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Three principles of a coaching approach
Three principles of a coaching approach

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2.1 How to listen

We each have our strengths and weaknesses as listeners. In performance coaching there are a number of different things we need to listen out for:

  • Facts and narrative – the nuts and bolts of the situation or issue under discussion.
  • Feelings – some of which may be expressed openly, as in 'I feel worried about this', others which may not be voiced but which may show up in body language.
  • Values and drivers – words or terms which seem to have particular significance and meaning for the coachee, e.g. when someone says something like 'This is so unfair.' (There is an exercise in Unit 5 that will help you to work explicitly with the values of your coachee.)
  • Assumptions and working beliefs – often signalled by phrases such as 'I can’t ...', 'I shouldn’t ...', 'I’ve got to ...' 'It’s wrong to ...' . These are phrases which convey the coachees’s working assumptions in a given situation, e.g. 'I couldn’t ask her for help'. Spotting these assumptions for the coachee can bring great leverage in to a coaching conversation. (There is an exercise for working explicitly with a coachee’s self-limiting assumptions in Unit 5.)
  • The ‘bottom line’ or core of an issue. Often after a degree of exploration in which it is not always clear what the coachee is grappling with or attempting to change, the ‘bottom line’ can emerge. This can help give a session greater focus and clarity and may mean the need to shift the goals for the session.
  • The unspoken. This may seem a tricky thing to actively listen to – how are we supposed to know what has not been said? Yet it is often the unspoken that is a pointer to something very important for the coachee that may need bringing to their attention – for example when they describe what seems to be a very important issue or situation but say nothing about their feelings about it, or when they talk about an issue that affects their whole team but mention no-one else except themselves. As a coach you need to ask yourself 'What is not being said here?'. This will often provoke an important question for the coachee to consider.

Reflect on these guidelines for listening in Activity 3.

Activity 3 Practise listening!

Timing: Allow around 30 minutes for this activity.

Practise listening! Get a colleague or friend to talk to you about something of importance to them for five minutes: listen without notes and pay attention to what it is that grabs your attention – which of the categories above do you tune into and which do you hear less clearly?

There is no feedback for this activity.