This week I am reminding myself of a vulnerability that can arise in coaching and in leadership. It's that feeling of 'missing the mark' for the client or person you are wanting to help.
Human communication, even on a good day, can be poor.
I had a client recently share how superficial the communication was in her work place. She wished conversations in general were more enquiring and real rather than disjointed and random.
According to Mahrabian and Ferris (1967)
-7% happens in spoken words
-38% happens through the voice
-55% happens via general body language
What this information tells us, is that we are mostly misunderstanding each other most of the time. In coaching this can mean the person is not getting the developmental support they are needing from you. You are 'missing the mark' somehow and you will feel it.
Here are some signs that this may be happening in your coaching practice:
• The session ends and you feel you may have missed something or that the session may not have been that useful
• In the session you became the investigator looking for answers to solve a problem that may not even be a problem
• Your one on one's feel shallow and superficial, a bit like an interview
• The person you are working with isn't very forthcoming, even avoidant and it feels like you are doing all the work
An unconscious pattern that you can can fall into is taking too much responsibility for the direction of the conversation too soon, by guiding, advising, digging and problem solving for the person and forgetting to take time to find out about the motivations and meanings behind their words.
In giving a person space to talk about their work/life reality you give them the luxury of space to reflect.
When you give time to reflect, insight will follow and it becomes clear for a person what they need to do. The result is that people feel listened to and supported instead of frustrated by being told what to do.
If you can catch yourself in the act during the conversation and have the confidence to change your approach then something that was beginning to feel superficial can transform into something fluid and new.
Here are some tips to help make the shift...
Ask the person to say more, to tell the story, to unpack what they mean by any given statement
Check for clarity and meaning - " I don't understand, can you say more, are you saying that..."
Watch for own assumptions and notice when your agenda or your needs are influencing the direction of the conversation
Notice body language and tone of language - mirror this back to the person
If the person says they are 'fine', find out what 'fine' means
Don't drive the person to an outcome that will suit you because the session is about to finish. Instead ask the person what is important for them as the session closes. It can be remarkable what you discover about their learnings and motivations when you ask this question and the answer is often not what you expected at all!