As you may have noticed, things get pretty colorful in June. People, organizations and businesses exhibit the LGBTQ+ flag as a sign they support the rights of Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and any personal sexual orientation people. I love this time of year! Summer has arrived, the days are brighter and the entire world seems like it has been painted in vibrant colors of the rainbow flag.
And this year, I find myself prouder than ever. Having already had the immense privilege of being accepted by my family and friends as a gay man, I take even greater pride in being a gay man, who is a coach, facilitator and member of the Erickson team. I am lucky to feel seen and appreciated by my peers, students and clients for all that I am, and the strengths I have.
For many years I tried to hide who I was from the world, and inadvertently, hide my strengths in the process. While I knew I was gay, I found myself making both conscious and unconscious efforts to hide it with the people I worked with. I tried to control my tones, my behavior and any mannerisms I had, purely out of fear: fear I wouldn’t be accepted, liked, and even fear of who I might become if I just let go. Then came Erickson.
Through the process of becoming a certified coach with Erickson and in all my experiences with clients, students and faculty thereafter, I became more me than I had ever been. Without realizing, knowing, or without trying, the power of solution-focused coaching helped me to see myself fully, for the first time.
With the power of the Erickson Principles, I began to look at people (myself included) as unique and whole individuals, who are ok just the way they are. I learned how the ‘Identity’ level of The Logical Levels was integral to activating my strengths, leading to balance and success. Simply put, without knowing and owning who I was, I could not fully tap into my strengths. That said, any strengths I possess as a coach and facilitator do not stem from my ‘gayness’. They stem from everything I am as an individual, which I have come to embrace. And by knowing who I am, I was able to tap into them, and leverage them more than ever before.
Coaching, you see, is in itself non-binary. As coaches, we are trained to ask open-ended questions which provide the client with the ability to frame their own insight, without any constraints. As coaches, we provide our clients, and all the people around us the opportunity to compose their story beyond the binary constraints of a questions that only has two possible answers - ‘Yes/No’, ‘Good/Bad’, or even ‘Gay/Straight’. Their answers, therefore, are unexpected, original and entirely of their own making. By coaching others, it turns out, I ended up coaching myself. And the more I owned who I was, along with my personal flair and style of coaching, all my skills, strengths and creativity were unleashed. My success wasn’t in spite of who I was- it was because of it.
Your uniqueness as an individual is the catalyst to your success. Whoever you are and however you choose to experience and express your unique identity, you have unique strengths which stem directly from who you are and who you define yourself as being.
Here are 5 sure-fire ways to ensure you tap into your unique strengths:
- Coach, know thyself!
To become a great coach, you must ask yourself the powerful questions first. Without stepping into the shoes of your client, you will never truly know the transformative power of your questions, and the deep impact of the tools you use. By getting to know yourself better, you will unlock untapped resources and strengths you never knew you had.
- Practice makes perfect.
As you strive for greater excellence and mastery, practice your coaching with a fellow coach with whom you can be your truest, authentic self. Lean into coaching and coach in a way that feels natural, authentic and empowering - for both your client and yourself. Experiment with different styles and techniques, and get to know where your strength shines!
- Stretch yourself
Expand your horizons and inspire yourself by learning more about what you love. Strengthen yourself by going back to the basics, to provide you with a solid foundation which will provide you with the skill and confidence to add layers of nuance which reflect your unique strengths and style. Then, take the next step by continuing to learn and grow as a coach. Follow your passions and your gut, and dive into ways of taking your strengths to the next level.
Without failure, there can be no success. Simply put, the two cannot exist without each other! So give yourself the opportunity, room and permission to try something you will likely fail in. Just imagine intentionally setting yourself a goal you’ll likely fail miserably at, but enjoy pursuing… How liberating is that?
And finally, take a moment to remember that becoming a great coach, in a way that is true to you and your unique skills, takes time. Self discovery is not an instant process, and some strengths of yours may remain untapped until they are ready to emerge. Give yourself the time to mature as a coach, your own way.
Your uniqueness is your greatest asset as you work to become a successful coach, with a unique value proposition. For me, this means not just owning being gay, but my communication style, my humour and everything which makes me, me. My questions to you are “What makes you, you?” and “Why would someone hire you as their coach?”
With answers to these questions, you'll be well on your way to greater success. As coaches, we all practice a solution-focused methodology and coach in alignment with the ICF Core Competencies, but are each unique. Tapping into your uniqueness will surely amplify your coaching, and deliver an experience which is rewarding for both you and your clients.
-Guy Woods, PCC
Guy Woods is a facilitator and Coach with Erickson International. He is also the Community Manager for Erickson's Alumni Community App, Erickson +, which provides resources, networking opportunities and events to Erickson graduates from around the world.