Coaching a senior leader can be complicated. They have lots of demands on their time, huge decisions to make, and often do not get a lot of direct, honest feedback from people around them.
In fact, coaching anyone can be complicated—because humans are complicated. We are constantly scanning our mental and physical landscapes for what we can and can’t do, what we want and don’t want to do, how we feel, who we like, or who we struggle to work with. Joy, disappointment, fear, boredom, and a host of other bits of noise can get in the way of normal functioning.
In spite of our constant scanning, we are fundamentally designed to grow and change. Like a butterfly that emerges triumphant from its chrysalis, someone being coached can emerge from the experience ready to spread their wings.
As coaches, our job is to help cut through the noise in people’s lives and support change—sustainable, real, down-to-the-wings change. Sometimes we settle for surface change because that’s all our client is capable of in the moment. But sometimes we get to that deep change—which is always what we’re going for. We are the person who helps in this metamorphosis. Coaching is the catalyst that facilitates growth. The way a coach arrives at that change is threefold.
- Listen. A coach listens not only to the surface story, but also to what is unsaid. We listen for values, beliefs, cognitive dissonance, and the heart’s yearning. These things form the client’s foundation from which all behavior stems. As a coach, when I listen at my best, deepest ability, I have a quiet mind and am empty of solutions. I provide a calm place for the client to express thought, emotion, and action.
- Provoke. A coach provokes learning, new ideas, excitement, thoughtfulness, mindfulness, and a belief that change can and will happen. This is done by asking simple, open ended questions with no judgment, no solutions, and no necessity to explain, confirm, or normalize.
- Partner. We are in the thick of it with our clients. We care. We hold them to be their best selves. We believe completely and wholly that our clients can learn, grow, change, and achieve. My success as a coach comes when my clients have that moment of clarity, commit to new actions, and really believe, fundamentally, that they can achieve a new outcome. I am an accountability partner. I am a mirror. I am the person who believes in them even when they don’t or can’t believe in themselves. I am a truth teller—not of my truth but of their truth. I am a conduit. I am a funnel. I am, in essence, what the client needs in that moment to be able to change.
Coaching can create great beauty in the world. You don’t have to be a professional coach—anyone can use coaching behaviors. Be the one to help your people spread their wings and create positive change in their lives!
About the Author
Patricia Overland is a Coaching Solutions Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 150 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.