Monday, December 26, 2011

Spontaneity in a Coaching Conversation

Essential to the effectiveness of a coaching conversation is the capacity of the coach to be fully present throughout the session.

That sounds so basic, so simple, so obvious.

It isn’t any of those.

Coaching Presence will likely occupy my blog and other work for as long as there are coaches … which I hope will be forever.

In this brief blog I will talk about spontaneity … one of the criteria to describing and recognizing this core competency (Coaching Presence) in use … or missing … as the case may be.

Think of it this way: responding in the moment to what your client just said is the perfect spontaneous expression of being fully present. It’s not possible to plan for a spontaneous moment. It’s only possible to respond to it. Given the coaching subject matter (client’s agenda or agreement) does not belong to the coach, there seems to be no purpose in being other than spontaneous.

When listening to a coach in a session, it’s clear and obvious when the coach is drawing ideas from his/her (coach’s) own ideas, thoughts, suggestions, references, directions, and expertise. There’s simply nothing spontaneous going on.

Think about it. I call it “being in your head” irrespective of what’s going on with your client.

More on this.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Friends, Family and Other Victims: Learning On the Job

New coaches who have ever worked with me are familiar with the words in the title above.
To begin, I’m reminded always of Aristotle’s immortal admonition: “Before we can learn to do something we first must go out and do it.”

Aw, that’s not fair. Why can’t I learn to coach from classes and books and workshops and conferences?

My instructor is challenging me to get my first 5 clients! How can I go out and represent myself as a “coach” when I’m not a coach yet? OMG

Well, here are your instructions: tell your new “clients” that you are new to the profession and would like to practice your new techniques with them. Tell the truth. You might have very willing friends (colleagues) from work, or family members, or “other victims” as I laughingly put it. After all, you bring the you of all your life into this endeavor; that’s worth a lot.

Let’s face it, no practice, no learning.

When I think of my first clients I must simply laugh and wonder why anyone ever paid me (after several hundred hours of pro bono work before that 1st check). But they did and I learned. This was way back before ICF Core Competencies … no books, no conferences, only learning on the job.

A little hint from me: I was a consultant at the same time I was learning to be a coach. I had coaching clients and consulting clients … two different groups entirely. Some little bird told me to do that and am I ever glad I did.

Enjoy the journey!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

An Open Mind

I reviewed Alvin Toffler’s predictions regarding the future. If you read The Third Wave within the past 40 years you might be interested in taking a look ahead to the Fourth Wave. (“40 for the Next 40”

When I first read this document I thought: “same but more of it” … a thought I did not find on this reading. It’s essential to tie the future to the past as a continuum or just as a subject list. It’s equally important to look at these 40 predictions with as open a mind as possible … though that’s not always easy to do.

Why talk about Toffler in a blog about coaching? After all, we coaches are not supposed to deal with other than the present. Haven’t I blogged incessantly about Coaching Presence?

Okay. There is a difference between the coaching conversation itself and the world at large. Agree? When listening to our clients we stay present to what’s being said in that moment and respond to what the client says (as opposed to the voice in our heads).

In this blog I speak of knowing what’s going on in the world and not of any particular opinion you or I might have about it. We coaches are not to be narrow in our knowledge of life and events.

Why not stay or become a broad learner with an open mind, an interested participant and a curious person?

Curious!!! There it is. ‘Curiosity’ simply must become the mindset of a coach. Whew! Thought I’d never get there.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Quite often I am asked “What do you hear or experience in an ICF credential exam?”

That’s a rather involved question or should I say … the answer can be rather complex.

Have you ever used the phrase “I could hear the wheels turning” when someone with whom you are in conversation is thinking about something or other that doesn’t involve you? If you have, you’re on your way to understanding what I experience.

Newer coaches who still need lots of skillful practice (not just any ol’ practice), are still working from a script … the script they learned in a particular coach training program. That’s to be expected, absolutely.

As a practiced listener of coaches at work (exam or mentoring), I can hear the script. Most coaches rely on a particular approach that they’ve practiced somewhat or even a lot. This would define the ACC candidate most definitely and very often the PCC candidate. Unfortunately, it also defines some MCC candidates which just might account for the high failure rate.

The missing piece with coaches who rely on a “formula” type approach to their coaching is trust. Remember, there is a competency called Trust and Intimacy.

To get to the heart of the matter we first must look at trust in all of its facets. A coach who is on the road to mastery …

Trusts the coaching process;
Trusts and respects each client as whole and complete;
Trusts their own ability to serve their client with competence and integrity;
Trusts each client to choose what is best for client during the conversation.

What would you like to add to this list?

From my perspective, trust comes first, then intimacy (or closeness). It’s just the way of things.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Taking Advantage of Every Opportunity

I was hemming some draperies tonight. I’ve done that before. In fact, I made lots of my clothes when I was in my teens.

If that’s not interesting enough, think of this: the practice of a competency is just about as thrilling.

It occurred to me as I threaded the needle several times that my focus on such a small item as a needle and thread plus the knot required undivided attention to my task. Just like practicing mastery (so says George Leonard in “Mastery”).

I’m going to take practicing at face value. Practicing is essential in order to become at least proficient (consciously competent) at anything. I recall the remark by a new skier who was struggling nearby in a skiing class (I was in the class, too). He remarked “You mean I have to LEARN to do this?” I smothered a smile and wondered where that all came from. I practiced every minute and it was thrilling.

Here’s the lesson my ski classmate didn’t have in mind: First learn what there is to learn and then go out and practice it.

Coaching is a way of being (curious) first and foremost. So, at every opportunity why not practice being curious. As I threaded that needle and stitched my way along a series of drapery panels, I began to look at the stitches I was making and how they looked on both sides. I watched how many threads I usually picked up with the needle going in and thought about how nice this would all look when finished. I became curious again when I wanted to stop doing this task and wondered if I would stay with it … I did but not without some gentle prodding from my curious self.

So those two hours of hemming were a moment of opportunity that I stole from my evening in order to practice the fine art of being curious. And the result was worth it!