Leadership through coaching: Day One

Critical: (adj) having a decisive or crucial importance in the success, failure, or existence of something.

Today was the first day of attendance at the Leadership through Coaching course and, the start of my coaching ‘journey’ (metaphor count: 1). Although, as I type this I don’t really like to think of it as a ‘journey’ as that implies a start and finish whereas I prefer to think of it as a new way of thinking, or alternative method of transport if you will (count: 2). This course will, I hope, give me the tools, knowledge and confidence to take a new approach in the workplace and help people in the business reach destinations (count: 3) that would otherwise have been unknown to them, or at least difficult to reach. The purpose of this blog is to help me reflect on my coaching experiences and hopefully see how my new found ways of thinking, talking and listening have developed.

I was introduce today to the concept of ‘critical moments’ which remains slightly ambiguous, but I’m sure that’s nothing some bedtime reading won’t resolve. Ambiguity aside, I have been able to think about moments of reflection and deeper thinking that happened during the day.

My first critical moment was the idea of listening and what parts of a conversation we listen to. A simple group exercise got my mind venturing off into various thoughts about the choices we have to decide which part of a conversation we really want to listen to and also how I could facilitate a conversation by focusing on different parts at different times for example letting someone talk with emotion and focus on this, before moving on to the facts of the story. Overall, I learned that it is okay to not listen to everything all of the time and that it is okay to not be able to focus on facts, metaphors, body language and the unsaid assumptions all at the same time.

Driving home from the training session I received a call from a manager and I realised that I needed to listen to their feelings and less focus on the facts was required. I learned that the manager knew what the ‘right’ thing to do was but she was nervous and uncertain and self-doubting and all she needed was me to listen, acknowledge those feelings and ask what she was thinking of doing next. I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her physically relaxing and feeling more confident with what she was about to go and do. Now, is that critical moment one still or am I on to number 2? I’ll get the hang of it I’m sure.

Critical moment number two was during another simple exercise where I had to relay a story about something positive that had happened at work and then receive feedback in the form of ‘I noticed that’ and ‘I wonder if’. I’m not sure if we progressed to the ‘I wonder if’ because the ‘I noticed that’ revealed that I was cautious in my language and apologetic for everything I said. Apparently my language, body language and tone of voice all revealed that I was seemingly apologising for speaking. I was certainly nervous, but apologetic and cautious? This was news to me. I started thinking about why and how I had come across like that and I reflected on past training sessions and difficult conversations – if I speak like I’m sorry for doing so how would someone take what I was saying seriously? How could I communicate a message effectively if this was the case? Lots of self-reflection later I have thought of a handful of occasions recently where I could have been perceived as being apologetic and I can only imagine that it has something to do with little confidence in the value of what I am saying. Certainly something for me to work on…

Finally (in the interest of a blog being no more than one page long), I wondered whether for a critical moment to actually be critical there has to be an outcome? A resolution? A change? Can the moment be critical in the present or is it only once it has been critical to something that we can retrospectively classify it as critical? More bedtime reading required I think.