Coaching As I Know It

Siddharth Shah
7 min readJun 9, 2021

Well, the first time I got introduced to coaching was by Kavi Arasu in a workshop. I still remember it. The four quadrant model of intervention. I was immediately attracted to it. Asking and working on solutions both seem positive and futuristic. It went with my identity, personality and qualifications. I am getting to terms with the fact that I cant know everything. I cannot be and learn everything. Thus there is limited space for confusion here. It makes sense to pursue Coaching and let go of therapy, counselling, mediation etc. I can still do those and be those as opportunities arise. I can be a healer, a negotiator and a strategy partner. These are just different roles and identities. I can adapt all. However for sake of qualification, focus and marketing I have to start with Coaching.

I tell people and watch them not do it! or fail at doing it! Coaching is different. It is a far better way to help others (Or as I like to think, be with others!)

Any place where there is conversation, where I am in a dialogue, I can use coaching. It is just the mindset of being more curious and operating from there. More impact, high influence, more sales, better negotiations, more trust are just some side benefits!

So What Do I Understand Of Coaching?

It is definitely about learning. Helping clients find inner resources to learn better. What do they learn and how do they learn is not in my control. As a coach, I am just a reflecting and a sounding board to catalyze their learning process. I am a mere observer. I take curious stance. I view them and their situations from multiple perspectives. I help them elicit their multiple perspectives as well. As a coach, I am an acceptor and not a change agent. Change is anyways always happening. I create unconditional acceptance for them, create a safe space for them so that they can decide how they want to change. Who am I to change them?

What are different Coaching Mindsets?

Mindset and Identity are immensely important for me. Skills are like tools. Right tools in wrong hands are of no use. They can even be dangerous.

Curiosity and Judgement

At the heart of coaching is a mindset of being curious and being an observer. I am getting more and more aware of how curiosity manifest and how it’s opposite, jumping guns and judgements also operate and manifest. Curiosity is also a vital skill in negotiations and sales. Instead of parroting my expertise and convincing others it is far more valuable to ask questions about their context. Understand them. Curiosity manifest as humility, respect and asking questions. A desire to know and learn. I am willing to let go of control. I am ok to not know all. I am ok to look dumb (and not pretend to be smart)My primary need here is to learn, understand, care and empower. Not even, help! I am absolutely no one to help. Help is incidental. What the other person might find helpful is not what I might give them as help! People take as per their readiness. There is absolutely no way to control this. This is where ‘being’ facilitative is very useful and impactful. Being is ‘Showing’ the way to live!

Judgements manifest as ‘telling’, advising, assuming and know it all. It is largely about control. I am too scared to be in the unknown and thus jump to tell. It manifest as arrogance, putting down others. Why would anyone listen to me in such a situation. How can I influence with such style? This is about rescuing. My needs here are safety, power, control and especially achievement. There is absolutely no place for achievement/performance as a coach. It is a distraction.

There is nothing wrong with not knowing. Get comfortable with not knowing. Accept what you want to know. That is the first step. Beware of pretending to know and assuming you know.

It may feel that curiosity is slowing things down at start. It may even feel frustrating. The desire to control would creep in. Beware of it. It is natural. However in the long run, curiosity will be far more effective.

By being curious from start you are also inviting the client to be more curious. To come out of auto-pilot and compel him to get intentional about thinking through things as well in a fresh, new and more useful ways.

Being an Observer

A coaching conversation is like watching a movie. I cant think, “Oh, that is a real challenge. Let me see how can I help you get through this” I am absolutely no one to solve your problems. You have to solve your own problems. The better attitude is, “I cant wait to see how she gets through this!”

There is nothing like a tough challenge or a simple challenge. It depends on clients ability to take. What you might find simple could also be difficult for clients. The crux is the client motivation to change.

Your clients perspective is just a perspective. You should be able to tap into multiple ways of looking at your client and their situations. This is the bridge to their greater insights. At times being observer doesnt mean having a lot of clarity. At times, it is just not being locked into clients perspective i.e being open and curious about everything — client, yourself, client’s problem and even how your coaching conversation would flow!

