The Boardroom Beat #13 - Coaching: Come on in, and get uncomfortable


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This Board Room Beat edition is the second of a five-part series intended to demystify coaching.  Coaching is encouraging, enlightening, expanding…..and excruciating, sometimes. Prepare for discomfort. It means coaching is working, and you are growing. Prepare for these three uncomfortable components of coaching:

  1. Silence
  2. You set engagement goals, you set session agendas
  3. You find your own answers within

“Pregnant pause” is de rigueur in coaching conversations. It his human instinct to fill gaps in conversation. Coaches are trained to “hold space,” and avoid the natural urge to fill conversational lulls. The superpower of silence is effective in building a bridge from chatter to meaningful communication; It beckons reflection and invites revelation.

Clients share more candidly when a coach talks less. Silence awakens truth that may be more easily bypassed in a conversational fast lane.  In the quiet space between spoken words lurks the potential for what I call “Ah Ha” moments. These revelations don’t happen in every session with every client, but they are frequent.

Goals and Agenda - You own Them

In an initial consultation client and coach collaborate to determine engagement objectives. No two clients are the same, so no two sets of objectives are identical. If the engagement is company funded the client ensures alignment on objectives with his/her lead (or Board.)

With objectives set in a guided and collaborative matter, the client then owns the agenda for each ensuing session by preparing the focus for each session. Each session topic ultimately links to an engagement objective.

Coach Question 1: What will we address or explore today?

Coach Question 2: What about that topic would you like to accomplish in this session?

Coach Question 3: Why is that important?

This structure launches an organic line of coach questioning. a) It ties “real life” challenges to the objectives. Clients appreciate an approach that is practical, not academic in sessions that prompt new ways of looking at familiar scenarios. b) It is a safe place to vet new ways of thinking and acting. Limiting beliefs are recognized, and “what if” possibilities are encouraged.

The coach doesn't have the answers - You do.

Coaches won’t have answers, they will have questions that help you surface solutions that lie within you. Sometimes clients start a session with “What do you think I should do about….?” This is when a coach volleys back with questions, i.e.

Q: What outcome are you seeking?

Q: What options have you considered?

Q: What stands out as the best approach?

Q: What part of this decision worries you?

Q: What if xyz doesn’t work?

Q How will you move forward with your decision?

Clients have more and better intel than the coach. So, why on occasion do I cut to the chase with a recommendation? Time is money. I may call out that I am “putting on my consulting hat with a recommendation” and offer a direction. This is the exception to the rule, and will be followed with questions.

Q: How does that resonate?

Q: What are the risks?

Q: What would you do differently?

Bottom line, even if I choose with intention on rare occasion to bend coaching rule #1 and proffer advice, it is to accelerate the discussion, not issue an unwavering edict.

Circling back to silence 

* Questions. Hard questions. Lots of questions.

* Silence. Reflection. Expression of ideas and knowledge waiting to be tapped.

* Ideas and actions find freedom in release and take flight. Clients soar.

The coaching journey spans (mildly) excruciating discomfort to exhilarating personal and professional growth. I love my job.

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