Posts on Jan 1970

The Medium Changes the Coaching Message

DeathtoStock_SlowDown3The 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?

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Are you hearing or listening?

businesswoman with big earsI was talking with a coaching client today and I had one of those DUH moments.  You know, one of those times when you remembered something you knew all along.  Here it is:  Most of what occurs during a conversation is in your head.

As I was sitting here listening to a client talk about her January business, I realized how many questions I wanted to ask.  That’s when the DUH hit.

Hearing is a physical phenomenon.  Your ears are designed to recognize sound waves.  Then comes the meaning. The meaning that goes with the sound is purely in your head.

You bring an attitude towards the conversation.  You evaluate the worth of what you am hearing so that you can focus on what your mind designates as important.

You bring beliefs towards the conversation.  What is the world like and how does your client fit in?

As coaches, we sometimes talk about what we aren’t hearing.  What we really mean is that our mental expectation for the conversation is not matching up to what we think it should be.

Here’s the point:  If you are more mindful of your mental state when you enter into a coaching conversation, then what is being said will have a different meaning.  You have the opportunity to turn those sound waves into early judgments or you can turn them into coaching moments.  We can become very passive listeners or we can be very active.  I’m guessing that as coaches, active listening is probably the better side to be on.

What will you do to improve your listening?

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Why coaches say: It depends

The client owns the coaching agendaWhen I first started as a coaching student, we went through a mind-opening exercise in one class.  We were paired with other students, coached them for five minutes, and couldn’t tell them what to do.  We couldn’t give advice, offer suggestions, and were even supposed to avoid answering questions.  After a while, I started to realize that my challenge wasn’t to solve the other student’s problem.  It was to control myself.  Once I understood what my problem was, I could figure out what to do.

There is an old saying, “Who owns the problem, owns the solution.”  Good coaches try to keep that in mind.

You, as the coach, are undermining the possibility of your client’s success if you don’t allow them to own their own problem and the solution.  Coaches in the direct selling profession are especially good at this.  As a leader, you recognize the issues that your team struggles with every day.  You’ve been there and done that. So when:

  • Susan, your downline leader, says, “I need to have $100,000 in sales by June.” You say, “How’s your recruiting?”  Susan thinks the problem is sales.  You don’t.  As a coach, you’ve stolen her problem and she is dependent on you for the solution.
  • Jane says, “I don’t know, what do you think?” You feel trapped.  Jane want’s your opinion so you give it.  You now own the solution.
  • Your company just announced a new incentive trip. You open your coaching call with Chris by saying, “Isn’t the trip something else!  What do you need to do to go?”  You have become a one-to-one trainer.

The problem is that when things start to go wrong (even if it’s just a little thing), the coach starts to get the blame.  Your downline leader starts to say things like:

  • I’m not you.
  • This is what she’d do, not what I’d do.
  • She’s not in my shoes. If she were here, she’d know this wouldn’t work.

As a coach, you’ve made things tougher for everyone.  Your downline client is losing faith in you, in coaching, and in her potential for success.

To fully enter the coaching moment and to put the power of ownership in your client’s hands, you have to avoid being the coach with an opinion. One of the easiest ways to do that is to ask another question.  You can say:

  • “It depends. What did you do want to do?”
  • “It depends. What’s the first thing that comes to mind?”
  • “It depends. What worked last time you wanted to reach like this?”
  • “It depends. What possible ideas are you getting from other leaders?”

As a coach, you don’t have to be a subject matter expert.  You have to be a coach.  Your problem is to be the coach.  Let your client own her problem and its solution.

I’m open to ideas.  How do you, as a coach, make sure that your client owns the agenda?

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