Being Primitive And Simple

This is at the root of challenging assumptions and being curious. Avoid too much thinking and processing. Follow your curiosity to the start and think, “What does this mean to you?” “How should we get started?”

Safety and Acceptance

As I have mentioned above, no learning forget transformation is possible without safety. Acceptance is all about safety and protection. Everyone is on their own journey. There is nothing wrong or right about anyone. I am who I am and they are who they are. Once this vibes are received, magic automatically begins!


It is about training my mind to observe myself and my impact at the same time. How am I being perceived? What are my internal dialogues and feelings? This is where great coaches operate from. Staying true to the primitive stuff so that client can process it.

Getting extremely comfortable with saying and even thinking that ‘I don’t know this’ or ‘what is your understanding of this’ is the key. I can never know everything even about a small subject. It is fine. Completely fine. Primitive questions come from here. Be with you don’t know anything about the other person. What is their definition of being stuck/creative? What is their understanding about those things? You have absolutely no clue. So be available to that and be willing to learn. In this process you are making them reflect and learn! You are being a learner and adaptable. This is how they learn and get transformed.

Again another corollary to that is never dispute or disagree to what other person is saying. It is their understanding, it is their problem. You may think that this problem is trivial for you but it is not for them. You may think that this is a delusion, distraction or manipulation of data however they are perceiving it like that as of now. So rather than dismissing it or stopping it. Build on it.

I have to be in the moment with the client and not think of steps in future. My job is to facilitate client to solve the problem and not solve the problem for them

Concrete Actions And Not Just Insights

Insights are never enough on their own. You will have to spend enough time to convert them into actions. How are you going to use that insight? Help your client to articulate this. This translates into real learning and change.

Caring, Nurturing and Encouraging

Without this everything is bullshit. You are not there to rescue. You are not helping them at all however you are showering them with the love, acceptance and care. They are at the best place to transform themselves. There can be no other place. Thus encouraging is the key. They have the potential and resources to reach where they want. Encouragement is the antidote to disappointments and self-loathing. At the root of this is a belief that client is capable. They will reach their potential sooner or later. You believe in your client and their journey.

Selfless Helping

Coaching is a place for your client to shine and not me! This is the true meaning of help for me. The true Why. Only if I am interested in others to shine, take all lime light, should I get into a helping profession. I need to fulfill my need for achievement from other places and not my clients. I need to fulfill my need for impact from other places and not my clients. My clients can fulfill my need for learning, understanding and maybe connection. That is it.

Authenticity And Here & Now

Pretense is contagious. It quickly gets converted to ego. I am too scared of being caught and then I am desperate to feel safe, save my face, run away from shame! There is absolutely nothing wrong in not knowing and not being perfect. When I find myself in that spot, ask for help and direction. It is a co-created journey. I don’t have to take all the pressure for clients journey. If both of us are stuck, it’s time to experiment and try something new!

There is no formula or blue print. What worked with another client or this client at other time may not work right now. You have to be true to this moment, period.

Creativity Is Also Contagious

Just like your curiosity, your creativity can also help unleash your clients creativity. Insights emerge naturally when being playful and creative.

Coaching Is Not A Panacea And Yet It Can Be Used Everywhere

Be true to your initial contracting. Coaching may not be a space for clients to navigate their tragedy, pain and grief. Do provide a safe space however be open to make referrals to counseling and therapy. The idea of client going for counselling can also be coached and not simply be offered on a platter as advise!

So, developing this habit of asking first is the key. Coaching = Curiosity. Curiosity = Going slow on telling. Going slow on telling = Asking more questions. Note here, that you don’t have to eliminate telling completely. However you can definitely slow it down. Getting in the habit of asking more questions, understanding the context, checking if the other needs any help or in what areas do they need help is far more effective than just telling. This is something that can be used everywhere from a simple shopping conversation, to conversation with family to a business meeting.

More on how am I cultivating this habit in next blog.



Siddharth Shah

The blogs are my musings on various subjects - from art, science, culture to philosophy, psychology and personal finance