As humans, we have a very basic need to be heard and understood. Professional coaches listen completely and attentively. They listen not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed; to the whole of it, not part of it.
Over the past decade, we’ve trained thousands of people to be better listeners. In doing so, we have developed techniques grounded in adult learning theory, cognitive bias research and theatrical improvisation.
From research conducted with our clients, we’ve come to understand that three quarters of people consistently overestimate the effectiveness of their own listening skills. One of the challenges with listening is that it requires focus and attention. This is something sadly lacking in today’s attention economy where various technologies constantly vie for our attention.
Questions are the gateway to adventure. They frame the puzzles in our lives, they turn problems into play and they signal strongly to the world around us that we value genuine understanding over simple opinion.
Powerful questions are the lifeblood of good coaching. The right question, at the right moment can encourage vulnerability, introspection and deep exploration. Very often, they are the key to helping coachees break through their existing narratives by fostering a playful, inquisitive mindset where nothing is out of bounds.
Above all, short, open-ended questions can shake things up without creating defensiveness or mistrust. More than anything, it is these kinds of questions that coaches rely on to help their clients unstick themselves and to challenge their preconceptions.
Nothing is missed.
Nothing is forgotten.
Nothing is wasted.
Rachel Ben Hamou
When people use the word ‘coach’ colloquially, they often picture someone supporting a sports team. This familiar image is most useful in thinking about the third pillar of good coaching: holding individuals (and teams) accountable to the goals they have identified as important.
The process for such accountability cycles between deep observation and candid feedback. A coach must watch very carefully for signals that a client isn’t making the progress they could be. When such situations have arisen, clients have relied on us to be frank and detailed with our feedback.
Indeed, one of the most welcome pieces of feedback we've ever had from a client was: “you hold people accountable and call us on our bullshit in a way that means nobody feels bad”.