Today I’m talking to Yannick Jacob. A teacher, trainer, and coach who specialises in Positive Psychology and Existential Philosophy. We’ll be talking about everything from how he integrates the different elements of his working life to the possibility of coaching via email and Whatsapp.
Claudia: So, thank you for being a guest for our first edition of “Coaching Life.” I just wanted to have a conversation with you, get to know what your life is like as a coach. So, I had a little look on your LinkedIn profile to get an overview of what you do, and, wow! I have never seen so many current projects. So, it seems like your life is very varied. Can you tell us how you would describe what you do?
Yannick: I like to say I help people think. I help people think and feel, and be, and plan, and strategize. My general area is Personal Development, and I have many arms in that kind of field. I think, what I’m most passionate about is my work as a coach, because I really like that interaction with people: the close psychological contact, that kind of trust, that relationship that is being built. That is thrilling.
You never know what happens next, and, like, things really shift. Things really move for people, and I love that moment when people, they stop, and they want to say something, but they realise, “Well, that’s just kind of an automatic response,” and here is something that they hadn’t thought about; that they hadn’t considered – something opens up, and they are able to move. So, I love that about coaching.
Then there are all the other hats that you sometimes wear as a coach. So, I do work as a trainer, as well as a facilitator, and I teach, well, “Teach” has the whole spectrum as well, from coaching to kind of mentoring, to training. I do a bit of mediation as well, which is Conflict Resolution, an approach to dispute resolution, which also has a lot of coaching elements; you try to help people resolve conflict. In coaching, we do that for our inner conflicts, and in mediation we do that for conflicts between people.
So, I really like having all of these arms because that’s just how I’m wired, I guess, and, yeah, helping people develop from making a decision to living their dreams. There is the whole spectrum of human experience and emotions; the whole spectrum of stories of what happens to people; I’m fascinated by that, and it’s a win-win. It’s interesting for people, and it’s very interesting for me too.
Claudia: Wonderful. Yeah, sounds extremely varied and fulfilling. Well, I can see that you’re smiling as you are telling me this, and that’s always lovely when somebody smiles when they tell you about what they do.
Claudia: How long have you been doing this?
Yannick: Forever, I guess. I had a profound interest in people and what they are going through; so I was always interested in stories of what people experience, and so that reflected in my relationships, and my kind of activities – what I was doing: in the music I listen to, in the movies I watched, the kind of literature I read, and then I started studying Psychology in 0 what was it – 2005.
I went on to Positive Psychology because it was just fascinating – the approach of what’s right with people, and how can we build natural defences? How can we look at what makes people happy, rather than how can we fix what’s wrong? That, again, was a fascinating approach. So, through Positive Psychology, I came through coaching, and that I started in 2010. So it’s been six years now where I have kind of a professional approach to doing what I have been doing my whole life.
Claudia: In those years, has the emphasis of your work shifted?
Yannick: The emphasis of my work became that there is an emphasis of my work now. It feels like, “Yes, I could call this work,” because, before, it was just; it’s still kind of is a natural mode of being with people; I have my coaching hat on a lot, and I found that coaching training really shifts something in people, and I’m sure that most people who are watching this will probably have experiences with that. If you get trained in how to listen actively; if you learn about human processes; if you learn about communication; if you learn about body language, it changes how you relate to people.
So, in that sense, a professional side developed where I can now consciously choose what hats I’m wearing. Especially in the beginning, when I was still training, you just are so excited about this; you’ll wear your coaching hat all the time. So, all of a sudden, you find yourself with a good friend and you’re having a coaching conversation, and you’re like, “Well, should I have contracted for this? Where is that boundary here?”
So, now I can distinguish a lot better between, “Okay. Right now we’re doing coaching – we have a coaching conversation, and here is a framework, here are some boundaries, and let’s do some contracting.” Coaching is a different conversation than when you are just talking to a friend or your mum.
Claudia: Yes. Absolutely! It’s true what you say about it – coach training often makes a real difference to the way that you relate to people naturally. So, I think I found myself that even when I’m very conscious that I don’t go into coach mode with somebody. The quality of listening that I have for them is so much better, and I’m truly engaging with the people that I love in a much deeper way. So, it’s a very beautiful thing, but then, as you say, you can get tempted to go, “Oh! Can I ask this kind of question?” Then people go, “Are you coaching me right now?”
