What is coaching and why should lawyers care?
The world of coaching has developed enormously over recent years. Nowadays, hundreds of thousands of business people and professionals – including many lawyers – are benefitting from coaching every year in the UK alone. So what’s it’s all about?
Good professional coaching has evolved a long way from mentoring, consultancy and much of the early coaching methods of 20 years ago. These days a well-trained coach will bring skills shared with psychologists and counsellors into the work setting but in a non-threatening, dynamic, business-focussed way. While their techniques may have similarities, meeting with a modern business coach won’t be all about boxes of tissues and sympathetic listening. Nor will they be reading your mind.
It will often be up-beat, positively focussed ‘thinking space’ for a busy professional, tackling practical and essential topics such as where you want to go in their career (and wider life), how you might get there and what unhelpful habits you may be able to spot and then shed along the way, to increase your performance, resilience, success and overall happiness. It’s a lot about how your ‘best self’ can get the opportunity to turn up for work every day – not just occasionally or when you’re lucky.
Those things you keep avoiding
A saying I love is “Just get out of your own way!” That really sums up my approach to coaching – spotting those things you do that obstruct you, self-sabotage your efforts and make you avoid tackling difficult or uncomfortable things. A great example is how embarrassing and off-putting many lawyers find making those ‘sales calls’ to potential clients. Even the ones we met and who gave us their card, saying “I’d be happy to hear from you.” But just think what might have happened if you had never once avoided or delayed making such a call or pitch for work.
Or what about the redundancy that you absolutely knew you should have made last year but kept putting off for a wonderful (but, with hindsight, unwise) list of reasons? Reasons that, at the time, you were certain were “facts” but now you might admit were probably more “feelings”? Many law firms have gone bust over the years because of partners’ fear of the discomfort of laying off staff when they really needed to.
Both lawyer and human being?
As well as being great for tackling blind spots and learning how to tackle avoidance of necessary tasks, coaching can – if you are willing to let it – enormously raise your game in understanding yourself and others. You’ll have heard the phrase ‘emotional intelligence’ or EQ. High EQ is all about understanding your emotional state, self-management of it, understanding how others tick and being able to read people better and relate to them in powerful, connected ways. Research suggests that EQ may be considerably more important than IQ for success in work and career. But how many lawyers could say that their EQ is as high as their IQ? We love our law and we love facts… but how comfortable are we with feelings, especially talking about feelings and doing so in the workplace? Yet a high EQ can produce leaders with devoted followers and lawyers with devoted clients.
Stuck in a rut?
A third area where coaching can be incredibly helpful for legal professionals is when times are really hard and some difficult thinking needs to take place. A lawyer may be under great workload stress or financial pressure (often both) and their personal life may be taking a real hit too, but they just carry on until they crack. Or they may not crack but just live a life feeling overwhelmed and exhausted for years. “I’ll get through it somehow…” “Just a few more years like this…” “It’s just what being a lawyer requires…” Sound familiar?
Here, coaching can bring space and structure to think things through – what you are willing to accept, what you are not willing to accept any longer and must change. And how to go about both that acceptance and making those changes. Critical thinking, empathy, support, a little challenge, and holding you accountable for steps you agree you’re ready to make – these are some core benefits of coaching.
Our capacity for denial of what’s staring us in the face and avoidance of difficult decisions is simply amazing. What an incredible waste of precious energy! Coaching reflects back at you what’s going on in your life and work, and invites you to stop for a moment and decide what you really want from life – even if that may involve a big change. It can be transformational.
I’ve been a lawyer for 24 years and have created a nationally award-winning niche law firm, Menzies Law. Along the way, I’ve benefitted hugely from some great coaching, and have become a professionally qualified coach myself, eager to share these benefits with many others. I coach several clients a week (including lawyers) alongside my legal practice.
Supporting BLS members
Over the years I’ve mostly focussed on me – qualifications, career, earning money, professional success, etc. You know the type of thing. Now I’m at a stage in life where it feels more important to be thinking about other people. Coaching provides a great outlet for this. But those really in need of it can’t always afford it.
So I am now offering to BLS members the chance to access my support for free, where it’s really needed. I am offering free-of-charge coaching sessions, once a fortnight, to any BLS member who is facing professional or personal difficulties and is willing to give coaching a go, to gain clarity about things and find a way out of the place they are stuck in. This is available to one member at a time. Typically it takes at least 6 sessions to make significant progress, but sometimes amazing things can happen in the first couple of session.
For everyone else
And for everyone else in the Bristol legal community, I would love to work with you to promote clarity of vision, better decision-making, more resilience, improved self-awareness and generally taking proper charge of own your life – not just letting life happen to you. My coaching fee may be half your own hourly rate (or even less) and I promise you it can be life changing. I offer a free ‘chemistry session’ as a sample.
I’m going to leave you with this recent feedback I had from a Bristol lawyer client (and BLS member): “Thank you so much for what you helped me realise about myself and the changes I’ve made. I came to you for coaching on business and leadership. But the biggest change I’ve noticed is how differently I now talk to my children.”