Green Whistle on rope

2 things that dramatically improve coaching conversations

sean spurgin

How we show up to coaching conversations is critical. Two important mind-sets great coaches adopt are Curiosity and Presence, and showing up to conversations with the right mindset is a game changer…… 

Genuine curiosity

When we are coaching, it really works to remain ‘curious’. Being curious is a state of mind and a very powerful way to remain open to new information that might help you to judge a situation more accurately. Instead of coming to conclusions in your mind that you are clear are the ‘truth’, you remain open to the fact that there could be different truths and interpretations than the one you have come to.

Being curious can help us avoid taking a fixed position based on the views we have with the information we have now. Other people don’t tend to react well when we have fixed opinions about what they have done that we don’t like. Being curious allows you to be open to seeing a situation in a new way. Sometimes we make assumptions and judgements against people and what they have done, and then write the person off or write the relationship off. If we can be curious, we can see the world in a new, more accurate way, based on reality. Being curious can be hard. It takes courage to be curious. It means saying, ‘This is what I have observed. This is the assumption I am making based on that, but I am willing to be wrong here.’

Great managers are genuinely interested in finding out more about how things are going, what kinds of problems people are running into, where the gaps and opportunities are, and what needs to be done better. Typically, they don’t need to be taught how to ask questions because it’s a natural strength. This curiosity facilitates the coaching conversations, the give-and-take between coach and learner in which the learner freely shares his or her perceptions, doubts, mistakes, and successes so that they together reflect on what’s happening.

Presence 

Presence is a state of being attuned to the other person or an activity we are taking part in. Some people call this “flow”. We are being ourselves, the true version of us. Presence emerges when we feel personally powerful, which allows us to be attuned to others or our surroundings. In this mindset, our thoughts, speech, body language is aligned. We synchronise with the other person, we are focused and are there. We are not thinking about what’s on TV tonight or being distracted by the hum drum of the day. Conversations feel real, human, believable which in turns leads to trust. Our communication flows. In this state we stop thinking about outside distractions or what the other person is thinking about us, we are just there.

Being present is thrilling, inspiring and absorbing all at the same time. It is the energy you feel when you now you are alive. It is in these moments we do our best work and create powerful human to human connections that feel authentic. We all yearn to be present and be met by people who equally present. Presence empowers and enables you to connect and empathise with others in a really human way.

Presence begets presence.  

An coach needs to be present to the whole person and his or her experience. This includes acknowledging the emotions the coachee is feeling in the moment and recognising the energy shifts that are occurring (a person can feel excited and resentful in one sentence!). When coaches are grounded in the moment and are open and listening with their entire nervous system, including the heart and gut, they can receive nuances and shifts that indicate what is most important to the coachee. When a coach maintains this presence, the coachee’s defences drop. They feel safe enough to self-reflect, experience vulnerability, and express the awareness that is emerging.

Try this:

Test assumptions – become aware when you are making assumptions and inferences. Learn to test out your assumptions without contributing to others becoming defensive. Learn to assume the best-case scenarios and best about people instead of the worst, until you are sure you have all the right information and facts

Stop talking, start listening. In conversations, be more present, recognise that what you are hearing can’t possibly be all there is to it. Practice acknowledging little details in conversations. By suspending judgment, you’re ultimately allowing yourself to be more receptive to what someone is saying. You’re focusing less on what you’re going to say next, and more on the words and information they’re choosing to tell you — or not tell you.

Turn up the dial; Give yourself daily challenges that force you to slow down and notice what’s going on around you. Practise at home, turn up the dial on your ‘presence’ by 10% and see the difference it makes to your relationships! It is not easy, but through conscious awareness and effort you can reap huge benefits