One of my favorite stories concerns a Buddhist scholar and a Zen Master. The scholar had an extensive background in Buddhist Studies and was an expert on the Nirvana Sutra. He came to study with the master and after making the customary bows, asked him to teach him Zen. Then, he began to talk about his extensive doctrinal background and rambled on and on about the many sutras he had studied.
The master listened patiently and then began to make tea. When it was ready, she poured the tea into the scholar’s cup until it began to overflow and run all over the floor. The scholar saw what was happening and shouted, “Stop, stop! The cup is full; you can’t get anymore in.”
The master stopped pouring and said: “You are like this cup; you are full of ideas about Buddha’s Way. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can’t put anything in. Before I can teach you, you’ll have to empty your cup.”
It ideal coachee is the person who desires to change and improve. Coaching isn’t for everyone, but it can lead to massive improvement for the person demonstrating these characteristics:
- Open to change
- Willing to experiment with ideas
- Able to reflect and acknowledge mistakes
- Willing to listing to what others say with a sense of curiosity and humility
- Open to learning
- Focused on the future rather than the past
- Able to adapt a style to the requirements of the situation
- Has a sense of personal mission and passion
Coaching is much more than a casual conversation. It is serious and hard work to reflect, define behaviors, identify required behavior changes, and sustain those changes. It means being candid and open which is difficult for some.
Maybe you’ve heard the joke about psychologists: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? One, but the light bulb has to really want to be changed.
Coaching is like that. Until the coachee is open, receptive, and willing to change, the experience won’t work. But when the coachee is ready and willing, wonderful things happen.