Sharing Content as a Coach

To be an effective coach, it’s often necessary to share content with team members. But the ability to share content well has two prerequisites – deep listening and intelligent questioning.
Bill and Ralph discuss the concept and offer tips on how to hone your own listening and questioning skills and enhance your leadership.



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*Note: The following text is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors



Bill Berthel: Welcome to the Get Emergent podcast, where we discuss leadership, team, and organizational topics and best practices. We like to provide ideas, concepts, and pragmatic experiments to help you develop your potential in your work and leadership. I’m Bill Berthel

Ralph Simone: And I’m Ralph Simone.

Bill Berthel: So, Ralph, as, another part of our series in talking about this coaching space for leaders, leaders as coach, coaches get to share content. They get to share some of their expertise. Sometimes it comes out as advice. This is really important for coaches to have some content to share.

Ralph Simone: Yeah. And this is interesting for me. So my early career, I was a consultant, a subject matter expert.

Bill Berthel: Yeah.

Ralph Simone: And I love sharing my expertise. But the balancing act here, as we’ve been trained as coaches, is how do you strike the right balance between sharing what you know and drawing out of your client what he or she knows? So I think this is a stumbling block for professional coaches as well as leaders as coach.

Bill Berthel: Yeah. No, I think so, too. And one of the biggest barriers to effective coaching is projecting too much of our experience, too much of our know how, too much of our subject matter expertise onto the person we’re coaching, whether that be our employee or our client. I think this type of projection, at best, can be received as advice that might get acted upon. But I think we miss that opportunity to really connect, grow the client, draw out their ideas, their best, and even worse as a leader. I think we might start to build a dependency on our advice.

Ralph Simone: This links back then to consciousness

Bill Berthel: very much,

Ralph Simone: kind of being aware. Are we sharing too much too soon? Are we projecting our experiences or solution on, before we fully understand?

Ralph Simone: So let’s talk about, for the benefit of our listeners, how we strike that balance of sharing content as a coach.

Bill Berthel: So I think if we’re able to hold on to sharing that knowledge or expertise as a coach, as not first place, deep listening and intelligent questioning long before projecting our own brilliance, our own advice, our own subject matter expertise that I think we all like to share, by the way. I think we do. Yeah. We like to share that.

Ralph Simone: It’s validating. We want to make a contribution. But what I heard you say in that is understand the challenge or the problem or the opportunity at hand before you prematurely dispense information that may or may not be useful. And I think there’s another thing that a leader and a coach needs to be mindful of. You have a position of maybe expertise or authority that people might be more inclined to pay attention to what you say. So the timing of what and when you say it is important.

Bill Berthel: The timing is very important. And just to your point, the authority, the position, the role that you play, and perhaps your level of subject matter expertise or sometimes your long term service in the industry or that organization puts you in that kind of authority position. But, really taking the time to connect through. I think it’s a dance. I think it’s both/and of questions and listening. It’s going back and forth between asking I’m going to call them intelligent questions and I think we can characterize them better than that here today. And then listening, deep listening to those questions you might be asking.

Ralph Simone: So it sounds like a way to avoid projecting or offering your perspective too early is by starting by asking open ended, empowering questions. Questions that would get the employee, the client, the direct report to think and perhaps think differently or think more broadly about whatever they’re wrestling with.

Bill Berthel: Yeah, that’s exactly it. So as most of us know, open questions are those questions that are difficult to answer yes or no to. They stay open in the way that they require a little bit of processing, a little bit more depth in the answer. We, can answer probably any question yes or no to. But open questions are difficult to answer yes or no to. I think open questions are also questions that we are open to hearing, listening to almost any answer. Right? So that requires us to reduce the expected answer or reduce our judgment, perhaps.

Ralph Simone: So if I’m interpreting that correctly, it’s only an open question if we’re open to the answer,

Bill Berthel: I think, so

Ralph Simone: that we receive. I think that’s beautiful when you talk about the difference, open and close and people intellectually say, no kidding, right? You’re going to spend time on this. But I remember an experience when I was conducting coaching clinics for a large Fortune 100 company, teaching leaders to be coaches. This is exactly the topic we’re talking about. And we videotaped, right? Because the video doesn’t lie, right? Oh, how hard can it be? And almost invariably to a person, the number of closed questions they asked to open was far more. Do you have a plan? Are you excited about it? And it really took that watching the video to shift their consciousness that they were in a pattern because they want to net things out. They want to get to the bottom line quickly of asking almost exclusively closed questions.

