In a recent Peer Coaching conversation with a senior executive of a Company I realized that my questions were in a way, driving him to reach his objective. Of course, this was post session realization. Being a seasoned coach himself he said your questions were good and focused and made him think about how to reach his goal. He also added that I demonstrated almost all Coaching competencies in a structured manner. But somehow, I sensed, something else, in the comment. Were my questions too structured and focused on the goal? Was I inhibiting the client to unpack more?
International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in thought- provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”. In this case I was doing the same. I also got similar feedback from others, that you are very focussed in the discussion. Is it good or bad, I don’t know? Probably my educational training as an Engineer subtly drives me to a structured way of coaching conversation in which client goal is paramount. Maybe I have an unconscious pressure that client goal for the session should be achieved, otherwise the conversation is futile. Every activity should be outcome oriented. Is it not?
This reflection suddenly reminded me of few prescriptions, by Chad Hall MCC: Follow the first rule of Improv and Think like a kid with Crayon.
Improv is a comedy in which the plot, characters and dialog are made up on the spot. There is no written script, everything happens in the moment. A beautiful demo of improv can be seen here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7sZelG8fY0 ). It is like going with flow in the conversation. This is a comedy where presence of mind and non-interpretation of what the other person has said, has paramount importance. The comedy unfolds instantaneously.
In coaching, the coach has to follow this. He should flow along with the client without interpreting what the client is saying. Respond to the client what he has just said. Go along with his thought process. I realized that, I have to step back and un condition myself, from my organised way of thinking, so that I can follow this advice.
In our daily conversations have we noticed, how many times we have a desire to reach the outcome fast. In our fast-paced world we want everything to happen fast. A person has come to ask you something, and you do not allow him/her to express him/her completely. You do not follow the conversation thread. You have some ideas about how this should go. These ideas are dictated by the role you play- that of a father/ mother, sister, colleague, boss, subordinate and the role, the other person is playing. Also, many a times we do this because we are busy, or we are not there in the conversation. How wonderful it would be if we follow that rule of improv. I think this will give a feeling of being listened and being present in the conversation to the other person. I believe then that such conversations we have with people will be more enriching, and will lead to stronger connections.
The other prescription: think like a kid with crayon. This took me back to my daughters’ younger days. When we admitted her to pre school- We were informed that your child may paint on a wall of your house with crayons. Please let her do that and do not restrict her. At school also, they have kept a wall in the class room, where children can paint with crayons. I remembered, how my daughter used to scribble with crayon on the wall of our tiny flat. She made the wall, look like a giant abstract painting. What was important, was the way she enjoyed drawing on the wall. That smiling glint in her eyes, made us understand, that she was thoroughly enjoying the activity.
In the coaching conversation the client has decided to reach a certain goal. Mostly his internal state of mind, his beliefs about himself are the roadblocks, to achieve that goal. The coach is partnering with him, to understand what is that, that is blocking him. When coach along with the client, starts thinking like a kid with crayon, it allows the client to vividly paint a picture of goal, he wants to achieve. It also gives scope for his imagination, as to what impact it will have on his life, when he achieves that goal. This is kind of a dreaming process, albeit an open one and shared with the coach. This process, I feel gives a joy to the client of imagining his future state and not only that, allows him to discover his strengths and limiting beliefs. It is a process of discovery, for the client. Someone has said, that human being is the story, he is telling himself. This kind of story telling, will definitely help the client to transform himself. It will help him to energise and get inspired to achieve his goal.
We dream, when we are kids. As we grow up, the conditioning we go through, starts putting limitations on our dreams. We start forming beliefs about our abilities, and what we can achieve and what we cannot. Of course, a person who has never climbed a hill ,cannot immediately conquer Mt. Everest. But if he dreams and is willing to do the necessary hard work, he can definitely climb Mt. Everest. What is important, is the capacity to dream and to act on that dream. In this world where success is defined by external factors and consumerism is reigning supreme, we are trying ourselves to conform to those norms, and our dreams are deeply influenced by these norms. Probably I am again becoming too philosophical here. But I must remind myself, that next time in a conversation be it coaching or otherwise, I will try and help the speaker to think like a kid with crayon.
Many of our day-to-day conversations become dull and boring. We just chitchat, ask about weather or any other topic of current affairs /interest and then the steam fizzles out. The conversations that ensue, are just transactional and not deep and invigorating. I read somewhere, that we can intersperse the conversation, with following question after the normal chitchat to make it more interesting.
“What is that you felt joyous about in last week (yesterday, last fortnight, last month). Pl tell me”
I am sure, this simple trick will lead you to invigorating conversations. And these conversations will help you, to strengthen the bond with the person you are conversing.