Before becoming a coach and feeling the magic myself, I would never have called somebody in case of a problem. I would have kept thinking through the pros and cons of different ideas and evaluating them myself. Or I may have talked to a friend, and then they would have said something that triggered me off further. A few days ago something happened at work, and knowing the wonders of coaching, I asked for help. I believed in it, so I went to a coach friend, and after the conversation I felt that I was back in control. It’s just not common knowledge for people to know that it works.
Before jumping out of the frying pan into the fire
Let me tell you a bit more about it. I was going through a problem when I messaged a friend who is also a coach. I wasn’t sure whether she would respond as a friend or as a coach – but in that moment she was there for me. There was no formal contract, per se, and within an hour she said yes to having a conversation.
I remember before the conversation, I was thinking very emotionally and was apprehensive about how I should react to the situation. I was not sure if my friend would listen to what I was trying to convey. Reaching out for help is not something that is easy. Our friends, even though some of them are mindfully listening, tend to give us advice, and this wasn’t what I was looking for.
As the conversation started, the coach friend started out by listening, as I expected, but she also kept asking me questions while sometimes sharing opinions and asking for some contextual description. She had subtly moved into the role of the coach and kept asking me coaching questions for 30 minutes. I was trying to answer all the questions but just then the right question just hit me and made me calm. It was amazing. I got the solution in my mind, and that gave me a very satisfying feeling. It allowed me to say to myself, Yes, it’s okay. Don’t be emotional. You knew it all along – you were just not acknowledging it. It helped me re-think the problem in a factual and objective manner, no longer fogged with emotions. During that whole conversation there was not a single hint of any kind of advice. As human beings, when we’re given advice, we don’t feel empowered.
After the call, and with more clarity, I decided to go ahead and take a decision about the issue that was bothering me, but if I had done that without talking to a coach, the results would have been different and I would have struggled to get to the correct outcome. I gave myself mental peace that I was on the correct path and my choices reflected my true ambitions.
Why did I get emotional? Reflecting when I’m now not very emotional about the problem
How did I get into this pickle? I kept asking myself this question. After the session, I put myself in the other person’s shoes and tried to think about this problem from their point of view. In a professional organisation everyone might not be our friend but they are all human beings and they have similar needs and desires, such as staying relevant, being listened to and being successful.
After talking to my coach friend with all my emotional baggage out of the way I reminded myself that sometimes we need to be empathetic with people if we want to connect with them. We don’t know what pressures, burdens or challenges that person is dealing with. No one wants to look bad; credibility is a precious commodity in a professional environment.
Taking care of our emotions means being open to being vulnerable
Emotions are tricky to master. As a coach I can tell you that most of us don’t even know what range of emotions a human is capable of experiencing. People know happiness, fear, sadness, disgust and anger. When emotions get a little more complicated we do not know how to deal with them. We shy away from having conversations about our emotions and a lot of this has to do with how we are raised. Showing emotions is associated with weakness.
I think there are two ways most people usually behave: either keep their emotions inside, which affects their health and mental peace, or acknowledge their emotions and know how to confront others. However, most people behave in the former category and I think a coaching conversation would be most helpful to those people.
My journey to registering and confronting my emotions
My journey started in 2013 when I became a Results Certified Coach, through what is now known as the Neuroleadership Institute. As I learned more about coaching, and as I went deep into understanding the human brain and how emotions work, I started loving what coaching could do for others and for me. Understanding how I am feeling and how the other person is feeling has become fundamental to how I practise, and I keep thinking and analysing situations through this lens, making the best use of both sides of my brain as one.
It has also given me a lot of these powerful ‘aha’ moments where I can now connect back with my previous understanding of how I deal with other human beings. My understanding of taking human beings as human beings has changed quite a lot, and I’m enjoying it. I try to convey that to others and I think I should be there someday. My initial frame is that we judge everybody around us. We think that only we are the champions and everybody around us is dumb. There is a natural tendency that I see around me nowadays, and I include my previous self in this, of not seeing other humans as capable of doing great things. But now, I believe that every human being can be turned. Every human being can grow. They can learn new things. It’s all about trusting someone and believing in the fact that it’s possible. This power of positivity can transform anyone, and this is a belief that I want to transfer to others too.
