Establishing the Coaching Field
What we're looking at is yes, getting you and your client ready for the actual coaching. The idea here, and we talked earlier about the kind of coaching I'm after is courageous coaching and one that lets you get into trust really quickly with your client or with your mentee, or whomever you're engaging with. In my mind, what the field does when you establish a field sort of intentionally, what we're after here is to create permission for something to happen so that it's not happening on accident, it's not happening as a surprise. It's not sort of like something we're hoping will happen but not talking about. We're actually creating a territory of permission for something to happen with one another. What I mentioned earlier on about my story with my failed coaching engagement with the gentleman who was rushed when he came in, I gave him, very quickly he got miked up and on stage. I gave him too much coaching, too fast, that he couldn't absorb. He and I were unable to move the needle for...
him during that day, and we both left a little bit frustrated. A big failure on my part was that I hadn't established the coaching field in the way that I could have to help setup the conditions that would let something happen. I rarely do that anymore. Now I make sure that I establish a coaching field. So the field is the potential. And as a coach this is a super important moment in time as well because you start to be able to assess for yourself what the potential is. So you're neither undercoaching or overcoaching someone. You know, it's the worst. We want to stretch our clients, yes. We want to stretch the people that are coming to us for coaching. But we don't want to stretch them so much that it's unsuccessful and the coaching gets rejected. But we also want to coach to their potential, so we don't want to undercoach either. Or else it's sort of an anemic experience. So this coaching field will help you assess the potential. So what does the client really want? This is one of the most powerful questions that I can take into a coaching. I can want eight different things for a client. But if it's not aligned to what they want, it's just gonna be a round cylinder in a square peg. Or what's it called? Square peg in a... What is it? Help me. Round hole! Square peg in a round hole. That's right. We don't want that. So instead we want to calibrate to one another so you know what the possibility is. Now, the thing is is that when we're establishing the field and identifying the possibility here, something that I want for my clients isn't always aligned to what they want, and that's perfectly okay. It is something that they think that they want which is around comfort. They come to us and they want help being more comfortable. And often, that's not what the aim is in the coaching. It's much more around how do we actually help them be more alive when they're in it, which isn't necessarily a place of comfort, right? The way that I'm looking for what the client really wants is through a series of questions just to understand what they're really after. Now, in a second here I'd like to ask for a volunteer, one of you, to come stand next to me. You're not gonna get any coaching. I'm not gonna do an intervention with you. We're not gonna evaluate you. But I want to get a sense of something specific that you get coaching for. Not on, but for. So if anybody in the room has maybe a moment coming up, a moment coming up in the near or far future, whether it's aspirational or actually on the calendar, where you have to stand or sit in front of an audience and say something, I would like to hear from you now. You have one? Good, come on up. You have to bring a mic with you. There you go. Hi, come on over and stand right here. So what I'm gonna be looking for is just a sense of what this thing is that you have in front of you. So tell me a little bit about like what is it. Also, tell us your role again.
Oh, okay. Hi. My name is Yi Liu, and I have been a creative director for the last 10 years. And now I'm going solo and I wanted to bring more art to the tech community. And I have a coming up event at the Apple Union Square. And I'll be telling my story, how I get into the tech community using art. But I'm also going to figure out a way to do the storytelling of the importance of the role of art and creativity.
Okay, so that's content. That's great.
That's the content, yeah.
So tell me about this moment. What does it look like? Are you on a panel, are you giving a talk? What is it?
So it is going to be a very experimental format. So I'm going to give a talk but in the same time I'm gonna engage with the people who are sitting in the audience where we're gonna be co-creating something together. And it's going to be an experience that people will be co-creating with me and maybe air drop it onto the big screen. And then I can critique or work on top of what they are creating.
So here's a moment where I'm gonna be transparent with my client about not really getting it. So I'm gonna say back to you what I think I heard and you tell me if it's right or not. So you're gonna be in front of a room of folks who are sitting or standing.
They'll be sitting.
You're gonna be doing some talking, some like, here's what I think is important, here's what matters. You're gonna say some stuff about your perspective in the world and creativity. Is that right?
I am gonna say some stuff but I'm also gonna show them the real story.
Okay, great, so you're gonna show them through an interaction of some sort.
