Sunday, 3 March 2013

LIKE 43: Coaching or how to listen without judgement

Listening and asking powerful questions are two key tips to becoming a good coach. Karen Drury, an executive coach, told us as she started her session on coaching at LIKE 43. Described as professional nagging, coaching is not a cosy chat where someone will pat your arm and offer condolences but where someone will give people choices about the type of life they lead and the reactions they have to events they experience.

Karen described four ways people listen:
  • Cosmetic listening - looking like you are listening but not really engaging - your mind is probably in a completely different place
  • Engaged listening - listening but most likely also planning your response at the same time
  • Active listening - the listener is taking in what is being said and asking relevant questions
  • Deep listening - really intense and focused listening, not just taking into account the words spoken but also taking in the hidden subtext behind them
Most people listen either cosmetically or engaged, few listen actively or deeply. Coaches do the latter. Active & deep conversations tend to take longer and deep listening can be exhausting as it takes into account body language, skin flushes and voice pitch.
We discussed when to ask closed and open questions; closed questions which need a yes or no answer help clarify meaning and can set actions and open questions are required for information gathering. Whether it is an open or closed question it should be simple, purposeful and assumption free.
We were then given a wheel of life to fill in to assess where we had gaps in our life. After which we partnered up and played coach and coachees focusing on one of the areas we believed were lacking in our lives. I partnered with someone who felt like he would like to make more contribution to society so I asked him how he saw himself making this contribution. Within three minutes he had gone from a vague idea of thinking he'd like to contribute more to a quite specific plan of action! Turns out my coaching skills might be pretty good!

Photo courtesy of Virginia Henry: dinner time at LIKE 43
As you'd expect the happiest people & quite often the most successful people were ones who have high scores in all aspects of their lives. This is a theme that  has recently been cropping up quite regularly for me as not only did it feature in the most recent Library Leadership Reading Group book but it's also featured in several blog posts over the last few months. Here are a couple of good examples:


I've known for a while there's areas of my life which aren't balanced at all and moving house has made this even worse as it's taken me away from many things I used to enjoy, however, this event laid it out quite starkly for me. So, time to make a few changes...


  1. I think I'd prefer 'action-oriented' to 'professional nagging'! But a nice write up and I'm pleased you got so much out of what was, after all, a very quick session!

  2. I think I'd prefer 'action-oriented' to 'professional nagging'! But a nice write up and I'm pleased you got so much out of what was, after all, a very quick session!