A lot of great conversation has come my way as a result of the blog posts over the last week. Thanks! Keep it coming!
A common theme has emerged: people like the idea of committing their energy/effort toward accomplishing someone else’s agenda. Human beings like to be generous toward other humans.
But sometimes it goes off track. Sometimes we can help it, and we just have to make it about ourselves. Even as coaches, sometimes we just can’t resist the urge to offer that suggestion or point a client down a certain path.
My friend Rebecca tells this story about one of her early experiences as a coach.
“It all started when I wanted to sound smart.”
“I was coaching someone in a career field I knew nothing about. I could tell they were stuck and I really wanted to be the one to offer the solution. Just once I thought it would be great if I had input to share.”
"I knew better. Even before I said it I knew in my gut it would not go well, but I said it anyway. I should have just asked a question, but despite my better judgment I stammered out an innoccuous question like, ’So perhaps the reason giving was down is because it was a holiday weekend?’”
"Complete and utter silence came back from the other end of the phone. It was even annoyed silence, followed by a bored sigh and, ’uh, yes I know that.’”
Rebecca wraps up the story by saying “Well, I’m happy to report that I learned that lesson quickly, AND I felt like a total idiot the rest of the conversation. Right then I committed to myself that I would NEVER again, under any circumstance, offer my genius input to try and sound smart in a coaching conversation. I will just leave behind my own need for a pat on the back.”
When we commit to focusing on the other person, the key is to change the definition and understanding of success. Success in a coaching context is not offering up advice, solutions or brilliant new ideas. Success is drawing out of the client their own thinking, which will ultimately bring about a better outcome than if they took a coach’s idea and ran with it.
You might be asking why it is so important to keep input inside? It is simple really. In Rebecca’s words: When we figure it out on our own we do it. Enough said.
If you tell me what to do, I might smile and nod politely, but usually, I won’t remember what you said, let alone do it. Nothing drives a person away faster than unsolicited advice.
One of the realities of being human is that we like to think of our own ideas. Ownership is one of the most powerful things we can foster in another person and that is the best way to help them change: help them find an idea of theirs that they can own. This leads to action.
But we also like to learn about the people we meet and focus on them. That’s hard for Americans, in general, and people in the church in particular. We have not learned how to focus on others. It’s all about me, me, me. MY personal relationship with Jesus. MY career. MY family or MY church. Even in some cases, MY personal brand.
One of the reasons coaching is so powerful and satisfying is that it demands that you take your eyes off you and your stuff, and leverage the talent, gifts and abilities that God has given you toward another person’s success. By doing this, not only do you get the satisfaction of using your gifts, but they get the benefit of what your gifts can accomplish. Committing to using those gifts to draw out just multiplies both of those outcomes, because both you and the person your focusing on will learn about yourselves and the people around you.
Unsolicited advice is what is modeled all around us. But you can be the exception: Try it out, for five minutes do nothing but focus on the person you are talking to.
Ok, don’t be weird or awkward about it, just simply keep your ideas/input to yourself and instead of saying, “well what about …”
Just say “well what do you think?” If they stammer about and say anything along the lines of “I don’t know” then you are almost there. Ask again. Get them to say something, that is your job.
You will be amazed at the result, and so will they. Likely they will even credit you with the idea, even though you technically said nothing.
Just be warned: This can make the other person uncomfortable. Conversations like this are not a two-way street.
Need some help getting started? Here are six questions you can ask to put another person’s needs/goals in front of your own:
- What are you thinking about today?
- What are you working on?
- What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing right now?
- What are your three biggest dreams in life?
- What’s a memory you have that you’d love to live over again?
- What is something you’d really like to do this year?
Will you commit to trying it out today? I’d love to hear how it goes in the comments!