Becoming like them will lubricate communication. Listen and use their language and keywords. Note how much emphasis is put on their words and use these yourself. Some coaches note down just the keywords on paper to use later.
Naturally you mirror their physiology, their energy, eye contact. What about pace and tone of voice, hand gestures, but only when you talk.
Start with a relaxed and open state, no barriers. When this state has been created, bottle the energy bubble and cloak it. Place the cloak over the two of you and this will allow you to block out any distractions even in a busy hotel bar.
Sharing your ideas
Many new coaches or very busy coaches find it painful to wait patiently and let their ideas percolate. Instead they like to give their ideas or opinions. Strictly speaking this is dangerous as the ideas become yours, not theirs and they become reliant on you. Leading questions are even more painful; just don’t go there. Here’s a few ideas:
- Challenge a different person to come out with some ideas – how would your playful self answer or how would your mentor respond?
- Mentally step out of the coaching bubble and offer your idea but give them an opt out clause. Let’s step out of our coaching session for a moment as I’ve a couple of ideas to float past you. If they’re not fruitful we’ll go somewhere else.
- “Can I offer you my line of thinking?”
- “What would a courageous you say?”
- “Let’s step out for a moment, I do have an idea.”
- Then give them the opt out.
- Would that work for you? If that’s not a rich seam for you, where else would you want to go?
Read physiology, sense and challenge
Calibrate them immediately and observe leakage, when you see it, challenge it. For example, with a sudden sweep of the arms, ask if they want to move on or sweep away the idea. Watch their face closely and look for expression leaks and challenge them.
Which translates into brilliant listening, which all coaches do. It’s not about active listening, it’s about being in the present, not judging or solving the problem prematurely in your head. It’s about being curious to find out more. Clear the mind, trust in your ability to listen and stop thinking. That’s their job, not yours.
Truly wonderful coaches then summarise regularly. 25% of coaches summarise a little and paraphrase a lot. 25% of coaches just test their understanding but 50% of coaching effectiveness comes from doing both – summarising regularly and testing your understanding: “Have I got that right?” “Is that where we are?”
Mature questioning flexibility
Good coaches do ask short open questions with lots of sugar coating – using tone of voice and softeners such as – “Tell me”, or “I’d be curious to know”. Excellent coaches use a variety of question types in a funnel approach. Broad questions at the top of the funnel to light the fire, probes to keep them on the subject, closed questions to channel thinking and confirm.
Well paid coaches then stoke the fire. Tease conversation from them, never ever interrogate. Coaching is about asking questions but not continuously. Use your senses to channel, play devil’s advocate, enjoy silence, let them think things through, watch their eye movement as this will show thinking. Give them space. Use nods both verbal and non-verbal to encourage their talk. Empathy statements work in showing an understanding of their conversation.
Actions that’ll be actioned
We’ve all seen coaches using the words – “I’ll better do this” or “I ought to do it this way by next week or I’ll be in trouble”. When action planning at the end of the session – when, what, whom – test their dependability. On a scale of one to ten, how likely are you to do this? What do we need to do to get this nearer a ten?
Listen out for their motivational state – is it duty, drive or flow? Do they have to do it, do they need to do it or do they want to do it? – Flow.
Everyone with a few miles on their clock will have strategies to do things: methods or structures to handle most aspects of their lives. I call these strategies. So in the reality stage of the GROW model, explore how they would normally handle this kind of goal. How do they normally make decisions, what strategies do they normally use to brainstorm?
Belief systems around goals
During the reality stage, most coaches will explore what the person has done before, the current situation. Great coaches explore the belief system surrounding the topic since beliefs determine the action they’ll take. Probe around their supporting and restraining beliefs. What’s important to you around this topic? How do you feel about it? What do you believe around this area?