Tools for Coaching Mastery

What a Famous Sea Captain Taught Me about Masterful Coaching (And how it
can help you become a Certified Coach!)
by Julia Stewart, IAC-CC

Years ago, a famous retired sea
captain named, Skippy Lane, taught me to sail on Long Island Sound. Skippy’s
mastery of sailing was legendary in the New York City archipelago where we
lived. One day I asked Skippy how sailors kept track of everything while they
sailed. The current, the wind direction, the sails, the rudder; it was all so

Skippy said, “You sail a boat by the seat
of your pants.”

I can still hear his booming voice. What
he meant was that when you’re sailing and you have everything optimally lined
up, the energy of the wind pulls the boat up out of the water and you feel it
rise up literally through the seat of your pants! That’s when a sailor knows
he’s on track.

And that’s exactly what happens when you
ride the energy of the conversation throughout your coaching sessions. That
energy is called curiosity and when it rises, it tells you that you’re on track.
It’s so simple and so much more effective to do it this way, than it is to try
to remember all of the effective behaviors required for IAC Certification.

When you focus on the skills and details,
you’re too busy thinking to notice what’s really going on. When you focus on the
energy, your attention is on the client and what your inklings are telling you
about your client. That’s what separates good coaching from great

The amazing thing is that when curiosity
is used well, many of the events that the IAC wants to see like, “The client is
no longer held back but is instead excited and moving forward…” or “The client
communicates more effortlessly and resourcefully,” show up naturally, as a
result of you sailing masterfully though the energy of the coaching
conversation. Pretty cool!

How do you use the energy of curiosity to
coach masterfully? There is not nearly enough space in this article to cover all
the ways, but here are three simple steps to get you started:

1. Notice what you’re curious about and
ask your client about it.
2. Notice what your client is curious about and ask
about that.
3. Use your curiosity and your client’s curiosity (and your
curiosity about your client’s curiosity) as continuous feedback loops to help
you navigate throughout the coaching conversation.

It’s quite simple and the results are

To master this, practice it with other
coaches who are knowledgeable about the IAC approach to coaching.

School of Coaching Mastery has some free
resources to help you with that, such as our free Study Groups at: and
our networking group for coaches who want buddies and triad partners for
practicing the masteries:
You don’t have to be an SCM student to use these free services.

Skippy never heard of coaching, but he
taught me the key to masterful coaching when he taught me how to sail.
Interestingly, that legendary master of coaching, Thomas Leonard, called this
skill, “Navigating via Curiosity.”


Julia Stewart, IAC-CC, is a coach, coach
trainer, and seminar leader, who uses her creativity and humor to expand
people’s thinking and inspire them to work brilliantly. She’s also President of, Professional Coach Training
Programs where you can learn much more about energy, mastery and curiosity.


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