Yannick: A friend of mine who has been training thousands of coaches in a kind of neuropsychology way, at some point he said that actually, “You know you should ask me before you coach me?” I said, “Oh, all right. Yeah. Yeah. We kind of slipped into a coaching conversation then.” That was really good learning when I just came fresh out of training and I realised, yes, it is important actually to make these boundaries clear and this is also where my professional life at the moment is focussing on: where is that boundary – is something that keeps coming back.
Claudia: Yeah. Absolutely! There is something around boundaries, and as you’re talking I’m just thinking about the coaching life and how can we let people that maybe haven’t started coaching yet know the different ways in which they can put it to practice, and that might be through work, but, often, the coaching life is actually you are a coach al of the time, and it is not just about work – it’s also in your personal relationships; the transformation is huge, and even if you might not want to consciously bring it into your work life, I suppose, it, in my opinion, will often enrich maybe managerial dynamics, or team dynamics; perhaps even the questions that you ask yourself about your work.
Yannick: Yeah, it does. It does have an impact in your whole life. One of my friends did some research in New York with coaches who came out of training, and then did interviews with them and see what the impact of coaching training is for personal development, and she found that it does have a profound impact on how people live their lives. However, I do think it’s important to know what that coaching mode looks like.
One example, for example, is, I hear that from quite a few of my colleagues who say they just slipped into coaching their kids, and their kids totally pick up, and it’s like, “Mum, stop coaching us!” I hear a lot of these stories, which kind of tells me, yes, a lot of coaching elements make you a better person, but you can certainly overdo it, and, from my experience, most coaches, including me, have overdone it because we get very excited about it. There is a line of how much coach can we bring into our other life? If you will talk about coaching life, I think, the rest of our lives: when we are not sitting one-to-one with a client. I think there is a certain threshold when we are too much of a coach.
Claudia: How to be the right amount of a coach, it’s an idea for a new blog.
Yannick: It’s all about balance.
Claudia: Yes. Yeah, and, actually, I saw that on your site, and I wonder, how do you keep a balance between the many different things that you do? Or what is the balance between the many things that you do?
Yannick: Well, I think there is balance and integration, and funnily enough, I just talked about that with Michael yesterday, that there is something like balance where you go from one mode into the other. For example, when I talked about the different hats” now I’m putting my coaching hat on, and now I’m putting my therapist hat on, and now I’m putting my professional friend hat on – that’s, I think, balance, that you, kind of, go from one to the other, and kind of balance things out, and then there is integration, which I’m more interested in; which, when I say “Balanced” that’s the kind of balance that I’m talking about – that you kind of integrate meaningfully different parts of what you do depending on the context.
So, I’m always going to have a coach in me, and sometimes I make it clear that. “Now I’m putting my coaching hat on, and this is what we are going to do now; that’s the framework.” On the other hand, there is always a bit of coach on me, there is always a bit of coach in you, and this is what we have taken to our interactions with other people.
So, I think, it’s all about being consciously aware in the moment, being mindful of “What’s happening right now? What is the context and what is the contract?” And you always have a contract even if it’s with friends. You always have talked about, “What is this relationship? What are we actually doing?” I think it’s important to know what hat to wear at what time, and to what degree are you being a coach: to what degree is that your identity; and to what degree is that a tool that you choose to use right now?
Claudia: Yeah, Absolutely! It’s very interesting. I wonder whether you could – if there is one – tell me an average day in your life.
Yannick: An average day, oh, wow!
Claudia: Maybe not a Sunday, assuming you don’t work Sundays. Actually, I think that you might do trainings on Sundays, but the average day that includes a bit of coaching, how does it feature?
Yannick: That is a difficult question. I’m actively trying at the moment to create a bit more routine, and a bit more average days because I found there is quite a bit of productivity in having average days. So far, I didn’t have many of them, to be honest. Since I started working for university, it became a bit more average because that’s four days out of my week where I need to get certain things done. For example, the last two weeks was mocking period; so the average day was going somewhere and reading papers, but then there are so many interesting other things happening, and I choose to live in a way that I take projects as I have time.
So, university academic work is a lot in chunks. So, over a week you might have a lot to do designing a new module, or dealing with some assignment that’s coming in, or preparing for a lecture day, and then there is a lot of space for other things when I don’t work five or six days a week, and then there is other projects. It’s interesting. I really like this life because I’m not a particular 100% routine guy. I really like to take life as it comes – as it presents itself, and then engage with it.
Claudia: So, at the moment, are you coaching individuals?
