A Curiosity Mindset

curiosity-mindsetIn 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!

Podcast – What I Need to Know Before Hiring a Coach

Episode # 14

Signing contract. Close-up of confident young man signing some document while another man in shirt and tie sitting close to him and pointing document

Everybody calls themselves a coach today. There are health coaches, financial coaches, personal coaches, leadership coaches, career coaches, and on and on. My favorite was a business coach I was listening to who said he loves to coach business leaders. He rips their businesses apart and shows them how to build it up from nothing. It’s funny I don’t remember having any coaching classes on ripping people up.

So if you’re looking for a coach, what do you need to know in this widely unregulated field in order to hire the coach you need.
In this episode, I’m going to ask my partner Bill Copper, who has been coaching for over 10 years, what people should look for when hiring a coach.

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Coaches Are the Last Defense Against Robot Overlords


Billionaire tech guru, Elon Musk, founder of Space X, Tesla, and Solar City, describes a frightening scenario about the danger of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in an upcoming documentary by Werner Herzog called “Lo and Behold.”

“If you were a hedge fund or private equity fund and you said, ‘Well, all I want my AI to do is maximize the value of my portfolio,’ then the AI could decide, well, the best way to do that is to short consumer stocks, go long defense stocks, and start a war. That would obviously be quite bad.”

Simplified, Musk can imagine the possibility of an Artificial Intelligence starting a war in hopes of making me a billionaire.

That is a future possibility. Here is a present reality.

Google has an Artificial Intelligence called DeepMind. Unlike other computers, DeepMind isn’t programmed to solve problems. DeepMind learns how to solve problems. For instance, and this will blow your mind, Google wouldn’t program DeepMind to play chess. It wouldn’t even program the rules of chess into DeepMind. Instead, it would show DeepMind a million games of chess, and let DeepMind figure out how to play and win.

You don’t have to teach a kid to play kickball. She will just get in the line and watch, and when it is her turn, she will kick the ball and run counterclockwise around the bases. She learns more by watching than by being taught. Welcome to the reality of Artificial Intelligence.

Google wanted a bigger challenge than chess. Google taught DeepMind to play Go. Go is the oldest board game still played today. The rules are simple but the strategy is considered much more complex than Chess. Instead of teaching DeepMind to play Go, they let DeepMind watch hundreds of games of Go. DeepMind then began to play. As it learned, it got better and better. And it began to win… a lot.

When DeepMind was ready, it played Lee Se-dol, a legendary Go player from Seoul Korea.

“I was very surprised,” said Lee after the match. “I didn’t expect to lose. I didn’t think [DeepMind] would play the game in such a perfect manner.”

How did Deepmind play such a perfect game? We don’t know. We don’t know it’s strategy. It learned from thousands of experiences, just like we learn from thousands of experiences. The difference is that DeepMind can have thousands of experiences in a few minutes because of its access to massive amounts of data. It takes us a lifetime.

In May, Three London hospitals gave DeepMind access to enormous amounts of healthcare data. Dr. Chris Lang, a kidney doctor, approached Google to see if a collaboration was possible.

“The system is crying out for more innovation and hopefully that is something we can pioneer.” – Dr Chris Lang

What will DeepMind learn? What strategy will it propose? We don’t know.

To build on Elon Musk’s scenario, let’s say DeepMind takes those London Hospital records, millions of them, and begins to look for winning patterns. Let’s say a win is defined by reducing costs and extending people’s lives. That seems like a good definition of a win.

As the computer spits out a solution, we have no idea what it is “thinking.” It designed its own algorithm by looking deeper at the data than anyone on earth could possibly digest. DeepMind could learn that racism is the best way to reduce health care costs and extend the lives of the people of London. And we wouldn’t even know. It would just tell us what to do. It wouldn’t tell us why.

Am I suggesting we all get off the grid and separate ourselves from the future of technology? No.

Am I suggesting we start a terror group and blow up DeepMind and all of its future kind? No.

Am I suggesting we lay down our wills and blindly obey our the Artificial Intelligence that will attempt to solve all our problems? No.

AI is coming and will be as widely available to you as central air conditioning. You will be able to personalize it to your health, your business, and even your pleasure. It will be applied to gardening, church planting, cooking, leadership development, choosing a new pastor, and dog grooming.

Instead of thinking less, I propose we begin to think more.