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I hope you are keeping well and that your coaching practice is flying.

A recurring question that comes up for me in relation to both the practices of coaches I mentor coach and in my own practice, is:

“What do we listen for?”

The first thing that strikes me about this question is that I constantly ask what we listen FOR rather than what we listen TO. My rationale for this is that we obviously (is it that obvious?) listen to what our client is saying but listening FOR something seems to me more important than the content of what our clients are saying.

So, what is it that we are meant to be listening FOR? My take on it is that we need to be more focused on HOW our client thinks rather than WHAT he or she thinks. More than focusing on the issue they are putting on the table, we need to be focusing in on how they think about that issue on the table, their thinking processes. We need to, as Timothy Gallwey put it so wonderfully, “eavesdrop on their thinking.”

Many coaches are good at reflecting back to their clients what they have said. This approach seldom takes their client’s current narrative any further. Their reflection should, in my view, be about how their client is thinking. We do this by holding a mirror up to clients so they can see their own thinking process, including how their attention is focused and how they define key elements of the issue. This in turn means we don’t need detailed background information; we just need them to think out aloud so we can eavesdrop on their thought process.

From there we can help them improve the quality of their thinking by helping them to process their ideas better. We do this by helping them make their ideas clearer, by helping them find relationships between concepts, or helping them prioritise their thoughts. We can also help them broaden and deepen their perspectives around the issue, even broaden their worldviews or beliefs, move from problem mode to solution mode. The list of options for us as coaches, and therefore for our clients, seems almost endless compared to the limitations of the current narrative that greeted us at the beginning of the session.

So, this month, focus on what you listen for rather than what you are listening to. Eavesdrop on your clients’ thoughts – I’d love to hear how this works for you!

Until next time!

Kind regards




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