Last week I was on a consultation call with a potential client and found myself feeling stuck. The client was stuck. I was stuck. Just plain stuck. After a good night’s sleep and some growth-mindset reflection, I identified the likely problem. Interestingly, the issue was that we were working in too superficial a stratum. I had been so captivated by the convoluted swirling of her specific career challenges that the home of the actual problem remained hidden. And, therefore, we were chock full of problems and without solutions.
Deep listening is the key to great coaching. That much is clear. But, from the perspective of a growth mindset, lapsing into shallow listening is a potent teacher. Why? Because each time I catch myself drifting into shallow listening — that is, each time I “mess up” — I strengthen the muscle of deep listening, and in so doing, become an even better coach. I say all this first to remind us of what it means to truly abide in a growth mindset… and second, to point toward what I believe would have been a more productive direction to take.
As someone who does deep coaching, I’m insatiably curious. I’m interested in penetrating beyond what’s apparently true into what’s actually true. What exists behind the words, beyond the words, and within the words? In this case, the client was likely paralyzed by fear of making the wrong decision. As is often the case, what to do would likely have been far more apparent if the underlying fears were identified and then addressed. In the moment, a structured clearing could have been extremely powerful. Imagine if I had said, “I’d invite you to finish this sentence as many times as you can; really go for broke, even if it doesn’t seem rational: ‘If I don’t make the right decision, then ________________________.'”
Drilling down into the core of our stories creates immense leverage in coaching, especially if we then have the capacity to help our client undo their stressful beliefs. Fortunately, in my twenties I encountered a powerful form of inquiry called The Work. In my own life, and in my coaching, it has singularly broken though highly entrenched thought patterns. Its genius is in its simplicity: a meditation comprised of four simple questions; a meditation that non-meditators can easily do. What more could I ask for?
In this month’s Mindfulness Coaching Call, I will demo the process. If you can’t make it, I’d invite you to do the inquiry yourself using the simple instructions on thework.com. Let me know how it goes!
Kelly Gupta, MD