It's gonna be talking mostly in the first 30 minutes or 40 minutes, and then 20 minutes of engaging with the audience.
And is that gonna be are you breaking them into some kind of facilitated activity or are you actually like going to be having you tell you things that you're capturing? What do you envision happening there?
I envision that I will be telling the story, I will be showing them what I've done. So, for example, I've done some, like, I've engaged with people who are in a workspace, for example like a large design agency, and I'm showing them the experience that I'm kind of conducting this creative experiment. And then I'll be doing this creative experiment with them.
Ah, so it's almost like, here's a thing I did, now let's do it together.
See? See? I don't get it. And as a coach I'm not supposed to get it. In fact, if I'm like getting it all the time then I'm probably not really listening. So I really need to make sure that I don't need to be so smart. And I'm really like not clear enough, not understanding enough. Now, to help me understand, everybody have a picture of what she's gonna do? I kind of get it. It's helpful for me to to say, all right, I'm gonna say back to you what I think I heard and if I'm wrong, tell me. Can't wait to be wrong. Because if I'm wrong, I get more detail and I get more clarity. I get a more robust picture about what this crucial communications moment is. You're gonna tell a thing, you're gonna show a thing, and then you're gonna demo the experience with the room, and you're gonna be leading that. How long do you have to do it?
I'm going to do it probably for an hour and a half.
Great, great. Okay, cool. That's a nice chunk of time. What kind of size of the audience are you gonna have?
I think it's potentially about 50. Around like 30, 50 people, or 60.
Pretty conversational, and you can facilitate. It's not too huge. It doesn't have to feel like a broadcast moment. So tell me a little bit about... Now I'm using my curiosity. I'm gonna let this thing go and go back to something I was curious before earlier. So you just now branched out on your own.
Say more about that.
Okay. In the last 10 years I've been working as a creative consultant. I've been running my own studio and working with larger and smaller tech companies, as well as consumer companies, to help them to build their brand. So I came up with iconic illustrations and creative campaigns to help them to engage with more audiences. And now what I'm witnessing by living here in San Francisco for the last three years and a half, I realized this disparity between tech and non-tech. And more and more artists are being driven out of the city. So I feel like one thing I really want to do is to engage with more people, especially younger generations.
You want to be the bridge between those two.
I want to be the bridge between art and tech.
See, I made a declaration. It could have been wrong. Could have been wrong. She could have said, "No, not a bridge." Oh, really? Then what? What is it? So being wrong helps my client all the time articulate more specifically who they are, what they want, what metaphors they might use to help them build meaning for the platform that they're gonna stand on. So bridge, great. You had to step back. So what I'm hearing is that this crucial communications moment where you're gonna share your point of view, share a successful project, and then let us participate with you in it by a facilitated experience is a demonstration of how you... It's an opportunity for you to tell and show the world that you are gonna bridge these two experiences.
You got this.
I do this sometimes. I sometimes do this, just here and there. Great, so now I have a sense of, like, what the moment is. I also have a sense of what her intention is, who she wants to be in the world. And what that helps me do is hold her accountable to it later, just in case she starts telling her story and is small about it. So I've got it. You're that bridge. That's great, that's great. So I just said some stuff about what this moment is for you. Can you say some stuff about what is this moment for you when you'll stand in front of this room and speak?
What is the moment for me?
Yeah, what is it for you?
Okay, can you clarify the question?
You know you'll be standing there in front of this room. What is, I'm gonna say the same thing again, which is not always advisable, but I'm gonna do it here. Like what is it for you to do that?
Why am I doing that?
There's a couple things. So one of the things is I created this illustration 12 years ago. And it was a whale lifted by little birds. And at the time I was living in Sydney, Australia. I know zero person in San Francisco, Bay Area. I don't even know what exactly the Silicon Valley is. And there was this teeny, tiny, little startup called Twitter and it was employed onto the website, it was licensed. And the next thing you know is it sort of blew up, and people loved it, and people from around the world making their own versions of the whale inspired by the original piece.
So it was a perfect marriage of art and tech.
I'm gonna interrupt you. This is another thing you'll do when you're coaching. When there's a lot of explaining that is not useful to you as a coach you're gonna interrupt your client and say, "Okay, great. Not useful. Moving on." So I love that. So the moment that you're gonna stand in front of this room at this festival coming up, or is it a conference?
