult for me to contain my expectations at a sane level. On one hand, this is good because it helps me remain eager and open to growth and new experiments; on the other hand, it's a big problem because I may never be satisfied with what I've achieved.

So, my personal advice, coming from my own pain, is: Plan your expectations. For example, write them down on paper whenever you accept a new goal. Then, track them. Once you're done or the time is up, you'll know where you are and how far you are from your initial expectations.

Things will evolve and I hope you add more and more expectations to that plan of yours, but the point here is for you to be able to look down at that plan and know that your achievements are actually good. And if you're like me, it may feel like they are not -- but you'll know that this is only those big-mouth expectations talking, trying to trick you by overlooking what has been achieved.

I once read a sentence I never forgot, because it makes a lot of sense to my way of living. It read: "It's extremely arrogant and hypocrital to judge the past, having the advantage of being in the present."

This is how I always managed my expectations. I would judge what I did, but having as a basis my current mind-set. That is wrong. I should always fit the results into the expectations defined at the time and considering the situation when they were set.

I did that, but now I won't do it anymore. I learned, and now I know better.

Have a nice week, and, please . . . go make a difference in this little world of ours.