Yannick: Yes. As compared to coaching groups?
Claudia: Yes, and as compared to maybe training and facilitating groups. I wonder if you have one-to-one coaching clients at the moment.
Yannick: Yeah. Yeah. At the moment I have about five/ six clients that I see at irregular intervals: some I see weekly, some I see monthly, some just come as it presents itself, and I try to have about five/ six ongoing clients. It seems to be a good number with the workload I have going on, on the other days as well. As I mentioned, I have some work for university, and then I’m doing a few other projects that require some work, and I try to read as much as I can about leadership, at the moment. I kind of extended my library on that and try to find time to read.
Claudia: How do you find the clients find you? Or do you find them?
Yannick: Well, in the beginning, I very much had to go look for them – creating clients. A lot of the clients, I realised, over the years that clients happen through conversations; through encountering me. So, I’ve very rarely had client sign up through any kind of advertising campaigns that I’ve done, or ads that I put out. I might have sparked some initial interest, but it might have taken — now I just had a client from Virginia who saw a flyer of mine about two years ago that I posted in a Facebook group, and now I was kind of still in their head because of the niche. Then she kind of phoned me.
So, I guess, in the beginning, I did a lot of work in terms of putting my name out there, in terms of putting coaching ads out there directly offering coaching services, and then over the years I realised almost all of my clients are people that I have been talking to, people that used to be students of mine, people that have been in a training of mine, people where a friend has talked about me, or referrals from past clients; so I realised that coaching clients rarely happen out of conversations with them.
Claudia: Do you find, for the coaches that you know, that’s the same for them?
Yannick: No, not really. I think, the coaching clients I created through conversations – through encountering you – I think there is definitely a pattern there. So a lot of people have told me, yes, they sign up after they have that first kind of contact with you; after they get a sense for who you are already, or they’ve read some of your work, for example, or they’ve seen an interview or a video or listened to a podcast with you, and then they kind of connect with somebody. It’s difficult to connect with somebody through an advertising flyer. You can turn some heads, you can start a conversation, but like the clients sign up after they had a conversation with you.
Claudia: I suppose, rapport is so important, isn’t it in coaching? And in any human relationship trust is so much a foundation.
Yannick: Yeah, and I found it interesting how the actual contact happens before you actually speak to them, because they’d pick up the phone and call you, or write you an email, you don’t even know that your potential client exists, but they know a lot about you, and they might have a lot of assumptions about you as well. They might have read Twitter feeds or they check you out on Facebook, or they have read a book of yours or an article that you wrote. So, they already come knowing a lot of things about you, while you know nothing about them, and that’s a very interesting dynamic once they kind of make that approach.
Claudia: Yeah. Yes. I hadn’t really thought about that sense before. I wanted to explore in Coaching Life the idea of what it is to be a coach now, today, in 2016 because it’s my sense that it’s a different thing to coach now than it would be ten or twenty years ago. So you’ve been around for six, and I’m wondering whether you’ve noticed any changes in perhaps the way that you are able to coach or the types of people that are coming to you or the types of issues that people are wanting coaching for in that time?
Yannick: One difference I notice is that now people find me. That might have to do with just you’re out there, and might have to do with you talk to more people; you’ve seen more clients or there is more referrals, but it might also have to do with coaching is more in the map. People know about coaching more. What I certainly found is I have to explain what it is a lot less, which is kind of a shame because a lot of people seem to assume they know what coaching is, which is not always ideal because another change I found is that I have to counter a lot of assumptions that people have about coaching. “Ah, you are a life coach.” “Oh my God! I have no idea what you are thinking right now.” I have a lot of assumptions, but I don’t really want to have assumptions because you have so many of them already.
Claudia: What do you find the general assumption of a life coach is now?
Yannick: It used to be very strongly like a life kind of guru, or somebody who has things “figured out.” Somebody who has answers; who is like more of a life guru than anything else; somebody who is more telling than asking. Now, life coach still has that kind of mentoring aspect to it in my experience, but people are more open, more interested in it because they hear about it a lot more, and, I think, one of the main differences is the kind of business coach/ life coach distinction because in business people know what coaching is it seems.
A lot of people will have had experiences with business coaching. It’s the same coaching. It’s all coaching. It’s just there are slight differences, but people know about it more. So, I think, the differences from back then that people are more aware that it exists, and they are more interested because they already might have heard that it can deliver a lot of value.
