The medium (vocal, visual, textual) that you use for coaching affects what can occur during the coaching and after. Nearly five decades ago, Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase. “The medium is the message.” While it seemed somewhat revolutionary at the time, we’ve all come to recognize the importance of the medium as an influence on the shape of the message. Any user of Twitter, Instagram or Facebook could hardly disagree. What we don’t often realize is that the statement is equally true about the medium in which we coach.
Most of my coaching is done on the telephone. Thoughts can sometimes wander through the exchange and the client who is working very creatively may be very difficult to follow. I can tell when the client and I are feeling the same way when I ask a question like, “So where are you going with this?” and the client responds by saying that “That’s a good question.”
Recently, I challenged a client to use a different medium and the clarity was astounding. Elizabeth, my client, was sorting out her thoughts on work, values, and what she really wanted in five years. We’ve talked about this before and while Elizabeth was moving forward, I challenged her to go away to write answers to four questions:
- What do I really, really want?
- Is what I’m doing getting it for me?
- What do I need to stop doing?
- What do I need to start doing?
For Elizabeth, writing rather than talking about these topics made an enormous difference.
Thoughts that were swirling in her head had to be made into sentence. Thoughts are seldom complete and very seldom in sentence form. As thoughts became sentences, Elizabeth’s thinking clarified.
Spoken justifications may sound reasonable–until put on paper. Elizabeth was more willing to throw a foul flag when she saw some of her thinking in writing. In hindsight, she called saw some of her excuses “lame or half-formulated.”
Progress is still at a very measured pace. However, Elizabeth is clear on the direction she wants to go and is very steadily moving to her goal.
How can you switch medium with your client?