The Keys to Courageous Coaching
When I might be stuck with a client who's blocking something or there's something that feels not quite right about how they're showing up for me, like I can't get a sense that they're speaking from the heart, it's not that they're not doing a good job, it might be that they're showing something that is a protection, you know? That there is a positive intent in what a client is doing all the time, even the guy that I gave you an example a minute ago. He wasn't gonna receive coaching from me that day the way I was giving it. That's fine. His intent may have been that I don't know what happened before that, before our session, and what was gonna happen after. That could've been just a horrible terrible day and his way of surviving that day was just not having to take in more feedback from yet another person. So, there's... This sounds kind of silly maybe, but there's a forgiveness that I bring into this all the time, and even the most difficult client, whatever difficulty they're presenti...
ng to me, whether it's resistance or something, that that in itself has some positive intent. So, what is it that needs... What's behind it? Yeah, so overall, this is what I'm doin' all the time, believing in positive intent. So, when you think about courageous coaching, there are a few things that I need to actually do. So, those were sort of stances that I just mentioned, that I just shared with you, a perspective that I stand in. But those are things that my client isn't gonna sense are happening. They're sort of inside my own internal world that I'm bringing to the engagement, but then, there's stuff that I actually have to do. I can't just sit there silently being curious, right? So, what are the things that I need to actually do in to be courageous in my coaching and to actually get the coaching going? First one is this: make my clients do, not talk about what they're gonna do in their webinar. So often, I will sit with a new client, whether they ask directly for my coaching or they were, you know, one of their trusted partners recruited me to work with them, and maybe our review session, our coaching session, they'll assume is good enough if they just get my approval for the content. Let me just walk you through the thing and push the button and move through the slides and here's what I'm gonna talk about and here's what I'm gonna talk about. That is not coaching. So, I will very quickly stop them and say great, go ahead and do it. Speak it out like you're going to... like you'll do it tomorrow afternoon at 3:00. And that's like (mumbling) That's when you get a little bit of (mumbling). I usually rehearse at night by myself in front of the mirror. Okay, great, but I'm here, so you can rehearse with me right now. So, notice when our clients... We wanna always notice when our clients are talking about what they're going to do versus actually doing it. So, you have moments like this is like roleplaying for you. It's gonna show up in roleplaying. I'm sure you do a lot of roleplaying when you're prep... there it is. So, you talk about it long enough and then you go great, let's do it! And for folks that... For folks that are, who sort of are ready to take advantage of the coaching really deeply are like oh my gosh, I actually get to do it with you? Yes! In other cases it can be like oh, you mean like right here, right now? Yes, right here, right now. So, and in the doing is when you're gonna get the most information about what happens when somebody stands in front of somebody else and shows themselves 'cause talking about it is sort of disembodied, isn't it? So, getting to the doing, you know? Really? Stand up in this teeny tiny conference room right here? Yeah, stand up in this teeny tiny conference room right here, go for it. Oh, but we're on a Skype call. Okay, fine, or a Zoom call, fine, great. Stand up right there, I'll just... I'm lookin' at you. Stand up, get on your feet. So, doing, not talking about. So, also, this one is interesting to me which is for me to... I hope this makes sense, but it's to see the possibility in undesirable behaviors and then really try to work with them. If I have a client that's, for example, rushing, you know? Rushing is really common. You see it all the time when somebody stands in front of a room and goes through their script or is speaking freely. Rushing is a thing, it's pretty common. So, I might work with somebody who's rushing, and rushing is a problem 'cause I can't... My brain's not catching up with you. I'm not moving as fast as you are through your content. I'm listening to what you're saying, but also having my own internal dialogue with myself about what I think about what you're saying and the questions I might have and when I might raise my hand for a question and if I'm not going to, and there's a lot going on for me as I listen. So, rushing is a thing, but what I don't wanna do is stamp out the rushing. I don't wanna rid the world of the rushing. What I wanna do is see the possibility in that rushing as a place for the coaching. Ha, rushing is a thing that's going on. That's a rich territory to go toward, and I don't wanna stamp it out, I wanna get curious about it. So, you're moving really quickly. Do you notice that? 