The Coaching Stance
For me the coaching stance that I wanna step into as a coach is about making courageous coaching possible. So, like I mentioned before, it really starts with me. And I hope that you'll see that it starts with you as well. There are sort of six key elements in my mind that I could write down when I was thinking about how is it that I do what I do. I think that the thing that is most important first is to maintain a sense of openness. And this is because every time you're gonna work with somebody you're not gonna just focus on what it is that they're saying, we don't wanna keep just a narrow focus on here's what I'm hearing them say, let's unpack, let's unpack that. But you might wanna be listening for, you wanna think about openness as broadening your view, making your peripheral vision really wide to let all kinds of other information come in. What they're doing with their body, the tone of their voice. Maybe even introducing a conversation about something unrelated to work to get a pe...
ek into like where their passions lie and what lights them up, and what happens when they get lit up. That's an interesting thing to me all the time. Like if I'm super open to let something from outside the coaching come into the coaching I get clues to where someone feels lit up. I see clues to where they get most alive and I can then pursue that. Where if I'm just having a very narrow view of sort of what belongs in the coaching and what belongs outside of the coaching then I end up missing a lot of super useful information. The other thing I think about openness is it sort of touches on that bespoke nature of so much of this, is that I have to be open myself to being impressed. I have to be open to what kind of experience I might have of this person. And that means me not deciding how its gonna go before it goes. So it helps me be, it helps me keep, it helps me keep myself sort of poised for possibilities when I really bring a stance of openness into my engagements. I think the next, the next one that's really important, of course, is listening. And listening at a level that you maybe don't listen all the time, because we are listening from a different perspective, but really like listening in a way that you have almost singular focus, while you're at the same time maintaining an openness that you let other information come in. Deep listening. And listening, to me in this context, is sort of, I'm using two things, I'm using my brains, I'm using my head and I'm using my gut. Or you can think of my head and my heart. I am listening so clearly to yes, the content piece, I'm using my thinking self as I'm listening to somebody I'm working with, but I'm also being super open to what is my gut feeling? What is my gut hearing? What kind of impact is this person having on me? So you could imagine, imagine for a second, and this is a little exercise that those of you who are watching remotely can do as well, and I'll be your subject. There's nothing to really do here, there's just a thing for you to notice. So here's what it's gonna look like. So I'm your client, I'd like you to just think for a moment, notice what are you hearing? What is your brain noticing and listening to? My content, what questions do you have maybe, what are you thinking about as I talk about how to coach a keynote class? Like what are the things that are sort of coming into your awareness from a thinking perspective? Now as I've been talking for a while how am I making you feel? And I'm not actually asking you to evaluate me, I'm not asking you to decide whether I'm good at this or not good at this. I'm not asking you to judge. And this is sort of the tricky part of me, even as a coach, to not quickly sum something up, but instead, just listen very carefully. Like is this person feeling, do I feel doubtful? Do I feel nervous around this person? As I listen do I feel scared? Do I feel confused? Do I feel empowered? Do I feel alive and awake? Do I feel excited? Do I have some sense of anticipation in my body? What are all of these ways that we're listening with our guts that help inform where we might go with the coaching when it's paired with what we're actually listening to in terms of content? Right? 'Cause somebody could develop an explanation of our new strategy going forward and the story could make sense, but there's just something that doesn't, I'm like, hm. Right? At the same time you could have something that doesn't make sense at all, I could listen to your strategy explanation and go like, wait, there's stuff that's not working, but boy, you have, I wanna stay with you, there's something about how you're reaching to explain it to me that makes me feel like right here with you right now. So we can't uncouple those two things, they work together, and so I listen from both of those perspectives all the time, as much as I possibly can. Cool. So we just did this little exercise on two brains, listening with your head and listening with your gut. And by the way, while I'm doing coaching I often can't do them both at the same time, so I'll just have my client talk out loud, like go through the first section, go ahead and go through the first section of your talk or your keynote or your webinar that you're gonna deliver, and I'll just let them go. 'Cause I need like a minute or two to listen to does the story makes sense? What's not clear? What kind of questions do I have? And then I need a separate minute and beat to go like, oh, what is my gut feeling about this experience with this person? What do I really want from them? What are they leaving me? Yeah. So you don't have to have those happening at the same time. You can kind of check in with one, and then check in with other. Okay, now here's the thing, if you come into the coaching engagement with openness and you're listening with two brains there's gonna be a moment where you start to get a real strong read on someone, where I get a really strong read on someone. And the key is for me here is to trust my read, 'cause when I actually do the intervention, when I design something for someone to do I have to have something to stand on, right? And usually the thing I'm standing on is my read. Here's what I'm sensing, here's