The similarities between working as a coach and learning to play the piano…
Have been learning to play the piano for about seven years now, the first three of which I had an amazing piano teacher, Emily.
Unfortunately, for a number of reasons it was not possible for me to continue with weekly lessons. Luckily for me, I realised very quickly that even though Emily wasn’t with me physically, she did in fact leave me with an ‘internal’ piano teacher and I still hear her ‘teaching’ at points when I am practising.
Emily, left me with enough knowledge, experience and motivation to continue practising and learning new pieces on my own. Which is what I have been doing for the past three years. My plan is to go back to lessons when circumstances permit, but for the moment I have enough to be ‘going on’ with.
So, this for me is what coaching is all about, helping people to develop their inner resources and their ‘internal’ coach.
When I first started out as a career coach seventeen years ago, my intention was to help people to create a long-term vision for their career and develop the habits and approaches that would help get them there.
This still holds true, today.
People would get what they needed to ‘fly and soar‘ with their careers, it was rarely just about the immediate job, but more about helping people to build for their futures.
So, getting back to my piano lessons, when I first started I was expecting to learn how to play the piano and just follow the notes.
Thankfully Emily, very quickly put me straight, with:
‘I can teach you to play and then I can teach you to play‘
Which for Emily was about sharing her vast knowledge, experience and understanding of music. It was never just about the notes, it seems obvious now but this wasn’t what I was expecting when I first started with lessons.
Bit like coaching really, it’s not just about the words that are being said.
She taught me to get a feel and understanding for a piece of music before leaping in to learn the notes. She taught me about articulation and dynamics two of the things that add variety, movement and colour to a piece of music.
Very much like hearing someone’s story, the rhythm and movement add layers of meaning to what is being said.
She also taught me how to look for and identify patterns, something you can only generally do if you ‘stand back’ and look at the ‘whole’ first. This meant I could generally reduce the time and effort needed to learn a piece of music.
As a coach, ‘standing back‘ gives me the perspective needed to identify and challenge unhelpful patterns or acknowledge/celebrate helpful ones.
She also taught me how to quickly identify and focus on the problem bars of music. So, instead of getting stuck at the same part and then repeatedly going all the way back to the beginning each time to get stuck all over again. Emily taught me to stay with the difficult sections, even if it were just two bars in a whole sheet of music. She taught me that getting these problem bars right first, would move me on so much more quickly.
There are times, I think when we get so busy working around an issue, that we sometimes find it ‘easier‘ to go all the way back to the beginning and get stuck in the same place, all over again. Rather than sticking with and working through the issue once and for all.
Emily also taught me how to integrate the problem bars into the rest of the music. So, having perfected them I could then add them in, ‘bit by bit’ and then move into and through them, seamlessly.
When I think about this in terms of coaching, this might mean that my clients may well find that they too can ‘weave’ solutions seamlessly into the rest of their lives or at the very least, understand and see clearly the consequences and the full impact of their ‘solution’.
So, there you have it.
It’s never just about the notes or the words…….
And I look forward to continuing on with both my piano playing and coaching, over the coming years.
Until next time.