Coach Certification: What You Can Learn From a Famous Sea Captain

Sailing and Coaching

If you’re anything like your coaching clients,


...then you probably want tools for reaching your goals more quickly and easily. And if one of your goals right now is Coach Certification, then the information in this article can help you get there faster and more easily.


Well first, if you’re a talented coach, you probably can obtain IAC Certification more quickly than any other certification from a recognized independent coach certifier. Second, I’m going to share a big secret about how to do that.

As you probably know, the IAC Coaching Masteries™ Learning Guides...

...are a wonderful tool for checking your own coaching sessions to see if you’re using these skills at a masterful level.

It’s helpful to note though, that the information in the Learning Guides defines masterful coaching, as it is scored or graded and that they can be rather inscrutable to most coaches, when it comes to learning the level of mastery required to obtain the IAC Certified Coach designation.

Learning coaching and scoring coaching are two very different processes.

The IAC’s mission is to score and certify, not teach, so their materials tell you “what” they are looking for, not “how” to achieve it. Big difference.

That’s one of the reasons why you can achieve mastery more quickly by working with coaches who are masters of the IAC Coaching Masteries™. That’s also why I’m about to share one of the most powerful “how to’s”, you’ll ever learn.

But first, here’s a handy metaphor.

Years ago, a famous retired sea captain named, Skippy Lane, taught me to sail on Long Island Sound. Skippy’s mastery of sailing was legendary in the New York City archipelago where we lived. One day I asked Skippy how sailors kept track of everything while they sailed. The current, the wind direction, the sails, the rudder; it was all so overwhelming!

Skippy said, “You sail a boat by the seat of your pants.”

I can still hear his booming voice. What he meant was that when you’re sailing, if you have everything optimally lined up, the energy of the wind pulls the boat up out of the water and you feel it rise up literally through the seat of your pants! That’s when a sailor knows he’s on track.

And that’s exactly what happens when you ride the energy of the conversation throughout your coaching sessions. That energy is called curiosity and when it rises, it tells you that you’re on track. It’s so simple and so much more effective to do it this way, than it is to try to remember all the effective behaviors required for IAC Certification. When you focus on the skills and details, you’re too busy thinking to notice what’s really going on. When you focus on the energy, you’re attention is on the client and what your inklings are telling you about your client. That’s what separates good coaching from great coaching.

The amazing thing is that when curiosity is used well,

...many of the events that the IAC wants to see like, “The client is no longer held back but is instead excited and moving forward…” or “The client communicates more effortlessly and resourcefully”, show up as a result of you sailing masterfully though the energy of the coaching conversation. Pretty cool!

How do you use the energy of curiosity to coach masterfully?

There is not nearly enough space in this article to cover all the ways, but here are three simple steps to get you started:

1. Notice what you’re curious about and ask your client about it.

2. Notice what your client is curious about and ask about that.

3. Use your curiosity and your client’s curiosity (and your curiosity about your client’s curiosity) as continuous feedback loops to help you navigate throughout the coaching conversation.

It’s quite simple and the results are magic.

To master this, practice it with other coaches who are knowledgeable about the IAC approach to coaching.

School of Coaching Mastery has some free resources to help you with that, such as our free Study Groups and our networking group for coaches who want buddies and triad partners for practicing the masteries. You don’t have to be an SCM student to use these free services.

And of course, we also have much more information about energy, mastery and curiosity in our Coach Training Programs.

Skippy never heard of coaching, but he taught me the key to masterful coaching when he taught me how to sail. Interestingly, that legendary master of coaching, Thomas Leonard, called this skill, “Navigating via Curiosity.”

A shorter version of this article appeared in the February issue of the IAC VOICE.

Copyright, Julia Stewart, 2009

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