Words Make Worlds
Issue 7
October 15th, 2023

Beginning Together

Welcome to Words Make Worlds 🌎! I’m Andi and this week we’ll be looking at how to begin a coaching conversation. How you begin is critical to your level of success, and the attention you give to beginnings will determine everything that comes afterwards.

The Idea

Beginnings may seem superfluous but they are essential to effective and powerful coaching conversations. There is a lot to be said for taking the time to arrive and settle in together. To slow down and get a sense of each other, allowing our attention to come into the present and to collaboratively look at the work in front of us.

How we begin sets the stage for what follows. In busy organizational environments focused on efficiency and productivity, it can be easy to skip over beginnings in service of getting work done quickly. But when we skip over beginnings, we miss the opportunity to fully connect and we deprive ourselves of the important work of tending to the structure of the conversation. Without connection and structure, no matter how quickly we get to the issue, we are not setting ourselves up for success.

Beginning well is about knowing what the conversation is about, what is most important, what will be different by the end of the conversation, and what will make the conversation useful. If these four things are in place your chances of engaging in a productive and meaningful conversation increase exponentially, simply by tending to beginnings 😊.

The Practice

  1. Arrive. Give yourself a little time to settle in and get situated.
  2. Tend to what needs tending. If you were coming from another meeting and you need to capture a few notes in order not to be distracted, say as much and take a few minutes to write things down. When you are done, allow yourself to stop thinking about where you were and focus on the present.
  3. Check in. This can be short, but be genuine.
  4. Assess. What is your impression of how they are? What picture do they paint for you of how they are seeing themselves and the world in this moment? This includes things like energy levels, focus, distraction, stress, and ability to be present. We can sense all of these things fairly quickly in the first few moments we are together with someone.
  5. Set the boundaries of the conversation. These steps are a slight modification based on Claire Pedricks’s wonderful book Simplifying Coaching:
    1. Subject: What would you like to explore today? What question or issue?
    2. Time: In the amount of time we have, what part of that would be successful to focus on?
    3. Outcome: What would you like to be different by the end of this conversation?
    4. Know: How will you know that this conversation has been useful?
  6. Begin. If you both feel satisfied with the focus and the outcomes, ask them where they would like to start. Let them choose what feels important, and start the conversation with, “Where shall we start?”

Once you begin the conversation, ​curiosity​, optimism​, and ​using your attention intentionally​ will take you through the rest.

I wish you clear, focused, and easeful beginnings. Thank you for being here, see you in two weeks! 🙌

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