The Next Time You Get an Urge To Say “BUT” When Coaching Someone, Don’t!

When you’re having a coaching conversation with a leader*, notice how many times he or she uses the word BUT. And then, notice how many times you use the word BUT.

When you hear BUT from your coaching client, in essence, that person is saying, “I like my way better.” Or, the underlying message may be “I don’t have time to do this” or “I don’t know how to do this” or “I’m afraid it will impact my reputation if I do this.”

And, when you hear yourself say BUT, in essence, what you are saying to the other person is: “You’re wrong. I want you to think like me. Agree with me. Do it my way.”

And then human nature takes over within the other person, and his/her brain says, “I don’t want to be wrong, or look like I’m wrong, or look like I’m too stupid to think of what you just thought of.”

So instead, try out one of these ideas the next time you get an urge to say “BUT” to one of your coaching clients:

“I hear that the frustration that so many things are getting in the way of achieving this goal of yours. It’s as if 90% of the pie is getting allotted to what’s getting in the way; and 10% of the pie is getting allotted to what you want differently. What might happen if you gave even 10% more to the what-you-want slice of the pie?”

Another coaching technique is to notice whether you, as the coach, are experiencing frustration about the client’s litany of yes-but’s. If so, consider this honest and authentic approach:

“Jane, I hear you. I hear your roadblocks and frustrations. It’s the predominant story-line—the star of the show in this Broadway production of your life. You came to coaching because you had some new goals. I could sit here and remind you of those, and I could hope that those reminders would put your goals back to center stage. That’s where I would personally love to see the storyline go.

“And, perhaps the more important question is, how do YOU remind yourself of what you really want? How do YOU make those goals the star of the show, instead of just an incidental extra?”

Remember: When coaching, never resist the resistance! Instead, be curious about it, explore it, and see what it is masking. It’s often a clue to great progress.

* This technique works regardless of the relationship, whether as a coach coaching a client, a leader leading a team, a manager managing an employee, a facilitator facilitating a workshop, a parent parenting a child, a spouse/friend relating to a spouse/friend, etc.

—Coaches: Join us for the next Certified Executive & Leadership Development Coach training program, starting November 2nd! More info:

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