An Unconventional Way to Sharpen Coaching Skills

By Rev. Dr. Kevin Wilson

I’m sharpening my coaching skills more by listening to podcasts that aren’t about coaching than listening to podcasts about coaching.

Seriously. You can listen to podcasts about architecture or philosophy or fishing to hone your coaching skills. The topic doesn’t matter. You just need to know the secret to identifying the right style of podcasts and how to leverage the podcasts in skill building.

Identify the right podcasts.

The style of podcast you are looking for is what I call “Interview the Expert.” In each episode the host interviews experts about a specific profession or specialization. For example, I listen to a podcast named “LDRLB.” The podcast is hosted by David Burkus, an educator, researcher and author who specializes in leadership. On a regular basis he interviews other researchers and authors who focus on leadership for podcasts.

A more general style of podcast may also regularly use the interview model. My favorite podcast is Six Pixels of Separation, hosted by Mitch Joel. During any given month this weekly podcast will have one or two interviews with authors or leaders in a range of fields that apply to marketing or digital media.

The right podcasts are also about topics that interest you. The more you like the topic, the more likely you are to listen to the podcast.

Create a coaching environment.

I prefer to listen to podcasts while driving on the highway or exercising on a treadmill. However, these contexts are not conducive for learning. So instead of listening casually, block out time as if this were a coaching session. Find a quite place. Clear everything off the space except what you will use for notes.

Creating this environment helps you work on the coaching skill of “presence.” A good deal of “presence” is created by very intentional focus on the client. Actively listening to a podcast moves the coach into a mental state very similar to coaching.

Critique podcast interview questions.

Podcasts are great places to find a broad range of questions. Powerful questions. Thought-provoking questions. Questionable questions. Refine your skill in asking questions by evaluating the questions as you listen. Reword some questions to make them more powerful. Note powerful questions you might use.

Ask your own questions.

Another way to sharpen your skills is to formulate your own questions as you listen. Ask the questions aloud as if you were doing the interview. Create follow up questions to questions asked by the host.

Observe how the host structures the podcast.

Another skill to work on is structuring the coaching conversation. Podcast hosts develop unique frameworks for their podcasts. There are subtle differences between podcasts in guest introductions, narrative development and closings. Coaching conversations also have a framework. Compare and contrast the structure of your coaching conversations with the podcast framework.

Study the pace of the interview.

One of the challenges for coaches who coach infrequently is developing the appropriate pace in coaching sessions. Listening to quality podcasts provides a great opportunity to study the pace of an interview. Note when the interviewer pauses. Pay attention to the times when the host gives the guest a little extra time to formulate an answer. Listen for length of time it takes the host to ask questions.

The best way to sharpen coaching skills is coaching. Since a vast majority of us are not so blessed as to coach daily, we need alternatives for sharpening coaching skills. Listening to “Interview the Expert” podcasts is one way.

How do you sharpen your coaching skills? Share your answer on your preferred social media.

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