September 20, 2017 by John Andrew Williams
So you’re finally getting good at following the classic elements of a coaching session.
Checking in with the client and reviewing his action steps from the previous session. Check!
Setting a clear session agenda that explores his learning, being, and doing that is specific, measurable, and meaningful. Check!
But, something doesn’t seem right. Your client seems a little off today. Is he distracted? Is he in a mood? Am I imagining this, or is he different today?
Your intuition is kicking in. Alarms are sounding off in your head! You’ve reached a decision point.
Do you continue with the “classic” structure of a coaching session, or do you throw the rules out the window and take a risk? Do you dare use direct communication to address what is happening right in front of you at this very moment?
This exact scenario just happened to me today. At my decision point, I had to choose to either share my intuition or ignore it. Even as a seasoned coach, I still had some butterflies (albeit mini ones) in my stomach. This client is an executive who happens to have many more years of life experience under his belt than I do.
This was only our second session. How would he handle my sharing in such an honest and authentic fashion?
I asked permission if I could share my intuition and I used direct communication to state exactly what I was experiencing in that moment.
Me: Can I share my intuition with you right now?
Me: You seem distracted. Is everything okay?
Him: Oh my god! Wow, I’m impressed! You are so right. I just got this email from one of my managers (a direct report) and I’m so mad! THANK YOU for bringing this up.
It was like a boulder had been lifted from his shoulders. All of a sudden he showed up. He was finally present.
We scrapped the original agenda and made the session about what was on his mind at the moment. It was clearly on his mind, and it was clearly important to him. We had some major insights and breakthroughs.
He started the session angry and distracted. When we ended 57 minutes later, he felt excited to speak to the manager to help her learn something new because he had just spent the last hour learning something new about himself.
He thanked me for bringing it up when I did because he said if I hadn’t, he would have just been waiting for the session to be over to address the real issue on his mind with this manager. He said he would have done so in a reactive state, and that would not have been pretty.
So, what’s the “coaching lesson” here?
The lesson is to never underestimate the power of your intuition as it can lead to some extremely powerful coaching. The classic elements of a coaching session are there to guide you and should be used as much as possible to provide structure, but don’t let it become an excuse to not take risks.
In fact, the better you are at knowing the structure, the better you will be at sharing your intuition, which can allow you to ask the client if he’d like to adjust the agenda. Now, that you’re equipped with a more relevant agenda, then you can go back to following the classic structure.
If I had held firmly to the original agenda out of fear of his reaction or of not following the classic structure, then I would have missed the mark on what was truly happening with my client.
As a coach, your intuition is your most powerful tool. Don’t be afraid to use it as it can unlock the true potential in your coaching and in your client.
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