Coaches as Wounded Healers
First things first. I am not using the term wounded healers in the same way that Psychologist & Psychiatrist Carl Jung used it.
I am using it in the specific context of coaching to imply that in my experience, the most authentic and effective coaches are the ones who have experienced difficulties and challenges of varied kinds (wounds as I call them) or are perhaps continuing to face them and from those difficulties (wounds) bring out wisdom that can heal others they come in touch with. Perhaps it is that process of having healed their wounds or overcome their difficulties that they feel deeply motivated to help and heal others.
Executive coaches have been executives for long and hard. They have had careers filled with a fair share of ups and downs.
Be it building and maintaining relationships, expressing our emotions effectively, dealing with conflicts, coping with failures, managing our guilt, overcoming our unhelpful ways of thinking, tolerating stress, dealing with career anxieties, navigating the allowable dishonesties of Organisational life, all of us as coaches have had our fair share of highs and lows. This real and authentic experience is what makes for a real coach.
It is through this window of authenticity and through this identity of being a wounded healer that coaches are likely to make the deepest possible connection with their coachees. It is through that first hand experience that we are able to respond or challenge with authenticity because we are coming from a place of having been there and experienced it.
It is not by presenting ourselves as perfect, as having arrived, or as being complete, flawless and exemplary that we make a connection. In fact, presented in that manner may even be intimidating, a sense that I will not be understood or even worse a state where the coachee feels “I am afraid to tell you who I am because you may not like the who that I am and that is all I have”. (John Powell).
So, to be comfortable in my skin with all my gifts and my flaws makes me authentic.
To be able to therefore present myself as an equal and a co-traveler rather than as an expert make me trust worthy.
To however not burden my coachee with my issues and focus on the coachee makes me empathetic.
To seek peer guidance to be sure that I am staying within these ethical boundaries makes me responsible.
To accept all of this and feel good makes me human.
As I write this, I am reminded of the movie Good Will Hunting. Robin Williams as Dr. Sean Maguire really drives home this point.