I have received this question a few times in my life, but there is a specific who-are-you story that, for some reason, stayed with me over the years. Although I don’t completely remember the exact data, I remember the emotions around it as if it was yesterday. So, let me draw a small picture, if I may.
More than 10 years ago, I was part of a group of 15-20 HR professionals… I told you I don’t remember the exact data… just starting an almost 1-year HR educational program. It was weekend, a beautiful autumn day and the room was full of energy and excitement as it was the first day of the school year. Well, a school year for grownups. I don’t remember how the first class started, but I remember that, at a certain point, the trainer invited us to introduce ourselves to the group by asking us to answer one question: “Who are you?”
We were actually sitting in a U. Funny, right? Well, I knew nothing about systemic coaching back then. I was somewhere in the middle of the U, so I was able to hear the others’ answers before sharing mine. This is when the story happens. When the “first in line” colleagues started to introduce themselves, they started to talk about the universities they have graduated from, areas of expertise, the companies they have been working for, spare-time activities, you know, grownups’ things, still, relevant, specific and personal. After listening to the first one or two short ad-hoc introductions, the trainer started to say again and again… and again, sometimes by interrupting them: “Understood. That’s not what I’ve asked. Who are you?” A bit flustered, they continued their presentations, trying to give even more details while the energy in the room was slowly shifting from excitement to tension.
The moment one of my colleagues realized that who-are-you might come hand in hand with an I-am answer, the presentations rapidly changed from being specific to being rather standard ones as in: “I am a Psychology graduate, an HR professional, a business owner, a mom of two kids, a father, a sister” … and so on. I am sure you know the drill. And since that change came with the approval of the trainer, everyone else waiting in line, including me, did almost the same and no yup-but-who-are-you questions appeared anymore. So, slowly we kind of “became” who “the system” wanted us to be. I am almost sure that was not the intention, but that was the result that day. We all shifted a bit from who we were to “who we were into that new system”. This shift happens all the time. Sometimes it happens naturally, in our own rhythm, sometimes it happens with a nudge. I’ll go with the first one, this time, if I may.
In a coaching relationship, who-are-you questions, or better said, coaching the WHO can open the door to a whole new space of growth possibilities where we can get acquainted with ourselves or work together with our inner worlds that are part of who we are: values, emotions, needs, beliefs or patterns, worlds that some of us may not be that familiar with or may have not visited for a while. We can make change or growth happen by owning our trip and making it personal, more about who we are and who we want to become and less about whom others want us to be. This way we can choose our own rhythm and sometimes even bring our own nudges on the way.
Since I am soon to graduate from the professional coaching program, I started last year, I have recently received these two questions: Who am I as a coach? Who am I as a client?
Will make it short this time as we have already reached the end of our today’s conversation.
I am a strong believer in people’s potential and ability to grow. That’s me, both, as coach and client. And this is why I chose to become a…
Well… enough about me. Or maybe we can leave it for our next session.
And just in case you are wondering who my clients are? They are just whom they want to be. But they can grow from there into whom they want to become. And that’s my favourite part, where the magic happens.
Until next time, do you want to tell me yours?