Bill Berthel: Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me. And, you’re hitting right on it. It is about the pressure of time. Most of us have been educated and trained to be either consciously or subconsciously, really good at reductive reasoning. And reductive reasoning gets us down to typically two choices yes, no, good, bad, right, wrong. So, our language is formed that way. So we ask a lot of closed questions. It’d be a fun experiment. I don’t know that everybody wants to record themselves, but just pay attention. Pay attention to the questions you ask through the day.

Ralph Simone: I think it’s important if you’re going to shift your consciousness and be more mindful of what your pattern behavior truly is. I mean, asking the question of how are you? People want to hear good or fine. They don’t want you to describe the last three or four days, how you’ve been struggling. Right. I think it’s an interesting right. That’s not an open question because you’re really not open for the answer at that point. You want people to say, Yep, good. Boom, move on.

Bill Berthel: Absolutely.

Ralph Simone: And as a coach, we have to be ready for anything and everything.

Bill Berthel: We do we do.

Bill Berthel: And Ralph, you qualified. Questioning another way just earlier that I want to go back to that I think is equally as important as being open is coaches ask empowering questions. And an empowering question puts the possibility, the potential, it puts the idea, the ownership kind of in the hands or in the lap of that person we’re talking with. So it makes it more possible for that person or puts that person into action.

Ralph Simone: Yeah, I think, a well framed empowering question shifts energy.

Bill Berthel: Yeah. I love that.

Ralph Simone: It connects to possibility. I mean, I have this right on my desk. I ask it often. What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? And so now we’re putting all kinds of possibilities out there for people to consider, and it almost doesn’t matter where they land, because if they’re open to the possibility of something different, that’s movement.

Bill Berthel: Yeah. The other thing an empowering question does is takes us off the hook of providing our expertise, because we’re really putting the focus on that other individual, not what we think should be done or what we know could be done from our past experience or our knowledge. Really takes us off that hook of becoming that advice monster.

Ralph Simone: So pay attention to how hard you’re working. If you’re coaching somebody, and if you’re carrying the load of offering too many ideas.

Bill Berthel: There you go.

Ralph Simone: Or the pressure to get to some solution, then you’re probably not sharing content appropriately. You’ve taken on too much.

Bill Berthel: Yeah, absolutely.

Ralph Simone: Let’s, talk a little bit about something that seems to trip a lot of folks up in the listening area. Is this idea of acknowledging and validating. We’re practiced in it. I think we’re fairly accomplished with it most of the time. But people seem to struggle with understanding, first what it is, and then secondly, how to do it. How would we help our listeners with acknowledging and validating?

Bill Berthel: Yeah. So acknowledging is the intention of the acknowledgment is so that person feels heard and understood. And I think it can be as simple as mirroring what was said, not parroting. Nobody wants to hear that. It’s not about recording back exactly what they said. It’s an ability to acknowledge the topic or the content that they’re talking about. And then validating is really about connecting with that person’s senses or feelings or emotions around that, and we can validate that. Now, here’s where I think a few things is why people get tripped up in this one. I know where I screw up all the time is when I’m more emotionally invested. I tend to acknowledge and validate less ironically, where it would work better. But I think also where we agree or disagree with people. it’s really challenging at times to acknowledge and validate someone that we disagree with. Now, it’s not impossible. Acknowledgment and validation does not require agreement.

Ralph Simone: So it’s important for us to be objective, as objective as possible, to be as neutral as possible. And part of doing that is to be conscious. Right?

Ralph Simone: To be aware of where you might be too emotionally invested. It reminds me, though, the benefit of acknowledging and validating this was a I’ll try to quote it, but it might be a paraphrase from Stephen Covey. When we allow the feeling life, it dies naturally.

Bill Berthel: Yeah.

Ralph Simone: When we deny the feeling life, it struggles for birth. And so what we’re trying to do is allow people to let the emotion go so that they can explore possibilities.