what I'm hearing, here's what we're gonna do about it. So without that, if we're sort of like, oh no, I don't know if I can trust my own read, maybe it's just me, I'm not quite sure. We don't have a really strong platform to stand on. So I remember very early in my coaching, this was nerveracking for me, I remember feeling really like how can I judge someone and then have them do something based on my singular judgment in that moment? Well, if I go back to one, my job is to love them and to come at the coaching with a lot of openness and I'm listening with two brains, I gotta have something to stand on to design an intervention. So I'm gonna trust what I see, but then let go very quickly. So I can trust what I see, I can try something with a client, and if it doesn't work that's okay, now I know, I've tested that theory, go onto the next one. So I'm not having a strong attachment all the time to the thing that I'm seeing and feeling, 'cause I could be wrong. But it is my true experience in that moment, that's fine. So trusting your read when you listen with your head and your gut and then let go if it changes. This can be a really empowering platform as well, because you can run a lot of experiments. You don't get too stuck on whether you're right or not, you just trust it, try it, and move on. And that leads to this one, which is really about having a stance of being experimental. We wanna let ourselves and our clients be experimental. We wanna bring, and so I know that I say things like, let's try something and see if it works. Would you like to run a experiment with me? So I have three things I wanna do and I'm not quite sure which one's right, will you try them all with me? So that we go into together in the coaching with this stance of experimentation. And then seeing what works for me as a listener as I continue to listen with my head and my gut and I'm also listening to whether it's resonant for the person delivering their story or how they're contributing in a meeting, whether it's resonant and right for them. So this notion of being experimental to me helps me, gives me the freedom to trust my read and then let go over and over again. And you will always find more stuff to do with your clients. Also, because they're super smart, your clients are super smart, and if you get stuck they will help you. They will help you. They know a lot about themselves. Okay, and the last one is curiosity. This one is very powerful for me and I hope that this is not an unfamiliar notion to you. But if I am standing in a stance of openness, if I am listening with my two brains, if I am really in a place of experimentation I get to follow my curiosity to help feed those things. I get to follow my curiosity about where, who is this person? What matters in their life? What do I care about as I listen to them? So here are some of the questions that I'm holding in my heart when I'm working with someone that you can use as well, which is who are you? Like really who are you? I want to know. I'm so deeply curious all the time about who you are and maybe who you were and who you are now that that can really fuel where the intervention that I might create, that fuels the intervention that I might create for them. And also, what really lights them up? And it doesn't have to be just about the work that they do, but it could be something outside of it. Again, we're gonna have that nice open, that open sense. If I get stuck with somebody and I don't know where to go with them I'm gonna drop the topic that we're working on and I'm gonna ask them what they do on the weekends. I'm gonna talk to them about, I'm gonna ask them about some of the fun stories that they can recall about early times in their career. I'm gonna get off of the thing that we're on and try to bring in new information, open the doors to new information to come in. Again, openness. That's very helpful, 'cause if I can't find this in the content that we're dealing with around the business issue I need to let some other air in. And curiosity will help me know where to go with that. Maybe they have a crazy haircut like mine and so I'm curious, like so have you always had crazy short hair that sticks straight up? When did that change? And how'd you do that? What was the instigation for that? Like I literally going down simple things like that, because they help me, they create an access point that is sometimes not super obvious when you're doing the official, official thing. And why is it? I always wanna know, like why is it that you do what you do in whatever role that you're in? Why is it that you do what you do? And so that gives me a little clue also into what motivates them and if we can bring forward what motivates them it's easier, it becomes easier for me to tie what motivates them to the content that they have to be talking about, whether it's in your webinar, or in an interview, yeah. So this is, curiosity to me is everything. And sometimes I'm even really transparent about what I'm curious about and have to ask permission to like go there. I'm super curious about your crazy hair, can we talk about that for a minute? (laughs) Yeah. So this is to me, let me see what's next on my slide, so this is my coaching stance. I'm gonna go talk about believe positive intent in a second. Before I go there I'm curious, I'm curious, do you have any questions or comments about any of these elements of the stance? And this is opened up to you online as well. Open, listening, exercise your two brains, trusting your read, experiment, and curious. What comes up for you? Which one's most interesting to you or resonant?
I do have a question, when it comes to listening with your two brains, there's a time when they might be conflicting each other. One might say yes, but your gut's saying no. So how do you go about that?
Yeah, can you give me an example of, can you give me an example? Like let's say what?
Say, let's say so I'm talking to my mentee and telling her, she's asking whether or not she should go with taking this class for her schedule. So it's like yes, you can get ahead, no, you're going to have like a really heavy course load. And then it's kind of like figuring out maybe like that yes or no when it's conflicting.
