Claudia interviewed Yannick Jacob on what it’s like to be a coach today, and asking the right questions. Yannick trains our Existential and Positive Psychology Coaching Short Courses, and has a varied life as a coach, trainer, and teacher.
You can listen to the full interview using the player, read the full transcript, or read a shorter account below.
Yannick shares his personal experience of how coaching and being a coach has transformed his relationships, and how asking questions is at the core of what we do.
Connecting Through His Coaching
“I like to say I help people think.” Yannick related, “I help people think and feel, be, plan, and strategize.” It’s the interaction with his clients that’s most important to Yannick. Being able to have close psychological contact and develop a strong foundation of trust in a growing relationship is thrilling for the experienced coach.
Yannick feels like he’s been coaching forever. He commented, “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.” From the music he enjoyed to the literature he studied, psychology was at the core of what Yannick did.
Wearing a number of hats is something that Yannick is more than familiar with. The coach trainer shared another area of his expertise. “I do a bit of mediation as well, which is Conflict Resolution, an approach to dispute resolution,” Yannick explained, “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.”
Finding and Coaching Clients
“In the beginning, I very much had to go look for them. I realised, over the years that clients happen through conversations. I’ve very rarely had client sign up through any kind of advertising campaigns. 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.”
Yannick reports that in a coach’s early career, putting your name out there and setting up ads can seem like the most important task, but for many coaches, the relationship starts with some work from an interview or video that sparks a connection. Then, it’s up to the conversation to sign up a client.
The perspective of a client is wildly different from that of the coach Yannick explained, “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 your Twitter feed 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.”
Yannick described his schedule offering insight into a diverse coaching life. “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.”
The way that Yannick meets with clients has changed over time. “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,” the coach remarked, “A colleague of mine does coaching via Whatsapp. 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.”
Through talking to prospective clients, Yannick has encountered many assumptions about coaching. “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.” Yannick explained. While people used to see coaches as ‘gurus’ and people who had everything figured out, things are changing – particularly in businesses where coaching has become more popular.
How Training to be a Coach Transforms Relationships
As coaching evolves, Yannick has found that boundaries continue to blur. “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,” Yannick elaborated, “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?”
Coming from a natural mode of coaching people, Yannick has transitioned to coach training. “I found that coaching training really shifts something in people, and I’m sure that most people 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.”
Yannick has transformed the way he interacts with people because of his experiences of coaching. He shared, “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.”
A personal experience on the boundaries of friendship versus coaching enlightened Yannick to the things that coaches have to be aware of. “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.”
A fact of the coaching life is that, in a sense, you are a coach all the time. Coaching transcends the career and can come into personal relationships. Regardless of whether you want to bring a coaching mindset to a situation, it may come up, and often a coaching perspective will enrich dynamics and even the questions you ask yourself.
“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.” Yannick explained.
Creating boundaries is about being consciously aware in the moment. You must determine what the context and contract is, Yannick says. These contracts come into play even when it comes to friendships. A coach must be aware of to what degree they are coaching in their non-professional relationships and to what degree they use the tools they’ve utilised in their business.
Asking the Right Questions
“Existential coaches are particularly interested in questions of meaning because they are really underlying a lot of things,” Yannick commented, “I see that 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.”
The coach trainer has observed differences in his client’s question asking abilities. He related, “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. 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.”
Yannick is keen to see a more transformational approach being used: Looking from a client’s perspective and uncovering what is or isn’t serving them, to make their desired outcome available. Yannick’s transformative and existential approach is aligned with Animas’ philosophy, and which is where we as a school believe coaching is headed.