Every year, approximately 200,000 men and women leave United States military service and return to life as civilians, a process known as the military to civilian transition. The Transition Assistance Program provides information, tools, and training to ensure service members and their spouses are prepared for the next step in civilian life. However, what many had learned was they wanted to go deeper into the transition mission process in order to take advantage of the challenges that were about to engulf them and their families.
What started out as a straightforward way for me to help friends and fellow Veterans prepare for their next chapter, began to grow into a process where others heard about what I was doing and were told to contact me if they wanted to speak with someone that can help ease their concerns. How did this happen and why were these strangers willing to come to me to assist with such a major decision in their life? Here are three things that I learned that may help you with your coaching.
We must realize that when a Coach can be entrusted with a client’s secret fear or with anything else of importance, it allows the coaching relationship to grow and makes the client feel comfortable enough to answer questions that they believe will bring them closer to their ultimate goal and allow them to put together a plan that they feel good about implementing. Building trust in the military is particularly important and without it, bonds cannot be formed, which can hinder any chance of individual connection and that directly affects collective mission goals.
It is extremely helpful when a military member knows that I too was a Veteran before we begin our coaching relationship. They feel more comfortable knowing that they are working with someone that has walked through the same journey that they are about to embark upon. This is vastly different from other civilian clients because military members form a brotherhood and sisterhood that is similar to first responders. However, during the initial discovery call or meeting, clients may feel connected to work with a coach that is honest about life challenges that led them to become a coach. For example, I remember sharing part of my transition story when I couldn’t find a job after retiring, while supporting a wife and a 1-year old. Their anxiety turned to laughter when I told them how I would still do my morning routine for months, as if I was going to work, only to walk my wife to the car, give her a kiss, then go back into the house and start the job search all over again. It gave them a sense of hope that, “this guy does know how I feel, and if he can get through it, maybe I can too.”
One advantage of working with Veterans is they expect me to be honest when it comes to the questions that I ask them and hold them accountable to an activity that they were scheduled to complete. Although they are used to following direct orders, it is important for them to understand why I don’t tell them what to do next. Instead I ask questions that will help them identify the roadblocks and identify actions that will get them back on track to accomplish their goals.