Personal Development vs. Professional Development for Coaches

Ongoing professional development is a hallmark of a strong coach. Yet if you’re looking for a coach training program, the choices may seem endless. Countless options are competing for your attention — each one promising its own version of a new, unique, faster, or easier approach to coaching.

While coaching development is important for coaches, many programs are missing an essential piece of the coaching development process — personal development.

Personal development is essential for coaches because no matter how many certifications you have, your ability to show up for your clients is what matters most. The research and David’s 25 years in the field have both consistently shown that the client is the most significant variable in coaching outcomes. The second most significant variable is the quality of the client-coach relationship. This is why we focus our work around the client experience and developing coaches personally so they can work this way.

To become a more masterful practitioner requires a dedication to ongoing personal development and professional development — and even more importantly the integration of the two in your life and practice. Otherwise, it is easy to end up like the large ship featured above. The irony here is that the name of this ship is Clarity!

Coaching is a dynamic and emergent process that needs us to be self-aware, to self-regulate, and to be attentive to the ‘field’ in which we are working. If we only do personal work, we often lose track of the realities around us. If we only do professional work, then we often lose track of ourselves.

To continue growing as a coach, we need both to be able to walk alongside our clients.

So today, we’ll discuss how personal development overlaps with professional development to make you a better coach. This integrative blend is at the heart of Dr. David Drake’s work. Let’s start by hearing from him on the subject:

A Note from David:

Clients show up to work with us bringing issues that are often messy, refusing to fit neatly in any category or theory or story. The more mature we become as a practitioner, the more confident we can to just meet those we work with as one human to another. As their stories emerge, we can start to see openings where there is work to be done.

The work we have done to develop ourselves personally enables us to form a strong working relationship as a safe space in which to work. It is what enables us to witness them with compassion, recognize their core human needs, and step out from behind our models and methods to accompany them on their journey. The work we have done to develop ourselves professionally enables us to have the resources we need to help them achieve what matters most to them about our work with them.

The more I have developed myself over the 25 years I have been coaching, the freer I am to move as sessions unfold to serve my clients’ emerging needs. While coaching might be the frame in which I was hired, I serve in any role that is authentic for me and appropriate for them. For example, I have served as a grief counselor to someone experiencing a deep loss, a surrogate parent for a young adult drowning in her perfectionism, a leadership advisor for someone overwhelmed when thrust suddenly in a new role, and more — all on the same day! Coaching is an inclusive verb not a static noun… What does your verb look like?

The Risk of Ignoring Personal Development

Coaching is an intimate profession. It’s built on interpersonal relationships and often requires your clients to demonstrate some level of vulnerability as they confront their issues. Sometimes, clients bring you challenges that feel heavy and may even trigger anxiety or sadness in you. Doing your personal work enables you to BE with clients without taking on their loads.

Being a radically present witness to your clients, their stories and their experiences requires you to be self-aware and self-regulating. Without developing these personal skills, it’s easy to fall into three common pitfalls as a coach:

1. Jumping in to fix clients’ problems.

It can be hard to stay present with clients’ problems. It’s human nature to want to jump in and fix problems immediately to alleviate their anxiety (and yours). This shows up in sessions when coaches direct the conversation, divert attention, stay in their head, or fill the silences, etc. What if there were no problems to solve? Only experiences to be present to?

In narrative coaching, we help practitioners to see that everything they need is right in front of them. This enables us to leave the baton in the clients’ hand because it is their race to run not ours.

2. Driving conversations with your questions.

We all want to feel validated and successful. It is human nature to want to feel like we are in control. Coaches can end up worrying they are not ‘adding value’ if they are not doing something to move the conversation forward. What if we stood still and paid more attention instead?

That is why we teach coaches to ask clients questions that feed their desire for awakening, not our need for understanding. If the key to your clients’ success is what they do later, let them start with their baton now.

3. Feeling depleted and worn thin at the end of the day.

One of the paradoxes of personal development done well is that it allows you to lighten (not add to) your load in terms of what you bring into sessions with clients. This allows you to work with greater agility and freedom as you hold space for clients to do their work.

It enables you to compost any heavy energies, and use that energy to care for yourself and remain present to your clients rather than carry, rescue or try to ‘fix’’ your clients.

What Kind of Personal Development Do You Need?

We’ve found that the most effective coaches have spent time getting to know themselves better. Some of the most important personal skills for coaches that we have found include:

  • Self-awareness so that you can notice what is happening in yourself as you work
  • Self-regulation so that you can come back to center when you feel a charge
  • Self-acceptance so that you can bring your whole self to your sessions with clients
  • Self-love so that you can trust you are enough and remain conscious of your needs
  • Self-care so that you have the energy you need without depleting yourself

Personal Development at The Moment Institute

Here at The Moment Institute, we don’t separate personal development from professional development. All of our work is geared toward helping our practitioners learn about and develop themselves as the foundation for everything they do with clients.

This is true in all of our programs. This means that not only will you celebrate what you have learned in the program you choose, but also who you have become.

To experience The Moment Institute for free, register for an upcoming Beyond Coaching Experience here.