Are You Listening?

Listening is the bedrock of coaching people in transition. You are likely an excellent listener already, given your profession, training, and experience.

Check in with yourself by trying this listening quiz.

How’d you score? If you are interested in bumping up your skills in listening, read on for some tips!

Listening Strategies for Coaching

  • If you ever find your mind wandering while coaching try this technique. Silently say the words of the speaker to whom you’re listening for a few minutes; if you are telephone coaching, you can even mouth/whisper (inaudibly) the words – do this for only a few minutes at a time as an exercise to help you focus.
  • Coach with your eyes closed (if you are telephone coaching).
  • Listen for the Big Agenda (long-term goals, bigger perspective, patterns, options, opportunities).
  • Appreciate the client for some aspect of their personality, career, strength, etc.
  • Take brief notes.

Listening for the ABCDE’s

Initially, you’ll be listening for what’s important to the client in order to clarify and identify goals. Once goals are established, you’ll begin to listen for other elements, such as the strengths and competencies the client has, as well as the blocks or areas of unawareness that are preventing them from moving forward. Consider this ABCDE template to deepen your listening skills.


What is drawing the attention of the client? Is it something that is in line with the stated goals or something that’s distracting them from their goals? For example: Your client has set a goal of increasing her visibility among key networking contacts. She has committed to clearing some space in her calendar in order to devote 3 hours a week to relevant activities, and yet unexpected assignments and other important projects are getting in the way.


What belief system or ways of thinking does the client have? Are any thought patterns preventing forward movement and success?


What competencies can the client tap to accomplish the goal? Magnificent goals have a much higher chance of success when they are rooted in the client’s strengths, so be sure to tap into strengths.


What is the client doing that will help him reach his goal? What is the client doing that will prevent reaching the goal? Listen for habits or activities that will reveal answers to these questions.


What is the client’s energy level? Is he/she taking care of him/herself—eating right, exercising, getting enough rest—so that the energy level will remain at peak? If there doesn’t appear to be the needed energy, it may be a clue that the goal is not aligned with the client’s passions. Or, it may be that the goal is in sync with passions but the client needs to say no to other energy-draining activities. The latter can include enhancing delegation skills, doubling up on tasks (e.g., participation in a professional organization or a project that also brings opportunity to build relationship with key networking contacts).

How about you? What are you listening for?

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