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Do Your Conversations Lead to Action?

My first career was a television news reporter. Yup, I used to be the guy standing outside of the courthouse or alongside the massive 27 car pileup, trying to paint a picture with words about what happened there and why it mattered to the viewer.

Conversation to ActionSometimes it was easy–because I covered some pretty big events–like elections. But other times it was challenging, because fires in abandoned buildings or a giant cow sculpture made completely out of butter (both actual stories I covered) just don’t have much meaning in the big picture.

When I became a coach, my conversations changed. Instead of describing something that had already happened, coaches have conversations with people about things that had not happened yet, but they WANT to happen.

Do you see the difference? My two careers have proved to me that conversation and action are linked. In fact one doesn’t typically happen without the other. But the order in which those happen really matters.

When we have a conversation, there’s a connection with another person. Sometimes that connection leads to a specific and predictable action. The difference is whether that action has already happened, or if it’s something you’ll instigate.

Jesus was the master of conversations that led to action. Think about the woman at the well, Peter’s confession of Jesus, or even his words to the disciple he loved from the cross. A little back and forth, and then an invitation to action.

Our prayer lives are both kinds of conversation. Sometimes we take something that has happed to God (action that leads to conversation). Other times we look for what to do next…and that’s conversation that leads to action.

Which comes first for you, conversation or action? Whichever one does can reveal a LOT about who you are and what you’re called to do.

Maybe a better question is Which one do you think is more helpful for someone who wants to live effectively? I would suggest you that finding equal doses of both is how you really maximize your effectiveness.

There will be times when something happens and you just have to talk about.

But there will be other times where deciding what to do and talking about what will happen in the future is more helpful. Living sacramentally takes two different strategies.

Here are some key observations about the two kinds of conversation:

Conversations Then Action:
– Oriented toward the future and focused on decision-making, relational health, and who will be affected by the decision.
– Designed to help a person determine their course of action and timetable.
– Facilitates noticeable and specific change.
– The larger the action the more effective the conversation!
– Open ended questions that open up possibilities for the person are the key.
– Most common in the Apostolic and Prophetic profiles.

Action Then Conversation:
– Grounded in the present and focused on understanding and emotion.
– Designed to help a person understand the details of a situation and what those details mean.
– The other person probably won’t change what they do next based on the conversation.
– If effective, the other person walks away with a deeper understanding of what is already happened.
– Closed ended questions that confirms what the person is thinking are helpful.
– Most common in the Shepherd and Teacher profiles.

Coaching conversations leverage both kinds of conversations…often a coach will start by helping another person understand what’s going on around them. Then that conversation continues with helping the other personmake a decision about what to do about their current situation. It’s a conversation that starts with action AND leads to action.

Which comes first for you, conversation or action? I’d love to hear your comments in the section below.

Deadlines in Your Coaching

One thing that is fascinating about being a coach, and working with coaches, is the fact that human beings don’t make a decision–most of the time–unless they’re nudged.

What can deadlines do for your coaching?The nudge can come from an impending deadline, accountability that matters, or even a big picture vision that is tied directly to the current decision.

I’ve seen this time and time again in my coaching. When a deadline is looming, my client makes choices that otherwise might be out of reach. Even if it’s an obvious choice that could’ve been made weeks ago, the deadline is powerful enough to be the thing that nudges them forward.

How close to the deadline a person can vary greatly from client to client. Some folks need to be absolutely up against the wall. Other folks just need to know that the deadline is looming sometime in the near future. This is something that’s important for a coach to know about their client so they can serve them most effectively.

Because of this tendency, coaches can leverage this human tendency to increase effectiveness–or more accurately–the client’s effectiveness. How can you build helpful deadlines into your coaching conversations so that your client to action sooner rather than later?

One helpful strategy is to simply ask “How soon do you want this done?” or “What will finishing this do for you and your vision?

Vision is the most powerful change agent in coaching. If you are working with a client that has a clearly articulated purpose for being coached, it is an advantage for both coach and client to evaluate how every action plan connects to the larger purpose.

In a recent coaching session, my client was envisioning how including a certain assessment in his team development would benefit the team. Every session had built toward developing a skill that the team didn’t currently have. A breakthrough moment came when the client named the skill in a crystal clear description.

He knew what it would take to develop the skill, but couldn’t name how he would assess the current state of his team member’s abilities in this area. That’s where the assessment came in.

There was a reasonably large time commitment to learning to use the assessment and include it in his team’s culture. The financial cost was pretty high as well.

The first coaching question I asked was “What will this information give you as the team leader?” He talked for almost seven minutes listing the benefits.

I followed up with “What reasons can you come up with to NOT learn and use the assessment?” His only hesitation was the cost, but then said “I have the money and the time to do it.”

My next question was “How will this help you accomplish the team’s purposes?” He had another long list of ways.

