Tuning In: Improving Your Listening Skills

Plenty of programs teach people to speak—but few train them to listen.

Even before the age of digital distractions, people could remember only about 10% of what was said in a face-to-face conversation after a     brief distraction, according to a 1987 study that remains a key gauge of conversational recall. Researchers believe listening skills have since fallen amid more multitasking and interruptions. Most people can think more than twice as fast as the average person talks, allowing the mind to wander.

The failure to listen well not only prolongs meetings and discussions but also can hurt relationships and damage careers. However, it is  possible to improve your listening skills—first, by becoming aware of the ways you may tune others out.

Some people are busy thinking about what they want to say next. One salesman repeatedly urged a customer to set a meeting with company decision makers, says Paul Donehue, who coached the salesman. "The customer said yes, and the salesman said again, 'If we could just schedule that meeting.' You could see that he totally missed it," says Mr. Donehue, president of Londonderry, N.H., sales-management consulting firm Paul Charles & Associates.

Others listen only long enough to figure out whether the speaker's views conform to their own, says Bernard Ferrari, author of "Power Listening" and dean of the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School, in Baltimore. Still others interrupt to spout solutions—often before the problem has fully been identified, Dr. Ferrari says.

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How do you Measure the Return on Investment for Coaching?

So how does one measure coaching ROI? This has been a popular question since way back when coaching was formally established. However, until recently, the quest to effectively measuring coaching ROI has been an ever elusive and sometimes even likened to trying to “measure snowflakes”. This slippery nature of coaching ROI is partly because there are so many variables and elements at play. Measuring the impact of soft skills on business is always a challenge—human relationships are complex and so many factors affect the bottom line.

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Action Planning in Action

One of the things that makes a coaching exchange unique is that there is, and always will be, a request for taking action by the coach to the coachee. Without this, it’s just an interesting conversation.

Seventeen years ago, when I began my coaching practice, I realized the best way to grow my business, which happen to be doing something no one had ever heard of or had any experience with, was to coach as many people in impromptu exchanges as often as I could so they would become evangelists for coaching. One of the first people I tried this with was a good friend who had become a brainstorming and downloading partner with me in my previous business. We’d often have lunch or get together for drinks and spend hours exchanging ideas for each other’s business and download problems we were having with our businesses. It was always very stimulating and interesting as we both understood one another’s world and the ideas flowed fast and furiously. But as interesting and stimulating as the conversation was, very little stuck when it came down to actually doing something about it because there was always something missing from those conversations.

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The Spirit of Making a Request

I have a request of you – in the next 72 hours you find a hidden talent in three different people. Then make a request of each person to exploit the hidden talent in a way that dramatically supports his or her personal and/or professional growth. Do you accept this request, reject it or would you like to negotiate it?

The art of making a request is one of the 5 Core Coaching Skills within our 5/5/5 Coaching Skills Training Program™ framework. Of the five coaching skills we teach, I find that it is the skill of making a request that people latch on to because, I believe, of the power that a request holds.

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Mindfullness- helping us to take coaching “mainstream”

When some people hear the word mindfulness, they immediately dismiss it as some esoteric Eastern meditation practice or New Age mumbo jumbo. However, mindfulness is an important ability to work on for coaches – or anyone else.

First, let me clarify what I mean by “mindfulness.” There are multiple views of what mindfulness is and is not, but in the most general sense, we can think of several levels of mindfulness, ranging from a basic level of awareness up through the sharp internal mental focus of a longtime meditator or yoga practitioner. For our purposes here, I am referring to a more open-minded awareness of others and of the environment itself, rather than awareness of one’s own internal processes and thoughts. Internal mindfulness is certainly a great topic, but it’s one for another day.

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About Coaching Out of the Box®

We provide programs and resources for individuals and organizations wanting to learn transferable coaching skills in a simple, engaging and experiential way that can be used immediately in the work they do.

All programs and products from Coaching Out of the Box® are developed by ICF Master Certified Coaches who are leaders and pioneers in the field of professional coaching. Our development team is comprised of several global coaching educators who have trained thousands of professional coaches on every continent and have largely contributed to the spread of coaching around the world.

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Service in 7 inch heels

The following is a guest post from Tom Maher “the Musician’s Coach” who we met at the recent ICF conference. No more introduction needed, this blog post will give you a great sense of the man behind the “heels”!

If you haven’t met me before, let me introduce myself. My name is Tom Maher and I am a professionally trained and certified life coach. I also professionally impersonate Paul Stanley of KISS in KISS Tribute Bands. Some would think this is an unusual combination, but for me, it works.

I was recently asked how I can be authentic as a coach when I spend so much time being someone else, or “inauthentic”. I told them that no matter how much of Paul or Paul’s mannerisms I try to emulate, I always make sure that I am shining through that trademark star.

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Managing Performance or Coaching?

When managers take the 5/5/5 Coaching Skills Training Program from Coaching Out of the Box® there is often a lively discussion about where the line is between managing and coaching. So I’d like to take a minute here to give you my take on this.

Professional coaches are trained to step away from their own agendas and assumptions in order to coach most effectively. They hold an open space for the people they are coaching to discover their own resourcefulness by supporting and encouraging them to reach deep into their own wisdom and creativity to discover answers and solutions for themselves. Managers usually don’t have this luxury. They have deliverables that must be met and must manage performance to meet them. This almost always means there is an agenda for the manager when they enter into performance conversations. So if this is the case, why should managers even go to the trouble to learn coaching skills?

