Listening and Concentration

Two further skills required in coaching are listening and concentration. In order that people feel you are paying attention to them it is very important that you become aware yourself as to whether you are genuinely listening and concentrating or not.

The other key reason why it is important to concentrate is because at any moment the individual could say something which helps you unlock their potential and you do not want to miss it!

Often the coach will spot issues or solutions during a coaching session which the individual has not yet seen for themselves. By concentrating you will be alive to this situation.

Your role as their coach is to help them to find the answers for themselves, i.e. be a facilitator for them to find the way forward. There will be times when it is appropriate to make suggestions, however they have to own the outcome and therefore it is vital that they find the solutions themselves, so that they can take ownership when questioned about it later.

Blocks to our Listening

Improving listening starts with removing things which stop us from really listening.

‘On-off’ Listening

We tend to think 3 to 5 times faster than we listen, therefore we have about 3 of a minute of ‘spare’ thinking time in each minute.

Your mind wanders off on tangents often completely unrelated to what is being discussed. You lose the thread of what is being said which makes it hard to maintain rapport and to show that you understand what the person is saying and how they are feeling.

Actions to take
Spot when it happens and bring yourself back. Build up your concentration. Step into their shoes; try their world on for size. Visualise, feel, and hear what the other person is saying.

Red Flag Words

Reacting to words or phrases with emotional meaning for you.

Stops you listening and betrays your prejudices.

Actions to take
Be aware of your red flags, if one is triggered, notice that this is happening. Notice the effect that this is having on you and disassociate yourself.

‘Eureka’ Listening

Assuming too quickly that you know what the problem is.

May lead you to interrupt with a premature summary or even a solution, when you might have wrongly identified the source of the problem. This may stop you from listening further or probing for more information as you think that the issue is now crystal clear. Sometimes, all the person wants is a sounding board, so solving their ‘problem’ can feel like not listening.

Actions to take
Ask questions to enable them to reach their own ‘Eureka’ moment. Help them to identify the underlying causes and possible solutions.

Embarrassed Listening

Showing signs that you are not comfortable with the situation or what is being discussed. For example, shifting gaze or posture, not tolerating pauses or silences.

The speaker will pick up on your discomfort and feel awkward too. They may well ‘clam-up’.

Actions to take
You can show them that you respect them as a person, even if you do not agree with their behaviour or actions. This can be achieved by consciously keeping in rapport; maintaining appropriate eye contact and allowing them freedom to express themselves in whatever way they feel appropriate.

Pencil Listening

Taking copious notes so you end up still noting down one point when the person has long moved on.

You lose the thread of the conversation and rapport, as it is difficult to watch and respond to non-verbal cues and send listening cues when you are taking notes.

Actions to take
Being in rapport will help them to think through their issues and is more important than noting down the facts. If you need to have notes, ask if it would be OK to write summary notes at the end and check out the facts with the person concerned.