'Cause we assume, remember, our clients, their experience of themselves is not the same experience you're having. So, you can't assume that what you're seeing is something they're actually feeling. So, I'm gonna look at all the things I could touch. I could look at an undesirable behavior and I'm not gonna stamp it out, I'm gonna see that as the possibility, the territory of possibility, for the coaching. So, you're moving really quickly, do you know that? Oh, yeah, I've had that feedback before. Okay, great. So, what have you tried so far? What's having you rush? I'm not gonna jump straight to stop rushing. I'm gonna find out what's having you rush. Oh, well, you know, I just... These are weekly meetings, they happen all the time and I drive them, but I really just wanna get through the simple parts so that I don't feel like I'm wasting everybody's time and I can give people 15 minutes back. Okay, great, yet you're now a director, so you have... You're coming from a different perspective, maybe a different potential for impact, and you're rushing. And what that's making me feel, feel, is that what you're talking about isn't very important. Oh my gosh, really? I thought that I was just trying to take care of the business and get onto the good bits. So, it's a place to really... It's a rich place to explore. It's not a thing to get rid of. Does that make sense? Okay, might sound a little bit abstract, but I just... It's so easy to come into a coaching and look at seven things my client is doing wrong and then we're just gonna whack 'em down like a whack-a-mole. No, each one is a rich territory and has a huge amount of potential. Now, in that example before, it wasn't about eradicating the rushing, it's about helping this person place more importance on everything they say, about letting them, giving them the platform for what they bring to the conversation as important not disposable. That's not an issue of rushing, is it? It's an issue of elevating your own status with the people that you work with. So, rushing gets solved as soon as we start putting more importance on every word you're sharing, even if it's a weekly status meeting. See that? It's a better conversation to have than how do we stop you from talking so fast? Those are the kinds of conversations that, two years later, someone's gonna come back to you and say, you know what? You prepped me for that. It was the first time I ever facilitated a conversation on stage and you prepped me for it in a way that helped me find, make my words more important, and I've carried that with me ever since. Versus oh, some woman helped me not rush. Different, courageous. Okay, three. Let your clients struggle. (laughing) So, I hear laughing. Tell me what the laugh is about. Right over here.
I love the way that you said let your clients struggle because that's how they really go deep, right? 'Cause if you don't struggle, no pain, no gain.
That's a thing.
So, that's why I'm laughing, 'cause I'm with you.
The other, thank you. The other piece of letting our clients struggle a little bit is sometimes they solve the... If we do it for them, then they're taking on us, but if we let them struggle a little bit, they will solve their own problems and then they own it. And when they can own solving their own problems, they trust themselves going forward, and that's where the value of the coaching really is. It's not in the 45 minutes I spend with somebody, it's what they do with it for the next 100,000 years. So, letting our clients struggle is super important, and I think I'm gonna give you some examples a little bit later, but that means not giving them the answer. What should I do? I don't know, what would you like to do? I don't know. You're having a hard time putting importance on your, on each of your words. How might you solve that? Oh, you know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna really slow down. Oh, really, you're gonna really slow down? (laughs) Now we've solved two problems. We've empowered them to put or let them empower themselves to put more importance on their words and we've solved the rushing problem, and it came from them, not us. So, there it is. And more importantly, for me, it can be hard to know when enough is enough 'cause I don't want my clients to feel alone or like they're struggling too much, but just enough for them to maybe see something and offer themselves something to solve it, right? And to get embodied with it. Be declarative. Oh, this is really... This is a thing to do, and I'll give you a quick example of where it served me really really well. I did some work in Turkey a handful of years ago and there was a moment where the most senior person on this campaign team was going to be stepping on stage and speaking about something very important. I'm really trying very hard to anonymize this. Speaking about something really important immediately after a brand video was gonna be shown, like 90 second beautiful, cinematic, iconic, paired with powerful music brand video. In our rehearsals... Now, I will say that I had already come to the... I had established my coaching stance. I had established the coaching field, which we're gonna get into in a little bit, so we had a nice, strong container. It was the first time that he, in rehearsal, had seen the brand video. He stepped to the side, let it run, and then he was to stand up to the podium and pick up where he left of on his... It was actually all telepromptered, scripted work, and he got up and he sort of did this sort of kinda a little bit not really... He wasn't as whole as he was three and a half minutes ago. So, I noticed it. I don't know if others had noticed it, but I asked my... I asked a woman who ran the room if we could clear the room, and she did, and I approached him and asked him what's going on. He said (clears throat) nothing, nothing, nothing, let's go again, take it from the top. I went no, no, no, no, no. I saw a thing, I saw a thing as I was listening with my two brains. I saw a thing. I don't know what it was, but I'm gonna say you're afraid you're gonna cry, aren't you? Because this brand video was so powerful to him and it was such a strong