“If fourteen frogs sat on a log and three decide to jump in to the water. How many frogs would be left on the log?”
Most people would respond eleven that is simple math. A better answer may be fourteen. That is the big difference between deciding to do and actually doing something, says Prof. Robert Kegan of Harvard University in his introduction on “Immunity to Change."
This very much explains the ability that a coach should possess: to bring people to actually making the change they intend to for themselves.
Every now and then I choose the most interesting question asked by my present and potential clients and answer them in my short information brief. I think these questions cover concerns of many people who have the intentions and have decided to make important changes but have not actually been able to bring them about.
In the last few weeks I was asked this question seven times: “What do you do during your coaching?” A short answer for the process of could tests your ability to give a satisfactory response and may still not convince the client.
I like to compare my Coaching to very fine cuisine: haute cuisine. You need a variety of fine but carefully selected ingredients, the quantities need to be right and then finally the temperature and the timing for cooking needs to be monitored properly. The ingredients for coaching though are knowledge, life experience and a methodical approach to coaching.
I begin my coaching with a very easy conversation and most of the clients are surprised how quickly they get to talk about their issues. I still have not asked them the standard question you are taught in the coaching school: “What do you want to talk about?”
Recently there was another question: “What if I do not open up to you?” Well, if any coach is unable to facilitate his or her client to open up and talk comfortably then the relationship may still be lacking trust and confidentiality for good coaching.
After adding my ingredients, and my 35 years of international leadership and management experience, my ongoing studies in psychology along with my very finely developed instinct to look for dichotomous statements or situations in clients environment I take the coaching to a level where the client begins his explorations and discoveries for his own benefit.
A few days after every coaching session my clients give me feedback by email. These forms are very similar to the ones we design for conducting experiments, interviews and to collect data in psychological studies. These serve to look for correlations between two or more factors to enable me to evaluate relationships scientifically, if any.
Then comes the interesting part: they receive a constructive critique from me after 3 and the 5 sitting.
During my coaching many clients get to do very simple quizzes or exercises.
This helps them direct their attention from a whole lot of chatter to what matters most to them. All these forms, quizzes and exercises are very simple.
Let us create an imaginary example: Let us say you need to learn a new language* for your work and you do not like to do it. If you asked me to teach you a new language I would ask you to learn just 5 words a day. I would ask you not to worry about the grammar for the time being. There will be time for that later. I want you to experience how easy it is to learn a few words: just a few words. Enjoy the success of having learned just five words and recognize them in your surroundings. I would successively adapt the process to my client’s capabilities provided my client showed evidence of success at the first trial.
Your own success at learning a few words would motivate you so that you get all fired up to learn more about the language and eventually go to learning grammar by yourself.
Does this work?
Over the years my coaching has evolved in to a predictable and systematic method. My clients have all benefited from it enormously by following my method of small steps.
Small steps create new desirable behaviour and support what you actually want to do. The problem begins when we want to do it all at once, to create a short cut or introduce your own methodology. Small steps are fail-proof. They ensure that once you’ve been able to accomplish them, you gain the confidence, a feel for the challenge and most importantly the ability to make them slightly bigger, a bit more ambitious and a bit more challenging.
You may want to keep in mind that as long as the steps are small and there is a tested method behind the process the likelihood of failing is very unlikely.
So what do I do in my coaching? I create innovative methods in business and personal environment and get my clients to see the “How” to do what they value most.
I make it very simple for my clients and enable them to actually jump in to the water and not just sit on the log.
*Dr. Clay Cook, The College of Education at the University of Washington