October 21, 2022

Curiosity killed the team coach

Of course, not! Curiosity is the life-blood of the team coach. And curiosity is a strong preference for social-constructionist, Solution Focused, narrative and collaborative practitioners. Of course, not in the sense of being nosy or tourists in our clients’ lives but in the sense of being really interested and aware that we as coaches don’t know the answers.

In the Galveston Declaration (Gosnell, Faye; McKergow, Mark; Moore, Blaine; Mudry, Tanya; Tomm, Karl (2017): A Galveston Declaration. In Journal of Systemic Therapies 36 (3)), which was published by Solution Focused, narrative and collaborative experts to formulate their common ground, we read: “We value living with curiosity more than living with certainty”. So what does that have to do with the attitude of a team coach?

“In the mind of the beginner, there are many possibilities. In the mind of the expert there are few,” is a quote attributed to the Zen master Shunryu Suzuki. Solution Focused team coaches will try to be curious and aware that their own assumptions are just that: assumptions and not truths. Of course, we are human and there is no way to be human and not have assumptions – you can’t live questioning your assumptions that the floor will hold, and a new day will be there tomorrow, for example. The difference is that we try not to turn our assumptions into truth.

In team coaching, this “not knowing” attitude of the coach can be seen in how the coach partners with the team. The coach will invite and suggest rather than determine and direct. The coach will give the team choices as to what will be discussed and how it will be discussed, what will be decided and how it will be decided.

When the coach sees something happening in the team that they think is not so useful, they will not “confront” or “point out” but mention their observation without attachment to it being right as a potential interesting space to look. Here is an example:

In a team coaching with a pre-school, the team members were often rehashing each other’s points. The discussions became very long winded that way. I noticed this and was feeling myself getting impatient. Thinking that if I am becoming impatient, maybe others are feeling this, too, I commented: “I see that many of you seem to show agreement with the others by re-stating what was just said – or am I off here?”. The teachers nodded. I continued: “I am wondering, would you like to continue doing this or might we look at a more effective way?”. Two ladies started laughing and said: “Ahhh this is why we are running around in circles a lot!” I asked what their ideas were on how to change it. One of the team members suggested that if you want to agree with someone, you could just say: “Plus 1” instead of reiterating what was just said. The team experimented with this and was very happy.

The team coach’s “knowledge” is always provisional, tentative and curious. Our preference for curiosity also calls into question the team’s assumptions and thereby opens possibilities of doing and viewing things differently and potentially in a better way.

If you would like to explore these and other ideas for true partnership with your clients or learn about our courses, why not join one of our free coaching meetups and exchanges:

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