Ask the Certifiers: Trusting the Masteries by Natalie Tucker Miller, MMC
This month’s question is a two-parter, though the answers will overlap somewhat. I find that the answers to all questions about masterful coaching have one thing in common: The client is the most important aspect of the conversation. Let’s see where the answers to the following questions lead us!
Q1: Nine masteries each deeply expressed in one 30 minute session (plus effective use of silence!) seem like a whole lot to 'cram in.' How is that accomplished?
I remember thinking this when I was first introduced to Thomas Leonard’s 15 Coaching Proficiencies. Before the IAC was even a twinkle in Thomas’ eye, 30 minute coaching sessions were considered the norm. Then Thomas began demonstrating his 15-20 minute laser sessions, where evidence of all 15 proficiencies were present! But how?
For a moment, let’s look at another skill set that is accomplished as a whole. As a violinist, I recall wondering, would I remember how to place the chinrest, hold my wrist in position, be conscious of the placement of my fingers on the bow, control many strings to engage in a bow stroke, create all the right notes on the fretless neck, keep my back straight, control my breathing while reading music? How in the world is that possible, all at the same time? Surely only one or two people in the entire world could fulfill such requirements!
For the first couple of years of practice, I was convinced that I’d just have to settle with “good enough,” since I could not imagine accomplishing all that without looking awkward and ridiculous. However, after a few years, I was invited to state competitions and performed solo compositions at concerts. And by the then, the least of my concerns were the techniques of actual playing the instrument. Now, I had bigger fish to fry: Stage fright!
Practicing to become masterful at coaching can be seen similarly. It typically begins with the coach being concerned about coaching “right,” fitting all elements of mastery without it feeling crammed or artificial.
And just as the bow, strings, posture, and piece of music all come together to create a pleasing concerto, so it is with the coaching skill sets. One skill without the rest will not produce the full result. For a better understanding of how the Mastery measures this as a whole, please refer to these previous articles about the interconnectedness of the Masteries.
Why is this interconnectedness important? Just as an audience might not recognize that all elements of style were present in a concert, they surely would be aware if those elements were absent! This is how coaching is also nuanced. Using the Masteries E-Book as a guide, pay particular attention to “Indicators the Coach Understands the Mastery”; this section will help you to understand how the elements are synthesized to create a masterful session.
Q2: When considering sessions for certification, how do you decide what to leave out? Often a client's response will suggest several different ways to probe – so how is a decision made without a certifier saying, "You missed that"?
In addition to “see above”, there is a simple answer to this specific situation.
Perhaps there are certain words that are recurring, or something that was said creates a noticeable shift in the client’s tone, or the client is highly creative and interested in a variety of pursuits. Maybe you find something pops up unexpectedly in the session, so you’ll need to determine if this is the “elephant in the room,” or an additional tangent that could be useful to explore at another time.
Don’t be afraid to bring any of this to the client’s attention. Acknowledge its existence, test it for its significance in the session, and make a collaborative determination as to how best to approach it. You may find that the session takes a new, unexpected turn, or you may find it isn’t relevant to what is most important in the moment and table it for another time.
The point is, don't avoid something if you're concerned about where it may take you, any more than worrying that you are missing something. With practice and experience, you’ll know just the right direction to take without even thinking about it.
And P.S. No, I don’t still play the violin for audiences. 😉
Natalie Tucker Miller, MMC, is the Lead Certifier and a certifying examiner at the IAC, as well as Past-President. Natalie is founder of Ageless-Sages.com Publishing (www.ageless-sages.com), and creator of the literary genre, Picture Books for Elders™.
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