by Bozhidara Georgieva

Even when our interest in sport is vague, we love watching sport movies – from the cliché-heavy titles for killing some time to masterpieces like Million Dollar Baby – because the of the topic they usually present. It is about the protagonist who overcomes not only outside obstacles, but also his inner doubts and resistance, to achieve his big win. These movies makes us feel that we can deal with our own doubts and resistance, and achieve the desired goal in our life or work.

In such movies, the figure of the wise coach often has crucial role. In the critical moment, when the protagonist has lost faith and is about to give up, the coach inspires him break out of the labyrinth of self-doubt and to find a way to the right solution and ultimate victory.

Real life is neither sports ground nor a Hollywood movie, one might say. It is so. In real life, however, we have a figure to whom we can turn to when we are seeking for a solution and we cannot find it by our own. It is hardly a coincidence that this type of professional is also called a coach.

The profession has been long established in the West and is becoming increasingly popular in Bulgaria, and deservedly so. Coaches are people who can be a positive influence on the person seeking a life or a business solution, but cannot break the mould of his own thoughts and self-imposed limitations.

Many people misunderstand what exactly coaching is, thinking about it as form of training, consulting or mentoring. It cannot be more different, explains Aneta Mladenova, Managing Director of OD&M Consulting Bulgaria (www.odmconsulting.com). "Coaching is a powerful method for unlocking human potential," she says. "In coaching, we say people are whole, creative and resourceful, meaning that they have already all the resources to solve their challenges and reach their goals. This is what distinguishes coaching from trainings and consulting, where knowledge, suggestions or advice is given by a person with more experience and expertise. In OD&M Consulting we offer the three of these services regarding the needs. Sometimes, the client needs to learn something new, but other times he needs only coaching, as he already knows what he needs to know."

In this respect, coaches are not people to turn to for advice, ready solution, knowledge, or even help. "What you can expect from a coach is for him to be there for you. To support you," Aneta Mladenova says. "He will give you space and will work on maintaining relationship of mutual trust. He will ask a lot of questions, the right questions, to lead you to the place you have wanted to reach when you began the coaching. Coaching is good for clients who want to achieve something new. It is a non-violent approach and can be of use only when the client is ready to change the perspective."

The coach identifies and clarifies with the client what are the client's goals, encourages him to seek self-knowledge, inspires him to generate solutions. This expertise can benefit a wide range of people and has become highly specialised. Individual coaching is oriented towards the client's personal development and this can include even people who are outside of the business world, but who nevertheless are facing a certain life challenge. Business coaching inspires the team to move from the place it is at present to the place it wants to be in future. Executive coaching is specifically for business owners and top managers. Every type of coaching has its own specificities and every well trained specialist offers one-of-a-kind service, as his expertise reflects his own personal life and professional experience, mindset, and psychology.

Due to the essence of their work, the demands from these professionals are extremely high.

To be a coach means to love people, explains Rallie Christova, Managing Director of Coaching Association Bulgaria, a senior accredited coach by IIC&M, a certified coach trainer and mentor at Nobel Manhattan and a leader at the Think & Change coaching school (www.ThinkandChange.com). This, however, is only the beginning of the skills and knowledge a true professional should possess. "The successful coach should know how to listen," Rallie Christova says. "Listening is not easy to develop. There are a lot of levels that need to be mastered. When a coach learns to listen with his heart it is only then when he could fully support his client. Asking powerful questions is another skill that should be developed. When we become coaches we become question collectors. I personally have a long list of questions and it is constantly growing. The real coach is very, very curious. A lot of other skills are developed in the process of our work. It is our responsibility to work with a coach and regularly do self-coaching and discover our blind spots and patterns."

Neutrality is also crucial and a sign that you are dealing with a professional coach. "Staying neutral can be difficult, when your client is making a critical decision," says Rallie Christova. "However, this is the position a coach should always take as this is the best help he could offer. Neutrality is a space where the client can be himself without the fear of being judged or confronted. This is the space where he would be heard and understood and this is where change happens. The coach's personality and ego should be left out of the office and the whole attention should be focused on the client."

It is hard to directly measure the effect of coaching as most of its results are qualitative, and not quantitative. But one of the authoritative organisations in the field, the International Coaching Federation ICF (www.coachfederation.org) has interesting observations from polls with companies that have underwent coaching. Most of the participants discover a direct connection between coaching and improvement of work performance (70%), business management (61%), time management (57%), team effectiveness (51%). The poll participants report even more significant improvement in personal development: increased self-confidence (80%), better relationships (71%) and communication skills (72%), improved life-work balance (67%). That is why it is hardly surprising that for 87% of the poll participants coaching has at least returned its investment, 99% of the companies are satisfied with the results from it, and 96% would do it again.

Before booking a meeting with a coach, however, it is very important for you to do your homework. The increased demand for such specialists led to the appearance of people who pretend to be coaches without the needed qualification. Before choosing whom to trust, check if he is certified from an established and respected organisation with clear criteria and competences, like the ICF or the accreditation organisation IIC&M (www.iicandm.org). Your life, business and goals are too important to give them anything less than the best.



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