Executive and Professional Coaching - Issue 052
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By Marion Franklin, MCC
There are many ways to be curious about curiosity. Click on each question for some answers from the author.
What makes it important for a coach to be curious?
My philosophy is “If you think you know, you are in trouble.” Once we stop being curious (and there are distinctions) (see #4 below), we move into telling, mentoring, or placing ourselves in an ‘expert’ role and out of coaching (in the literal sense). Also, curiosity leads to hearing what is said, what is not said, how it is said, and often why it is said that then helps us realize where and how the client may be stuck or conflicted. And, we get to realize what the limiting belief is that is keeping the client in the same place.
How do you know if you are being curious? What’s the evidence?
The evidence shows up when the client says something like “that’s a good question” or “I never realized that” or “now I can see……” The curiosity allows the coach to question the client that then ‘forces’ the client to do the work and the thinking – not the coach. If the coach is thinking, it’s usually because they are stuck in the story/details and not looking at the big picture. And, another reason might be because the questions aren’t open and from curiosity. Then it sounds like question/answer, question/answer without the client doing any thinking, but rather, just answering the questions.
Can you learn to be curious or is it innate?
Yes – definitely you can learn this skill. It starts with letting go of the ego (so it’s not about you). I had a mentee who just didn’t understand curiosity. What we realized is that she made assumptions and leaps without wondering what the client’s thinking was. We are so adept at making assumptions that we forget to get curious and interested in what someone else is saying because we think we already know. It’s possible that when we want to know something, we may not be asking the ‘right’ questions that could get us closer to what is most important.
The client came to realize that she was assuming that her client got to where he/she was in the same way that she would have, when of course, that was rarely, if ever, the case. Once she became aware of the concept and how it worked, she found herself wondering about so many things that she had previously ignored or dismissed because she thought she already knew how or why things were a certain way.
(See Life’s Little Lessons – “Projection” 10/2011 and “Always a Story” 7/2006 “In Your Shoes” 10/07 http://home.ezezine.com/23_2)
Can you be too curious? (Is there a down side?)
YES – just recently in class, I realized that there is a clear distinction between curiosity for the sake of and true curiosity. When the coach asks “What color was the dress?” it falls into the ‘sake of’ category. When the coach asks “What helped you choose the color that you did?” it falls into ‘true curiosity’. Curiosity to get more details can get frustrating for the client and makes the coach seem nosy. Curiosity for truth, and a better understanding of the client, helps the client gain awareness about themselves.
What is the connection between curiosity and asking powerful questions? (For example, can you ask powerful questions without being curious?)
A powerful question is such because it provokes the client to think. When we ask a client to think about something or question how they might do something, it’s because we are trying to better understand them and how they handle situations. So I can’t see a way to ask a powerful question and not be curious since the whole point is to better understand another person, how they think and behave. Often, a simple question like “What would that look like?” can be powerful because it is based on curiosity and helps the coach find out how the client operates – and helps the client get clear as well.
Marion Franklin, MCC, is an experienced coach, mentor and trainer. She is passionate about helping coaches improve their competence and confidence and enjoys mentoring and preparing coaches for the ACC, PCC, or MCC certification with a 100% success rate thus far. She is focused on permanent core behavioral changes, and her wisdom and insight are evident through her ezine/e-book, Life’s Little Lessons and CoachCamps audios. Marion is the co-author of 7 Simple Secrets to Successful Workshops and has been interviewed on television for her coaching expertise, has been a featured presenter, and was cited in The Wall Street Journal. (LifeCoachingGroup.com and MasterMentorCoach.com)
By Vicki Escude, M.A., M.C.C.,
Executive Leadership Coaching, LLC
(Note: Send your Ethics questions for clarification to Vicki@excellentcoach.com , and please include the number of the ethics code relating to your question.)
Becoming a credentialed coach involves learning about and discussing the standards of behavior and ethics as set by the International Coach Federation. Indeed, having a clearly defined ICF Code of Ethics as well as a means for reporting violations and providing consequences supports coaching as a respected profession.
One of the foundational codes of coaching is “confidentiality.” The term seems clear; however, there are nuances about confidentiality that can be explored. Confidentiality relates to the client-coach relationship, and it also informs the sponsor-coach relationship. Additionally, the potential to compromise confidentiality is related to Code #9 which deals with conflict of interest.
ICF Ethics Code #22 is as follows: I will maintain the strictest levels of confidentiality with all client and sponsor information. I will have a clear agreement or contract before releasing information to another person, unless required by law.
Can you answer these questions about “confidentiality?”
- How much information about former clients can I provide a researcher to help her have more specific data? What are the boundaries for providing information about my work?
- May I mention the companies I have served as an external coach?
- May I use the logo of the companies I have served on my website?
- May I coach both a boss and her direct report?
The answers to these questions are below.
Warm regards, Vicki Escude
VICKI ESCUDE, M.A., MCC, Mentor Coach, is a pioneer in the coaching profession, promoting the professionalism of coaching to several areas of the country for over 16 years. She was among the first coach educators for UTD, Success Unlimited Network®, LLC (SUN), and Strategic Executive Coaching Alliance (SECA). Escude served on the Board of Directors for the ICF, and was Board Liaison to the Ethics Committee. She has subsequently been a member of the Ethics Committee for several years, and was on the subcommittee to develop the ICF Ethics’ FAQs. Escude has an active executive coaching and corporate coach training practice, and is author of several coaching books: Getting Everything You Want! Coaching for Mastery; Create Your Day with Intention; and the, Fast-Track Leader: First, Master Yourself digital electronic series through Get to the Point Books.
