If you’ve used a professional coach before, what would you say is the most important competency as a coach to move you forward?
Hey coaches, what do you think is the most important core coaching competency in your coaching practice?
There are eleven core coaching competencies that were developed by ICF (International Coaching Federation- the largest coaching body in the world), used within today’s coaching profession. For each of the description, you can visit the ICF website for more details.
The Most Important Coaching Competency
For me, the most important core competency would be Active Listening.
When I began my professional coaching certification course, I had suddenly came to the realization that all this time, I’ve not been really listening during conversations. I used to “try” to listen to someone when he or she is speaking. And my mind would form pre-conceived judgments and come up “useful contributions” to the conversation in the forms of advices, instructions, ideas etc. We have been conditioned to try to think along in parallel to the other person’s speaking, so we can come up with meaningful reply, so we don’t look stupid when we’ve nothing to say immediately after the person stop talking. Many people engage in conversations with their own agenda in mind, to express themselves, to attain a certain end goal, to try to be helpful. Now I know that the best you can really help the person and contribute in the conversation when he’s speaking, is to simply listen.
Yes. Just listen.
It’s that simple!
How many times have you talk to someone and you sense that he isn’t really listening as if you could see through the thousands of thought processes racing in his head? And worse, sometimes you know he just can’t wait to cut in to speak his mind. How does that make you feel?
I feel one of the best gifts (if not the best) you can give to another human being, beside your time, is your full presence and attention to truly listen. I realize that beneath all the exterior shells, titles and social status, everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has a voice crying to be heard. Many people have not truly share their stories with another soul. They’re longing to be seen and heard. Unfortunately, most conversations take place at a surface level, not deep enough to make real discovery of underlying issues.
This is ICF’s description on what active listening is:
Ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and is not saying, to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client’s desires, and to support client self-expression.
- Attends to the client and the client’s agenda, and not to the coach’s agenda for the client,
- Hears the client’s concerns, goals, values and beliefs about what is and is not possible,
- Distinguishes between the words, the tone of voice, and the body language,
- Summarizes, paraphrases, reiterates, mirrors back what client has said to ensure clarity and understanding,
- Encourages, accepts, explores and reinforces the client’s expression of feelings, perceptions, concerns, beliefs, suggestions, etc.,
- Integrates and builds on client’s ideas and suggestions,
- “Bottom-lines” or understands the essence of the client’s communication and helps the client get there rather than engaging in long descriptive stories,
- Allows the client to vent or “clear” the situation without judgment or attachment in order to move on to next steps.
How Do You Listen?
So how do we control ourselves, to clear our minds to not think anything but to simply listen? My coach-teacher said the following two conditions have to be present:
1) Calmness. A calm mind will free you from the anxiety and need to try to be helpful. When your mind is calm and at rest, all thoughts are silenced to help you focus on the one thing that matters: listening.
2) Curiosity. A healthy level of curiosity will heighten your interest in the person you’re speaking to. Naturally you’ll ask the right question to keep the conversation tight as you learn more.
Combining calmness and curiosity, you will achieve the right level of active listening and come up with the right powerful question that makes a greater difference than all the advices without real listening.
While improving myself to be a better coach, I use everyday conversations to practice mindfulness of my listening patterns and habits. I practice deep listening to get “inside the inner world” of the other person or what we call Coaching Presence, another important ICF core competency which I’ll write on another day.
A Coaching Question For You
How can you practice active listening in your daily conversations and encounters? How about today?