Mastery in Coaching

If you’ve been reading my newsletter regularly, you have heard me talk about the idea of mastery in coaching. Mastery suggests a level of skill that makes a process or an act seem easy to an observer. If you comment on a master’s skill level, he or she will often respond by downplaying the skill or noting an initial curiosity with it but when pushed will acknowledge a passion for it and a history of focused study that ultimately allowed acquisition and mastery of the skill.

George Leonard, who wrote an excellent book on mastery, used to say that mastery requires a minimum of 10,000 hours of focused study. Those numbers help us recognize that mastery requires a major commitment of time and energy. If you think about the last time you were willing to put in this kind of focus and commitment, it was probably for something that you’re good at, particularly in comparison to people around you.

It likely makes sense to you then that there are very few things in your life that have called forth this kind of commitment. If there is something in your life that has summoned this level of dedication, then you already know something about mastery. It’s also likely that you know something about passion or deep interest. You will not be able to acquire mastery unless you have a deep passion or curiosity about the subject or activity you want to learn.

I want to apply this idea of mastery to the field of coaching. I know many of you reading this article are coaches or have an interest in coaching because you’re in a related field like consulting, speaking or some other helping profession. In order for you to improve in your profession, you will have to get good enough at it to know how to create change or breakthroughs for your clients.

What will make this possible?

Passion and deep interest will certainly help. Even more important is a commitment to study and practice. When you do that, study and practice while adopting a “learner’s mind.” This approach includes a willingness to make mistakes knowing that mistakes actually increase learning, and it will facilitate your path to mastery.

An equally important component is to study with and learn from an expert or master. There’s one caveat: Not all masters know how to impart their knowledge. While true masters can model their skills, not all are capable of teaching them. So I would suggest that you seek out a master who also knows how to teach.

In Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, George Leonard comments on some built-in cultural and practical roadblocks to mastery. He states, “If you’re planning to embark on a Masters journey, you might find yourself bucking current trends in American life.”* Advertising and TV programs imply that things can be solved easily—that the rewards of work come easily. We are shown the results of work or practice but not the time that goes into achieving those results. We have a quick fix, anti-mastery mentality. So essentially, if you choose a path of mastery, you will be going against cultural messages that have been pounded into you since childhood.

I have had the privilege of studying under some true masters. Chief among them has been Richard Bandler, Robert Dilts, Tim Hallbom, David Gordon and Steve Andreas. They are all true masters, and in addition to their mastery of neurolinguistic programming, they are also master teachers. Their mastery in NLP has often been supplemented by a deep curiosity in related subjects. They all have an insatiable curiosity and an ability to continuously be open to new learning. I have chosen to model every one of them in some specific skill related to NLP. Richard Bandler is the only one whom I was not able to stay in contact with. The others I not only count as mentors but also as friends. I think another characteristic of good masters is that they value mentoring—both as mentors and as mentees.

So if you are considering mastery in coaching, I recommend that you read George Leonard’s book on mastery (noted below). Then I would encourage you to seek out someone whose skill set includes teaching and mentoring.

I really would like to see more coaching mastery because I think coaching truly helps make the world a better place. When you see a coach or trainer demonstrate the power of coaching, it not only can be a demonstration of mastery, but for a coach who wants to be a better coach, it is certainly an inducement to want to acquire mastery as well.

* Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, George Leonard, p. 27

If you want to achieve mastery in coaching, consider attending my Belief Breakthrough Method™ Coaches’ Intensive Program. The next weekend retreat is in Tucson, June 13-14, 2015.

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About Terry: Terry Hickey, M.S., is a Certified NLP Professional Coach, Business Trainer and Consultant, a Certified Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the co-owner of NLP Advantage Group. Originator of the Belief Breakthrough Method™, Terry specializes in teaching coaches and entrepreneurs how to rapidly resolve limiting beliefs about wealth and success. His tips and strategies can help you launch yourself into the future you want… NOW.

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