Francine Campone, Ed.D., MCC
I am not a big fan of financial ROI measures as indicators of coaching outcomes. So I was quite appreciative of Anthony Grant’s perspective article on ROI in Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Practice and Research. Grant argues that a financial ROI may provide “an unreliable and insufficient” measure of coaching outcomes and may limit the full range of coaching impacts. Aligned with Grant’s perspective, Moen and Federici undertook an experiment to measure the effects of external coaching on goal-setting, self-efficacy and causal attribution among executive clients.
The article provides a brief summary of the elements of the coaching process as well as underlying principles and theories. In the context of a client-centered helping relationship, the coach is the facilitator of the client’s self-directed learning. As applied to executive coaching, the authors present the case for the pivotal roles of goal-setting and self-efficacy, as well as enhanced intra-personal causal attribution (i.e., identifying the reasons for success or failure in one’s own performance). A detailed exploration of each of these three factors follows in summaries of the relevant literature.
The participant group of twenty executives in a Norwegian Fortune 500 bank were randomly assigned to an experimental group (N=12) or a control group (N=8). All participants took pre-tests on the three factors being studied: goal-setting, self-efficacy and causal attribution. The researchers designed self-report instruments to measure the first two and used the Attribution Style Assessment Test to measure the third.
Francine Campone, Ed.D., MCC, coaches mature professionals to reinvent their lives by reinventing their work. She is a leader in the coaching research community and deeply committed to the development of reflective coaches in practice. Francine teaches evidence-based coaching and coaching research practices for UTD and enjoys a wonderful life in Denver, Colorado beyond her activities in the coaching field.
Christine Martin, MCC
I often hear the interpretation of a coach’s support of a client and his/her goals/objectives/and aspirations go way overboard. Here’s an example:
“I’m so thrilled to hear you’re taking that assignment. What an inspiration you are for us all. I know you’ll be successful. I’ll work with you to make that happen. Coaching is really working for you.” (etc., etc.)
Whoops! Who is talking about whom? The coach immediately (it seems) has taken on the client’s achievement as if it is the coach’s own in some way. Does this not take away from the client being the center of the coaching conversation?
Can you see that?
So how does a coach support his/her client without making it about the coach? Well, here are a few ideas for starters. My language may not be yours. The relationship of coach to client also determines how a coach approaches this kind of moment.
“Congratulations! I hear excitement in your voice.” (lets the client describe it)
“Here’s a high-five! What would you like me to know about your achievement?” (helps to discover the underlying thoughts, ideas, emotions the client is experiencing)
“You worked very hard to reach this goal. I’m so pleased for you.” (adds just a touch of the personal to the coach/client relationship at this point)
“Congratulations! What do you see now going forward?” (moves the conversation along)
Christine Martin, MCC, has been a professional coach since 1992. Her private practice includes executives, high performance entrepreneurs, and professional coaches who seek to be mentored on their coaching. Christine is an active member of the International Coach Federation having served on 7 committees, chaired the ICF Global Credentialing Initiative in 2005 and 2006, served as Vice President of the Board of Directors and on the Executive Committee and is currently an active assessor on the ICF Credentialing Team. She has taught at several universities including North Caroline State and The University of Texas at Dallas.
By Dr. Scott Spoor, Cohort 9B
“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” Said another way, we need a new language to enter a new territory. These notions are taken from Wittgenstein, whose philosophy underpins the Solutions Focused coaching method. A great many books are written about coaching, coach training, and coaching methodology. Few describe the territory a coaching student enters, and the shifts in language that a student must traverse. A tectonic shift for me has been around the language of giving compliments. A change in this one small, yet critical, area can have a profound impact in your coaching practice, and also closer to home in your daily life.
It’s a simple thing, really: giving a compliment. “You look nice, today!” we say to a friend. “You did a good job on your commitments!” we might say to a client. “I want to publicly thank Steve this year for all his help,” we pronounce to a group at a function. These compliments are simple, clean, easy and certainly well intended, right? What could be “wrong” with this? As we are learning in coach training, language is not what it seems. Words and language are most easily accessible at the immediate, face-value level; underneath, however, there is deep-structure language, the language that reveals clues about who we are, as the speaker, at a primordial level. The usual, default mode, is to confer indirect and nonspecific entitlements to another. When we characterize people, even if positive and well intended, we are entitling ourselves to say who and how the other person is in the world. We entitle ourselves to confer upon people the sources of their worthiness.
The first crack in my normal, default plates, occurred in Lisa Kramer’s EC200, when we were introduced to the KEAS model for giving compliments in a coaching setting. Rather than offering a diffuse compliment, it is more powerful to focus your comments around the client’s knowledge, emotions, attitude and beliefs, or skills. A second, deeper subterranean rumbling, came during Carolyn Miller’s Positive Psychology class, and reading Robert Kegan. Compliments are part of the powerful tools we can use to help ourselves, and others, to reach our goals and to flourish.
Scott Spoor is a physician with specialty in Internal Medicine and Neurology. He works as an administrator in the field of disability for the Texas state agency that services the Social Security Administration for disability determinations. He is the proud father of two sons; the oldest an A&M graduate and the youngest working on a bachelor’s degree at UT Austin. Scott lists his hobbies as readying, trying to stay fit in middle age, and traveling when he can.