Claudia: Is there anything else that’s different for coaching now?
Yannick: I find that the boundaries get a lot more blurry. For example, I trained hundreds of coaches now, and what I find has changed in training is, a lot of people come to coaching training, and they actually might be a lot more interested in therapy than they are in coaching. So there is a lot of coaching approaches that go quite far into therapy, and it becomes increasingly difficult to know where coaching ends and something else begins.
At what point should I call myself a mentor or a trainer or a consultant or a teacher or a friend rather than a coach? At what point should I refer somebody to see a therapist because that’s what they are looking for? At what point do I need to call myself something different? So there is a lot of questions that I encounter: where does coaching end and something else begins? And that something I definitely noticed. More and more people are confused as to how far they can take coaching.
Claudia: Is that coaches, or clients, or both?
Yannick: That’s coaches. In terms of clients, clients generally don’t care what you do, as long as you can help them. They are not interested in your approach and your model and the intricate technical details that went into tailoring your approach and creating your niche. Generally, they don’t care. What they care about is that they get a conversation that is going to be powerful to them, and that helps them reach their goals or get rid of a problem.
It’s interesting that you were asking about clients because, I think, clients haven’t changed that much. You asked that they find me more now, which is really good. I think there is something about the existential angle of coaching that people are really interested in because there is a particular group of people that is interested in exploring some big questions, but with a bit more focus; with a bit more drive; with a less stigma of therapy, especially in the UK. In the US it’s very different.
So when I work with clients in the US, everybody has a therapist there it seems, and the stigma is much less there, but in the UK, and in Germany, seeing a therapist is a big thing. Being able to talk through some of these big questions in life that can go quite deep, but talk about them with a coach is really attractive to people. It’s a particular kind of people that are open to that kind of exploration that are questioning; that are reflective; that are aware that for them ignorance is not bliss.
They realise that you cannot be blissfully happy hedonistically forever. Life will have challenges and people realise that, but they realise also more and more that there is support out there. There are fellow travellers; there are professionally-trained people who can help you find your meaning in your life or create a purpose for yourself; make difficult decisions, and every time I talk to people about it, I see that kind of sparkle in their eye.
Like, specific people – not everybody, but people who have those kinds of conversations and are interested really in what you do, and they are questioning, they are explorative, they are curious about the world, they start sparkling when I tell them about what coaching is, and what kind of space it is. They are like, “Oh yeah! That’s amazing that that exists and I can actually explore some of these philosophical and psychological and questions, but in a framework where I’m not nuts, but where I can just develop.”
Claudia: Yeah. That’s wonderful to hear because Animas, as you know, we really do take this existential view on coaching and its ability. We really concentrate on its ability, not just to get somebody to get the next job, but to tackle these big questions, and to figure out how they relate to being human.
Yannick: Yeah, and if you figure out some of these questions, or you figure out that you have to keep figuring them out, once you create a strong foundation for yourself and where you are going, from which you can make difficult decisions, usually, things like the job or the relationship, these things just come with it. It will become a lot easier to make big decisions once you know yourself better.
Claudia: Absolutely! I personally feel that a lot of the complaints that we have, or a lot of the malaise that we can have is a product of not being clear on values and priorities, and, really, the meaning that we are making and the process of meaning-making that we have as individuals, and so, it’s a very effective foundation to work on because then other things seem to sort themselves out quite neatly.
Yannick: Absolutely. Once you reflect back to people what seems to be important to them; what their kind of worldview is, what their values are, what drives them, what irritates them, what makes them angry, what makes them happy – emotions are a really good compass to finding out what’s important to you. If you get very emotional about something, you know that’s a spot – that’s something that’s really important to you; that’s really valuable to you, otherwise you wouldn’t get so emotional.
So, once you reflect these things back and get people to reflect on them, they become more aware of who they are, and then they can live more consciously, and that’s really a lot of the existential approach is that: living more consciously, more courageously, facing life as it presents itself, and being aware in the moment of what you are experiencing.
Claudia: Absolutely. Yeah. When I’ve thought about this recently, I’ve thought about the breakdown of traditional structures and systems, value systems, for example, religion or other societal forces, and other norms, I suppose, and institutions like marriage or even job markets being more volatile – there is a whole range of things I think that are shifting and becoming much more fragile, and as we look into the future we are faced with lots of kind of economic and environmental challenges, or disasters, or something that really, I suppose, is not just business as usual as everyone has personally faced, or some people will experience perhaps more of a crisis in meaning-making or, “What do I do with my life given that I don’t just go into this job as my family have always done, or I can’t follow a template, perhaps?” So, do you feel like the demand for this type of inquiry will be increasing?
