I was apprehensive about using Skype, while I often conduct meeting using video conferencing and teleconferencing somehow conducting a coaching session this way didn’t sit right with me. I pin-pointed my concerns to the limited amount non-verbal communication, knowing I use non-verbals a lot to build and maintain rapport and reading reactions, I was worried this would be lost.
I was pleasantly surprised to find little, if anything was lost once we got over the initial technical hiccups of laptops playing up. I would see my Coachee’s face easily and recognition of verbal tones was transmitting well. An additional bonus with using Skype was I also had a little thumbnail size video image of myself, usually I driven no use for this. But as this session was the object of a self-reflection assignment it was a useful tool. With an eye on that I became aware of my own body langage and eye cues and gestures.
Prior to the session with my Coachee I had been listening to David Rock - Quiet Leadership Rock describes a model called The Dance to Insight, pictured below. I was inspired by the simplicity of The Dance of Insight and decided to try it out during the session. The model focus on improving thinking while staying out of the details and drama; using ‘thinking’ questions to provoke a shift in the coachee’s thinking pattern, new connections and insights.
I used the ‘Permission’ part of the model during the start of the session, setting up a safe environment and clarifying confidentiality. A little clumsily on my part asked if I could proceed with thinking questioning, rather that asking for permission to probe in to the thinking. I was slightly preoccupied by my conscious incompetence of using a new model.
I asked my coachee to kick off with what they wanted to discuss during out session, which gave me a few seconds to re-orientate and tune into dilemma being described to me. A strength I have is my coach presence and I was pleased to find this did not seem at all lost on either part via video conferencing.
Following the dilemma described, I had heard the essence of the conversation and emotional undertone in words not said I had a strong sense of this, however, I chose not paraphrase what had been said rather that describe what I had heard. Upon reflection, I am intrigued as to why I chose to ignore the emotionally undercurrent and work with the surface issue being described.
What does that say about me as a Coach? That I felt uncomfortable being to ‘personal’ with someone I had not established a coaching relationship with, interesting. As my own worst critique my mind is already working out way I could have done tackled the emotionally charged item safely. As a person it tells me I was uncomfortable being vulnerable for a few seconds with someone I do not know well.
I could have asked permission before launching into my observations, this would have given my Coachee to opportunity to decline the feedback and also created a safe space to talk openly in.
My Coachee upon explaining the dilemma further became frustrated and began reliving his frustrations during the session, I had intended to keep my Coachee out of the detail unsuccessfully. At this point I became aware of my own inner voice and disappointment. To stay present I tried on my Coachee’s frustration while I allow them to continue venting. When this came to a natural end, I guided them up out of the detail and focused on the type and patterns of thinking they had been doing with regard to the dilemma.
What this says about me as a Coach? I am very aware of my own internal voice during a session, I need to beware of my own limbic reactions clouding my vision and stay responding only to the information (verbal and non-verbal) being provided by my Coachee. As a person I have perfectionist tendencies leading to an critical inner voice.
Following-up now on the incongruence of my Coachee, I probed without explicit permission into the meaning behind the dilemma. This was met coldly clearly this was a hot-spot for my Coachee as I did not probe further I can only speculate about the validity of my hypothesis.
The session continued with questioning focused around my Coachees thinking to date, as I recieved his answers I was listening for clues and hooks into the dilemma which may be helpful to uncover, generate new linkages and ultimately insights.
Using my coachee’s facial expressions as my guide I was able to clearly gauge periods of reflection; eye up to the ceiling and head off to one side while chewing on a pen-end. There were a couple of instances of insight, indeicated by an ‘Ahh-haa’ face, a short comment and a note being taken. For my part I was allowing space for mental processing to take place. I am conscious I can be too hasty to jump in with questions, it is an effort often for me to pace my questioning. My Coachee spent much of the time talking through the silence, as a verbal thinker which made it easier for me to listen for clues.
Throughout the session I noticed my propensity to jump into a solution, a solution I had decided was correct. I am aware of my tendency to this and have mastered the art of allowing the thought a little airtime this encouraging it to drift away. My aim always is to react to the information pouring in from my Coachee
Once the ‘thinking’ questions draw to an end it took me a few minutes to reorientate myself. I was aware of the many thoughts going around in my head, a new model, a self-reflection assignment and a Coachee. I struggled to make sense of them for a minute and became very self conscious.
Inner voice – You should have gotten to the answer by now …
In a not very eloquent fashion and rather hap-hazard manner I asked the Coachee how I might best help him now to think this matter through. A perfectly legitimate question with my Coachee’s need at the core of my intention. However, upon reflection I had misplaced my Coachee’s and was acting on my own; my own need to look smart and clever. My own critical voice and self-doubts cleared their throat and began chirping in – I was no longer fully present and my limbic system had kicked in, I was dealing with my ‘stuff’.
My Coachee’s response to ‘How can I best help you think this through’ was ‘I’d like to look at options …’
In hindsight a new cycle of The Dance of Insight or GROW model would have worked perfectly in this part of the session. The conversation went towards planning the next actions and clarifying timelines.
Having allowed my own needs to rise to the surface the final part of the session for me was less deliberate, without a structured ending.