This is the fifth in a 9 part series of blog posts on the topic of coaching.

The three mechanisms of interaction between the coach and coachee are :

  1. Listening
  2. Questioning
  3. Taking “I” positions

If you can’t listen then all the other coaching skills are not very useful because it means you will just be talking at people.” John Engels – Leadership Coaching Inc.

This youtube video has been viewed over 66 million times. An interaction between Grandma Linda and Grandson Mateo that highlights a couple of classic barriers to listening.


Young Mateo’s objective is to get a cupcake.  Grandma’s arguments distract him from the objective. The objective of a coaching conversation is to promote emotional maturity. Mitigate the potential for distractions by developing an intention to stay grounded in your purpose in the conversation.


Both Mateo and Grandma interrupt each other constantly. Neither can get a word in edgewise. Both have difficulty resisting the urge to react to the position of the other. Mitigate the tendency to interrupt by pausing before you respond. This has the effect of allowing the coachee to process what they have just said. Often times when we are talking we are thinking out loud, this pause allows the coachee to reflect. It also provides an opportunity to develop a thoughtful response.

How many of you can relate to Mateo? You can’t get the other to see your point of view.

How about to Linda? You resolve to some form of spanking to get your point across?

A key listening skill in coaching is the ability to hear what isn’t being said. The following are some indications that there is more to the story:

  1. “An apology that seems unwarranted.” Chances are you are only getting half of the story.  A coaching opportunity lurks below the surface.
  2. “I don’t want to talk about it.” This is where many conversations end and where great coaching conversations start.
  3. “Body language doesn’t match the message.” The coachee verbalizes agreement however arms are crossed.
  4. “Tone doesn’t match the message.” The communicated excitement is not reflected in tone.

Great Listening provides the foundation for great questions and effective “I” positions.

Next week we will explore great Questions.






Photo By Alan Klein Mendes