Yannick: Yeah, for sure.
Claudia: A leading question.
Yannick: I’m glad you are aware of it. I certainly feel it, but that is most likely to do with my existential edge that I put there. Existential coaches are particularly interested in questions of meaning because they are really underlying a lot of things. So, I see that people, in general, the more time people, the more they ask themselves these questions. I think, when people start being still, they start listening to what’s going on inside of them, they start listening to their inner chatter and their subconscious becomes a bit more conscious, and they start listening to what’s actually there; what are their concerns, and then once we are still we are faced with the paradoxes we live with conflicting, and, sometimes, mutually exclusive needs and wants that we have.
We want to belong, but we also want to be individuals. We want to belong to a group, but we also want to be ourselves and different than everybody else, but if we are too different then we start feeling lonely, but when we are too conformed we are losing who we are, and there is a few other inner conflicts that we carry around with it.
So, I think, there is a natural development: the more prosperous we become/ the more time we have to not do anything/ the more time we have to chill, the more these questions come to the surface. If we are busy we do ask ourselves/ we do not question. People who work twenty hours a day, they are too exhausted by the end of the day, they are too engaged during the day with their work, and they are too exhausted at night, or in the evening to actually think or have meaningful conversations.
That’s why at the other end of the spectrum; at the higher end of the spectrum, that’s why a lot of really hard-working, very successful individuals come for coaching because they need to force themselves to make that time. They choose to make that time, but a lot of them, actually, do not come for coaching, or therapy. They don’t make that time, and they keep themselves busy to not ask these questions because it can be very challenging to ask yourself some of these questions.
It might not be a very easy process to actually come to terms with something that you have put on the back burner for perhaps years, and there is where coaching really offers value, because it’s a conscious space where you face these questions; where you can be still, where you can be alone with somebody else and thinking about these questions, rather than keeping yourself busy, and putting them on the back burner to a point where you might have forgotten that they are there, and they manifest in different ways, or to a point where you can’t ignore them anymore because they have a profound impact on you, and they start taking control.
It is like, “Hey! Look at this. I’ve been around as a question for years, and you keep locking me away.” At some point these questions come, and they bomb you in the arse, and if you are lucky, then it can get to a point where you’re actually not aware what the original issue was – you just left with a feeling of discontent or a feeling of being depressed, and you don’t know where it came from, and then you need to go to a psychotherapist, or a psychoanalyst, or a counsellor and figure out what the root of this feeling is.
If people have regular coaching before they are not able to cope anymore; before they have these big problems; before they have these feelings where they don’t know where they come from, regular coaching can just prevent that, and existential coaching in particular because it’s not just focused on performance and on goals. The goal is to know yourself better, and to live a more aware, more conscious life; to realise what your world-view, what your belief, what values are because if you do that then you face these questions at a time when they come up, rather than at the time where you can’t possibly ignore them any longer.
Claudia: As you are saying that, I think, and this is sort of what’s happening on the largest scale as well with society, which is the sudden questions about what do we want as a human race, and what is it that we are all kind of working for? So, why do we create wealth? What’s the end goal? I feel these questions aren’t asked regularly enough or answered collectively, and so we’ve kind of been working, working, working, burning down the rainforest, whatever, doing things in a very unsustainable way, but not with a clear sense of why, and not with the shared set of values and then it’s coming to crunch time where it could be seen as perhaps the same as an individual either burning out and coming to a bit of a crisis, they don’t have much left, or you could see somebody having a lot of free time. So, the age of automation is something our founder, Nick, wrote a blog about recently.
Yannick: The age of automation?
Claudia: Yes, and so this idea of the society, western society, so much is going to be automated as predicted in the next few decades – probably not coaching, but there is increasing automation, and so it will bring up a lot of questions, I think, for individuals who get a lot of meaning out of their work, and I believe that we really have to face, “Okay, well, what is it that I want? What is it that I enjoy? What do I like to do with my spare time?” For example, if we were all just working two or three days a week, or if we had more choice in the sort of work that we could do, I think there will be an influx of business for coaches to work, and there will be a lot of personal questioning.
