Four Modes of Coaching Magic Part X: Co-Create Mode: My Coaching Wakeup Call

Jan 19, 2023

My wakeup call: It's not about you . . . it's not even about the solution.

Every so often, I have a coaching experience that profoundly changes me. One particular day, I was in an Accountability Activator session with a group of highly motivated service managers from around the country. These managers regularly dealt with issues involving auto parts, scheduling, dispatch, etc. These are things I know nothing about. One of the activities in the workshop is what I call the Clarity Chair. This is where someone from the group, sometimes a person who is particularly stuck on something, volunteers to come up to the stage and sit in the Clarity Chair to be coached by me, live, in front of the group. I do this for a few reasons, one of which is that I like the managers in the group to see what coaching looks like in real life. During the early hours of the workshop, the managers are learning the modes, learning why they work and role playing using their new skills. It’s beneficial for everyone to see the parts all working together.

One quiet manager, Eduardo, volunteered to be coached. As I started using the modes with Eduardo, something happened that until that time, I had never experienced: the coaching wasn’t working. Ed was not responding the way he should have been. He was giving one-word answers, not digging deeper or past his original solution, not considering new ways of responding. I began to get frustrated and remember thinking, “Why is Eduardo doing this to me? Doesn’t he know what I’m trying to do here? Doesn’t he want his colleagues to see great coaching? Why isn’t he cooperating? He might be trying to sabotage this on purpose!” (Oh, the way the brain likes to spiral up emotions when the ego is at risk!) I stopped the coaching session. I looked at the “audience” and said, “I’m stuck; this isn’t working!” and that’s when Ed said, “It's working for me . . ..”

What I failed to remember that day with Ed is that coaching is never about the coach. It's always about the person being coached. I let myself get too caught up in the spectacle of the performance. I was focused on demonstrating the modes, showing my skills, and giving the audience a full circle example. No part of my coaching energy was focused on Ed. I still wonder if I would have just been observing at a deeper level, if the session would have been more successful, but I’m not sure I would have chosen a “do-over” after I experienced what happened next. I hope you’re not worried about Ed, because what happened after that also had a big impact. As the managers in the group saw me “give up,” they took over. They started asking Ed questions and he continued to respond. They moved effortlessly through the modes, finally co-creating some actions with him, never dictating. They were demonstrating the skills they learned that day. I faded into the background as I watched the entire group gain confidence in themselves and the modes. As a side note, as we were wrapping up, one manager said, “That was really cool how you pretended not to know what to do next and waited for us to jump in. I almost thought you were really stuck!” It's always about the person you are coaching, not about you. 

When the coaching becomes about you, as it did with me that day, your default approach is to dictate. You tell people what to do, give them the answers, and give them directions rather than co-creating the direction with them. I get this comment often from bosses: “But it's so much faster to just answer their questions!” Yes, it absolutely is. Today. But what about tomorrow and the next day? Using short-term thinking to quickly answer their questions without engaging their brains is always the easy way out for you. Although on the surface this may seem like what a boss should do, it kills any progress you’ve made in using the Thinking Advantage within your company. If you’ve been acting as a dictator, there’s good news. You can start on the path to co-creation with a few easy skills. Next time, I’ll share them with you!

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