It's actually an event at Apple.
Okay, at the event at Apple. So when you stand in this room, what is that gonna be for you?
Okay, so, the reason why I was wanting to do this, there's a little back story why I'm doing this. This is like five years ago. I was working as a consultant and I was working as a side project with an engineering group. And we were working on this art project together. And by the end it was a logo, internal logo, and then put it on a t-shirt. But this interaction, by the end of this interaction, the manager of the engineering team came to me and said, "Thank you. "The last month working on this project made me so happy "because nobody in the team knew that I was..."
Time out. So, are you listening with your head? Are you listening to the story? Okay, I'm not gonna ask for answers. And for those of you at home that might be watching, what are you noticing too? What is this experience feeling like to you? All really good, important information. So I totally understand the story. What I want to know, what I want to know is, you're gonna stand in front of a group of people. What is this moment for you? You said yes to like, I'm gonna prepare and facilitate this moment because what? Is it a moment where you're presenting for the first time as an independent this notion of bridging tech and art? Is it your first foray into your own personal brand in this new platform? Is it about you engaging your... What is this moment gonna be for you?
Okay, this is the moment that I will firstly demonstrate something iconic that I wanted to do this for the longest time, which is, it's like I Love New York for San Francisco.
So that's the content of your piece. Did you hear earlier, she said this is my first, right? That's what I care about as a coach. Like, the content, I'm agnostic to content. Whether you're showing a brand new tech platform that you're launching into the world, whether you are showing a piece of art, your role in this moment is important to you. What I want as a coach is like, what is this moment for you. Is it a powerful moment to create your own identity with this community? Is it a moment to demonstrate the usefulness of this concept? It's almost like the bigger why I'm doing it, not just the content why I'm doing it. So I hear this as a debut moment.
It is a debut moment.
Hear that? When it's debut, the stakes are different, right? Than like, this is just, oh, it's my regular community. I do this one every year, and I can't wait, and it's super low stakes, but super fun to help me co-create what it's gonna be. No, no, no. Debut moment is different. So I'm listening for this. I hear your role. I hear this is a crucial communications moment, and I understand what the shape of it is. I hear your role is to really start to come out and be identified as the bridge between tech and art. And I hear also that this is an important debut moment. So in this moment, what is it that you are going to want?
That's a really good question.
I know. Go ahead and have a seat. You did a great job. (laughter) (applause) So these are the questions that I'm gonna use early on to start establishing the field, meaning what is inside the coaching and what is not for today. Do you hear this? And then I get more empowered and more grounded in what I need to be smart about, what I need to not be smart about. Also did you see how not smart I was? Not smart. Sorry, I don't get it. Sorry, say that again. Okay, not clear enough. Not clear enough is one of the most powerful coaching pieces of feedback you can put into the coach. Oh, God, sorry. Not clear enough. I don't get it. So establishing the coaching field uses these handful of questions. You're gonna craft these in a way that makes sense to you. These are the things that I've established since that story that I told 15 years ago and I sat down and went, geez, you know what my job really is? My job is to love my clients. And if I love them, here are the things I want to know so I can help them develop an experience that aligns to that. Who are you? I'm the woman that did this thing that was super iconic. I'm that woman that wants to bring that, bridge art and tech. What lights you up? Bridging art and tech and a way that is massive, right? And what do you really want? And why do you do this? They don't have to be in any particular order but this is what I'm after. Also, when I get an answer to the question, what is it that I want, what do you want, that is like now I know what to coach toward. Otherwise the container is almost too big. The aim of the coaching is too big. So what I want, again, helps aim my coaching but also helps me hold my client accountable when they start to maybe do some of those antics. Because the coaching, when you get into it, is gonna be asking your client to do something that is often uncomfortable and doesn't feel like themselves. They'll say things like, "It doesn't feel like me to do this. "It doesn't feel like me." But it is them. More on that in a minute. As soon as I've established these things, who are you, what is this moment for you, describe the moment, what is it for you, and what do you really want, I need to ask my client for consent. It's so, so simple, but it's so, so powerful. Had I asked that gentleman for that horror story I asked you earlier, if I had said, "Do you really want coaching today? "What is it that you want? "Would you like coaching on that?" And he had said, what likely would have been no, I don't have time or space for that today. And if he had said yes with resistance, I would have known where I was with it before I started giving him coaching. I'd like you to come back up please. Grab your mic. So I've got a sense of what you want. Let's imagine she's filled that in. I understand what we're after here, and I know the context. And I'm gonna ask just a very simple question. Ready? Everybody write this down. Are you ready? Would you like some coaching for that?