Most of the time, what is stopping us from thinking like that is a sense of unfairness that we feel. I feel I am not being valued according to my worth, so I will definitely judge others and constantly compare myself with others. Right? If I feel there is no certainty around me, my objectives are not clear. If I am not being acknowledged by my manager or I am in a new environment and am not relating to the new culture, I will definitely feel uneasy and compare myself with others. I will feel less empathetic towards others as humans. The way to deal with this is to stop fighting with my feeling – acknowledge it, talk to people and work towards a solution.
Communication is the key here. In any disagreement, there are moments when both sides are looking at a situation from a different perspective. The other person might consider you as a threat and feel the need to put you down, or you might say to yourself, I need to prove that I am right and this person is wrong. This is normal. We try to do that in a fight even with our close ones. And then there is a moment when you just surrender and you let the other loved one see your vulnerability. That’s when most of the fights end. Then on a human level, you realise, Ooh, I don’t need to prove that person wrong.
We are afraid of showing our vulnerability to others.
I’ve seen that if we stop pretending in a fight earlier, show our real self, and show that vulnerability to the other person, the fights would never happen or would shorten. It’s basically telling ourselves that it is all in our brain and we need to tell our brain to stop perceiving that person as a threat.
This is easier to do among friends than among colleagues, though.
Where to start in an organisation?
For the coaching industry to appeal to organisations, I believe the real challenge is to make people realise that coaching can work wonders. It’s simply something they have not yet experienced. I was inspired by another coach and mentor who has become a good friend now. When she started, she provided around 600 to 700 hours of pro bono coaching and touched a lot of lives. Somehow, we need to let people experience it for free to start with. Going with the trial session and a chemistry session is a very good idea to attract people and let them actually experience it. If you don’t experience it, you will never understand what it’s like.
It also needs to go beyond performance-based coaching. Performance-based coaching is very popular but it’s also a fad that’s on its way out. I would rather go to a coach who will help me understand myself, my values and my belief system better. That supports my development, which in turn benefits the organisation. For me, in my current circumstances and with my level of understanding of where coaching can fit in with an organisation, coaching is more than performance. I would rather go to a coach for things that are more emotional and personal because when I am in control of my life, my performance will automatically be 100%.
A good coach treats you as an equal. They do not give you any advice – they keep that urge in themselves and let the brain expand. When the brain expands, the satisfaction automatically comes and that gives you an empowering feeling. In a good coaching conversation, what a client is basically looking for, or what I would be looking for when I want somebody to coach me, would be the empowering feeling that helps them say, I’m in control of my life. Okay, I was having this problem but now I'm in control of my life. I didn’t need anybody else to solve my problem. That would give me a lot of confidence and a very nice feeling.
And so, I think when we’re talking about the real work of coaching in an organisation – that professional development of the self within the working environment – we’re asking people to do something that they find challenging to do, possibly even with their friends. It’s looking for opportunities for how we can be better at giving them those experiences with the right coach for that moment and time, to enable them to perform even better. And when someone starts on the journey and allows themselves to be vulnerable, which could be a re-connection to their emotions from feelings, there is a lot to work through. That’s what a good coach is there to help them do.
To connect with Syeda Noor-ul-ain Yousaf via Linkedin
Noor holds a bachelors in Computer Engineering and an MBA in Finance. She is certified from the Neuroleadership Institute in the US and Coach Masters Academy in Singapore. In Hong Kong, she is practising as a career coach and is currently HKICC’s VP for Strategic Planning. Noor gained extensive experience in the financial industry before starting her career as a coach. She has keen interest in areas of humanity, spirituality, and women’s empowerment. She believes that the more we try and understand how our magical brains work, the better we will be as managers, leaders, coaches and most importantly as humans.