Back in the learner’s seat: The unexpected lessons from my coaching course

I knew I’d learn a lot from my coaching accreditation course, but I didn’t expect to get a real-life reminder of the vulnerability it takes to invite growth, and the challenge of negative self-talk.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been in student mode. I’ve just completed the Gallup Global Strengths Coach certification program, an international-standard coaching accreditation. And apart from the course content, I gained some real-life lessons in what it feels like to be outside your comfort zone.

At the end of the course, I had to sit an exam. I found myself triggered by negative self-talk from past experiences: full of doubt, sure that I would fail. I was in an uncomfortable place – the same uncomfortable place I often coach people through in my work. I urge my clients to “be comfortable with the uncomfortable” – and I was reminded that it is one thing to say that, and quite another to actually do it! It is a difficult a place to be, and as a trainer and coach that reminder was a gift, a valuable lesson in walking the talk.

I was surprised by how this self-doubt snuck up on me. We use negative self-talk to ‘help’ us. It helps us avoid risk. If we try and fail, we can say, “I knew this would happen!” Of course, it is deceptive and wrong, and it holds us back from growth. But it can be seductive. I’m lucky: I know techniques to deal with it. I listened to it and then went into self-coaching mode, using the powerful question: “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen?”, then flipping into “And what’s the best thing that could happen?”, to bring the focus back to the positive: hope, opportunity, and my higher purpose.

Being out of one’s comfort zone can be a hard place to be – exciting, but also scary. The push–pull between the two – from “I can’t do this!” to a feeling of growth and development – can be hard work. It can take effort to manage triggers from the past and feelings of self-doubt. For some people learning can be a place of vulnerability – something that it’s vital for coaches and trainers to account for in their practice.

I took 6 hours and 6 minutes to complete that exam, and I’m sure it is the longest time on record! That’s because I was self-coaching all the way through. But I did it, and I passed. And I have a renewed appreciation for my clients’ perseverance and effort when we do that hard work together. So I have a new certificate to put up on my wall, a stronger sense of empathy for all those I coach and train, and a heightened admiration for anyone who is prepared to go out of their comfort zone to grow and learn.

I can help with coaching, training, conflict resolution and workplace behavioural issues. Contact me by email at debbie@dksonin.com.au, on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/debbiesonin or by phone on 0413 145 925.

Debbie is warm, friendly and helpful and always makes challenges manageable.
Kurt Porflit, Managing Director, Busch Australia
Debbie is approachable, professional and practical. She provides consistent quality support and is a great sounding board. Dealing with Debbie is like an extension of our own organisation. She understands the business and moulds her style around us.
Brant Doyle, Manager Organisational Development, Moira Shire Council
Debbie is sensitive, engaging, warm… She is able to see the challenges and opportunities and find solutions in quick and practical way.
Greg Embleton, CEO, Byte
I will be forever indebted to the person who recommended DK Sonin & Associates to me… Debbie just did not write a report and leave. She worked with the organisation at all levels to bring the recommendations alive.
Andrea O'Neill, General Manager, Berrigan & District Aged Care Association
Deb's professional, warm and sincere approach is evident in her engagement with individuals and management alike through difficult and sensitive matters, with her ability to gain respect from all parties that facilitates successful outcomes.
Linda South, General Manager, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital
I recommend Debbie Sonin to any employer who wants to provide their staff with opportunities to turn workplace behaviours around, improve their teamwork or learn new ways of interacting with others.
Robyn Shilton, Executive Officer, Community West Inc
Debbie has always demonstrated an appreciation of the industrial and personal impacts of her work, and has achieved results beyond what might have been expected given the complexity of the matter.
Estelle Fyffe, CEO, annecto
With her clinical and human resources background, Debbie offers a unique value proposition for businesses that want to implement change… Debbie always goes above and beyond for her clients and thinks deeply about providing solutions that will work for all parties.
Catherine Brooks, Practice Leader, Moores
Deb Sonin's breadth of experience across change management, industrial relations and conflict resolution is evident in her unique ability to address complex and intractable issues to synthesise the complexity into workable, tangible, successful results.
Linda South, General Manager, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital
Debbie is highly skilled and engaging, making interactions professional and fun. Personally, Debbie is great to work with and is always able to have a chat about a situation that might arise outside of the regular engagements.
Sue Rolland, General Manager, Deakin University Student Association
Debbie is an astute observer, facilitator and communicator. She is a highly skilled mediator and excels in coaching team leaders to effectively manage and improve team dynamics, behaviours and interactions.
Leigh Rhode, Chief Executive Officer, Gateway Health
Debbie provides a sense of calmness and direction during difficult situations to help me remain in control. The experience and knowledge that Debbie brings is incredibly useful and helps me to get the most out of the team I work with.
Liz Moore CPA, Practice Manager, Bluebird Accounting
Deb Sonin is an acknowledged expert in workplace conflict resolution and has extensive experience advising on discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying. Deb’s professional background makes her an obvious choice to assist with difficult cultural and interpersonal issues in the workplace.
Michael Gorton AM, Principal, Russell Kennedy Lawyers
Debbie is an extremely talented and resourceful practitioner, demonstrating a deep and extensive understanding, knowledge and expertise in mediation, coaching and facilitation. Whenever I need support from an external provider in facilitating a conversation, I engage Debbie.
Brant Doyle, Manager Organisational Development, Moira Shire Council
Debbie operated with integrity, sensitivity and empathy for all within our team and encouraged staff to find their voice in sharing their experiences of the dynamics of the workplace.
Peter Nancarrow, Chairperson of the Board, Jacaranda Village
I have a high level of trust in Debbie’s ability to read the dynamics of a work environment and to co-design and implement respectful and thoughtful approaches to solving problems and improving team functioning.
Leigh Rhode, Chief Executive Officer, Gateway Health
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