Right, right, right, right. Okay, I got it, I got it, I got it, I got it, I got it, that's good. So earlier I said our clients know a lot of stuff and they will help us coach them all the time, so when I get stuck about which one to believe in my own listening, like wait, which one's dominant? Which one's the one I wanna follow? Which one has curiosity around it for me? I often will tell my client, hey, I'm a little stuck, I wanna go two directions here. Like can you tell me a little bit about which one you'd like to go in? Or which do you think would be more fruitful for you? So in that case I would actually turn that back to her and say, look, I've got two messages going on here, I'm listening to you and yes, yes, yes, and all the content, that's great, but there's a strong sense of like, oh, backing up here around the commitment for this thing you wanna say yes to, and whether this actually is gonna have value for you. What do you think? So my clients over and over again, I can't think of a real example right now, but if I do I'll bring it up. But yeah, I think we have to rely on the wisdom of our clients over and over again. We're not there, that's why it's called coaching and not advice. You're laughing, what's the laugh about?
I would say sometimes it goes, it naturally tends to go, oh I'm advising you, but where I always like, no, let's go back to like the whole purpose of this, which is coaching you and like figuring out together.
Exactly, exactly. And this has been true for me at every single level. Early in my career, or when I'm teaching classes with folks that are sort of early in their career, mid level, all the way up to the most senior leadership, I am always turning it out, going here's what I'm hearing, I'm not sure which one to go with, where would you like to go? And we figure it out together. And also because look, our clients, they don't, it's theirs, in the end it's theirs. And so we do have to do it together, but in the end they're walking away with it, it's their experience, it's their voice, it's their life. So we have to, I find that I have to over and over again involve them in the process. I think of it almost the opposite, like I'm involving myself in their process. I'm just bringing a set of questions and this stance to our engagement. Any other questions or comments? Anything online coming through?
Yeah, Kristen had said, what about if you're working with somebody and you don't understand the content, how do you get around that?
Oh, oh, who's that, Kristen?
She's the executive producer?
I can't remember.
I can't remember, but yes, yes, this is a good one. (laughs) Okay, to be really honest, here's what I do, I'm sorry, I don't understand a word you're saying. (audience laughs) Now remember earlier I said the kind of coaching that I wanna help you do in the world is courageous. Now if you come to the coaching without love, if you come to the coaching without openness and listening and right, that's gonna sound hard to hear. But if you set up, we'll talk about that quick trust, when you set up the coaching field, if that's well established I will so often say the simple thing, like I don't understand, I don't understand the story, I'm sorry, I can't, I don't get it, you've lost me. And then I will say, help me understand. Here's where I got lost. I've got a gap here and I don't know how to close it, help me close it. And is it because I wasn't listening the right way or is it because there's something missing in the story? Does that help? Does that make sense? I hope so. So yeah, and this is something that was hard to learn a while ago, hard to learn for me. 'Cause I get into, and we get into this, like I'm supposed to deliver a piece of coaching that is like I'm the wise one. No, I'm just almost making transparent the things that we're all just sort of pretending aren't there. Yeah.
I am curious, because coaching, it's a two-way kind of engagement. It's not like, you can love your client, but the client should also be there to receive your energy.
Yes, yes, that's a thing.
So I would love to ask like in terms of like what is the characteristics you're also looking for in order to have a, be a good client?
That's great. So we're gonna get into that in a little bit when we talk about the coaching field and how we establish that. I will say right now though that it is true that the quality of the coaching is not dependent just on, the outcome of the coaching isn't just dependent on us. It's dependent on who's standing in front of us. Now we can influence how it's gonna go by creating a strong container, by showing up with some of these, this stance that I'm talking about, but yes, it is reciprocal. They have to come and be receptive. Letting go is a big piece of this. Like knowing that, trusting, and loving them doesn't necessarily mean having a successful coaching. Sometimes loving them is recognizing where they're, what they're willing to accept and what they're not, and then not being punitive about that. Really just being like this is as far as we could go today, period. So years ago I was part of this annual, actually twice a year technology conference and I would meet with folks who were presenting there in different tracks multiple times. Early in their outlining process, when their content was 80% done, and then on-set before they went live. I think that's really were I cut my teeth, 'cause it was like every hour on the hour for 10 days straight people I didn't know walk into the room and say, hi, I'm your coach, right. I mean, that's kind of tough too, 'cause there's a moment where it's like, I'm sorry, somebody thought I needed coaching, nobody asked me, you know? So I had to kind of overcome that as well. I had this one client, again, these people did not ask for coaching, it was part of their, if they wanted to present at this conference, this is part of their compulsory set of activities. This gentleman was late in my session, I met with him in the actual, not in a rehearsal room, but in the actual presentation room. And he came kind of rushing in, dropped his bag, I was sort of sitting in a chair sort of maybe halfway in the middle of the audience, and the room's empty