Do you have a favorite line from a movie? Or a favorite scene? It might be “You had me at hello…”, “Go ahead, make my day…”, or “That rug really ties the room together…” It could be anything. If you’re thinking of a scene, maybe it’s Danny Noonan and Ty Webb walking the golf course, the Fellowship of the Ring setting out, or something from Nights in Rodanthe…again it could be anything.
Ok, let me ask you a key question: what came after that line? Or what came after that scene? It can be really hard to remember, can’t it? The connection between that great line and the rest of the story doesn’t always stick. Some films have story lines that are quite a bit less-than-memorable, but those same films are really quotable. I don’t think that was what the director was going for, do you? To really work, a movie needs both: a great story is made more memorable by having memorable lines in the film.
Think about a coaching relationship like the narrative to a movie…each scene in the movie is like a conversation in a coaching relationship. Here’s the most important part: each scene connects to the one that comes after it. That’s a key idea for coaching: each coaching conversation should connect to the one that comes after it. Each scene takes the moviegoer closer to the ultimate resolution. In the best scripts, each line moves the audience closer to the big finish. Coaches can learn from this model.
In an effective coaching relationship, each conversation should drive the client closer to their goal. If you’re not making progress toward that goal, your coaching conversation might actually be working AGAINST your client. Just like a scene has to connect to the bigger storyline, each conversation has to fit in the larger narrative of the coaching relationship. A coaching conversation is a building block.
Stephen Covey wrote about the difference between the urgent and the important. The movie narrative can help illustrate the difference. If you’re working on scenes (coaching conversations) that connect to each other, chances are you’re focusing on the important. You’re focused on your priorities, and are systematically making progress toward what’s key to accomplishing your goals.
If your scenes are disjointed or struggling to stay connected, this coaching relationship may need some re-focusing on the bigger picture. You’re working on the urgent! Resist assigning an outcome for your client–that’s not the coach’s role!!–but re-visit the coaching agreement or draw the big picture out of the client. Once you have a clear picture of where your client wants to go, structure your session to help the client get there.
Now let’s break all this down to the individual line. Something a character says might bring a scene to a conclusion, define a relationship, or open up a new wrinkle in the story. Coaching questions have the same possibilities. When a coach is choosing questions (either in preparation for a session, or in the moment during a session), moving a client toward their ultimate goals is the standard. Each question can bring a session to a conclusion, define a relationship, or open up new wrinkles in the story. Ultimately, every single question has to be focused on what the client wants to accomplish.
When you think about your coaching, do you come up with memorable coaching questions (like great lines from a movie)? Or do you think of entire sessions, like scenes in a movie? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment area below.