Sharing Expertise Isn’t Knowing It All

February 2, 2009

Jack, a young man in his early twenties, and I were talking, and taking more than our share of the guacamole dip, at a friend’s party. We were getting along well because he was dipping with the Fritos and I was using the multi-grain chips. He responded to my question about what he did for income by explaining that he was the day-manager of a men’s store.

 He politely reciprocated the question and I explained that I was an ADHD/Executive coach and briefly described how, among other things, I tried to help people with difficulties around focus of attention and organizational issues find lasting solutions to problems that were standing in their way.

 He brightened up and said, “I’d like to do that kind of work.” I asked him what about it appealed to him. He replied, “I am always able to tell my friends what to do when they’re stuck, and I think I would be good at it.”

 He began to share with me some stories of his successful advice to friends; it was impressive in its scope and boldness. His raw certainty reminded me of more confident times in my life. I had a momentary sinking feeling as I realized, “Boy, are those days gone.”

 The problem with his notion of his strength is that coaching isn’t about telling anyone what to do. Although, as I think about that, I do suppose I tell my self to stop talking and listen more. And I recently had to remind myself to cool it with the pearls of wisdom that sounded so interesting to me, but didn’t really address where my client was at.

 The longer I practice, the more inclined I am to just ask questions.

            “Where did your attention go at that moment?”

            “Have you ever tried anything that worked?”

            “Did you forget, or get distracted?”

            “That was successful! What did you do differently to make it work?”

“How often does that happen?”

 It’s my job to provide some scaffolding around my clients’ judgment, strategy, planning, etc. until they can get on their feet. Of course, there is a need for suggestions to consider when their stuck, but most of my effort is in trying to make the hidden visible and bring awareness to particular patterns, so that they can discover the methods that might work for them

 I’m not sure what I’d tell them to do even if I had unusual perceptiveness. After all, until something is tried it isn’t clear what will work, and once it is tried, they’re often in a better position then I am to know what really works.

 I told my young friend at the party something similar. I said, “I encourage you to explore a coaching career. I’m sure as you look it will become clear whether it is what you hope it might be. Let me know if I can help.”

Read more from Jay at: http://www.livingstonservices.com/

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