One of the practices we insist on in CoachNet’s coach training is that coaches get into the habit of recording their coaching sessions so that they can objectively evaluate what they’re doing well–and where they can improve.
Listening to a recording of your own voice can be painful. No one–I mean, NO ONE–thinks their voice sounds like it does on a recording. (The reality is that our voices sound differently in our heads than they do on a recording, because we hear ourselves mostly through our own heads and not through our ears.)
But over the last 15 years, most of the real growth I’ve had as a coach has come from listening to my actual coaching sessions after the fact.
Here are 13 things I’ve learned from listening to recordings of my coaching sessions:
- I don’t connect with people as smoothly as I’d like. The most glaring change I have made in my coaching is to really listen to how my clients are doing in the first few minutes of each session. I have a tendency to gloss over what they’re actually saying and to miss key information about where they really are. My agenda for the session often takes over!
- My questions don’t always include context. General, open-ended questions are the lifeblood of coaching, but without some real context, they are not as powerful as I want them to be. Real breakthrough only comes with context.
- The best question is personal. If I can ask the same question to multiple clients, I should re-think what I’m going to say.
- Silence is my friend, and it never lasts as long as I feel like it is. Three to five seconds of silence NEVER feels out of place in a coaching conversation…even when I’m DYING for a client to fill it. That quiet time is a gift I’m giving to the person being coached, and I snatch the gift away when I jump in too soon.
- The client’s tone and pace in conversation speaks volumes. When they pause or think for a moment, or stumble over a few words, there’s a reason. A large portion of the breakthroughs my clients have come when I ask about a change in tone, or an extra few seconds of silence. The client will tell you when they are having a new insight, you just have to listen.
- Coaching facilitates new learning better than any other approach. Every good coach helps their clients get stuff done. Excellent coaches draw new self knowledge or insight out of their clients. That kind of wisdom only comes from follow up questions or observation.
- Consulting is easy, and often, not helpful. My own advice or input flows much too easily. Coaches draw out…of the CLIENT. Learn to resist the urge to push something into the conversation. And when you’re drawing out, BE QUIET. Let the client talk through what they’re thinking and feeling.
- The relationship is everything. When a client trusts their coach, you have permission to ask the hard question. The hard question is what separates you from every other relationship the client has.
- My own language doesn’t matter. When I get too caught up in what I’m saying or how I’m saying it, understanding and clarity are lost. I’ve made a new commitment to using the client’s language because of my recordings. This also allows you to tailor your conversation to each individual client.
- Letting a little time pass between the session and listening to the recording helps me be more objective. If I can remember for sure what I said in a coaching session, I’m probably not going to get as much from the recording. I need to be surprised by what I hear, and then I can evaluate whether it was helpful.
- When I’m coaching well, I don’t say much. The client has complete control of the agenda for the conversation, and I’m there to partner with them so that they can get where they want to go. A good rule of thumb is 80% of the time the client is speaking, and I only yak 20% or less.
- Humor is only helpful when it draws coach and client closer. A joke helps to diffuse tension, and makes the relationship authentic. BUT without a real sense of when and how much, it’s easy to distract the client from what they’re there to work on.
- You don’t need to record every session. I find that it’s a good habit to evaluate each client once or twice over the life of a relationship. I like to review one session early in a relationship and one near the end of each agreement. That helps me get a sense of how willing I am to serve each client on their terms and not mine.
So, do you listen to your coaching sessions? What have you learned? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!