• Paul Rutherford


This story happens during an intensive, two-week development programme for one of the world’s premier professional services firms. The activities are demanding, the learning is deep - and each person receives coaching.

On Day 4 a participant (called 'T') arrives at our one-on-one meeting room. He looks as distracted as he has been since the start of the week, so I try to calm him while setting out the rules of the session: “It’s completely confidential; we’ll use the time for your agenda; we are limited to an hour now and the same next week.” T smiles while fidgeting, looks out of the window, looks at his hands, looks at the clock, looks at the table. Then he starts to ramble (he’s bi-lingual, yet I notice he occasionally uses non-English terms to express himself). When he reaches a pause, I repeat most of what he’s said and how he’s said it, and ask him what he thinks. He sits in silence, our eye contact completely focused on each other for the first time. I repeat a non-English word he’s just used, guess what it means, and use it as a hook for a question. He smiles, smiles broadly and starts to chuckle. The chuckle becomes a laugh which, of course, is infectious. We both enjoy the moment. Then T tells me that my translation of the word was inaccurate, but my question hits the nail on the head. “That’s it! That’s what I need to work on.” We laugh again, then he says “I’m serious. That’s the question.” Hoping to help, hoping to be valuable, I ask him what else he needs. “Nothing. I can see it clearly. That’s the question.” I can take a hint and suggest that he uses the rest of the time to be on his own to reflect (it never happens when he’s at work). And I leave him to it. Over the next ten days, we check in a couple of times at coffee breaks. When I see him in class or in breakout team he is more settled, no fidgeting. And at the end of the programme T gives me one of the highest score I’ve ever received. For eight minutes. Whatever we think others will expect of us, how value actually comes into being can be very different indeed.

#coaching #enquiry #insight #value

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