except the folks in the booth and then the track owner, person who was accountable for the quality of that session. And he introduced himself to me, I introduced myself to him, and I was, hey, great, get him miked up, like let's go, let's see how it goes. Let's get you on your feet and like so nice to meet you, let's go. So he started to go and he was horrible. Like, and I say that with deep love and respect, he was just, it was really hard to both grasp his content and his, the feeling of him in front of the room. There was just, it was tough. And so I said, okay, I'm here to coach, I'm gonna coach. So I gave him an intervention, a thing to try. And he tried it and couldn't do it. So okay, I'm gonna give you something else to try. And gave it to him and he couldn't really do it. So I gave it to him again, but rephrased it, still couldn't really do it. We got 40 minutes into our coaching session and it was just not going anywhere. And I, there was a moment where he asked me, so did I get any better? And I said, no, actually you didn't, not today. Today is not the day that is the day you're gonna move this in a way that is significant, and that's okay. We both left, I, of course, felt a little bit like, blah, heavy about it, right, of course. But I also recognized that like I wasn't gonna keep banging my head, more importantly, I wasn't gonna keep banging his head against the wall to try to make him do something that wasn't in the cards for that day. So I had to honor that and listen to it and walk away from it. Now I had an accountability in that though, which was that I didn't spend enough time in the first moments of our engagement to create the field of coaching that would allow for receptivity. I didn't ask him what he wanted out of the session, I was just worried that my client, who was sitting in the back audience, was happy with how hard I was coaching this guy. You know? And that's not what it was, I got off track, I got off track. So yes, recognizing receptivity is super important and you don't need to do that in the middle of the coaching, you can do that at the front end. Understand what did they come to you for? What do they want? Are they ready? How ready? What are they looking to have? What is coaching mean to them? So understanding that will help you be more successful with them. Any comments or questions coming in?
Good from online.
Okay, great. You had a question just a minute ago, yeah, hi. And go ahead and grab your mic, so folks online can hear you, hi.
Hi, I'm Reva.
So I'm a functional medicine physician and I also coach, so I help people.
Good, can we talk later, 'cause I have some stuff?
Absolutely. (laughs) So I love your approach of just being open and just brutally honest about where you stand or I stand as a coach, 'cause I find myself, I have one particular client in mind who, he's a younger gentleman in high school and he's very overweight and there's a certain amount of emotional intelligence that isn't there. And trying to help him connect to his purpose. But I'm realizing it's also on me too to connect to my purpose and how I'm gonna bring what he needs to the table.
So sometimes I find myself giving more advice versus sharing like, okay, I'm lost here.
Can I jump in on that before you ask the question?
So that's so tempting. When I feel destabilized in a coaching engagement I notice I start going into advice mode and it's not actually, it's not my best coaching. It's not coaching, it's advice, it's different. So I love that you're acknowledging that, that's a real thing. Yeah, we'll talk a little bit more about that later, but yes, is there a question inside of there? Or you just wanted to point that out?
Yeah, I wanted to point that out and I guess get direction on how, like where do you find that middle ground of being like, okay, well I'm not sure where to go with this and providing some value to help them move where they need to go?
Sure, so I live in the world very specifically around communications coaching, so I'm a little out of my depth talking to you about the territory that you live in every day, but I think, say the question again, say the question again to me.
How do you find a middle ground between, I guess, it's letting go of the tendency to give advice versus, I don't know, right.
Staying in questions and curiosity and shared accountability for that, right?
So a couple things that I do, (laughs) I'll just tell you what I do, a couple things I do, I take a break. Literally I take a break. I sometimes, I think it's also different for you, because if you're working with somebody who's in their sort of teen and developing years versus folks that I'm working with who are sort of mid-career, but I often will take a break. I often will tell my client I'm stuck. This is going back to what I shared with you earlier. Like, uh, there's lots of places to go here and I'm not sure which one to go with. What questions do you have? What do you wanna work on? Like where are you right now? Sometimes I also will ask that question, where are you? I'm listening to you and I'm right here, but I'm kind of like, I don't know where to be with you on this. Where do you wanna go? Also, curiosity is very, is very powerful to me. I have to, when I get stuck I will go back to ask myself, what am I curious about? And it could sometimes be like, wow, so when you said that you put your hand in the air, what's that all about? Or when you said that you were smiling, what's going on? So I'm curious about, not just the content of what they're saying, but like how is their body aligning with the content of what they're saying and is that a thing I can follow? Because it's super, sort of, I can't argue with it, when you said that you smiled. Curious, what's going on there? And sometimes they're like, I don't know, I did? Yeah, you did. All right, well let's go back and talk about it. So curiosity and taking a break. Like I said, this is the first time I'm writing this down, so there might be more in here, but these are the things that when in doubt I can remind myself, Dia, be experimental, Dia, be curious, Dia, be open, Dia, keeping listening over and over again. When I get lost I go back to these things.