platform for what he was gonna say, and it was sort of a climax of his career, it was a moment in time for him, that it got him choked up and what he pushed it right back down. But I needed to name that 'cause he wasn't going to do it. So, I had to say, I had to say to him you're going to cry. You're worried you're going to cry, aren't you? I didn't even say aren't you, I just said you are afraid you are going to cry, and he said how did you know that? If I had asked him are you afraid that you might get a little bit choked up before you step, what would he say? No (mumbling). No, no, no, no. It's actually pretty accurate, (mumbles). So, it is an example of how being declarative about what I see, trusting my read. I was happy let go if I was wrong, but let him step into an honest conversation about what was going on so that we could help realign him, and what are the strategies that you could use in case it comes up that you're so moved that when you have to pick up your script where you left off, you could do that in a way that is aligned to where you left it off before the brand video went live. See that? So, I have to be declarative. I also have to be willing to be wrong and let go. So, this is a really powerful tool for me because it helps me hold my... It helps me hold my clients accountable, and this is courageous coaching, not careful coaching. Second part here is you're not gonna make a declaration and then add a bunch of caveats about how it might be wrong and it's okay and we'll just come find, you know. We're just gonna say the thing and see what happens, and if it's not accurate you can go, huh, I misread that. What do you think is going on? What did you notice, what happened? Tell me what happened in that moment, yeah? Great. Let go of the demo. Oh, this is particularly important if you're coaching somebody who is going to be communicating in a context you're very competent in. It's very tempting to say just do it like this and then demonstrate it and then have them copy you because then the problem with that is what? It's then they're copying you, which does not have a lasting impact on helping them speak in a way that is aligned to who they are going forward. See that? Now, I made the mistake last year of doing, in a coaching session, my client convinced me to demo it for her. Mostly because she doesn't do as well... And I said yes. She doesn't do as well in the abstract. She needs something super concrete. So, she said will you just do it for me and I said no. She said yeah, but please, and I went, under these conditions. It worked, it was helpful for her, but I knew, I knew it was sort of a cheater cheater pumpkin eater way out, you know? So, we're gonna let go of the demo as much as possible, which requires you let your client struggle instead of sit and watch you and go yeah, great, I'll do it like you, yeah? So, Irina, I think about your example in running strategy sessions. It could be very tempting to say when we do collaborative strategy, brainstorms, here are the things I like to do. To say hey, here are the three questions that have been very useful for me, what would your version of those be? Or what are the three things you're actually curious about? Or what do you really wanna say in that moment? And it won't leave the coaching, right? Put it back on them as much as possible. Great. This one, pay absolute attention absolutely. There is... This is a really... I mean, this one, for me, is sort of loaded because sometimes when I'm paying such attention I can have a scowl on my face, which is not necessarily good for my client, but our clients know when we're paying attention. They know. They can feel it, they can sense it, and when I'm stepping into a coaching, and I'll invite you, but when you're stepping into a coaching, have that be all that's going on. I am... I wanna be so present that I actually done even have a notebook in front of me. In fact, sometimes I make my clients write the notes down, not me, because it's their experience. So, I... As much as possible, we're paying really close attention, and sometimes when I fall off, I'll say you know what? I just lost it. Can we go back and... Can you go back and do that again? I got caught in something you said and I'm... I wasn't there for the last five sentences. Let's take it from the top again. So, I'm trying as often as possible to be transparent about where my level of attention is because I know that that is where the... That is where the information is, that is where the coaching is. It seems really obvious, but if you're somebody who's doing the same kind of coaching over and over and over and over again, if you're prepping... If you do your training, your interview skills training, or whatever it is, the briefing that you do twice a week for five years in your role, it can be really hard. It can be really hard to really hold it and remember that every engagement is super bespoke, the person in front of you is not the person that was in front of you last time. So, this one is really... This one's really crucial to me, and this requires some self-care. If I'm losin' it and I can't pay attention any longer because we have a half a day coaching or an all day coaching, I have to take breaks. I have to do what I need to help me stay in attention with the people that I work with. So, really, when I think about your coaching stance, which combines both the stance and the things to do, it really... What you're doing is you're coaching to possibility, I am. Now is a little time, again, to take some questions or some comments or if you wanna bring up scenarios that you're struggling with. Anything from the folks who are watching online, I'm happy to take that now.
