So what do you mean you don’t have a coach? Doesn’t everyone have a coach these days? It may seem like it. In the past 10 years the coaching industry has moved from the confines of the sports field into every conceivable area. Life coaches, executive coaches, manager coaches, financial coaches, relationship coaches. If you can think it, not only can you do it …. you can also coach it! But coaching is not another passing fad. It has become an essential management tool, and is used effectively by executives and private individuals for their personal growth and effectiveness. Coaching is one of the tools available to increase self-awareness and therefore increase our ability to deal with life and business. A coach is trained in the skill of bringing to awareness areas of a client’s thinking process and behaviour which are helpful or which hinder performance. This is done using carefully crafted questions to enable the client to think clearly, to challenge their assumptions and to find new ways of approaching hurdles which might have impeded their performance in the past. Another skill used by coaches is to challenge the client when their thinking is sloppy or when they resist making the changes they themselves have identified as essential to their success. That is one of the greatest advantages of engaging a coach. We are certainly able to think for ourselves, come up with solutions for ourselves or even ask ourselves difficult questions. But we are also equally able to not take action on our thoughts, procrastinate on implementing the solution or not answer the difficult questions. But, with the coach present, there is no way to avoid the issue. Whereas we might let ourselves off the hook, a good coach will not. And while it might be uncomfortable, it is this challenge which is what we most often need to move us into effective behaviour. Think of coach as a mirror. If you have ever tried to comb your hair, put your makeup on or shave without using a mirror you will know how useful they are. They show you exactly what you look like, whether you like what you see or not. Mirrors give you an independent, objective view of yourself. Coaches fulfill a similar function. They will not show you anything that is not there, but they will accurately reflect back to you what you have shown them about yourself. And as a result of that insight, the client is able to make positive choices. A coach does not give advice or their opinions as they work from the belief that the solutions to most problems lie within the person. All that is required is a careful thinking process to bring the solutions to the surface in a structured way and to make a commitment to acting on those solutions. Most often the insights we need to live effectively come when we are able to take a step back from our lives and look at ourselves carefully. This is difficult to do because we are so entangled with our day to day living. A coach helps us take that step back, to think from outside ourselves, as it were, so that we can make clear and decisive choices about living more effectively and performing at our peak.