Principles of Coaching & Consulting- ODL 340
Erica Durant, Jacob Peck, Lanisha Moore, Latasha Price
”We think we listen, but rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know”- Carl Rogers
In the past two weeks the members of LLG 3 have participated in listening assessments with one another as well as outside members of the group to build our coaching skills. Our focus was to dig deeply into discovering how necessary and impactful listening is to the coaching experience. Each member had the opportunity to be both coach and coachee; we gained a number of new skills and extended our knowledge in the area of coaching. A few key elements we paid close attention to were creativeness, an open-mind, knowledge on the subjects of coaching and listening skills, and resourcefulness. The experience provided our group with an insightful perspective on coaching that we plan to share in this project. The four areas outlined above (open-minded, knowledgeable, creative, resourceful) have proven effectiveness when listening skills are employed. We discovered that:
- By enhancing our listening skills we can become more OPEN-MINDED; being receptive to listening to a message in its entirety instead of cutting off what we’re not interested in.
- By enhancing our listening skills we can become more CREATIVE; we do this by taking better notes, focusing on important information, and honing in on key points for better understanding.
- By enhancing our listening skills we can become more KNOWLEDGEABLE; we create this dynamic when we fully give our attention to the speaker and use moments of silent reflection to capture what resonates with us through journaling.
- By enhancing our listening skills, we can increase our RESOURCEFULNESS; when we listen from an empathic and generative level, we stimulate our ability to think logically and creatively when we have to readjust quickly and brainstorm unexpectantly.
There were a few vital points of the coaching sessions that were both effective and powerful. As the coachee, we were able to take on the opposite role for a change. Typically we act as coaches in our daily activities; giving important points and direction for the client to achieve their intended goals, but in conducting the case clinics, we were able to take on both roles. First, one important aspect of the coaching sessions we found effective was the ability to vent, to have the freedom to speak as we desired in a safe, non-judgmental space. Having a clear mind and a coach with advanced listening skills and judgment-free responses was revitalizing. It was meditation with a voice. “They [business coaches] may also be required to monitor expectations and outcomes in line with company goals”, according to Leimon, McMahon and Moscovici (2005). Secondly, asking the coaches to provide advice was useful because work consumes a lot of our lives, and we often do not have time to seek advice on what matters the most to us. While, it was important to voice our frustrations as an employee it is also beneficial to understand what standards the company requires to operate and to generate revenue. The coaches not only helped us to understand our feelings, but to understand the perspective of the organization by guiding us through the images, metaphors and feelings that resonated with them through the listening assessment.
In addition, another crucial valuable moment of the coaching sessions was our learned ability of patience and tolerance. We are not always sure what we can handle as individuals until time and pressure are upon us. As a coach it is not beneficial to the client for you to decide what the solutions are but instead to offer a host of possible solutions. A coach helps their client achieve their own result which is in contrast to how the consultant operates. The consultant provides the end result for the client. Being a coach allows you to lead the coachee into their own self-discovery instead of providing desired goals.
There were a few challenges our group faced as we conducted the case clinics, but the one challenge in particular that stood out, and that was moving from the downloading listening stage to empathizing and generative. There was a consensus that we recognized after we started conducting the listening assessments that most of us weren’t aware that the majority of the way we listen to others fell into the downloading category. In today’s culture of instant gratification---microwave dinners, drive-thru windows, texting, instant messaging and viral videos, we have lost the art of listening; we don’t listen to understand, we listen to comment and when we do engage in conversation with others, we don’t take the time to actively listen to the person speaking to us. We simply listen for information and that we limit to information we need. Fr. Bryon writes of listening in Next Generation Leadership that “James J. Schiro, CEO of Zurich Financial Services, was asked by the New York Times, “What is the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned?” He replied, “It’s the ability to listen, and to make people understand that you are listening to them. Make them feel that they are making a contribution, and then you make a decision. You’ve got to have a sense of inclusiveness”.
