Coaching – Should I make suggestions?

When leaders or new coaches attend a Leadership or NLP Coaching programme, they frequently have an urge to suggest a solution to their coachee or team member.

The group I’m currently with in Manchester fed back on their first session that they wanted to help their coachee and could see what the coachee should do.

Now, firstly, whilst this may sometimes work, we all have a natural ‘push back’ reflex and may respond with, ‘Well, that wouldn’t work’ or, ‘I’ve tried that’. You can’t push string, but they can pull it!

Secondly, when making suggestions or offering solutions, they come from the coach’s model of the world not the coachees. In his best-selling book, Effective Coaching, Myles Downey says that when the coachee takes responsibility and works out a direction for themselves “that is where the magic occurs.”

And you can meet the Coach’s Coach in person at the NLP and Coaching Convention on March 27th next year.

Back to coaching then. Very often your coachee or team member will present you with a situation you have experienced yourself and the temptation is to empathise with them and tell them about your own experience. I have seen this happen many times along with the coachee’s reaction. Often, they feel that the focus has moved away from them and onto the coach or, at best, somewhere in between. What I recommend is acknowledging in your own thoughts that this is occurring and to just have your whole attention on your coachee.

Often the Coach’s head is so full of stuff or the next question they want to ask that they are not listening. It is important that your mind is totally clear. Your coachee needs space for reflection. A couple of years ago, I introduced the concept of Ma into coaching. Ma is the Japanese word for space or gap. It can occur in between branches of a tree or the pause at the end of a bow, which demonstrates respect. As far as ancient teaching is concerned, Ma is more than just a space or gap. For example, the walls, windows, ceilings and doors don’t make a house, it is the space within them that creates the house. Likewise, it is not the round curvature of glass but the space that it surrounds within that creates the wine glass.

The concept of Ma can apply to aspects of leadership and coaching too. When the Coach’s mind is ‘clear’ from other thoughts, this is when the ‘deep’ listening happens.

Remember your coachee has all the resources inside them, your job is to flick the light switch and let their electricity flow.