Learning to Know Nothing

Post by Cyndy 

I am a veteran high school teacher. I know how to interact with teens. Duh. Why would I possibly need training in how to life coach ‘em?

Oh, ye of little knowledge.

As a teacher, I plan ahead for my lessons. As a coach, planning ahead is a really bad plan.

In the classroom, teacher = boss.

In youth coaching, youth = boss.

I’m trying to learn this.

It’s dawning on me that coaching isn’t about what I think. At all. The goal is that my own thoughts, my own knowledge, my own curiosities, go bye-bye.

Instead of thinking, my brain’s job is to follow the client’s stated thoughts, and ask questions about the process. Questions that start with W words.

“What do you really want?”

“What does that look/feel like?”

“Who do you need to be?”

“What’s another way this situation could be?”

“Where will that decision take you?”

“What did you learn?”

This revelation came when my spectacular “coaching plan” bombed, bad. I used my big, powerful brain to come up with some questions before the session. Questions that would get my client thinking about the prior week’s objective in new ways. Damn, but those questions were good.

Except…my client’s last-week objective wasn’t the same as her this-week objective. What she needed to focus on, today, had nothing to do with the topic I had planned for. Those mighty questions? They got flushed, but not until after my brain went blank and powerless.

“Wait—what am I supposed to do now? I don’t have a plan!”

That, my coaching trainer told me, is the plan: to not have a plan.

It sounds like a Zen koan, a riddle with no answer. And come to think of it, it is pretty frigging zen.

Here’s the no-plan plan for effective life coaching:

Shut up and listen to your client, in order to…

  • Ask powerful questions
  • Acknowledge
  • Create awareness
  • Clarify
  • Reflect
  • Design actions

…around what they know and need.

Funny, that. After all these years in the high school classroom, the teacher is learning to shut up and learn about teens, from the teens themselves.

June 1, 2016

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Behavioral science-based coaching services for youth, emerging adults, and youth-serving professionals. We offer life skills training, individual and group coaching for youth ages 14-24; and life coach training and certification for youth-serving professionals.

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