Many of the conversations that I have with people are work related. Listening attentively has been a key in establishing trust and intimacy in those coaching situations. Many people feel like they are rarely noticed in their work environment, let alone listened to. When they get time and attention that does not involve somebody checking their phone as they talk, looking out a window or changing a conversational topic, they feel they are being noticed. When I sit there with them – often with no notepad – the trust relationship grows because it is different from attending in a meeting, sitting in the manager’s office or being in an open office situation. We change the scenery by going to a different place; that’s good because it demonstrates that the coaching conversation has a different meaning from “work”. If I were to sit down at someone’s desk and try to have a coaching conversation, it wouldn’t work. The trust might develop, but the intimacy wouldn’t be there.
A few times the conversations may become “directed” because of specific concerns that are raised. That is not a textbook coaching experience, but I have learned that will happen. In most of my conversations, what I am realizing is how expansive the talk can get. At work, there is frequently a heads-down, get it done ethic. The metaphor I like to explore is that coaching conversations are “look up” moments. I encourage people to imagine looking up, seeing the horizon and to think about what is beyond that. That is a point of departure that allows them to take the conversation in any direction they want it to go.