Earlier this week I was coached by a woman I'm just getting to know. In the space of one e-mail message, she posed questions that gave me a fresh new perspective on my current coachable issue.
Two weeks ago, I had a brief conversation with her while we were both at a conference in Sarasota, training newly promoted managers for a global professional services firm. On the bumpy bus ride to that evening's dinner location on the beach, I shared a decision I was wrestling with, about whether to take on a complicated new client.
Before she could ask any questions, we arrived at our destination and were rushed off the bus. The coachable moment was interrupted by the crowd's urgency--and ours--to see the final moments of the sun setting over the Gulf. I flew home the next day and didn't give follow-up a thought. But my issue nibbled at me, unresolved, all through the Thanksgiving holiday.
My new friend, bless her heart, took it upon herself to follow up.
"If we'd had a chance to talk about this opportunity longer," she wrote, "I would've asked you questions like these:
Sounds like your inner rescuer wants you to do this work. What pearl of wisdom does she have for you?
Which parts of yourself don't want to do it? What pearls do they have?
What aspects of this project feed your soul?
What are your biggest fears/concerns if you pass on this opportunity?
What are your biggest fears/concerns if you say yes?
If you say no to all/some of this, what opportunities does that open up for you?
What's the coolest thing that could happen if you took all/some of the work?
What advice does your wise self have for you as you navigate this decision?
No need to respond to any of these. Just food for thought as you ponder. Keep me posted on what you decide!"
The "coolest thing" question was the one question I had not considered. Thinking about it changed my sense of the problem. Suddenly, I realized what has been missing for me, and why I've been so stuck. I now know what to do, and where to focus my next discussion with the client. Whew.
Coaching happens in conversations, and having the conversation in writing can be even more powerful than a face-to-face session. I was able to consider her questions carefully, on my own schedule, and not just give a "top of mind" response. I didn't have to answer them all, just the questions that felt essential. I have the freedom to think with her in an ongoing e-mail exchange, or I can just update her down the road. No pressure, no long-term commitment for either of us. Just the one-time gift of her interest and support was enough to move me forward.
We are inches away from December. It is a busy time, for you and those whom you gift all year long with your focused attention as a coach. The use of e-mail or texting to express your ongoing interest in another person's life is not a cop-out or a shortcut. Although quicker than a phone call or a coffee talk, the generosity of an e-check in, the power of a texted coaching question is not diminished by technology. In fact, technology may enhance your coaching.
You may find that you ask better questions when you can wordsmith them first. Instead of taxing your brain to produce the "perfect" question in the moment, you can offer several in a message and let your coachee choose. Your coachee may find that in writing their thoughts and feelings, they gain a level of clarity and insight that simply talking out loud doesn't provide for them. You both will also have a written record of your conversation. E-coaching may become your preferred way of engaging.
Whose in-box or mobile device could be co-opted into communicating your caring? Take it from me, as a coachee: E-Coaching is cool!