What Does “In the Moment” Coaching Actually Look Like?
When I talk about making coaching a way of life, I sometimes get quizzical looks. Or, people say something like, “We’re training a bunch of people to become certified coaches so we can do that.” But, that’s actually not what I mean. Training people to be “full-fledged” coaches who schedule ongoing, goal-driven coaching engagements is a common expression of coaching, but that’s not what “in the moment” coaching is.
So, What is “In the Moment” Coaching?
The confusion begins with what people believe coaching really is. At Cylient, we define coaching as the translation of insight (learning something new) into meaningful action (doing something differently) in order to realize potential (become a more fully-expressed person). That’s it. To expand off of that definition, we believe:
- Coaching is a worldview that is driven by the intention to be of service to others.
Therefore, coaching is always a positive, productive experience that supports people to learn and grow, even when the focus is helping someone to address a limiting behavior.
- Coaching can be expressed in many ways. You don’t have to be in a formal relationship with someone to coach them. In fact, the person receiving coaching does not even need to be aware that “coaching” is happening—they only need to benefit from the exchange.
- “In the moment” coaching occurs when coaching approaches are woven into any conversation, with anyone, at any time, about anything. The igniting of insight that illuminates possibilities is what differentiates “in the moment” coaching from other types of conversations.
The Problem with “Telling and Selling”
The best way to understand what “in the moment” coaching looks and feels like is to compare it to what many people currently do when they want to influence another person, which is “telling and selling.” Let’s take a look at how that approach typically plays out.
Let’s say you’re in a conversation with peer, and she sees a situation differently than you do. If you click into “tell and sell” mode, you’ll likely start explaining to her why you think your perspective is right—and hers is wrong. In fact, as soon as you perceive that you aren’t on the same page, you probably stop listening to anything she says and start plotting how to prove your point. There’s a good chance that you’ll amp up your argument with more facts and/or intensified emotion when you sense she isn’t embracing your point of view. Does that sound about right?
There are a number of problems with the “tell and sell” approach:
- Neither of you learned anything from the other person because you weren’t actually listening.
- In your determination to win the “argument” you may have damaged your relationship with your colleague because she didn’t feel heard or respected.
- Instead of creating momentum to move forward, the inertia of unresolved differences weighs the situation down and will likely impact any future interactions.
Take Two: “In the Moment” Coaching in Action
Let’s see what taking an “in the moment” coaching approach to that same situation looks like:
The moment that you realized that your colleague has a different perspective, you take a breath. You stop yourself from throwing your brain into “tell and sell” mode. You get curious.
What are you getting curious about? You earnestly and honestly want to understand your colleague’s perspective to better understand how she sees the situation. To do this, you ask a few open-ended questions that invite her to expand upon her point of view like, “Tell me more about that…” or “I hadn’t looked at it that way… help me understand your perspective.” You are not interrogating her; instead, you are exploring to gain insight into her way of looking at the situation.
Then, you listen without judgment. As you listen you consider, what does she assume or believe is true about this situation? Notice how she seems to feel about what’s going on. Is she concerned, excited, frustrated? What might be contributing to that? A picture of her perspective begins to come into view for you.
Notice where her perspective differs from yours, then ask yourself, how can I build a bridge between what seems to be important to her, and what matters to me? The goal is to establish a shared connection that can be built upon, rather than “winning the sale.”
That shared connection might look like:
- Using a phrase similar to: “It sounds to me like you’re concerned about…. I share that concern as well.”
- Inviting her to see the situation from your perspective. That could be sharing a story about your experience that has led you to believe what you do, offering a metaphor or analogy that highlights a relevant dynamic, or simply offering an observation that points towards something that she may not be aware of.
- Acknowledging her concern and share a concern that you have related to hers. That could sound like, “I’m also concerned about…” Then ask, “What’s your perspective on that?”
Continue to integrate coaching approaches into the conversation, as appropriate, to establish places of commonality that create some forward momentum.
This is just one example of how to take an “in the moment” coaching approach to a conversation. It could also be as simple as dropping a question that invites reflection into a conversation that feels stuck. It’s not a formula, it’s a process of finding connection points that can be used to co-create a shared path forward.
This kind of conversation should feel natural, easy and connected. People will walk away feeling heard, respected and appreciated. When you’re not trying to “sell” your argument to another person, the conversation doesn’t come off as tense or frustrating. Instead, your curiosity leads to insight and shared understanding between you and the other person, enriching your relationship and building a bond of trust. That’s important, because trust is an essential currency in our increasingly interconnected world.
The goal of “in the moment” coaching conversations is for people to learn with and from each other, in the moment, as we work together to resolve day-to-day challenges and capitalize on emerging opportunities. Making “in the moment” coaching your default leadership style for resolving differences and building momentum is the key for turning the complexity of our lives into opportunities for everyone to learn, grow and co-create a path to a better future.
To get started on practicing your “in the moment” coaching approaches, read up on the 11 “In the Moment” Coaching Practices to Make You a Better Coach.