Posts on Jan 1970

The Science vs. The Art of Coaching

Art and science of coachingI’ve been working with another coach recently to enrich the student experience at Ultimate Coach University. The program has two major goals for every student: (1) provide students with exposure to the collective body of knowledge around coaching and (2) provide student with the opportunity to apply that knowledge to their own coaching practice.  The alignment of these two goals provides the student with an incredibly powerful learning opportunity.  The former provides a chance to see the science of coaching and the latter provides insights into the art of coaching.   If the emphasis between the two is lopsided, then you won’t be well prepared as a coach.  The sense of balance between the art and science of coaching will let you be part of a great program or an average one.

  • The science of coaching is concerned with tools and replication.
  • The art of coaching is concerned with finding the meaning in the moment
  • Science is about finding significance and understanding the probabilities.
  • Art is about giving significance and unlimited possibilities.
  • Science lets you appreciate the chaos that you don’t understand.
  • Art lets you appreciate the regularity and predictability in nature.

A good training program tries to find that balance between art and science that lets you appreciate replication and rules while at the same time encourages you to own your coaching art.  Besides the recent work at UCU, we’ve also had some opportunities to work on the development of leadership training programs with several companies.  It’s a difficult balance to find.  When you spend money, you want to be able to point to widespread replicable results; those things that you can say prove a solid return on your investment. But if you don’t leave space for the art of leadership, you only have half a program.   An IQ based education without an EQ component leaves you unable to work with others.  And the reverse also is true; an EQ based education without an IQ component lacks substance.

We can learn science, but must experience art.  The best education gives a good blend of both.

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Powerful Coaching Questions? Depends on the Listener

Crumpled question marks heapI’ve gotten a great reminder lately that powerful questions are really in the mind of the listener.  As a coach, you don’t know if a question is powerful until after it hits the listener.  Here’s what reminded me.

I’ve recently joined several LinkedIn Coaching groups, one of which is the ICF Coach’s Forum.  One participant posted a discussion question, “What would you ask clients if they had to answer honestly? For some background information, I’m currently working on creating feedback forms for clients who call into my site and speak with coaches at random. What would you ask clients that could help you as a coach and entrepreneur? Is there anything you think you could/should improve as a coach?”

The answers are all over the board.  Here’s a sample (note the breadth of content covered by the questions):

  • What is your best coaching take away that happily stuck to you like super glue?
  • What worked well?
  • What’s not quite right?
  • Would you recommend this website? [I like this one.  One purpose of this is to get feedback on a website!]
  • Who are the top four individuals you invite into your circle of trust?
  • What three things keep you awake at night?
  • What is the single most important thing you will do tomorrow?
  • ¡Qué puedes sacar de todo esto? [What conclusion can be drawn from all this?]

All of these questions have potential.  They are not like the powerful questions that we ask in a coaching session. These questions seek to improve a broader process and, as a result, stretch beyond the client’s needs.

One of the International Coaching Federation’s Core Competencies is asking powerful questions.  At Ultimate Coaching University, the class on Powerful Questions is one of the first ones we teach at the Three Day Launch Session.  Almost 100% of the student would like to have a list of the best questions to ask. While we do provide some examples of good questions, our goal is to focus the student on the client.  Until you step into the coaching circle with a client and design questions for his needs, all that you have are words.

Think about coaching situations that you have been involved in.  We’d love to hear your best question (even if we never know the client and the situation).

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Coaching Happiness

martinseligmanNo matter what else, one of the roles of a coach is to support a client’s happiness.  Happiness is one of those fundamental human needs.  What’s the one thing you want for your children, your spouse and your friends?  And you want it for your coaching clients as well.  If you produce nothing else in a coaching engagement, if your client goes away happier, it’s successful.

At the same time, happiness is an elusive concept.  You are not quite sure what happiness is to your client.  Interestingly, there has been some recent research that is very fruitful for coaches.

Martin Seligman gave a TED talk a few years ago about positive psychology.  His general framework was about the changes in psychology from a field that looked at sickness and healing to one that has a growing focus on building better lives for healthy people. One of his central topics was about the differences between happy people and the rest of the world.  There are really three aspects to happiness.

The first type of happiness is the pleasant life.  Good food, good friends and all of the activities that make you smile. Interestingly, this is the least powerful type of happiness.  We tired of “the pleasant life” after a while.

The second type of happiness is the good life.  This is the type of life where time seems to stop.  Where you are so engaged that you don’t even notice the passage of life around you.  We often talk about this as living your strengths and your passions.

The third type of happiness is the meaningful life. This is not only knowing your strengths, but also using them in service to a higher cause.

For more details, take a few minutes and listen to Martin Seligman explain.

As a coach, you have an opportunity to really tune into your client, discover their strengths and passions, and then support them as they put those attributes to use.  That’s the happiness that will really matter.

What do you think?  How will you support your client’s happiness?

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