Yannick: Certainly. I’m really curious about the unconditional basic income. So that’s the concept that everybody just gets paid an amount of money that they can just about survive, and then you wouldn’t have to worry about money. There is a powerful coaching question, like, if money wasn’t an issue here, what would you do? And you can use it in many contexts, like if money didn’t exist, what would you do with your life? Or, if you had enough money to survive, what would you actually do? Because a lot of people do what they do for money.
So that’s the concern, and once you take money out of the equation people start talking to you about what they are actually passionate about, and it might be there, or might be elements of their job, but it might be something completely different, and that really opens up a space to work because the existential position is that you can do whatever you want and you are only restricted by world physics and a couple of other things that we can’t change, but to know what we can change, and what we cannot change is so important, and that’s in every religion in terms of the serenity prayer and this kind of things, but, inherently, it’s a life thing. It’s not a religious thing.
It’s knowing what you have influence over and control over; what you can take charge of, and knowing what you need to accept and embrace. From that position, you can really move, and you can really do things. So, in this age of automation, as you call it, people want certainty. They respond automatically to a lot of stimuli, and this is all about certainty because if we have a response ready – that comes automatic – we don’t have to think about it because as soon as we think about things it gets complex, and people like thing simple, but on the other hand, one of the paradoxes is that when things get too simple, people get bored and depressed.
So, people want certainty in a world where we cannot possibly get any certainty, and even if we have it, it’s boring. So, people don’t read the last page of the book first. People don’t want to know the end of the movie. People don’t want to know the outcome of the football because we actually like being in suspense. We like being tense in as safe conditions as possible, but we like that feeling of not knowing.
Claudia: We’re such particular animals, aren’t we? We want suspense, but we also want certainty.
Claudia: Yeah. So, I’m wondering, just earlier you mentioned that you coach people internationally, and I wondered whether that’s on Skype or how does that work?
Yannick: Yeah, at the moment, most of that is on Skype. I’d love to move into a space where people actually fly over for a face-to-face session because I do like face-to-face sessions still more. I always thought there was a lot missing. So, in the beginning, I would only meet people face-to-face because I figured there is so much that you are missing when you are on the phone, or even on Skype.
You can’t smell, for example, and I’m pretty sure that consciously that doesn’t make that much of a difference, like, not smelling something particular, and then bringing that into the coaching space, but I’m sure there is something missing in the interaction of having somebody sitting in front of you. So, in the beginning, I was sceptical about telephone, about Skype, and now I opened up to it a lot more because I saw and I experienced a lot of value. I see my own coach on the phone as well now. I think I’m pretty much convinced now that there is a lot of value in it, and it just opens up so much more, particularly if you have a niche that is quite rare yet.
I can’t see all of the clients face-to-face, and I still prefer it, but I do a lot more coaching now via the phone, and via Skype. What I’m trying to do is meet people at least once, face-to-face, so you get kind of a sense of who they are, and you have that kind of encounter in a room, but that’s not always possible. I just had a client contact me from the States, and that’s not going to be feasible.
Claudia: Yeah. I think you are right. It’s certainly advanced just to being physical with somebody, but I’ve also experienced, or I’ve had clients say to me that they prefer to do it on Skype, or sometimes even without any video, because they like to be, sort of, laid back on their sofa and just kind of able to do whatever they want with themselves, which is also okay is somebody is present, that they feel more comfortable without somebody looking at them.
They feel more free to think and move, and, of course, there is something in that, perhaps if somebody doesn’t want to be observed, but I think it’s quite nice that we have all these different channels available to us, and, as you said, is that you can – especially if you are a very niche coach – you can coach somebody that’s anywhere in the world.
Yannick: Yeah, and there are specific, as you say, there is even advantages sometimes to phone and Skype coaching, particularly on the phone because, as you say, the clients might feel they can talk about things more because they don’t have somebody watching them. I can take notes without seeming that I lose something, or somebody assuming that you are getting distracted, although you are listening very carefully. So, there are all these elements taking out of it. On the other hand, that is sometimes the most powerful thing. Why are you not able to reflect when somebody is in the same room with you?
That can sometimes really open up what needed to be opened up, and then they realise something about their relationship with other people, and how they relate with others through that conversation with their coach; through that relationship, I as a coach, we represent the other people in that space that the two of us have together. I represent the other. So, when I reflect back something that is going on for me, it’s like, “Oh! That sounds very aggressive to me. It will probably sound very aggressive to other people as well.”
