Kid Kate Coaches on Coaching


I can’t quite figure out what to think of the fact that Kate, our oldest daughter, was the one of our three kids who seemed to need the most coaching; and now at 22, she’s expert and forthright.  I look up to her for thoughtful advice. Yesterday, she was really on her game.

She well knows that coaching – or call it  feedback, analysis, or advice – is only coaching when it’s heard as coaching. By contrast, when the client, child, co-worker or spouse is not bought in, then well-intentioned coaching can sound like a harangue, patronizing, naive, etc. That’s exactly what transpired with my wife earlier on the weekend.  She was pretty animated complaining – a pretty rare occurrence, by the way – about an event she was committed to attend. “Are you open to some coaching?” I asked, perhaps sensing she wasn’t in the mood for it.  “What?” she asked. This was not exactly permission, I knew.  As I have coached others:  you have to pay attention to the music as well as the lyrics! The lyric was asking “what” I had to say. The music was hardly so welcoming.

“So,” I reflected back to her, “I can tell by your tone of voice that you’re really not interested. What’s going on with that?” She explained back to me what she predicted I was going to say.  She was mostly right. I pressed on ahead saying that I wanted to say something else. And I did.  I can’t even remember how she responded. It certainly wasn’t with praise and thanksgiving!  Yesterday night I recounted to Kate what had happened.

True to form, Kate asked, “Are you open to some coaching about that?”  “Definitely,” I said, grateful, impressed and proud at her self-confidence (and excellent coaching form 🙂 ).  She said that often when I had coached her growing up, she just had not been in a position to hear it. She was in the throes of the emotion around a situation, and it was impossible to shift into a cognitive or abstract mind frame. “Mom was probably just venting. She wasn’t telling you that she needed or wanted help.”  It’s embarrassing how obvious good coaching can sound sometimes. I felt like an idiot.

I was an “emotional idiot” in not reading cues better.  And I was also making a huge fundamental mistake.  I was “all about me” – in this case my idea about Jennifer’s situation. But it was her world, emotion, ambivalence, and processing that mattered; not my idea.  If I was to add value, I’d have had to understand what she wanted – if anything – from me.  Sometimes there’s room to challenge someone’s thinking or emoting, but I’m probably not the only one who barges ahead without realizing this is often, just not what’s desired.

Kate’s summary was pretty good: If you’re in Jennifer’s shoes, say ahead of time that you’re looking for venting not coaching. And in my shoes, reverse my assumption that people really want my coaching, and instead focus in on the client’s or spouse’s or kid’s need instead.  Great coaching, doncha think to help

Lead with your best self!

  • Dan,
    Wow! Great post… I have been managing restaurants working with both “veterans” and “newbies” in the hospitality business for over 25 years, in 15 states, and in over 70 different restaurant concepts. I have never been as moved by your letters as I was today after reading “Kid Kate Coaches on Coaching”. I have always felt that when people came to me with a story or situation that they wanted some advice or coaching from me. Needless to say I’ve been more than wrong many times! (I personally think I get a bit of that from MY father – he was a great teacher in the public school system in Flint, MI)
    But managing (or relationships) isn’t always about teaching or coaching is it? Sometimes it’s about letting people voice their thoughts and desires, and perform their chosen actions and supporting and providing them a foundation on which they can build and climb higher.
    I applaud Kate’s wisdom, and hope she continues to display it’s usage in the future!

  • Great advice from Kate, Dan. At times, all we need to do is be a good listener when someone needs to vent. A good coach is also a very good listener.

  • As I tell my husband, “sometimes when I tell you a lively story about a client or colleague, it’s just that, a story, and not an invitation to fix it.” Thanks for sharing Kate’s coaching : )

  • Kate points out a ‘life lesson’ for all of us that the ‘context’ of the situation where coaching is provided or considered to be provided is as important as the perceived need for the coaching and the actual content of the coaching. So, perhaps there is a ‘three-legged stool’ analogy here about balance in coaching…The content of the coaching needs to be appropriate to the situation; coaching needs to be provided/delivered in a manner that is effiective and appropriate to the situation; coaching needs to be received in an appropriate manner. Isn’t this the basis for all effective discourse?

  • I’ve observed that this kind of thing frequently happens between men and women. She wants to talk about it or talk it out, and he wants to fix it, or thinks she wants him to fix it. It can lead to a good old fashioned “why don’t you- yes but” session, and it can lead to her just not talking about work-related things with him. And it can lead to him feeling — and being — shut out.

    There are a lot of times when it seems to work best to listen and to respond with positive comments such as “Gosh, that’s quite a situation. I’d be upset too. What will you do now?” that quietly indicate your faith in the other person and their ability to handle it.

  • Good advice, Dan, from both of you about the structure of commiserating conversations.

    I’ve often struggled with this dynamic myself. I’ve come to see that the person is usually inviting us into their space and their perspective, to see just what a mess things are. Like you I find this an awkward spot to be and since I was taught to move from complaints to constructive solutions, I start pitching in to try to help them organize the place a little. But that’s about as welcome as being invited into someone’s house and starting to reorganize their living room.

    I agree with Marty, that what we need to do is start by looking around the room and recognizing the challenges that they face. I’ve also found that it’s just as important to share in their level of emotions; my efforts to try to help them stay calm often backfire. Later we can put the question in their court: “what will you do now?” And if that doesn’t go anywhere, “how about…?”

    • Folks,
      Really great comments this week, reinforcing my learning, to be sure.
      Bryan, I love the metaphor of rearranging their furniture. I’m going to keep that in mind!

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