So, with paying absolute attention, do you have any tips? I guess... Let me rephrase this. So, a lot of times, I feel like I'm listening to have a conversation, kind of listening and thinking about what I'm gonna say to respond, and I know that's something I need to work on. So, do you have any tips on how to listen to actually be listening rather than thinking about what you're going to say next.
Yeah. These are gonna maybe feel a little abstract, but here we go. Let go of what you're gonna say and slow time down a little bit. So, I will, because I'm trying to be open and let as much information come in as possible, I don't, when I'm in a coaching, I don't put very much pressure on myself to respond until I see something that matters. You know what I mean? Here's the other piece: you don't have to be so smart. I mean, early in my coaching it was like I need to be... I need to say something important really soon. You're laughing 'cause you know that feeling. We all, we wanna add value, we wanna make sure that they feel like we're listening. You wanna put, you wanna add something into the container that matters, and sometimes, just holding the container and letting it be spacious is what our clients need. They are in conversations with people all day long justifying their position, backing up what they're doing, explaining things to one another. This coaching container is so much more about being with one another. So, I think you don't have to be so smart. You don't have to be good. I think that's kind of it. I remember an early mentor saying that to me, stop trying to be smart, and when we do that, I think... when I do that, I can listen differently. Is that helpful to you?
Yeah, sure, sure. Anybody else? Anything online?
So, we've got Gary (mumbles). If somebody is saying the right things in a talk, but you're getting the vine that they don't feel right, how would you coach them on coming across as more at harmony with what they're speaking about?
So, I don't... I could ask a lot of questions about this. Right off the bat, I would say do you care about this? 'Cause usually when the story's right but the feeling isn't, I'm like, do you actually believe what you're saying? Do you care about what you're saying? Because if you do, I'm not feeling that, and I wanna feel that from you. Let's play with that together. If you don't, that's another conversation. See that? So, I'm not actually doing coaching yet, I'm just being transparent about what's feeling... About my experience of you. Man, I am, from a content perspective, I am buying what you are selling, but I don't think you are. Do you care about this? That would be where I would go first, and then from there, I would unpack those two avenues. Yes, I care, but it's not coming through, so let's play with that. You know what, I hate to say it, you're right, I don't. This would be an opportunity also to be declarative. If you're feeling super courageous and you have a nice strong coaching container, you might find an opportunity to really say you don't care, that's when I'm gettin' You don't care. You sound like a boss, you don't care. See that? Saying everything right, wow, it's so polished. In fact, it's so polished it feels like you're in another room and you're just sayin' the words perfectly. Yeah, I hope that's helpful, Gary.
I've got another one from Christy here that asked how do you isolate the person you're coaching? 'Cause often, people are in roles where they're the key person for input to the executive. So, comms, marketing, other execs. So, how do you perhaps cut through some of the noise surrounding the person that you're coaching.
Entourages are a problem. They're, no, they are a problem. When you're in a really... When you're in a context where the person that you might be supporting or coaching, either opportunistically or officially, entourages are a problem. So, a couple of things. Do you have a producer that is attached to that executive or that executive team that you can back channel with before the coaching to find out when the best time would be to connect privately? Or do you have a hand signal that you can give them to distract their entourage? I am not kidding, are there... How do you game out creating a container where some quick, but important coaching could happen, where otherwise, if there's a bunch of people standing around listening or piping in over your shoulder, that's always fun too, that's one way you can do it. Work with their handler or their, right? If they know the coaching is gonna happen ahead of time, do they have... If it's not producer on the event side, do they have a chief of staff, do they have an EA, do they have somebody that you can game out to make sure that... I'm not gonna be very useful to your executive unless we have these conditions. How can you help me match, meet them, right? The other is if you find yourself in a moment, maybe you're an executive producer, maybe you're working with the talent that's gonna be speaking at your event and their entourage is there, maybe you're in a walk through and there's 20 or 30 production people walking around. You're gonna want to physically get real close to the person that you're working with. Maybe you're walking next to their stage direction, I don't know, and they are working on their teleprompter and they're, all of a sudden you see a coachable moment, you might wanna get physically close enough to say so this is something we could work on together, but it might be better if we worked on it privately. Is that something you can have arranged? And then that person can say yes, everybody get out (laughs). So, that proximity to that person is really important. You don't have to manage the crowd necessarily. Think about managing the leverage points that you can pull on to make that container, that private container, more possible. I hope that's helpful to Christy.