As coaching is usually a confidential conversation between two people we rarely get the chance to hear how others do it, or to be the observer in the conversation. That’s why one of my favourite podcasts at the moment is Coaching Real Leaders with Muriel Wilkins… I get to gate-crash on her executive coaching conversations and consider how I would coach in this situation, what parts of her approach worked (or didn’t) and to really see new insights occurring in the moment.
I also love how the conversations develop: So often a leader presents their issue, only to find that this isn’t really the problem at all – when you peel back the onion you find there is something else at play that is much more important. This most recent episode is a good example of that – at https://hbr.org/podcast/2022/12/how-do-i-ask-for-help. Our leader, ‘Sabine’, wants to find a new ‘dream’ role that is right for her – the first 15 minutes are spent talking about this. Then Muriel changes the course of the conversation (around 15min 10secs) by stating (I summarise) we can change the environment but that doesn’t mean that the pace that leads to the burnout will go away. Then the rest of the coaching conversation is about managing burnout and pace in any role – learning how to lead yourself!
A piece of a coaching theory that is relevant here is Dilts Logical Levels – where change at the higher levels (beliefs, identity, purpose) are more sustainable and ultimately lead us to making changes at the lower levels (capabilities, behaviour, environment). As an executive coach I’m often listening for the level at the early stages of a coaching conversation to better understand where change might need to take place. That’s not to say I don’t listen to what my leader wants to work on but that I listen for some of things they might not yet be aware of.
In this Coaching Real Leaders podcast, when ‘Sabine’ changes the way she sees herself (her identity) and what she beliefs about asking for help she is able to consider new behaviours such as asking for help and building networks in any new role. This happens around 49.07 with one of those killer questions from the coach - and for me that’s what leadership learning looks like.