Bill Berthel: It’s exactly that. It’s part of the processing that’s there. It’s both sides of that. If we agree or disagree while we’re trying to acknowledge and validate, we’re not actually acknowledging and validating. The acknowledgment is simply paraphrasing back and saying, I hear you. And the validation is you’ve got every right to feel that way. Or I can understand why that frustrated you. Or oh, it seems you’re excited about that.

Ralph Simone: I had a guy recently, talk about he said it’s more than frustrating. I don’t seem like I’m recognized in the organization. And I said, based on how you described it, it’s understandable why you would feel the way you do and why you would be considering other options. I wasn’t making them right. Wrong. I didn’t have a horse in the race, but I was making it from the way he described it okay to feel that way. That allowed us to move on. But I am curious. I think I do pretty well. But then, periodically I’ll get hooked because I fancy myself as a guy who knows a lot of stuff and can be helpful. I want to at some point after I’ve done all this brilliant listening and acknowledging and validating. And I, want to offer my perspective because I think it would be helpful. What do I need to watch out for? I mean, how do I manage not giving too much too soon?

Bill Berthel: I think there’s a few ways, too, that I think we both work with in our coaching. And I give a shout out to our business partner, Cathy Gaynor. I think she’s absolutely professional on softening the advice. Softening the advice could, look like, you know you’ve probably already thought of this, but what do you think about XYZ, the piece of advice? Softening it gives it that onramp to be received a little bit more readily. it also makes us more relatable we’re not just showing up as I’m the guy who just asked you a bunch of questions, listen to you and I’m going to come around and smack you with my piece of advice. No. We’re building that nice on ramp to that piece of advice or direction. I think whether we’re coaching or leading softening that is influential.

Ralph Simone: Maybe ​it’s ​that we’re offering information for consideration, recognizing that it can’t be the full solution. One of the things I think a few things I did very well as a parent is when my kids asked me a question, I rarely gave them a definitive answer.

Bill Berthel: There you go. Yeah.

Ralph Simone: They’d say, Well, dad, how do you do this? I’d say, Well, I can share a way to do it, but that’s one of many ways. How else do you think you could? Because I think that’s the empowering piece because I always saw my role as a parent as getting them to think about these things from their own perspective, how they would solve it. And I think the other thing we sometimes, in addition to what you shared that Cathy does, is just asking for permission. Would you mind if I shared some information to you that may be helpful in this situation?

Bill Berthel: It’s actually the place for a closed question. You want to hear yes or no to that, right? It’s the closed exploratory question. Can I share a piece of advice with you? hey, I’ve had a similar experience in the past and it really worked for me. Can I share that with you? We want to hear no because then we need to listen more. There’s something we’ve missed or we want to hear yes because then we’re on ramp to providing that advice and probably being more influential with that.

Ralph Simone: And I think if you’re in the moment more conscious, more aware, you can tell that you’re starting to share too much content as a coach or not enough. I mean, sometimes people want your perspective and if you keep asking them questions, they’re going to become impatient because you’re not sharing some content with them. So I think pay attention. If you’re in the moment, I think you can discern what’s needed next.

Bill Berthel: I think you can, we’re going to talk about making the connection in another podcast as a coach. But I think when you have the trust really high, the person you’re coaching will even ask you. They’ll even say, come on, I’m ready for the piece of advice. What would you do? That’s as much permission as you need.

Ralph Simone: As you were talking about making the connection. And I know we’ll talk about that in more detail in a, future podcast.

Ralph Simone: One way not to make the connection I think is leading with too much advice. I call it leading with your chin because then I think people start to want to make you wrong or incorrect. Right. And you don’t create, if anything, you create disconnection by leading with your expertise too quickly in a coaching conversation.

Bill Berthel: So I love leading with your chin. Jonathan Height in the righteous mind calls that leading with your righteous mind. He says it’s the best way to start a debate or an argument. So I don’t think that’s what we’re doing as coaches.

Ralph Simone: No, I think we’re trying to help people see their situation more clearly and help them see a path forward.

Bill Berthel: Hey, folks, thanks for listening. To learn more about our offering Leader as Coach, please visit, Thank you.

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