The #1 Coaching Blindspot

By Toku

What amazes me about coaching mastery isn’t the complexity of the blindspots coaches have, but the simplicity of them.

You would think since the Dojo is made up of brilliantly clever coaches with experience ranging from 3 to 10 years, that the ways in which coaches shoot themselves in the foot would be vast and numerous. But in truth, the #1 blindspot I see over and over again is the same simple one and today I’m going to tell you how to avoid it.

Okay, so you’re probably wondering if I’m going to string you along and build up the tension of what this one thing is. No, I’m not going to do that. So here it is:

The #1 blindspot coaches have is . . . THEY DON’T FIND OUT WHAT THEIR CLIENTS WANT.

I know you’re probably thinking you don’t do this, and I get that. For the first two weeks of the Dojo we pretty much repeat this advice constantly. We watch someone coach and then we tell them.

That was great, this question was brilliant, and I loved your presence AND the biggest opportunity I saw was that you didn’t find out what the client wanted.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve said it, but coaches continue to struggle with this for a very simple reason. Coaches love to coach.

And so because we’re busy rubbing our hands so that we can get in there and change their lives we forget something very simple and very important.

What about their lives do they want to be different?

We forget this because we see possibility for them, deep powerful and incredible possibility, but possibility is just that, one of many possible things.

Think about it this way. Lots of parents have babies (in fact, it’s the thing that makes them parents). And as they look at those babies they see possibility in them—the possibility of jobs, and sports trophies, and weddings. Some parents, when they look at their babies, see very specific kinds of possibility.

Some parents see the possibility of a doctor, others of a mother, others of a professional athlete. And even though this is one of many possibilities that are available to their child, the parent decides this is the one that should become a reality. And so they begin to suggest, nudge, cajole.

Sometimes they get what they want—perhaps at the cost of their children, or at the cost of authentic relationships with them. Sometimes they don’t get what they want, and instead get rebellious children who resent the various suggestions, manifested as a story about being pressured. Sometimes the stars align and the child’s desire matches their own. But when the last one happens, it’s almost always because at some point the parents give the power of choice to their children—the parents let the children choose what they want.

This is very much what it’s like to be a coach. Because as coaches we see so much and we convince ourselves we know people very well, we tend to see a very specific kind of possibility for people. This client is too shy, this client works too hard, this client is too easy going. And in this seeing we create a possibility for them to be different—and we, like proud parents with a baby client, begin to nudge, suggest, and cajole them into what we think they should want.

But this isn’t coaching, this is suggestive parenting. Of course it’s completely reasonable to see a possibility and offer it to them, like a parent offering a baseball bat as a toy. But to be clear about the line and the commitment to what the client wants is essential.

Which is why if you want to be a powerful coach, you must AND I MEAN MUST find out what the client wants before you begin to coach them.

And yet you probably will forget this.

You’ll forget this because in that next session you’ll see what’s possible and decide what they should want. And I’m asking that you not. I’m asking that in service of your deep and incredible mastery, you slow down. Take a breath and ask them.

“What would you like?”

Slow down and dig into what they want. Find out if that’s really it. Or if there’s something they think they’re going to get if they can buy a fur coat, change jobs, or break up with their boyfriend.

Slow down and really get on a very deep level what is it, this thing they truly, deeply and powerfully want.

This is the essence of the most vital part of a coaching conversation, the part we in the Dojo call the DROP. And doing this well, mastering how to DROP into the right pocket of coaching, is the difference between incredible sessions on the reg and mediocre sessions as a curse.

Okay, great. So I told you what to do… but you’re probably wondering HOW. “How do I do this?”

Not to worry. We’ll be talking about the DROP all month. Much more to come!


(And if you can’t wait that long, you can always check out our ODSC Framework series, which has an extensive section on the Drop, starting with this post.)

To do your own analysis of coaching conversations to identify the Drop, be sure to download your copy of the Coaching Canvas tool.

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