In my previous post I talked about how good coaching mindsets lead to great coaching skillsets. In this post I want to talk about one of those coaching mindsets – The coach should be more “curious about what could be” than “certain about what is”.
In other words, our coaching conversations ought to be full of hopeful expectation about possibilities rather than a “pattern-matching” exercise where we see how closely our clients’ thoughts, experiences, and ideas align with our own.
Throughout my progression as a coach, I’ve seen my own mindset shift in this area. Early on, I knew what my clients ought to do and I told them so. Before too long, I knew what they ought to do, but “asked them questions” so they would see what I saw. As I grew, I started holding back what I thought or believed to be true about their situation and what they should do. After a while I noticed a shift inside me where I stopped thinking about what they ought to do, and began to wonder about what they would do or who they would be.
Did you get that shift? I stopped thinking about what they ought to do (or who they ought to be) and began wondering about it. I became more “curious about what could be” than I was “certain about what is.” And this curiosity about what might happen in the coaching conversation and in my clients’ lives has led me to be a much better listener. Our curiosity mindset leads to much better listening skills.
What does a “curiosity mindset” entail?
As I mentioned above, the shift inside me was from “certainty about what is”. In other words, I stopped being so sure I knew what was happening or should be happening for my client. I stopped thinking about my own experiences, my own wisdom and knowledge, my own perspective. I stopped making assumptions about my clients based on my beliefs or preferences. I stopped hearing their issues and letting my brain match their story with the other stories I’d told or been told. I stopped being so darn sure of myself and started being more sure of them…and it led me to listen better.
Being “curious about what could be” has led me to open my ears and my mind to really listen to my clients to learn what is going on with them. It has caused me to be more open to learning – to growing – in each conversation. Being curious has made be more hopeful and expectant. It has made me more excited for my clients and their outcomes… and my listening has improved dramatically because of my curiosity.
What’s different about listening from a curiosity mindset?
- I am able to fully listen without the distraction of “figuring it out” for my clients
- I can listen more deeply to the said and unsaid when I’m genuinely curious about what’s coming next
- Because of my hopeful expectation, my ears and heart are more attuned to opportunities to encourage and celebrate with my client.
- Rather than listening to see how what is being said matches what I already know, I am listening to see what NEW thing I can learn
How can I make the shift?
I told you that for me, the progression in my coaching came slowly over a period of years. I believe if I had understood this concept of curiosity early on, that transformation would have come more quickly…and I believe it can for you.
Here are some tips to move you in that direction:
- First, have a heart-to heart with yourself about your ego – a good dose of humility goes a long way to giving up your sense of certainty about everything
- Next, be a learner – when you genuinely want to learn something new, your curiosity will kick into overdrive
- Also, dream big dreams and set your imagination loose on behalf of your clients – don’t limit their solutions to only those things within your understanding
- Finally, constantly ask yourself “I wonder…”
- I wonder how she is feeling about this
- I wonder what he’ll come up with next
- I wonder where this will go
- I wonder what I’ll learn today
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it can help bring more life to your coaching conversations. Give your clients the gift of your curiosity and see how high they can fly!