Are you trying to increase your “Necessariness” at the expense of your coaching clients?
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” ― Tagore
Have you ever watched a small child suddenly fall or get startled and then immediately look to the parent as if to see whether the parent is alarmed or not? Here’s what frequently happens, if the parent registers alarm and great concern, the child will usually break out crying. Even when they may have no actual pain! But if the parent registers a calmness and a lack of concern, the child will either cry from the jolt or even a little pain and then they’ll usually stop. Or they may not cry altogether if the parent is smiling and relaxed about the whole thing. Since the child is new to navigating the world, their natural instinct is to look to those on whom they’re dependent for their survival to see if there’s cause for concern. If a parent is what’s called a “helicopter” parent, they’ll be frequently hovering over the child making sure everything’s OK. But not only is it impossible to protect kids from everything we might want them to avoid, it’s counterintuitive to their development of self-trust so they can eventually internalize the parent and be autonomous. Sooner or later, we all have to have our run-ins with gravity so we can learn about its ramifications to living life here on earth!
In many ways, there is a similar relationship between a client and a coach who is on point to oversee and help guide them toward whatever skill(s) that client is trying to attain or improve. And when it’s a business relationship where the coach is being paid, there is sometimes a tendency for the coach to try to maximize their value to the client not because it’s necessarily good for the client, but they want to make sure their value is regularly being recognized by them. So they have a tendency to talk too much or to address areas in which the client may already be fairly proficient. But they run the risk of taking some clients backwards in their skill set by putting something that may already be a strength, under the microscope as if it needs improving. Thereby possibly stunting a valuable commodity to their client: Confidence! I found myself doing this same thing early in my coaching career. I had all these great tools and wanted to use them all to help my clients and to prove my worth to them which is natural for beginners. However, I’ve seen other coaches make this same mistake quite late in their careers where silence would have served their clients far better. And whether they realize it, themselves too!
On the last day of shooting during a pivotal once-a-year video outreach by a major company who had hired me to coach their presenters, someone on the team started piping up from the sidelines coaching the senior officers of the company on their delivery. And even gave notes to the video’s host who appropriately got a bit testy getting notes from ANYONE given that he had starred in a hit television series and even hosted his own network television show! After all, he had been offered the job to be who he was…..Typically, this kind of coaching would have been my natural domain and the director’s, though that wasn’t my concern with it. Nor was the content of the coaching was generically good enough advice. But by now some two weeks into the shoot, the director and I had already developed a quiet and very efficient rapport with each other about when and how to step in with the presenters and when to stay quiet. Since literally every presenter had previously undergone extensive practice sessions on the scripts with coaching from both of us, they were either ready to shoot by now…..or they weren’t! And fortunately, they were all in pretty good shape and they knew it. And having them confidently “know” it” by the time the shoot rolled around, was the primary objective of my coaching as I really wanted them to be self-referencing by this point. As such, I knew ahead of time that I would absolutely wait until the very last possible moment if I felt I needed to coach any of the speakers during the shoot. I wanted their self-confidence to be at an all-time high which would be compromised if I offered too much coaching or gave them a new objective to juggle at this late stage. Just like that little child I mentioned at the top, they might take my coaching to mean they weren’t doing as well as they had in the practice sessions. So on most occasions, I would step over to the presenter and quietly tell them how great they were doing but only on specifically impactful moments so they would know I meant it. Otherwise, I might catch their eye and give them a look as if to say, “you’re doing fine but do you need any help?” Mind you, if any of them had a complete meltdown which has sometimes happened when the cameras finally rolled increasing the pressure, I would have absolutely been there to step in with tools I’d used many times in such circumstances. But with this group, I was expecting to say almost nothing during the shoot.
Now since I was being paid to be there, it would have been somewhat understandable for me to pipe up too and offer more direction in order to appear more valuable to my clients than if I just sat on the sidelines and said little or nothing. Or if I started coaching more because I might have felt a little insecure with the other wood-be “coach” piping up in my area of responsibility. But in direct proportion to the amount of added coaching I might be compelled to give, it might convey to the presenters that I felt they weren’t fully as ready as they should be which would start eroding at their confidence. It would have made it about me instead of all about what was best for them.
Using the science of pshychoneuroimmunology, Dr. David Hawkins, MD gauged the energetic calibration level of service as being among the most high of human endeavors. Opportunism and ambition, far lower on the scale. Service is born of the energy of love and compassion. Something every coach serving in any field should have in great abundance. Service dictates to the ego and not the other way around. Opportunism and ambition are born of ego and so, answer to it. Their energetic impact is far less effective and beneficial to anyone involved. Even to the one acting from their ego because ultimately, it’s the care that our clients actually feel from us that is the fuel that inspires them in moving forward. And research about psychoneuroimmunology/energy transfers and mirror neurons, shows that what we think we’re hiding from people, isn’t always cognitively conveyed. But energetically, it is conveyed to some extent in direct proportion to the sensitivity of the person(s) with whom we’re communicating.
I’ve run a weekend-long acting class called “The Empowered Actor Workshop” for a number of years now. Since actors frequently come into audition in a casting office with no shortage of trepidation and relinquish a decent amount of personal autonomy and control in a situation quite vulnerable for them, this can absolutely be a somewhat nerve-wracking or insecure environment for them. I wanted actors to know as much of what I knew about the process as possible, from a casting director’s side of things. Thereby, increasing their autonomy and security in presenting their skills and their artistic vision with confidence and excitement. Something that is difficult in direct proportion to the mis-perceived obstacles and dangers they frequently have. So the whole point is to demystify the process and give them tools to help create a change in their perspective that would generate self-empowerment and confidence. In the first few years, I tended to answer every question that the students asked me. At some point it occurred to me that if I wanted them to leave the workshop trusting themselves and self-referencing as much as possible whether on-set or in an audition, I needed to help them established THEMSELVES as the source of their own wisdom and guidance. Otherwise, they’d have to call me or someone else to determine what choices to make during their auditions or their acting gigs which would defeat the whole point of the workshop. So I made a simple but powerful decision. Every time one of them asked me a question, I would look at the group and say, “What do you guys think?” With increasing frequency, someone would come up with what I thought was either the answer I would have said, or close enough to it that I could gently add whatever I thought might be missing. I can’t tell you how often the participants have lauded each other as a source of tremendous wisdom after the weekend was over. Each of them got to feel as if they too could coach someone going through this process and they all ended up trusting themselves way more to make the right choices as to how to look out for themselves during auditions and on-set.
Tim Gallwey’s seminal “The Inner Game of Tennis” was written about that sport but invariably became a landmark coaching book due to the unique and paradoxical techniques he discovered when he was bored one day and was literally too lazy to offer much instruction to a client who was hitting balls to him. His client improved right before his eyes without him saying a word. After trying it with others, he realized that his clients improved better and faster, the less he said. Provided he placed them in the right circumstances to do so. The more he trusted them to teach themselves under those right circumstances, the more improvement he saw from them. So he dedicated himself to becoming an expert in discovering and conveying those circumstances instead of trying to “instruct” them largely in technique the way he had before.
My obvious point here is to help any fellow coaches or consultants with a kind of “gut check” on where they might be in terms of realizing how they could serve their clients better by NOT overlooking a powerful tool in sometimes saying, LESS. One that will prove pivotal in helping them make us….. ultimately unnecessary to them! And shouldn’t that ultimately be the final objective of any genuine master coach?