The Elephant in the Coaching Room

There is an elephant in the coaching relationship across many contexts

If you are a coach ( and even if you are not ) try this exercise.

Make a list of 10 or 20 (or more) people you know either at work or socially. Put yourself at the top of the list. Put the names down the left hand side of a piece of paper and make 2 columns alongside.

Then ask yourself this question:

Have I ever had (or am I currently having) a healthcare challenge of one or more of the following?

Anxiety, depression, overweight, trouble sleeping, consuming too much alcohol or other substance, smoking, mental health issues, diabetes, pre-diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), trouble managing my internet/tech use, cancer, PTSD, trauma, gambling or risk taking? Ever worked so hard I experienced burn out (which may have included some of the above)? Or have I had a different serious healthcare challenge?

If the answer is yes to one or more then write them down against your name on the list in the first column.

Then go through the other names on the list and ask yourself if they are going through one of the above or have done in the past? If you don’t know write that down. Again in column 1.
Once you have finished look at your ‘don’t knows’. Make a plan to ask them (if you feel you can ) and to replace the don’t knows with the info.

Now repeat this exercise but ask the following:

Has anyone close to you (family, close friend, close work colleague) ever experienced, or maybe still is experiencing, one or more of these healthcare challenges?

Again, make a plan to turn the ‘don’t knows’ into actual information.
Then do the same for the rest of the list. Have any of them had these challenges with someone close to them?

Finally take away the ‘don’t knows’ and look at what is left. Out of the remaining total, how many people in the list either have never had one of the healthcare challenges or have never been close to anyone who has? Never had it happen to a family member, partner or child, best friend?

Here is what the results mean.
If between 65 to 95 % of your list have had, or are having, the experience of one of these healthcare challenges, then you are reflecting the data. Most of us have been impacted by these behavior-driven healthcare challenges at some point in our lives. Or have been impacted by someone who we have been close to.
If it is less than 65%, then you are gifted in the way you select your friends, family and/or clients. Please get in touch and tell me how you do that.

If you have only a few people or even no people on the list who have had or have these issues, then it is a miracle. Literally. Or you live up a mountain or other remote location and don’t know anyone well enough for them to be honest with you. And your own health has been, and is good.

What’s my point?

I meet coaches all the time who tell me that having an integrated skill set to work with clients in recovery from healthcare challenges is an optional extra. That it is not a concern for their coaching practice. A few have told me that they’ve never have clients with these kinds of issues! ( I really want to know how they do that! ) Others have explained that these issues are not really relevant to their coaching work, that they are medical issues which clients need to sort out with medical practitioners.

The elephant in the room is that these challenges pervade human society at all levels, in all circumstances. They are present whether we choose to realise it or not.

If they are not allowed to be visible and integrated into coaching relationships, then the whole human being coached is not present and integrated into the coaching session. In my professional coaching world, that means coaching is not taking place.

It is understandable that we tend to want to veer away from this information. It is scary. We are resistant to being open to this as coaches because we quickly realise that we don’t know how to integrate it; that we realise the stakes are higher than perhaps we thought. We may have to meet powerful emotions that our clients are experiencing: grief, severe fear, confusion and so on. These are sensitive topics and people will keep them out of sight if they don’t trust that their coach can and will be able to cope.

The data is clear. The storm of behaviour-driven healthcare challenges is growing. We coaches have much to offer. Let’s embrace the elephant and see it clearly. After all, it is in the room whether we like it or admit it or not. Allowing the whole client to be present, and having great coaching tools to support them in these contexts is simple best practice and professionalism. I am all for that.