Yeah, that's it. That's the whole thing. Good. Have a seat. Thank you. Have a seat. That's it, that's it. That's it. Establishing what you're aiming at and then asking for consent for coaching. Now here's the thing. Once you've done that, you're going to empower now the relationship to receive coaching when otherwise you maybe wouldn't have. It kind of touches to the question that you asked earlier about what if they're resistant, what if they don't want it. So here is you're gonna invite consent by repeating what you heard and then asking for consent. So I'd be like, I'd say, okay, here's what I hear you wanting to do. This is a debut moment for you to really take up that territory and establish yourself as the person that is bridging art and tech. And that this debut moment is really crucial for you. And what you want is to establish your reputation as a deeply creative and enthusiastic champion for art and technology, as a resource, and a thought leader in your cohort. And lastly, that you are open for business. And if she says, "Yes, that's exactly what I want," I go, "Great. You want some coaching on that?" And she'll say yes, and here we are. But we don't go until that's done. Yeah? Cool, cool. But what if your client says, "No, I don't want any coaching on that"? What if they say, "No thanks"? One thing that's true is that if you come at, in my experience, if I come at my clients with an incredible amount of openness and love, sometimes it can be overwhelming and maybe even unbearable because they know if they say yes, they're in it with me. So it does happen sometimes that it's a little bit like, "No thank you." So what do you do with that? You don't have to be smart. You can just say, "Great." You're gonna scale your contribution to them, or your help to them, to fit the need. Okay, great. And you don't have the answer for that. What would you like? You don't have to have the answer. What would you like? Oh, I'd like some feedback on my content. Great, why don't you email it to me. We'll setup a half hour call, and we'll go through it together. Because feedback is not coaching, which, again, we'll talk about in a little bit. What would you like? I'd just like to do a dry run and then you can just give me some notes over email. Okay, fine. Because here's what will happen often. That can be the ramp to doing more deep coaching later. You don't have to reject a small ask even though you know you have the capacity to do much more. It can be just what they can tolerate and then just right then and there. So we're gonna meet them. If we go further than that, further than what they can take, it's not gonna go anywhere anyway, and both of you will remain frustrated. So we're gonna calibrate the coaching to the ask. I just mentioned that feedback and coaching are not necessarily the same things. And often, if they say, if I ask for consent, "Would you like to do some coaching with me," or, "Would you like coaching on that," and they say, "Eh," or, "No, I'd just like feedback," I will say, "Great. "Feedback is not coaching so when you get feedback from me, "here's what it's gonna be." After you get that feedback and you want some coaching on it, happy to work with you on that. So, coaching in my mind is different than feedback in that feedback is just the information. It's just the information. Here's what makes sense about your story. Here's what you can close the gap a little bit. Here's some recommendations potentially on the feedback if you'd like to offer it. Coaching is taking that information, the information you get from being open, from listening with both brains, all that, and turning it into an experience and a set of actions that they can call upon that makes change now and going on into the future. They're actually things to do, not just informational text. Now why I wanted to design this class was I saw a lot of, I see, a lot of fantastic PR professionals, fantastic executive communications program managers, people that work in culture building, folks that work on executive communications, folks that work on events, in marketing or otherwise. And they are fantastic at giving feedback, really strong feedback. And what I want for you, and for those of you who have those roles, is to be able to just take that feedback and turn it into an actionable coaching that doesn't leave your client trying to figure out what to do with that feedback. Because that's where the gap happens. We all get feedback and get go, "Great. "Great feedback, so insightful." And then alone in our rooms, what do I do with this? How do I actually action it? And when I do action it, and the experience of actioning it is not what I thought, then what do I do? I don't want the people in your communications communities to be alone with it. And if you can take the way you interact with them from feedback to real coaching, that is where you're gonna go from valuable to invaluable. So we're gonna get into what that is once we have both of these things together right now. So we've got the coaching stance and we've got the field. Now it's time to do the coaching. I'm gonna stop here and see if there are any questions, or comments, or stuck points for folks in the room, as well as folks who are streaming this right now, about establishing the field.
