Hear Ye! Hear Ye!


I first noticed it this summer. We were running our final pilot of EQuest in Montana. Kenton Jakub with Beeswax Productions had joined us to document the participant experience through photographs, video and interviews. When Kenton clipped a microphone on a participant and asked them questions in front of a camera, something happened. Articulate smart people became even more so. Because their words mattered, they made the most of their words. We saw the same effect in Maine two months later as we documented the SeaQuest experience. Kenton's unwavering focus raised the tenor of the conversation, whether we were sailing on the bay or debriefing in the Boat House. Because he was concentrating on what we were saying and doing, we did too.

In essence, Kenton was listening really hard. We responded accordingly and strove to be our best selves. Which of course brings me back to coaching. I am a little reluctant to disclose this, but the Secret of Coaching lies in the simple power of listening really really well. In quality coaching, the client gets to think aloud in the presence of an objective attentive listener. Yes, the coach may offer insights, feedback and encouragement, but the greatest value of coaching lies in hearing clients into their their own answers.

Clients can even do this for themselves. I am reminded of a six-month executive coaching relationship in which the most significant breakthrough came through the client listening to recordings of our coaching sessions. Over time she could self-identify unproductive patterns in her own thinking: "I'm tired of listening to myself!"

Recently I toured Herman Melville's historic home in the Berkshires where he penned Moby Dick. During those years he also corresponded regularly with his friend and colleague, Nathaniel Hawthorne. His letters to Hawthorne are filled with exquisite descriptions of his daily life on the farm and his trials and tribulations as a writer. I can only imagine that Hawthorne, a fellow author, was also a magnificent listener. Having such a worthy audience no doubt inspired Melville to compose not just letters but literature. Hawthorne helped hear Melville into his own genius...which begets the question, what are the ways in which we could hear our family, friends and colleagues into their own greatness?

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