The challenge to become better listeners was great because the case giver was depending on us to be thoughtful and intentional while listening to the case presented. The coaches were required to give their full attention to the case giver, and at first, this was uncomfortable because it felt almost unnatural. It is opposite of the way we are used to interacting with others while listening to them. Once we entered the stillness phase of the case clinic process, the rest of the phases seemed to open up. We were no longer downloading; we were quiet and reflective and able to share from a deeper place than surface listening. Scharmer describes it this way: “Second, retreat and reflect, allow the inner knowing to emerge. He also said go to the places of stillness where knowing comes to the surface. Here you share and reflect on everything that you have learned from a deep place of listening, asking “what wants to emerge here?”
What began to unfold about the challenge was moving from the downloading listening stage past factual and into the empathizing and generative and the need to be vulnerable as a coach but also as a coachee. We (coaches) had to learn to let go of all assumptions and everything that would cause us to block out what was spoken to us. We had to have open hearts in order to be vulnerable and to be willing to come out of our comfort zone for the sake of helping another. We had to embrace a new definition of vulnerability. “Vulnerability isn’t good or bad: It’s not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light, positive experience. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable”.
Learning to embrace vulnerability will help us to emerge as both coach and client. It will help us to approach others with sensitivity and causes us to be more thoughtful in our interactions. When coaching others it is imperative that we see people as people, not objects, and allow that to connect us on a deeper level. Having this perspective can also make available the freedom to be our true authentic selves. Coaches that are authentic tend to demonstrate self-awareness, as well as have a balanced way of processing the information given to them during a coaching session. Authentic coaches are also transparent with their clients. These attributes, when nurtured and developed, create a sense of trustworthiness in the clients and they leave sessions empowered and connected.
The most critical skill of any coach or consultant is the ability to engage personally and empathize with whoever they are coaching. As we learned from our experiences this semester, success is more likely to come from connecting to your partner more than anything else. The experience of coaching another professional in a completely foreign industry seemed daunting. Our anxiety was born from our thought that without having a technical understanding of this person’s job and lacking awareness about how we could consult them. Before taking this class, we possessed a preconceived notion that in order to be a consultant or coach one must have either done the job of their consultee or at least understood the nuances of their work. As it turns out we were wrong. Contrary to what we believed, coaching is more about being able to engage on a human level, having empathy for the person’s situation you are coaching and allowing them, as Kathy Kline suggests, to create an environment where they can think for themselves.
During one of the case clinics we learned that one coachee had many years of experience working for a bank and had difficulty with its less than progressive performance review/coaching procedures. The case giver felt the expectation that when being coached at work, their role was to listen and to absorb the “knowledge” being shared. With the exception of one manager early in their career, the environment had always been hierarchical with subordinates rarely permitted to openly discuss their thoughts or feelings as it related to the business. That was not to say that they hadn’t had amazing mentors but usually those doing the coaching had drawn from their past experiences and asked the case giver to learn from their own experience. The question became – is their experience really what they needed to learn or should they be allowed the opportunity to question for themselves what they require? The skill of being able to ask others how they are feeling and providing them a chance to verbalize what might be holding them back or bothering them is powerful. Kline’s theory has fundamentally changed the way we will consult and coach people. In the past we felt that, as coaches, we needed to speak the most. We seldom felt comfortable with the person we’re coaching having ideas or answers that were better than ours. This thinking shut down our ability to work with someone in a way where they experience the self-discovery that is only nurtured in the type of environment that Kline describes.
We can make our minds so like still water
That beings gather about us,
That they may see, it may be,
Their own images;
And so, live for a moment,
With a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life,
Because of our quiet
Leimon, A., McMahon, G., & Moscovici, F. (2005). Essential business coaching. Routledge.
Byron S.J., William. (2010). Next-Generation Leadership. University of Scranton Press.
Brown, Brene. (2010). The Gifts of Imperfection. Hazelden Publishing
Scharmer, C. Otto. (2011). Leading from the Emerging Future; Minds for Change-Future of Global Development. Presencing Institute
Yeats, William Butler. (1902). The Celtic Twilight