Processing the Experience and Finding the Magic - Coaching Pathway (.pdf)
By Bill Shearer

Robin and I had a great day co-facilitating the Newport Beach coaching workshop Leaders Who Coach and Mentor . We thoroughly enjoyed interacting with 70+ corporate leaders and managers and we both felt thoroughly energized by the experience.

Driving home, we hit the usually nerve-racking early evening stop and go traffic on the 55 and decided to wait it out by stopping for dinner at the Orange County Mining Company. We were both buzzing with ideas and insights that we had been processing since leaving the hotel. There's a synergy when we're both excited by a common effort and eager to share, and each eager to be part of the other's experience. It's always a peak experience for me, having Robin as my "thinking partner," sharing ideas, values, and interests that we're both passionate about. I find myself growing during these sessions more than at any other time.

During the conversation, Robin was talking about how extraordinarily good and empowering it feels to be in the presence of someone from whom you feel deep respect and regard for you as a unique human being. Robin was asking "How does this occur? How is it that one becomes a person whose mere presence radiates a deep respect for all other human beings?" Robin went on to say "It's an attitude, a way of relating, a way of being, and it can't be faked. It can't be a set of behaviors you put on for a certain situation. It comes from within. It comes from the heart."

I was intrigued by Robin's words. She was talking about coaching, and psychotherapy as well, but she was also talking about something much deeper, much more profound. She talked about how important it was to see the highest possibilities, the greatest potential in other people, to appreciate the best in others, and to see the human qualities and experiences that connect all of us as human beings.

She went on to say that when the focus is on the negative, we focus on what separates us and we focus in a way that dampens the spirit. What we focus on expands. Accentuating the positive, appreciating the person we see before us, brings out their best, ---and ours as well.

I know Robin's philosophy is that people are currently doing the best they can given their beliefs, fears, experiences, and need to protect themselves. Only by truly knowing the other, seeing their world through their eyes, believing in their capacity for growth, respecting him or her as an individual, and wanting to fully invest in their potential, can we facilitate change. We all have life lessons to learn. In helping others grow, the coach or therapist also grows in self-awareness and in the full awareness of what it is to be human.

So it seems we were quite philosophical during dinner. For me, Robin's remarks brought into focus something I had been wrestling with all day. There's always a tendency in these workshops to talk about skills and techniques and in fact a lot of the questions we are asked are along the lines of "how do you handle...? I've always responded enthusiastically to these questions, but still felt incomplete. It felt like something was missing, kind of like the feeling you have when you can't think of a name or word or song title. You have a sense of the shape of it, the size of it, the general feel of it, but you can't quite make it fully conscious. It's frustrating.

Robin's words suddenly brought the missing piece into sharp focus. What makes coaching work, or therapy work for that matter, is something that goes far beyond any skill or technique. It's something that you're unlikely to get by merely sitting through a workshop or reading any number of books. It's something far more basic but still something that you have to actively strive for and wholeheartedly invest yourself in. It's the sincere intention to connect with another human being, regardless of position, in a way that communicates deep respect and a sincere desire to be helpful.

When we talk to business audiences, we try to avoid "psychobabble" and language that sounds "touchy-feely." Business people are pragmatic realists who deal in a world of facts and figures, in a world of objective reality.

We're reminded however of the work of the great psychologist Carl Rogers over 40 years ago. When he wrote about the essential therapeutic qualities of "genuineness, accurate communication of empathy, and unconditional positive regard," he was also talking about the essential qualities for coaching in the year 2004. Robin was right on target (as usual).

Something magical happens when you are talking to someone who holds you in deep respect, someone who listens to you, someone who appreciates you and believes in your potential for growth.

When I met Carl Rogers nearly 30 years ago I felt those qualities in him, and I in turn felt inspired. Something magical happened. I encountered something more than learned technique or a set of behaviors put on for the occasion. Although we believe these more basic qualities can be developed, we also believe you can't fake it.

In developing yourself as a dynamic leader/coach (or therapist), as in building anything, you must begin with a strong foundation. The foundation we propose is one based upon solid respect and appreciation for the other as a unique human being, coupled with a genuine desire to be helpful, an intention to enter into a coaching conversation. (We believe the following material applies equally to the world of psychotherapy)

We refer to this foundation as Relationship Intention. If relationship intention isn't there as a foundation, coaching won't work. Building on that foundation with successive layers of self awareness, self-management, and choice will finally bring one to the position of successfully working the processes and practicing the skills of effective coaching. The overall result? High-performance and high-commitment.

