Last week, Louise Kold-Taylor and Steffan Surdek were in our offices at Pyxis working on the new coaching course they are building together. I noticed how much fun they were having and decided it could be fun to go pick their brains a bit. I went to sit with them for a bit to talk about coaching and some of the key skills coaches need to develop.
I will present parts of their conversation in a short series of posts leading up to their free webinar on February 7th as well as their first delivery of the course in mid-March.
Gabriel: Thanks for agreeing to this guys! Really nice of you to take the time to talk like this! Let’s jump right into the interview. What do you feel is the top skill that coaches need to develop?
Steffan: Active listening!
Louise: Oh yes, definitely active listening!
Gabriel: What can you tell me about active listening? What is it?
Steffan: I believe that for coaches, active listening is being able to reflect back what people are telling you. It matters because people often do not quite realize what they’re saying.
Louise: I think that active listening also has a non-verbal listening component to it. You are telling me your story, and your body language and your emotions speak volumes too. I want to reflect back to you, this is what I’m hearing. As a coach, I need to let go of my hypothesis and not be attached to my interpretation. I am really just offering what I hear as a gift to you, and you can do what you want with it. It is not about me being right or wrong, that doesn’t matter. What’s important is if it is useful for you to hear.
Steffan: That’s interesting, because what you are bringing in now as part of active listening is the quality of presence. How much am I really listening to you? How much am I actually paying attention to what you are saying and what you are expressing? How closely am I paying attention? Am I present and avoiding the noise in my head as a coach? All this can interfere with what I am hearing. Sometimes, my preferences kick in and then I may start coaching myself and I am not coaching you anymore.
Louise: I think the biggest trap for a coach is all the layers of “What you are saying reminds me of my own story, or another story I heard from someone I coach;” how to actually let go of everything we know. I believe that’s the hardest part when you start coaching people, because everything people say reminds you of something. I have opinions, and expertise, and all the blah blah blah that I want to apply to be helpful.
Steffan: Sometimes when we lack presence, we do not even realize that we are bringing our own baggage inside the conversation. We can even miss that maybe what we are saying is not even resonating with the person that we are coaching. Then we are talking to ourselves, and the coachee wonders, “What just happened here?”
Louise: Yes, and then the people you are coaching have to start defending themselves: “That’s not what I said! That’s not what I meant! That’s not true in my situation.” Then they stop. Then they’re no longer listening to themselves through you. That’s what happens.
Gabriel: Why is all this important though? Why is it important to be present as a coach?
Steffan: Being in service to the other person is the most important thing. You need to really, really, really be there for the person that you are coaching. It means that sometimes you need to be able to let go of what you are feeling so you can be there for the other person.
Gabriel: Does that mean that you disappear completely when you are coaching someone?
Louise: That is a question that a lot of people ask! I will tell you what, maybe we should talk about this more next time…
I hope you enjoyed eavesdropping on our little conversation! I invite you to join our free webinar on February 7, 2018! We will explore more of the topic of coaching in organizations in a live conversation between Louise and Steffan.