Have you ever watched a truly masterful coach in action? They make it look effortless!!
Masterful coaches surrender to the coaching practice. They embody the role and in doing so have made it their own.
Their practice can appear so seamless that it can be hard to put your finger on exactly what they’re doing. Sophisticated coaching goes beyond applying models and techniques. Methods are enacted with such exquisite metaskills, that what is needed in the moment seems to happen naturally.
This ability to go beyond models and techniques reflects the level of integration that has taken place within the coach. Here are seven signs of masterful coaching.
Masterful coaches are usually minimalists. They are responsive to the precise need the client is presenting. The coach is with the client, in the moment. Nothing more.
This presents an important reminder for coaches to do less and not try so hard. You don’t need to overwork it. You don’t need to micromanage every detail or fall into the trap of problem solving. Trust the client to make sense of their world. Stay out of the way so that they don’t have to fend off excessive or misguided attempts to be helpful.
It is possible to pay precise attention to detail whilst maintaining a connection to a more numinous space in which nothing needs to happen. Attunement to this deeper level of reality can only happen when you as a coach are present with detachment and non-judgement. We coaches are most effective when we hold the intention to simply - and profoundly - bring our full humanity to bearing witness to an individual living their life.
Practice Multi-Level Awareness
Coaching mastery involves paying attention to several levels of reality simultaneously. Give attentive focus where it is needed. Learn to recognize the pragmatic dimensions of a situation along with the deep visions and dreams of your client and any other key players. Stay curious about all parties in the situation and the potential usefulness of alliances and conflicts.
Be In The Flow of What Is Already Happening
Notice the momentum towards change and the client’s relationship to it. The impetus toward growth exists regardless of whether the client is at ease or struggling with growth and change. From this vantage point you are able to hear the steps the client is already taking towards change and recognize the patterns with which they move forward.
Rather than tracking every piece of content, listen for underlying themes. Like someone listening for the sounds of distant music, this will help you recognize harmonies and discordant elements that don’t go along with the stated goal.
Read the flow of energy in the score: the moments of enthusiasm, the places where the conversation falls flat or when nervousness enters the scene. This way you will hear the rhythm of the client’s thinking .
Listen for who - or which part within the client - is speaking as much as you listen to what the client is saying.
When you listen in these ways you cultivate your coaching instinct. You will know what is worth exploring more and what elements of the narrative are simply ‘more of the same.’ You will feel when it is right to remain silent and when it’s time to challenge your client to deeper reflection.
Great insights emerge in the silence of the coach’s profound listening with their client.
At the Global Coaching Institute we teach an approach to listening and being with clients that is both layered and intuitive. It is integral to building deep awareness in our coaching graduates.
‘BE’ Instead of ‘DO’
What I am usually struck by when I experience sophisticated coaching, is the quality of the coaches being with the client rather than their doing. This happens when a coach is truly present. When you can quiet your mind you are able to take in more of the information available to you from both what the client says and how it feels. The more you can settle into your own presence, the more you can notice about the body language, pace and tone of voice that the client brings.
Attune To Your Own Body
Receive the information coming to you via your own body. This will activate your instincts and allow you to tap into your intuition, which itself is the distillation of many rich sources of information. Later, you may be able to unpack the wisdom behind your instincts and connect the dots back to the signals and cues that guided and informed your intervention. When you are in tune with your own senses, you need only follow them.
Becoming More Sophisticated
Masterful work looks simple because it has become simpler for the person doing it. They have learned how to work without massive effort or conscious concentration. The process of becoming more sophisticated is a journey of staged mastery. As we master the art of framing powerful questions, we are more free to concentrate on the client’s non-verbal language – to see when they light up and when they get caught in their ideas of how life ‘should be’ rather than engaging with how it is. As we internalise maps and cognitive schema on which to hang our observation, we can chunk information and absorb more.
Most importantly, sophisticated coaching is about stripping away. It is about letting go of our own ideas, the need to problem solve, the urge to demonstrate our understanding or to prove our worth. Paradoxically, as we let go of the need to understand and the need to control, we have more bandwidth to notice and be with what is really going on. When we can be present in this way, then we can truly be of service.