Here is how this philosophy looks to us.

We've envisioned a pyramid with a strong foundation of Relationship Intention. Masterful coaching and mentoring is at the pinnacle. Masterful coaching only happens if previous layers are mastered. Our illustration of this philosophy follows: (See PowerPoint slide)

The second level, Self-Awareness, is having an accurate view of one's self. It means being fully aware of your mental models, those assumptions that often lie beyond conscious awareness and that exert a powerful influence on behavior, attitudes, and relationships. Also part of the second level, is being very clear on how you affect those around you and how well you perform as a coach. This is an area where we find 360 degree feedback particularly helpful. Feedback, accepted nondefensively, is the key to personal growth.

The third level is Self-Management. Many emotional intelligence (EQ competencies come into play at this level, competencies such as leadership ability, the ability to be a change catalyst, the ability to build bonds, and foster cooperation and collaboration. Influencing skills and communication skills along with empathy and a strong service orientation are essential. Numerous other EQ competencies are vital to being an effective coach and mentor. For further information on emotional intelligence see the article "Emotional Intelligence and High-Performance Work Teams."

The level of Choice involves a major paradigm shift for many managers. This is the choice to move from being a boss who controls and directs to being a leader/coach who empowers and builds commitment. New behaviors come with the choice, as leaders build self-esteem, listen and respond with empathy, share their own thoughts, feelings, and rationale, ask for help in problem solving, and offer help and support while empowering others to take on challenging and growth-producing new responsibilities.

This may be unfamiliar territory. For many it’s quite a stretch. Some will be unable or unwilling. Those who choose to make the shift base their decision on the belief that there is a better way, that there is far more satisfaction for all and far greater performance levels achieved by developing and using coaching skills, by coaching for performance and commitment. For help, read Zapp; The Lightning of Empowerment by William C. Byham, Ph.D., or Empowerment Takes More Than a Minute by Ken Blanchard.

The fifth level involves practicing learned Skills, Processes, and Procedures. These are definitely teachable and learnable, but insufficient without previous levels. Language and communication skills, a predictable structure and sequence, and numerous forms and assessments are mastered here.

Moving through all five levels leads to Masterful Coaching, the ability to artfully influence self-generating, self-correcting, self-sustaining performance improvement in others. Masterful coaching produces high-quality, productivity, and employee satisfaction.


Coaching will be powerfully effective and has the potential of transforming an entire organization, but only if it takes place within the context of the Carl Rogers qualities of genuineness, accurate communication of empathy, and unconditional positive regard, along with accurate self-awareness, emotionally intelligent self-management, and a clear choice to be an empowering and respectful leader/coach.

Coaching development is not for everyone. Not everyone can or will demonstrate the essential qualities for effective coaching. Not everyone will be interested or see a need to change. Some are already great coaches. That’s okay. We want to help those who are passionate about investing themselves in the growth of others, as well as their own growth as masterful coaches, those who have or want to find the magic ingredient.

Leaders Who Coach and Mentor Workshop


The Heart of Coaching by Thomas Crane

Coaching; Evoking Excellence in Others by James Flaherty

Masterful Coaching by Robert Hargrove

Masterful Coaching Field Book by Robert Hargrove and others

Coaching for Commitment by Dennis Kinlaw

Other books you may find helpful include:

Coaching for Performance by John Whitmore

Personal Coaching for Results by Lou Tice

The Tao of Coaching by Max Landsberg

Coaching for Leadership by Marshall Goldsmith

Sharpen Your Team's Skills in Coaching by Tony Voss

Coach 2 the Bottom Line by Mike Jay

Executive Coaching by Richard Kilburg

Executive Coaching; an Appreciative Approach by

William Bergquist, Kenneth Merritt and Steven Phillips

Stop Managing, Start Coaching by Jerry Gilley and Nathaniel Boughton

Executive Coaching with a Backbone and Heart by Mary Beth O'Neill

Leader As Coach by David B. Peterson and Mary Dee Hicks

Encouraging the Heart to by James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Respect by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

The Dance of Connection by Harriet Lerner

Dialogue by William Isaacs

Credibility by James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Empowerment Takes More Than a Minute by Ken Blanchard, John P, Carlos, and Alan Randolph

3 Keys to Empowerment by Ken Blanchard, John P. Carlos, and Alan Randolph

Zapp! The Language of Empowerment by William C. Byham


© 2005 William Carey Shearer Ph.D., M.B.A., M.P.H

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