What do the “Great” coaches listen for?
Perhaps few other professions are more familiar with the art of active listening than professional coaches. One of the highest compliments paid to great coaches by their clients is, “He/she hears me and isn’t just waiting for their turn to say something.” But for what, exactly, are the best professional coaches listening?
Great coaches listen intently for the “context” of their clients’ lives. It is the context of their lives in which the coach engages. If every life is a unique story, then the great coaches know how to listen to each story before engaging in the story. Imagine Captain Kirk walking confusedly through Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? How would his. emphatic. list. of. commands. be taken by Mr/ Prentice and the Draytons?
The client isn’t a problem to be fixed or a puzzle to be solved; they’re a person waiting for and actively seeking the engagement of someone else (the coach). As social creatures, we seek to understand and to be understood, to communicate with others and to grow emotionally, spiritually, socially, and professionally. A client is a person aware of the value of getting “a second pair of eyes” on their situations, goals, and aspirations for the purpose of achieving the same. Whether the client is a corporate CEO seeking greater company sales and efficiency or a spiritual pilgrim seeking greater clarity in their Christian journey, the coach engages them within a story that’s already in progress. The events of the client’s life are the building blocks of coaching for that individual client. Listening well and thoroughly helps the coach begin to see at which point in the client’s story the coach is entering.
Great coaches also listen for patterns. Can a theme or pattern be detected through the words and life events shared by the client? How often does the client use words such as fear, afraid, or deeply concerned? How about competitive, overcome, or other action-oriented words? Are there certain life events or situations that seem to repeat themselves in stories of both success and/or failure? What habits might be detectable? Often these patterns help great coaches begin to narrow down DISC, Enneagram, or MBTI personality types, or to help them determine which coaching techniques to employ.
The “bottom line” is that active (engaged) listening leads to greater trust between coach and client, greater coach insight into the client’s life and needs, and, ultimately, greater results for the client. Thank you to our guest blogger Todd Blake, CHBC, CLPC and current CCLC in training
 You may be familiar with Captain Kirk (William Shatner) of Star Trek fame who often spoke in halting fashion of comically dramatic effect.