What if the client doesn't really have an idea of what they want exactly? They're having trouble articulating that and they're unsure.
Yeah, great. Bold move. To privilege ourselves to wanting something for them. So, I may ask all those early questions. Tell me about what the crucial communications moment is. Why are you doing it? Like more of a tactical question of why. Not the big why, but the, like, why are you doing it. Oh, I got invited. Or I submitted to give a talk. Or I just got promoted and I'm gonna be representing my project's work at a weekly all hands and now I've got to get my good game face on, right? It could just come with the role, it could be an invitation, it could be something you submitted for that you kind of got what you wished for. So I'm gonna answer all those tactical questions. And then when I ask, like, great, so you have this opportunity. What do you really want? And they say, "I don't know." One of the things I love to offer is like, well, if you did know, what would you say? And you'd be surprised how often people will be like, well, if I did know, I'd probably say this. With all that information from why are you doing this, what is it about, what's the context, what's the content, all that stuff, and listening with my whole self, to their body language, where they're resonant, I'm gonna make a bold move and want something for them. I'll say, "You know what I want for you? "I want for you to feel, to have an experience on stage, "where you sense that you're owning the room. "It's not about perfect content. "It's about letting you fill up "the room with your presence." And they'll say, "Yeah, that sounds great." Or they'll say, "Oh, no, that's not as useful. "I think I actually need to do this." I had a client this last year who had to give an opening ceremony speech in a very big stadium, piped across many television tubes and all the internet tubes. The things that she wanted for herself were great, and there were extra things I wanted for her, and we negotiated. We made that offer. So yes, I want you to... What I don't want for you is to have this be the one and done moment of your life. Because you will probably have more impact in smaller audiences where you can touch people more intimately. So what I want for you in this moment is competence and clarity. What I want for you going forward is to deliver on that competence, and clarity, and smaller conversations. And we were like yes, because it was an ongoing coaching engagement. So making an offer, a bold offer, and letting yourself be wrong. Here's what I want for you. Oh, you don't want that? Great. Maybe you do want. Because sometimes our clients need something to react to to be able to identify what they want.
I love that.
Yeah, it's easy, sometimes it's easier for us... I just submitted to give a talk at a conference and one of the questions was, "Are you creative?" Yes, no, or kinda. And I kinda put it in the kinda zone. But you think about even creative reviews, you have to give somebody something to react to and you get a lot more rich feedback that you can then course correct from. But something to react to is almost better than just a big, blank piece of paper. So there it is.
I was wondering when you're in the question asking and you're curious about them, how do you know when you have enough context and enough details?
Ha! Great question. Silly, silly answer. When I feel less stupid. Really. When I feel like I actually understand what's going on. There's no chart in the sky that says, when you have these five points of information you are complete. I notice in the answering when I feel all of a sudden full enough to be able to offer something. That's when I know I have enough. Because enough isn't necessarily about quantity. It's about the quality of the answers you're getting that get you what you need to move forward. Clarity enough to go like, okay, I see where this thing needs to go. So for example there was a moment with you in this last example where I basically cut her off and said, "Don't need to know that." That's more content. It's not necessarily more intelligence for me. That's a great conversation. Want to hear about it over dinner. In this moment it's extra. So I'm looking for not necessarily, like, I've checked all the boxes. It's more like when do I feel ready. I have enough that I feel ready to move forward. Which is sort of, it's really interesting, I did not plan this, but sort of goes back to the question in an earlier segment around how do I listen deeply without worrying about what I'm gonna say back and letting go of being smart. Actively letting go of having to know stuff and be smart is what creates room enough for you to fill your cup full enough of what you need to know in order to feel ready to go. I have to be a champion for my own not knowing. Yeah? Is that helpful?
Now, it's a little bit of a sloppy answer because it's not binary. It's not just put all the ones and the zeroes in the right place. It's very contextual and very dependent on your own experience of the conversation.