I was recently asked to say something on the matter of setting-up oneself as a coach and it really got me thinking: What does it take to be a coach?

As coaches, we are immersed in the vast world of human dynamics. Where every day is an encounter with professional and personal relationships, visible and hidden emotion, informational complexity and of course commercial realities. And, all of this within an evolving socio-economic and political backdrop.  

Deep curiosity and interest   

It then takes a real curiosity about such matters to operate as a coach. To really be interested in what is going on, both at the level of the individual and as a species. And, these are two sides of the same coin of course.

If someone wants to be a coach and has only a very a mild interest in such matters, it begs the question: Why even bother? Why choose a field that you have no interest in deeply investigating? You would probably be doing a disservice to both yourself and to your clients. And, this curiosity must extend beyond just the academic realms of coaching.

It is not enough to simply be familiar with coaching literature and to have a diploma or credential. Your interests must reach far and wide, deep into the past and into the present. And, across different traditions; psychological, business, scientific, artistic, epistemological and even spiritual. Otherwise, we risk living in a narrowly defined echo chamber shaped by coaching trends of the time.  

what does it take to be a coach

It starts with you 

In the end, human development fields such as coaching, therapy, counselling and other similar traditions are really about a way of being. A way of being that involves delving deep into what it means to be human in our world.

And, that starts with really knowing yourself and working on yourself as a human being. Working on more deeply understanding your own character, behaviours, emotional triggers and beliefs. Understanding what is important to you and what you want to contribute as a coach. 

I always say that a coach is like a tool. Let’s call it a knife. The work that you do on yourself determines how sharp that knife is. And, then it is up to you to decide in service of what exactly you use it.  

What is coaching about anyway? 

Of course, all this inevitably leads to the unavoidable philosophical question of what coaching is about anyway?

Is it about helping executives reach their goals? Okay, why executives, what kind of goals and what is the role of ethics here? Is it about developing leaders? Okay, what is true leadership? Is it about career success? Okay, what is “career success” and is it desirable? Is it about improving human wellbeing? Okay, what are the determinants and characteristics of wellbeing. I could go on, but I am sure you get the picture now.

The reality is that there are no easy answers. But, as coaches we must ask ourselves these questions. Everyday. Only then can we possibly hope to support others to navigate the complex modern world that we live in. At least, this is my belief.     

Find out more about Harsha’s work