The Center of Coaching: Human Interaction

We talked about local mission: creating or exploiting openings through which we can step closer to who we wish we were.

That’s vague, but vagueness is correct here: it’s an overarching mission, not a specific behavior. Today I want to get a little closer to some specific behaviors. Tho not all the way to nuts and bolts, not quite yet.

Start here. The openings i’m talking about come entirely from interactions with humans.

When I take a tiny step towards better, I do something, and it feels better, and a little light comes into my face, yes? Why do I take that step? Almost always it comes from some interaction. Not always of course: sometimes I just have a brain-fart and it works. But by and large, it’s my interactions with humans that feed my behavior changes.

And most changes like these involve some disruption effects — there’s just the bump of change, and there’s often the bump of learning and the bump of just getting my fingers on it and in it. And again, its very often the human interactions that sustain me through these bumps.

An important point: those interactions are by no means always either direct or directed. I mean, they might come from almost any human interaction, not necessarily one that is at the moment and focused on me or my bump.

What does this mean to me when i’m a coach?

It means to me that if i’m to create or exploit step-openings, I need to be skillful at human interaction. (this comes under the heading of "shit I thot would have been patently obvious, but looking around I see it’s clearly not." [ed. Note: he uses really big folder tabs])

When a person comes to me and says "i am going to coach geek teams, where should I start my studies?", the second thing I say to them: "learn about how humans interact." (the first thing I say is "jesus, calm down a second. Have a drink.") I want to stress that it’s in no way un-natural for a growing coach to be technique-focused. It makes perfect sense. We come to coaching because we’ve found some techniques we’re convinced have made our lives better and will make others’ lives better too. And in the geek trades especially, many of these techniques are, well, technical. No surprise that a growing coach’s first thoughts are all focused right there.

But here’s the thing: flush with success, excited by results, drilled-in on new technique, you’ve forgotten the actual hardest part for you: opening yourself to the change and sticking with it long enough to get it close to right. The hard part of coaching isn’t the part where you (think you) know a better answer. The hard part is opening the possibilities of that answer up with other people.

There are about a million alternate phrasings of that. Most of them involve subject/object distinctions that are dangerous and misleading and a cornerstone of a great many growing-coach failures.

The people I work with are people. They are subjects just like i’m a subject. Just like. I don’t do to them, or them to me. We do. We do together. That’s why it’s human interaction.

Damnit. This muse is bothering me. Feels awkward and poorly focused. Ahhh, well, there it is. What to do about it? Here’s what i’m gonna do. I’m gonna do a quick wrap and move on.

The point is this: as a coach, comparatively little of what I do is about any given answer to a problem. Rather, my attention is placed almost entirely on the human interactions that might free us to see a problem, to propose a change, to try it, and to decide if it helped.

Watch me run away and regroup. 🙂

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