Listen. Deeply.

Day 3 of my workshop was great! Learn a LOT! I mean it’s so much that I need at least a week’s vacation just to digest fully let alone create plans to apply it in my business. That said, I’m inundated by how simple some of the most profound systems and processes are. But it takes time to reach that level of simplicity. And Marshall Goldsmith says it the best, “don’t confuse simplicity for ease.”

Nonetheless, I had the opportunity to both coach and observer a coaching session. It’s enlightening to see people differ in coaching styles. Some are to the point and insistent on sticking to their agenda (which is great!) while some are gentler on the client and are patient enough to listen and then guide them to the agenda. Could there be a third way? I think there is — a person-centered approach, wherein you, the coach actually listens to what’s been said.

That level of listening calls for courage, humility, and discipline beyond anything else I personally know of. Why? Because executive coaching is time sensitive. Yet these very executives face challenges that go beyond the coach’s or organization’s agenda. And it’s quite important to address that (if not solve this wholly — that might be some of else’s department, like a psychotherapist) before we move into the main agenda for discussion.

What I’ve learned and known is that as coaches, we have to strive for balance. And yes, it won’t be perfect but it’ll be way more effective than taking a one-sided approach to supporting your client. Irrespective of the kind of coach you are. If you’re an executive coach, more the reason why it’s important to explore the unknown before bringing the coachee back to the main agenda for the session.

It’s great to have tools in place that are visual or kinesthetic reminders of what they are committed to and the purpose of you coaching them. I consider these tools as part of your subject matter expertise (particularly if you’re an executive coach) which should be carefully brought into the conversation. When you, the coach, is convinced that it’s the right time to deflect (not direct) the conversation to a more fruitful conclusion.

And yes, it’s a lot easier said than done.

And even worse is asking an already peeved person, “how does all this make you feel?” You need to be patient enough to have them pour out a volcano at you only to have them listen to the sound of their own breath followed by silence. And then your question, “so, what?”

It’s a matter of perspective. But more than that it’s a matter of listening deeply.