My final question was “What would keep you from getting trained?” He immediately responded “Nothing. I’m already on the registration site.”

The vision motivated him to act. It was powerful.

This kind of vision-related nudge works virtually every time. This particular client ended up choosing a training that started two weeks later, and had his team take the assessment before our next session.

What vision or deadline could you help your clients articulate and embrace in your next coaching session?

I also have a personal deadline that I want to extend for you. Let’s see if this inspires you to act.

We’re currently offering a promo code on the CoachNet store that discounts every item in the store–training, memberships, assessments, even mentor coaching. But it’s only good until midnight EST TODAY.

The code is 20NYE, by the way. Here’s where you can find the CoachNet store.

I’ve had probably a dozen emails asking some variation of this question: “Could you please extend this promo code offer until Monday (January 5), so I can access it when I get back to my office after the holidays?”

You bet. I’ll do that.

Monday at Midnight Eastern Time the promo code 20NYE will go away. We’re extending it until then.

In the meantime, if you’re thinking about coach training or mentor coaching at all during 2015, this is a great opportunity. That promo code will take 20% off any item in the CoachNet store.

I hope we see you in the training room!

Let me know if you have any questions.

13 Things You Can Learn from Recording Your Coaching Sessions

One of the practices we insist on in CoachNet’s coach training is that coaches get into the habit of recording their coaching sessions so that they can objectively evaluate what they’re doing well–and where they can improve.

photo credit: danielle moir photo via photopin cc

photo credit: danielle moir photo via photopin cc

Listening to a recording of your own voice can be painful. No one–I mean, NO ONE–thinks their voice sounds like it does on a recording. (The reality is that our voices sound differently in our heads than they do on a recording, because we hear ourselves mostly through our own heads and not through our ears.)

But over the last 15 years, most of the real growth I’ve had as a coach has come from listening to my actual coaching sessions after the fact.

Here are 13 things I’ve learned from listening to recordings of my coaching sessions:

  • I don’t connect with people as smoothly as I’d like. The most glaring change I have made in my coaching is to really listen to how my clients are doing in the first few minutes of each session. I have a tendency to gloss over what they’re actually saying and to miss key information about where they really are. My agenda for the session often takes over!
  • My questions don’t always include context. General, open-ended questions are the lifeblood of coaching, but without some real context, they are not as powerful as I want them to be. Real breakthrough only comes with context.
  • The best question is personal. If I can ask the same question to multiple clients, I should re-think what I’m going to say.
  • Silence is my friend, and it never lasts as long as I feel like it is. Three to five seconds of silence NEVER feels out of place in a coaching conversation…even when I’m DYING for a client to fill it. That quiet time is a gift I’m giving to the person being coached, and I snatch the gift away when I jump in too soon.
  • The client’s tone and pace in conversation speaks volumes. When they pause or think for a moment, or stumble over a few words, there’s a reason. A large portion of the breakthroughs my clients have come when I ask about a change in tone, or an extra few seconds of silence. The client will tell you when they are having a new insight, you just have to listen.
  • Coaching facilitates new learning better than any other approach. Every good coach helps their clients get stuff done. Excellent coaches draw new self knowledge or insight out of their clients. That kind of wisdom only comes from follow up questions or observation.
  • Consulting is easy, and often, not helpful. My own advice or input flows much too easily. Coaches draw out…of the CLIENT. Learn to resist the urge to push something into the conversation. And when you’re drawing out, BE QUIET. Let the client talk through what they’re thinking and feeling.
  • The relationship is everything. When a client trusts their coach, you have permission to ask the hard question. The hard question is what separates you from every other relationship the client has.
  • My own language doesn’t matter. When I get too caught up in what I’m saying or how I’m saying it, understanding and clarity are lost. I’ve made a new commitment to using the client’s language because of my recordings. This also allows you to tailor your conversation to each individual client.
  • Letting a little time pass between the session and listening to the recording helps me be more objective. If I can remember for sure what I said in a coaching session, I’m probably not going to get as much from the recording. I need to be surprised by what I hear, and then I can evaluate whether it was helpful.
  • When I’m coaching well, I don’t say much. The client has complete control of the agenda for the conversation, and I’m there to partner with them so that they can get where they want to go. A good rule of thumb is 80% of the time the client is speaking, and I only yak 20% or less.
  • Humor is only helpful when it draws coach and client closer. A joke helps to diffuse tension, and makes the relationship authentic. BUT without a real sense of when and how much, it’s easy to distract the client from what they’re there to work on.
  • You don’t need to record every session. I find that it’s a good habit to evaluate each client once or twice over the life of a relationship. I like to review one session early in a relationship and one near the end of each agreement. That helps me get a sense of how willing I am to serve each client on their terms and not mine.

So, do you listen to your coaching sessions? What have you learned? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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