So when I’m there and I’m reflecting that kind of stuff back, that might be really, really useful for that person. So, I still prefer being in the room together, but, on the other hand, if somebody feel comfortable on the phone, and not in the same room together, maybe that’s where you start – perhaps they are moving to something, but maybe telephone coaching is just what really works for them.
Yannick: I love it that there is different modes out there and that they work, and I have one coaching client where we might move into email coaching because she wrote me a very long email after a few sessions and said, “Oh, I’m really sorry I wrote so much. Please charge me for how long it takes for you to read and reply,” and then I did that, and it was about forty-five minutes, and she got so much out of it, and I got the most amazing reply back, saying: “Oh, this is the sixth draft, like trying to thank you and find the right words.”
It just opened up so many channels. I want to quote you back to yourself knowing that you’ve wrote it. So, it’s like, “This is my favourite part. Now this is my favourite part.” So, it really worked for her, and she is a writer – she loves writing, and so, this might be something we could explore because she has a lot to reflect on, I pick up on what she was writing; for her it really works – writing as a style of expressing herself, as in saying what she thinks, and she is more reflective while she writes as compared to when she is talking. So, I could see that we might continue some of our coaching on a written basis.
Claudia: That is very interesting.
Yannick: That is really interesting. A colleague of mine does coaching via Whatsapp. So that is mega-interesting as well, and, I think, checking in with someone with the technology that we have available, is quite amazing, and sometimes things are happening right now, and you want to talk to somebody. Then it depends on what kind of coach you want to be, and I keep telling that to my students, like, “You need to make a decision what kind of coach you want to be. If you want to be the kind of coach that never works outside of an agreed appointment, then that’s fine, and if you are the kind of coach who says, You pay me two grand a month and you can call me whenever you want,’ that’s fine as well.”
Claudia: Absolutely! Yeah. The possibilities are really high on this, aren’t they? I hadn’t come across a coach that does email coaching before, but we are often conscious that we should look at what we have an affinity with, say, whether it’s writing or speaking when we think about marketing or other areas of life outside of coaching, but it can certainly inform the type of coaching that you do as well, as you say.
Brilliant! Okay, just to wrap up, I wonder whether you have any final thoughts on being a coach today that you’d like to share with people; some of them might just be starting on coaching, and some may be thinking about coaching; some may be training – anything you’d like to share with people at that stage of their journey?
Yannick: Sure! I think the question that comes up a lot from my students or the people I train, is that it doesn’t really matter what you call it. You can call what you do whatever you want. It’s an unregulated profession. It really doesn’t matter that much. If you call yourself a life coach or a business coach, an existential coach, or a relationship coach, or a mentor, a consultant, a personal consultant, a guide, a guru – what’s important is that your potential clients can make an informed decision as to what they are signing up for.
It’s so important to be able to communicate what it is that you are offering, and as long as you can do that without using any terminology, without using a particular word that is related with assumptions and people’s ideas of what it is, being a coach doesn’t mean anything because there are so many definitions that it just becomes not meaningless, but, like, if you just say you are a coach, then nobody knows what you do.
We might have shared elements, but the message is this: it doesn’t matter what you all it – what matters is that you can convey in the appropriate amount of time what it is that you offer for people. Describe that space that you create, and then you have people signing up, and it doesn’t matter if you are a mentor, or a coach, or a guru, or a teacher.
Claudia: That’s really valuable, and, I think what I’ve got from this conversation as well that’s been really interesting and very wide-ranging is that there are so many forms that coaching can take. Being on the coaching journey is so much an opportunity for self-discovery and self-actualization as well for the coach, and you can become any kind of coach you want to be really, and then, yeah, communicate it however you like.
Yannick: Absolutely! You might be a coach without any clients even, but you just take all of that beauty that is coaching into your life.
Claudia: Absolutely! Absolutely! Great. Thank you so much, Yannick. It’s been a brilliant discussion.
Yannick: Well, thank you!
Claudia: Thank you.
We covered lots of ground, and I think Yannick’s approach is reflective of what coaching is moving towards now, which is more of a transformational approach which really helps us to look at the clients’ view of themselves in the world and their own lives and identities, and in looking at that we uncover what is, and isn’t serving them, and how we can work with their perspective in a way that makes their desired outcome available to them. I think it’s an exciting time to be a coach because this evolution really means the coach is going to sort of see a very enduring and fundamental change within clients, as the same time resolving the presenting issue which might be more immediate or tangible.