Maybe We’ve Got It Wrong – Coaching isn’t (just) about helping clients live the life of their dreams – it’s about discovering our true selves

A lot of people out there write about coaching as if having a 45-minute call every two weeks for six months is going to transform a client's life from today's reality to a state of nirvana...where all their dreams have suddenly come true.

That is simply not possible!

By the time you get to the place where your dreams have come true, you will realize that your dreams have never been true. For most of us, our dreams are a bit fuzzy, because they are not based in a solid understanding of who we really are.

Let's face it, the reason you got into coaching in the first place is that you realize you were doing something wrong in your life. You realized that the life you were leading was completely dissonant with your true nature.  In the worst case, you recognized that were seriously at risk of becoming a zombie. That revelation is huge, and it starts the process of living your life "on purpose" - so congratulations, Coaches!

Knowing what you are not does not equal knowing what you are.
The Authenticity Equation

If you are a coach, you are very likely not in this profession to make a ton of money, and not even really (just) to help others - you're here to figure out who you are and to become a better version of yourself. The amazing thing about that is...miraculously, as you hike up the mountain toward your destiny, you will guide your clients on their own journey toward their truth.

"Wherever you go, there you are."

Consider the following scenario – it's something I hear coaches say happens to them all the time:

You're struggling with a challenge in your life (maybe your work is turning you into a zombie, you manage your time with the attention span of a squirrel, you're (wrongly) blaming your spouse for the level of difficulty in your life, you just feel like sitting on your ass on the couch all day, etc.)...

Then, the phone rings for your next coaching session, and you ask your client the question you are supposed to ask:

"What would you like coaching on today?"

The next words out of your client's mouth speak straight to your struggling soul - their story is your story!

And NOW...magic can happen – that is, as long as you are able to stay "over there" with your client in Level II and III listening and not make it about you.

The magic that happens is that you can see the topic (your topic!) from a totally new, unbiased perspective. Suddenly, the powerful questions that you couldn't fathom asking yourself just pop-up in your brain matter. You powerfully belt them out to your clients, not letting them off the hook - no matter what.

Their answers resonate with you, your intuition blazes like the stadium lights at the Super Bowl, the back-and-forth with your client is electric, and all the while...you know that as your client figures himself out, you are starting to chip away at the frozen tundra that has surrounded your authentic self for years. You feel warm inside, because you know the ice is starting to melt.

Discover Your True Self within the IcebergPhoto by: Natalie Lucier

This ice is not just a cube floating in a a glass of cola...this ice is the B15 iceberg, and you can damn-well spend the next 20 to 50 years trying to melt it...that is why you can't imagine not coaching people.

That is why you're able to really listen to the cashier at the grocery store, and you feel compelled to ask her a question about her values or her dreams or her fears. You feel compelled to ask everyone you meet about their lives, because you see yourself in them, and you are curious as a Thundercat to uncover yourself.

And, so...maybe in 20 to 50 years, you will be living your dream life, but that dream will be grounded in an authentic sense of truth about your being that is totally unflappable, because you've been studying it for decades.

That is why you will no longer care what people say about you, because everything they say is merely something they see on the outside: you're not funny, you're too fat, you're bald, you're a bit hunched over, your house is too small, your ego is too big, you make too much money, you're a shallow bastard...

None of that matters to you, because you know who you are.

Keep coaching for your own sake – it's what will keep you motivated to live in service of your clients for the rest of your days!

More importantly, it's what matters to them...it's what matters to coaching.

Listen Up, Coaches – It Matters! The simple mindset shift that will transform the nature and quality of your coaching in a HEARTbeat

One of the first fundamental skills we develop on our journey to become phenomenal coaches is listening. In most coaches training programs we study the three levels of listening:

Level I – listening from self (what I affectionately call, Level "I" listening)

This level is about taking in the words we hear and evaluating them exclusively based on what they mean for our own lives. When someone tells us about their last vacation, we have an urge to tell them about our last vacation. When someone talks about their favorite movie, we start to think about our favorite movie.

We fully experience their stories through the lens of our own lives - as if we are the only person on the planet who matters. This is exactly how we want our clients to listen during our coaching sessions - after all, it is the client's life that takes center stage in the coaching conversation, and in that context, they are the only ones who matter.

Level II – listening "over there"

In this level of listening, you listen so intently to your client that you may even forget that you exist.

You've done this type of listening before...perhaps, when you were on your first date with your first love. You were hanging on their every word, trying to understand every morsel of their being through their stories – sentence by sentence, word by word, image by image. You couldn't get enough of the words dripping out of their mouth...you were so engaged that it is likely that four hours into dinner, you didn't even notice that everyone eating at the restaurant was long gone, all the chairs were put away for the night, and the staff was seriously annoyed with you.

Quite possibly, the only thing that pulled you out of your love-struck stupor was that your bladder went into DEFCON 1, and you realized if you didn't get up to go to the bathroom, this would likely become your last date.

That's Level II listening.

Level II Charades

Just in case you can't summon a vivid recollection of listening this way, try this trick to help you out: listen to your client (or any other human being, for that matter) as if you are playing a game of charades.

The person talking (talking is allowed in "listening charades," okay?) is describing the "clue". As you listen to their words, focused on deciphering the "clue", create a full-motion picture in your head of the story they are telling you. They become the narrator to the movie of their lives - and only you can see it, because it's in your head.

Now, notice the details of their story - what are they wearing? what is the temperature in the room? how many people are around? what time of day is it? what material is the floor made of?

