Coaching conversations

Coaching conversations

In every conversation there are the seeds of new tomorrows ……

Coaching conversations are not predicated on the expert use of models or structure, but on connection, relationship, full attention on the client, great listening and questioning.

There are so many models of coaching conversations,  3 step, 4 step, 5 step, even an 8 step model.  Whilst I do appreciate that all these have their place, and, especially for new coaches, are extremely useful for the purposes of  ‘navigation,’ I worry that they detract from the basic premise that coaching is a conversation, a focused exchange that is going somewhere, and uses fundamental skills that seem to me to be key to our unique ability to communicate with each other, to care about each other, and do a great and useful service for each other of facilitating thinking and decision making.  Simplify and get back to basics, move away from complex tools and models, coach the person, not the situations(s) they bring.

Some thoughts, quotes and reflective questions are below:

Fundamental skills of the coach

  • Building trusting relationships; where the absolute focus is on the other person, whether they be customer, client, colleague, friend etc.
  • Listening beyond the words with full attention; a special quality of listening, a creative force that can evoke new ideas, connections, perspectives.
  • Expert question asking, to discover what’s important, and support the creation of new possibilities
  • Ability to put our own agenda aside, what we are wanting, thinking, feeling or interpreting is far less important than the potential of our client to create elegant solutions and actions for themselves.


“Something fundamental changes when people begin to ask questions together. The questions create more of a learning conversation than the normal stale debate about problems.”

Mike Szymanczyk, Chairman and CEO, The Altria Group

“Good questions ………….. like all good conversations, succeed or fail based on what we’re talking about. Good questions – ones that we care about and want to answer – call us outward and to each other. They are an invitation to explore, to venture out, to risk, to listen, to abandon our positions. Good questions help us to become both curious and uncertain, an this is always the road that opens us to the surprise on new insight.”

Juanita Brown, “The World cafe: shaping our futures through conversations that matter”

“True learning organisations are a space for generative conversations and concerted action which creates a field of alignment that produces tremendous power to invent new realities in conversation and to bring about these new realities in action.”

Fred Kofman and Peter Senge, “Communities of Commitment”

 Questions, Listening, Conversations and Reflections

Think of a time when you felt heard and really listened to. What were the conditions that enabled that to happen?

Consider an upcoming important meeting, how might you create a special quality of  listening, to and for others, so as to evoke new ideas?

Knowing you …. how does your ‘special quality of listening’ need to change to be more effective?  Be honest, are you sometimes listening only to intervene?  If so what are you missing?

When you ask a question who is it for?  You or the other person?  You need to know less than you might think in order to coach effectively.

What are your challenges to having better quality conversations?

Consider the conversations you are currently having with customers, and/or those that are important to you in any context. To what degree do they create frustration and fragment efforts, OR offer new insights and ways to work collectively and collaboratively?

If you were to accept the perspective that conversation really is a core process for accessing collective intelligence and co-evolving the future, what practical difference would that make in how you can approach conversations?

 New Behaviours

Pick an upcoming conversation that matters:

What one specific thing might you do, or what one choice might you make that would improve the quality of that conversation for all parties involved?

How might your success in this drive success in your business, your life, your friends and colleagues, customers, coachees and just about everyone you meet?


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