I learned something very, very interesting this week. It started with a presentation by David Rock on his coaching approach, which he calls “Brain-Based Coaching.”
David explained one of his key concepts, namely: Certain questions will cause the client to enter into emotional reaction. When this happens, the client will not have the mental energy to be able to focus, reflect, and be curious. So these simple questions become a big impediment to effective coaching.
Here’s an example. A client came to me just a couple of hours later, who was all wrapped up in emotional turmoil around whether she should leave her job or not. I could have fallen into asking her to tell me more about the situation. But in so doing, I would have caused her brain to focus all it energy on reliving all the bad things that are going on in her job right now. And believe me, there was a LOT of emotion tied up in this. Not to mention the fears of leaving her job at her age, financial insecurity, and on and on.
I decided instead to try out what David had talked about. I acknowledged her turmoil, made sure she understood that it was valid to feel stressed and confused, but then turned the conversation to looking forward.
“What would satisfy you in the next few years of your career?”
That really got the gears turning. You can always tell, because the client gives you a “Hmm!” and then has to think for awhile. After a little bit, she was able to articulate two goals, both very personal and very important. Fantastic! As her homework, I asked her to write these down, and define the words that she was using, in her own terms. I do this because it helps people to think through a little bit of “what did I mean?”, “why did I say that?”, and to stabilize it in their minds.
She dropped me an e-mail the next morning, telling me that she considered this a breakthrough discussion.
I love it when I’m able to learn a skill, and apply it immediately with some tangible results. How cool is that?