A few weeks ago, 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 I decided it could be fun to go pick their brains a bit. I sat with them to talk about coaching and some of the key skills coaches need to develop.
I have already presented one part of the conversation and this is the second excerpt (together with their free webinar on February 7th) leading up to their first delivery of the course in mid-March.
In our previous conversation, we talked about the importance of active listening in coaching and how we must be present, let go of our own inner dialogue and reactions so we can be there for the other person when we coach. I asked Louise and Steffan if this means that you completely disappear when you are coaching someone. Here is where their conversation went next…
Steffan: It doesn’t mean that you disappear, you are still there. I think it’s about finding a balance because there is a place where our life experience as people can be useful to the person that we are coaching.
Louise: I usually think that it’s OK as long as I make it clear that here is where Louise the person, not just Louise the listener, has something to offer. “Steffan, I would like to offer my perspective on what you said. You don’t have to agree, but would you like to hear it?”
Steffan: To add to what you are saying, there is also the notion of asking for permission before offering something to be considered by the person you are coaching. What is important as well is not to fall into the trap of having the conversations that YOU want to have rather than the one that will be helpful for the person you are coaching.
Louise: Yes, and you know how a powerful question can be a way to get a coachee out of his thinking pattern and reflect on his story? The same can happen if you invite the coachee to listen to you because now he has to get out of his own navel and listen to your story.
Gabriel: It sounds to me that there is more to coaching than simply following a method. It also sounds like being coached by Steffan will be a different experience than being coached by Louise. What would you say is the main benefit of coaching from the perspective of the person being coached?
Louise: I think anyone who has tried to be listened to at the level of coaching will agree that it feels really nice. It really feels like you are being heard and respected and that you are worthy of attention.
Steffan: I believe that deep, active listening is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to the people we are coaching. In the society we live in and the places that we work at, everything is fast, fast, fast. We barely take time to listen to the people that are closest to us. When almost a perfect stranger is willing to give us his undivided attention, it can a bit jarring, but once you experience that deep listening, it is also a gift.
Louise: I agree. I think the gift here is to listen for what is behind the words, what the coachee is really trying to achieve. Maybe it is about living certain values or ethical standards like : “I don’t want to do it because I don’t want to be that kind of person. This is who I am, and this is what I want to do, and this is right for me.”
Steffan: I try to listen to people’s personal beliefs around how they see and connect to the world; to how they interact with people around them, to what soothes them and excites them. There is an entire system here.
Louise: Sometimes, we get caught up in all these things that are important to us, where our values and aspirations can end up causing trouble for us because we can become rigid around them. How can you help a coachee see and honour that? Maybe you recognize some rigidity, but the underlying aspirational value is beautiful. It should be honoured and it is important, but maybe there is something about the implementation. Especially if the coachee is using words like “should” or “must not.”
Steffan: Here is where you can help a coachee listen to what is really important to him/her because sometimes he/she may not even know. When you start listening for the tone of voice, look at what the body is doing, and try to listen for the underlying motivations, the hopes and the fears, I think that is where we start to see the whole person. When we see the whole person, we may be able to see alignment and misalignment and perhaps what the real struggle is.
Louise: Yes, coaching can help people make sense of themselves, not just their rational self, but their whole person. We sometimes forget that we are more than just brains at work. Not all decisions are rational and there are so many issues we cannot solve with logic alone. We have to get our ears dirty and listen to what makes us human.
Steffan: I agree. Being listened to at that level gives a real sense of worthiness. I even believe that being able to listen at that level is a skill that transcends coaching.
I hope you enjoyed eavesdropping on our little conversation! I invite you to join us on our new coaching course on March 15, 16 and 29! Louise and Steffan will explore further how coaching fits into the landscape of today’s organizations and you will begin practising essential coaching skills.