Next, get wildly curious - what do you want to happen next? what secrets are they revealing about themselves? who is the hero? who is the villain? what are they longing for? what are they afraid to admit?

When you can listen to someone so intently that you make a vivid, striking movie out of the words that vibrate out of their larynx and into your eardrums, you will forget all about yourself - and they will notice. They are likely to feel as though they've never been listened to so intently before.

You are giving them and embroidered invitation to open up and share their real story of their lives.  It's okay to be vulnerable.  I care, and I'm here to help you make sense of it all.

Level III – listening with your whole body

This is where it gets a little bit weird, I must admit. You could also call this level "listening from your intuition."

If you've heard of the concept of a "gut feeling," then you know what level III is all about. Listening at this level is really just listening to your gut - it knows when something is fishy; it knows when something is important.  If you can listen to your gut, it will open up your coaching like a may flower...

Did you ever walk into a room, and, although no one was saying anything; you knew they were talking about you before you got there?

Awkward silence! Tension in the air. Uncomfortable vibe.

Your radar detector starts to blow up. Your gut tells you that something's up. Well, that "thing" you're hearing that is not being said...you know it's there because you are listening at Level III.

Level III Bird-watching

Listening at Level III is like bird-watching. Most of us walk through life totally clueless about those little buggers that nest in the trees above and soar the skies (until they use us for target practice or leave us a "lucky" present on our freshly washed windshield).

There could be a hundred and fifty different species in the woods in our neighborhood, and we haven't a clue. Hell, there could be a scaly-sided merganser walking across the road, and we'd just think it's a duck!

But...not the avid, sharp-eyed birdwatcher. (Let's call this hypothetical birdwatcher "Dennis.")

Dennis is always on the lookout for something special in the skies. When he sees an orange-bellied parrot, he comes to life. He can't believe his eyes! He wants to call his mom and tell her he's in love! Dennis will remember this moment until the day he dies!

Well, a coach who learns to listen at Level III, is always on the lookout for the unsaid, and they don't let it pass by unnoticed or unexplored; they dig in by asking powerful questions, such as:

"What's causing that quiver in your voice?"

"I noticed you are super excited when you bring up this topic - what's that about?"

"Hey, your energy just shifted - what happened?"

"It feels like you've run out of steam, how can we add some coal to the fire?"

Level II & III - the listening Lambada

Powerful coaching lives in the land where Level II and Level III listening dance the night away.

Think of powerful coach listening like a dance. If you can get the rhythm just right, you can spin, twirl, and shimmy your clients by moving through Levels II (see their movie) and III (latch on to their emotions) until you are dancing in unison through their life, and before you know it, out pops their dirty little secret that they've been hiding from themselves.

By taking the reins and daring to dance the forbidden dance with them, they have just realized something totally new about themselves. From this moment on, they see the world a tiny bit differently...and they can start to be at choice in their actions in a new way...armed with a deeper understanding of their being.

Level 0 - the enemy of listening

So, those are the three levels of listening we learned at CTI (the Coaches Training Institute), and I imagine you learned something similar wherever you trained as a coach.

At Make Coaching Matter, I am sad to unveil a fourth level of listening.

It's called Level 0.

This is, unfortunately, the way that many, many people listen most of the time.

You see, this is listening from your ego. It's actually not listening at all, but rather just pretending to listen. Instead of listening at I, II, or III; you are smiling and nodding, or making dead eye contact while you think about something totally unrelated in your head, or you're telling yourself you are better (or worse) than the person talking.

Perhaps you are formulating the next thing that you are going to say or question you will ask to ensure you look "smart" or "impressive." Or maybe you're "multitasking": reading or typing an email, checking Facebook, worrying about doing your taxes, watching Prison Break, or playing Mortal Kombat with a friend in Vietnam.

Even worse, maybe you're just waiting to talk.

There is no place for this type of listening (some call it pseudolistening) in coaching. As a coach, nothing is more engaging to your client than to listen to them skillfully and with great care and curiosity. And nothing is more deadly than not listening at all.

Listening is the true currency of coaching.

Listen in movies.

Play charades.

Become a birdwatcher.

Learn the Lambada.

Discover hidden secrets.

Give your clients the gift of being heard. They'll love and thank you for it.


Want to bring in your perspective about the role of listening in coaching?

Have another topic dear to your heart you would like to discuss?

Join the coaching revolution - leave YOUR comments below - I'm all ears!

Discover the Secret of Coaching: It’s Not About the Problem!

There's a lot of confusion in the world about this thing called "coaching." Right off the bat, let's get one thing straight: coaching is not about solving problems, it's not about diagnosing what's wrong with you, it's not about development needs.

Coaching is about taking people on a journey. It's about having people dig deep down inside themselves to find their biggest dreams and uncover the beauty within.

A great coach is someone who loves his clients unconditionally, someone who can see through all the negative thoughts that have been imposed upon people and laser-in on the unimaginable potential of every human being on this earth.

With this powerful mindset, there is no limit to the grandeur of the life your clients can and, with your help, undoubtedly will live.

This community has been established to bring like-minded coaches to a place that's all their own. Together, we will raise awareness about the power of this beautiful and noble profession. We will help lift the fog that clouds people's perception of what coaching is all about.

Together, we will take the profession to unimaginable heights and spread good across the globe. Imagine a world where people feel completely free to live the life they were born to live.

To get involved and help define the profession you love, just leave a comment below and share your thoughts about what coaching means to you and to the world.

Welcome to the Coaching Revolution!