Just as maps help travelers find their way, listening templates help coaches pay attention to what can be listened for by providing a structure to guide their attention.
Templates help coaches see gaps that might lend themselves to the starting points for the coaching conversation.
Listening for the "Big Five"
One powerful tool well trained coaches use is the ability to listen for the"Big Five.
In early coaching sessions with clients, the focus is on understanding the clients' goals and discovering what needs to shift so the clients can create what they most want. Once clients have articulated the goals for change, it is time to start listening for the clients' strengths and any potential blocks they may encounter in achieving their goals.Discovering potential blocks helps both coaches and clients identify what the clients will need to do-or become-to achieve their goal.The Big Five provides a generic listening template that helps coaches to discern what is currently in place and what needs to be added to the clients' repertoire. The Big Five are frequently the source of guidance about the specific fieldwork and coaching coaches will do with clients.These five factors are drawn from sports psychology and personal coaching experiences .
Clients' focuses are the characteristic parts of their work and life that draw their attention at the current time. An ideal focus is appropriate, steady, flexible, able to be maintained, and related to goals that foster the clients' well-being. Clients may come into coaching with a "fuzzy focus."They come to coaching with a sense that they want to do something different. They are not happy in their current situation, but they are not clear on what needs to be different or what they want to create. That's a common coaching conversation.
Coaching takes the sense of something missing or something desired and assists clients in gaining clarity and choice by asking powerful questions, working with clients on their vision-how they want life to be. Through powerful questions, journal exercises, and reflections, clients will gain more clarity of focus and be able to move toward what they want.A metaphor we use with clients is that clarifying their focus is like charting a course on a sailboat. They know they want to get there, and they have many choices about how to get there. But they can't start sailing until they know what island they want to visit.
Listening as a Coach clients determine the destination so that the coaching can move ahead to exploring the various routes clients can choose to get there. Knowing the routes helps, and successful sailors also need to be able to adjust to various circumstances, such as wind shifts, and storms.One of coaches' tasks is to work with clients to assess whether the clients' goals are feasible-whether they are appropriate and achievable for the clients at this time. One of our faculty worked with a client who wanted to open a new business, a retail outlet, at the same time when she was three months pregnant with her third child. While this isn't something that we would want to do under the circumstances, the coaching conversation helped the client determine that yes, she could do this, and helped her strategize how to open the business as well as support the upcoming birth.So if your client has a goal of expanding his business, and that's his reason for seeking coaching, you will ask yourself, "Does he have a focus? Is the focus clear?" If the focus seems fuzzy, that may be a starting point for coaching. For example, he may talk about expanding but not be clear about how he would measure the expansion. Would it be numbers of clients? Bottom line revenue? New markets? New products? If he isn't clear, the coach needs to help him explore and gain clarity about the focus for expansion-in other words, what expansion really means to him. If he holds his focus too generally, he will not be able to achieve his goals. It is, of course, possible to be over focused. Over focusing does not allow clients to discover options because they are so focused on just one direction. Being highly motivated isn't the same as being over focused, which is like having tunnel vision. Clients can over focus on work achievements, ignoring other aspects of their lives.
Coaches support the clients in exploring this by bringing a broad perspective to the clients' lives. Another benefit of coaching is that it expands the view and puts goals in the context of the rest of clients' lives.The client who wants to expand his business may be over focused on that goal and may almost obsessively focus all his attention and energy on it. That could lead to coaching conversations about work-life balance, the needs of other people in his life, and how he will maintain his health and physical well-being during the expansion. Life coaching-unlike pure business coaching-takes a whole-person perspective on any client who comes for coaching.