After covering the logistics, the first lesson I teach our coaches is on listening, a subject Joel Comiskey hits on in lesson four of his book that I’m currently going through with our coaches — “Coach: Empower Others to Effectively Lead a Small Group.”
Comiskey points out that coaching is quite simple — it consists of focusing on the needs of others rather than your own, primarily through careful listening. But while it’s simple, that doesn’t mean it comes naturally. He cites Stephen Covey, who said, “Most people do not listen to understand; they listen in order to answer. While the other is talking, they are preparing their reply.”
Fortunately, with intentionality and practice, we can become much better listeners. It requires hard work and some intentional skills. Comiskey mentions eye contact, which is one of five steps to attentive listening I talked about at our Helping People Grow May Term group:
- Squarely face the person
- Open your posture
- Lean towards the other
- Eye contact maintained
- Relax while attending
These steps are helpful for communicating to your leaders that you are listening and are interested in what they have to say.
Comiskey also talks about the importance of paying attention to non-verbal communication. This is one of the reasons why I much prefer in-person coaching meetings to phone calls or even Skype or FaceTime. Non-verbal communication such as body language and voice inflection actually make up the majority of a communication experience and much of that can be missed if you’re not in-person. Or, of course, if you’re not listening well!
Listening is a basic skill but one that’s incredibly essential to any relationship — we would all benefit from becoming more effective listeners.