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Two Essential Mindsets for Coaches (Listening Part II)

Updated: Oct 23, 2022

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There’s no way around it, the secret to impactful coaching is effective listening. Asking, not telling, is the switch that leads to success for people in coaching roles; when you begin asking open questions and listening more you will change your client’s trajectory. I learned a lot about asking questions when I got certified in executive coaching. I discovered that by simply asking open questions you’re able to help someone clarify her thoughts and then develop her own best answers. It’s way more powerful than just giving advice, but asking questions was a muscle I had to build. As a new coach, one becomes very tuned in to the questions that people utilize in day-to-day communication. And, because you’re new, you’re especially eager to have a constant supply of good questions to use in your sessions with clients. There are articles that list the most powerful questions and websites that offer 101 Incredible Coaching Questions. I even had an app that I could refer to prior to a coaching session to make sure I had a good supply of intelligent and intriguing open questions at the ready. But you are already naturally equipped with two mindsets that are more powerful than a list or an app, and you already have them at your disposal. These two mindsets are:

  • A Curiosity Mindset: interested in discovering what is on someone’s mind

  • An Empowerment Mindset: focused on helping your client discover his or her own truth

These two mindsets are very helpful in posing good questions. When you are focused on the person in front of you, you don’t need a list of powerful questions because your curiosity will lead you to find out more, and your desire to empower your client will help focus her thoughts. For instance, if a client shared that he is upset because he made a mistake, you could implement a Curiosity Mindset: “can you tell me what you’re feeling right now?” Or “what is it about this issue that is bothering you?” Then you can implement an Empowerment Mindset and help them find a solution. “What is one thing you can do now to improve the situation?” Or “when do you think you could try xyz?” Asking one of the 4 W’s (who, what, where, when) can help your client strategize his or her next steps, and discovering this strategy is the key to being proactive in the future. Next time, when a client is seeking your counsel, use your curiosity to coax out the details. You may have to actively remind yourself not to give advice or share how you would approach the situation; instead, you must stay in the seat of the listener. Remember: coaching is about other people, it is other-centric work. And helping someone figure out his or her own decision, plan, or solution is not only essential, it’s the most empowering thing you can offer. Author: Kate Edwards, iCoach Global

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