Guest post by Marcia Reynolds, PsyD, MCC
The best coaches make us feel unsure of ourselves.
I know this sounds crazy.
Aren’t coaches supposed to uplift people and strengthen their confidence?
If the client is stuck viewing their situation one way or resistant to looking at the gaps in their logic, building their confidence around their solutions can cause more harm than good.
Also, some clients may appear totally open to exploring possibilities but unable to see the blind spots blocking some options.
The Secret to Good Coaching
A good coach is able to make us stop and think about our thoughts, and then their questions break through our walls of resistance, revealing our blind spots and fears. For a moment, the uncertainty feels awkward. And then, when we realize our own thinking has stifled our growth, we might feel embarrassed, angry, or sad. But then, we might laugh at ourselves…after we gasp.
This is good coaching! Watch this video to see how it works:
It is in this moment of uncertainty that radical growth can occur!
This is what differentiates coaching from problem-solving. In problem-solving, you build on what a person knows. In coaching, you are helping the person reinterpret what he or she knows to reach a new or non-obvious conclusion.
So how do you know what to ask to break down the brain’s protective walls?
The powerful questions that change people’s minds emerge when you listen to your intuition. You ask about what you sense—what fears, disappointment, needs, or desires do they convey to you without words. When you ask about what you sense they are feeling or what is triggering their feelings, they stop and question themselves.
Using your intuition means listening with your entire nervous system, including your heart and gut as well as your brain. Most of us don’t commonly do this because we listen with our chatty, judgmental, censuring head brain which drowns out what is going on in the rest of your nervous system.
All three of your brains are magnificently complex organisms. Intuition is not from outer space; it’s from inner space. When you learn how to read the signals sent from your head, heart, and gut, you access the critical data you need to fully comprehend what is going on in the complex human you are conversing with.
From your head, you hear what they believe that is at the basis of the story they are telling you.
From your heart, you hear what they desire, what they are angry or disappointed about not getting, or why they doubt they can get what they want based on past experiences (which may not have relevance to the current and future situations at all).
From your gut, you can hear what they are really afraid of, including what they are attached to and can’t let go of.
To integrate your mind and activate your full sensory capabilities, you need to feel grounded in the present moment and visualize opening all the centers in your neural network where you receive input. Use curiosity to open your mind. Then feel compassion, care, and a genuine desire for the person to feel happy or successful to open your heart. Then say the word courage to yourself and breathe it deeply into your belly to open your gut.
Take a moment to do this exercise before you coach to open and align all three of your centers.
Depending on your personality, you will find it easier to access either your heart or gut over the other. People who tend to be helpers listen more easily from their heart than their gut. On the other hand, risk-takers find it easier to listen from their gut than from their heart. I am a born risk-taker. I have to consciously open my heart when I coach, teach or argue with my partner.
Listening with your entire nervous system takes conscious and consistent practice. If you intentionally practice listening from your various centers every day, you will more naturally access the signals from your heart and gut.
The courageous words you speak from your head, heart, and gut will confuse, embarrass or make people angry. And then they grow. The moment of uncertainty is when a person is most open to learning about themselves and able to see the world around them in a new way.
Bio: Dr. Marcia Reynolds works with organizations worldwide providing executive coaching and leadership training. Her passion is shifting leaders from having transactional to transformational conversations so work is meaningful for everyone. She is the Training Director for the Healthcare Coaching Institute, regularly works with coaching organizations in China and Russia, and is the president-elect of The Association for Coach Training Organizations. She was a founding member of the ICF and the 5th president. Her doctorate is in organizational psychology.
In her spare time, she has authored three books, including her latest, The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs.
Adapted from The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs by Marcia Reynolds, PsyD, MCC, and training director for the Healthcare Coaching Institute.