Are you good at listening? Now, be honest…
Let me be up front. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know I believe listening is one of the 5 basic coaching skills coaches need to master if they want to offer the high level of service their coachees deserve. In fact, I believe it’s the MOST important skill. Why? Because everything that happens in coaching depends on it.
The importance of listening
Think about it. Without listening, it’s well-nigh impossible to explore goals and current reality with coachees, because without attentive listening a coach is unable to base an intervention on actual coachee needs as opposed to the coach’s own predetermined ‘programme’. Relevant questions can’t arise in the moment if there hasn’t been an adequately deep, attentive process of listening from which those questions flow. And no-one can contract in coaching without listening, because listening is at the core of the process of discussion and negotiation upon which contracting depends.
I’ve written before about how coaching is at bottom based on the fundamental insight that coachees are experts vis-à-vis their own issues – even though they may not yet be fully aware of the fact or able independently to access their ‘wisdom’.
The other day I found myself musing on what this might mean as far as the coaching relationship is concerned. We know that part of the coaching role is to facilitate coachees in accessing their ‘wisdom’. But what riches might coachees themselves be bringing to the table, that we coaches may not yet have acknowledged?
There have been lots of reviews of Nancy Kline’s classic exploration of what conditions, when brought together skilfully, are conducive to bringing out the best in human thinking and igniting the human mind. So what can I add that hasn’t already been said?
What about my own point of view…? I’m sure Nancy would agree that this is precisely what I should be encouraged to contribute, given her definition of what she terms a ‘Thinking Environment’. In a Thinking Environment, the ideas and inspirations of all are equally valued, and Nancy spent long years researching how practically to establish such an environment. It is to creating one across society that her life’s work has been devoted.
In Time to Think. Listening to Ignite the Human Mind (first published 1999), Nancy describes ten components without which a Thinking Environment will not exist: