The Art of Listening and Unlocking Hidden Potentials

Use of curiosity and keywords creates the "common third" when helping your coachee unlock hidden potentials. Learn more in this third blog post about Systemic coaching in the context of Agile and Change Management.
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Welcome to the third blog post of our five-part series on Systemic coaching in the context of Agile and Change Management.

 In this and the following two blog posts we will look deeper into the techniques of Systemic Coaching.

Here is the full list of blog posts in this series in case you want to jump directly to one of the topics:

The Essence of Listening in Coaching

In the realm of coaching, whether as a Scrum Master or Agile Coach, the art of listening holds unparalleled importance. Our primary objective is not merely to instruct but to empower individuals and teams to be the best versions of themselves. This is where the wisdom of professional coaching methodologies becomes invaluable – especially your awareness and abilities of listening.

Three Levels of Listening

1. Level One – Self-Centric Listening

At this level, unawareness dominates. The focus is on relating what is said to one’s own world, drawing from personal experiences and opinions. Popular speaking, your inner voice is hijacking the conversation. This often leads to providing solutions based on the coach’s perspective rather than aiding the coachee’s self-discovery.

2. Level Two – Other-Centric Listening

Progressing to this level involves a shift in focus toward the coachee. Engaging in active listening, making eye contact, and understanding perspectives between the lines become the priority. It’s a crucial step toward effective coaching.

3. Level Three – Emotionally Attuned Listening

Building on Level Two, Level Three adds an emotional dimension. Beyond understanding words and perspectives, the coach tunes into the coachee’s feelings—detecting happiness, frustration, or sadness—and reflects these emotions back.

As coaches, occasional slips to Level One are inevitable. The key is self-awareness. Identifying triggers and employing survival techniques to ascend from Level One ensures a more effective coaching dynamic.

The Role of Keywords

A powerful technique in effective coaching is identifying and using keywords – words that carry deeper meaning for the coachee. These words unlock understanding and open new avenues for exploration. Note them down during the conversation and utilise them to formulate diverse questions, providing a comprehensive perspective.

Avoiding Assumptions with Curiosity

The dangers of assumptions and the importance of curiosity cannot be overstated. Words can carry varied meanings depending on context and individual perspectives. Adopting a curious mindset, coaches must refrain from assuming and instead explore the coachee’s intended meaning.

Active Listening and Creating a Common Third

Engaging in meaningful conversation involves active listening, where the goal is shared understanding. The conversation isn’t just about the two participants; it’s about creating a shared third – an amalgamation of thoughts, perspectives, and understanding.

Addressing Transference:

Transference – the unconscious projection of past experiences onto the coachee – must be acknowledged. Awareness of potential bias is crucial for coaches to ensure a fair and unbiased coaching relationship. The coachee might unconsciously remind you about somebody else with the risk of you projecting experiences from the past into the coachee. This could be assumptions about hidden agendas, lack of abilities or something else. With your awareness of possible transference, you will be able to maintain neutrality as a coach.

The Coaching Toolkit: Listening, Formulate Questions, and Creating Understanding

In the intricate dance of coaching, listening and questioning form the core. The ability to adapt listening levels, employ keywords, avoid assumptions, and be aware of transference enriches the coaching toolkit. These tools not only enhance the effectiveness of coaching conversations but also foster an environment of trust, self-reflection, and continuous improvement.

As we continue our exploration of systemic coaching tools, stay tuned for our next post where we unravel the intricacies of coaching conversation structure – a fundamental pillar in unlocking hidden potentials.


The Common Third

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