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Practicums; An Inside Look

A coaching skills practicum is really a laboratory where those who are coaching can experiment with what they FEEL is right versus what they THINK is right. It allows them to test their own natural style of coaching and try things they may not normally risk in other coaching situations. From there, feedback and course corrections are offered to help the coach take the coaching deeper, broader and farther. Without supervision and feedback on their coaching, coaches begin to operate in a vacuum. Habits can be formed that keep the coaching solution/performance focused and at a surface level. While this can be productive and effective, coachee’s will be missing the real power of coaching which is evolution focused and elicits sustainable and pivotal change.

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“Trust Me!”

“Self-trust is the first secret of success”. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to trust ourselves. Trust that we will make the right decision. Trust that under pressure we will do the right thing. Trust that when placed in a difficult situation that we will be able to cope. Trust that we will say the right thing at the right time. Trust that our coaching skills are good enough or that we are good coaches.

Key to building self trust is listening to our gut instincts; that little twinge deep inside that indicates the best direction or the thing to say in that moment. In coaching, when we ask the question that our gut is telling us to ask, 9 times out of 10 it is exactly what the coachee needs to be asked.

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Trust Is The New Currency For Business Today With Stephen M.R. Covey

I had the pleasure to sit down with Stephen M.R. Covey last week to discuss the importance of trust and how it can cut through the noise and clutter in today’s economy.

Here is a short clip after our interview which appeared in the Telegraph Journal May 17, 2012. (full interview below) (Sorry for the wobbly camera at the beginning, either to much coffee or my nerves getting the best of me.) 🙂

Sponsor I mentioned

Coaching Out of the Box® – 5/5/5 Coaching Skills Training Program™ is the training programs of training programs for business executives and managers who want to enhance their coaching skills and build TRUST within their organization. Find out more about the training.

PS - Don’t forget to check out the UNB Fall Seminar, FranklinCovey’s Leading at the Speed of Trust on September 20th.

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“You Rock! No, Really!”

“You can do it! I believe in you!”

“Hey Jim, job well done on that project!”

“Wow! What an awesome insight!”

Aaahhh, words of encouragement. One of the many highlights of being a coach is genuinely encouraging our teams and individual coachees. In doing so, we get to be their cheerleaders or champions for their cause (minus the pom-poms and short, shorts), witness their faces light up, or hear the lift in their voices when told that what they are doing or who they are is really awesome!! What could be better? Seriously.

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Curious Questions: The key to evoking new awareness.

Are you Curious? In your normal every day conversations, do you ask before you tell? Or, do you have the impulse to automatically share your opinion or give a solution, when an issue is presented? If you tend to tell, before ask, you are like most of us in the world; ‘knowing’ answers and having experiences that we filter all of our listening through, and then quickly offering these in support of others, without much further exploration (or curious inquiry).

Now let’s take that impulse and filter it through coaching. In a coach approach to communication, it is an absolute must to stretch our curiosity muscles and become explorers: To step out of our own knowing, and with curious questions, dig for gold in the inherent wisdom of a coachee. The interesting thing is, that the more we are in curious inquiry, the more the coachee comes up with new insights and answers!

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Are You Really Listening?

Listening is one of the most powerful core competencies of coaching. I’ve often told learners who are new to coaching if they can’t remember the five coaching skills in our model, just remember to listen! That in itself is tremendously powerful.

When coaches move beyond the novice stage and into a more experienced level, there are a number of factors that raise the bar in their efficacy. It all begins with listening. The coach expands their capacity to hear beyond the words and listen on multiple levels. It’s what I like to call full sensory listening. What does this mean exactly? Some of it is metaphoric and some of it is very real to the senses. Let’s break it down:

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Strategize ; “The smart way of getting somewhere with the least amount of effort or cost.”

Developing efficient, supportive and enjoyable strategies to help people achieve their goals is what is key to providing value in coaching. Most people really want and need a strategy to make what they are wanting to accomplish/achieve/solve/create happen. Just recently I was speaking with a client who discovered a critical lapse in communication by her team. They implemented a fundamental change but forgot to communicate it to the key stakeholders! The change was a good one but they just forgot to tell people before they made it…sound familiar?

There was a huge missed opportunity to celebrate the very positive change along with so many other pieces. So, what was she to do? We talked a bit and then focused on what opportunities were present and what strategy she could put into place that would support an even bigger change initiative. By the time we were done, not only had she come up with a way to solve this that would be empowering for her team, but she came up with two key strategies that could profoundly strengthen herself as a leader, i.e. collaboration and innovation.

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The Art of Listening; a Powerful Coaching Tool

Just for a moment think of a conversation where you felt you were truly being listened to. Remember how it felt, the impact it had on you and on the conversation. Did you feel safe to share? Did you feel valued? Did you feel inspired to take action?

One of the greatest gifts we can give others, especially our coachees, is the time and the space to be listened to, really listened to. Listening to another, not just hearing the words, but really engaging with what and how the person is sharing…

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Unlocking brilliance: Powerful thoughts about questions

Today we had a good conversation about the value of questions in the coaching exchange. The following is a compilation of what came out of that conversation. Our hope is that you continue the conversation by sharing this post and commenting with YOUR beliefs about questions.

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How to destroy a perfectly good employee

The Coaching Out of The Box® team got together for a planning meeting and got into a good conversation about employee motivation. What follows is the thoughts we had and we would love to see you add to the list!

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