I asked my next question and saw a look that was very familiar to me. Somewhere deep inside, a light had been switched on. A realisation that was deeply personal and would shift the way Steve would look at the world forever more.
Now the question was, how would Steve* react to it? Denial, relief, gratitude, uncertainty?
Of the many managers who I have helped develop into coaches, I know what many have done in this situation whilst still learning to coach: backed off. (Most recently this was done by someone asking if it would be a good time to arrange a follow-up meeting !)
They’ve seen the same look that Steve had; been concerned that they might be prying, might upset the client (coachee) and decided to ask a question to relieve the intensity of the situation, often away from the subject altogether.
Stop! Don’t Do That!
Do this: Look at the sort of reactions you might get: Denial, relief, gratitude, uncertainty, amongst many others. What help can you be, if you back off? Allow the client some time to work it through with your help.
What are they feeling?
Where is that feeling located?
What might it mean?
Stick with it as long as the client wants to explore it and build upon it. Then move on when they want to.
Here’s what other managers who have been in a similar situation tend to do: in an attempt to empathise they offer a supportive, “I know exactly how you feel, the same thing happened to me”
Stop! Don’t Do That!
Think about the last time someone used that phrase with you, what was the little voice in your head saying in response? Probably “No you don’t know exactly how I feel” and the reason for that is, that you can’t know exactly.
Do this: Keep the focus on the client (coachee). It’s not about you.
Trying the empathetic approach is great in theory and indeed comes from a very postive place but you can’t empathise accurately.
You can support, by helping the client explore the experience more fully.
Avoid taking the experience away and making it yours: it isn’t, shouldn’t be and can’t be helpful when you steal it.
What other manager-coach examples to avoid, should you and I talk about in the comments section (or live)?
(*Steve is and isn’t real … if you know what I mean)
Glenn Wallis is an experienced Executive Coach and Coach Developer who will help you improve your own results and those of your organisation. When you are ready to raise your performance to the next level, find out more here.