How to Coach Without Listening

Yesterday somebody gave me ‘feedback’ during a coaching session.

“You aren’t listening to me,” they said.

They were right!

Patience and listening is considered a virtue in coaching.

I can be patient. And I can listen. I can listen to you more deeply than most people will ever even come close to listening to you.

And yet sometimes…I throw listening completely out the window.

Sometimes I will decidedly STOP listening to a person who I am coaching. In fact, I often interrupt my clients so I can stop listening to them.


I have no patience for stories about why things are difficult. I will not waste your time listening to you explain why something cannot be done.

Your reasons why something is difficult or impossible may very well be TRUE! (They often are.)

And yet, as far as our work together is concerned, those reasons only matter when they are what you focus on.

For me, coaching is about creating a new reality to focus on.

I love you too much to let you go on and on and on continuing to create a reality that does not serve you.

When I interrupt you, I want you to STOP looking at the blindingly obvious. I want you to STOP looking at the brightest light.

Instead I want you to walk with me into the darkness…into the unlikely and the impossible

In that place, I want you to find the tiny specks of light in the darkness. The white twinkling dots.

I want you to focus on those and I want you to discover that you can navigate your entire life and create everything you want by those stars.

That is why sometimes I coach you by NOT listening to you.


  • What is the story that you have been telling yourself about why it is challenging to do what you want to do?
  • What might be another story that is also true, but which is about succeeding at what you want to do?

Your Desires are a Backwards Strategy

I get loads of emails from people telling me about what they want differently in their lives.

A pattern I see is that people will often first list the things they want for themselves…

Money, Freedom, Relationship, Passion, etc…

And then they will continue, suggesting that after they have that they also want things for others, like…

Contribution, help people, make an impact in the world, leave a legacy, etc

In one sense, the order of these things is good. It makes sense that we worry about taking care of ourselves first. We need to be healthy and safe before we can be of value to others.

In another sense – the more actual one – we are completely insane.

We are already safe and secure enough to move on to the second list. We just think we aren’t.

The ebb and flow of life has a particular rhythm to it. So many people want to ebb without flowing.

But flowing is where you have to go before you get to ebb again.

Put doing THESE things first EVERY SINGLE MORNING:

Contribution, help people, make an impact in the world, leave a legacy, etc

And more of THIS will then come to you in your afternoons:

Money, Freedom, Relationship, Passion, etc…


  • What are all the things that you want?
  • What order do you typically place them in?
  • Could reversing the order of your desires be the perfect strategy for creating those desires?

How to Find What You Want – Seeking to Creating

Are you searching for something?

Maybe a relationship partner, a passion or purpose, a business idea, a job?

Whenever someone tells me they are trying to ‘find’ something, I immediately see how and why the thing they want is evading them.

Trying to ‘find’ something is a very passive approach. It amounts to looking around,  watching and maybe even listening too. You may in fact be all ears and all eyes in your ‘search’, but if so, you are still leaving out half of what you can do.

Listening and watching is all about input. If you are ‘searching’, then you’re probably forgetting the output.

By output,  I mean the things you can do to impact and shake up the world. Your output oriented actions can change the environment you are looking and listening in.

People do this mildly in their search, but mostly they are just poking their heads around corners and peeking inside cupboards.

Instead of ‘searching’, ‘seeking’ or ‘finding’, I prefer the idea of ‘creating’ stuff in life.

When playing hide-and-go-seek with my nephew, I will NOT be a ‘creator’. I will be a ‘seeker’, because it takes me much longer to find him and this is fun for him. I’ll just walk around, allowing my eyes to glance in different directions.

When playing hide-and-go-seek with a particular person or opportunity, I WILL be a ‘creator’.  I’ll  talk often about what I am looking for. I’ll tell everyone. I ask questions. I’ll create things that might attract that person or opportunity. I’ll shake up the world like I’m shaking an apple tree and let that person or opportunity fall out and hit me on the head.

Creating is much more active than seeking.


  • What is it that you are currently trying to find?
  • What could you do differently if you transcended ‘seeking’ and began CREATING instead?

Great Leaders (and Coaches) are Zeroes

The other day I was in conversation with an inspiring coach I know. We were discussing the importance of having no limiting thoughts about what your client can create.

“What is zero times anything?” he asked me.

“Zero,” I answered.

He stared at me and nodded softly. It was a very zen-like moment. I may have even heard the sound of a gong in the distance.

One thing I have experienced, both on the receiving and giving end, is that the coach having ‘zero’ limiting thoughts makes them more effective at empowering their clients to create.

This week, in thinking about leadership, I got clear on how, like great coaches, really great leaders also lead by having zero limiting thoughts.

What may appear on the outside as an incredibly powerful driving purpose, is actually just any old purpose, except that it is unlimited by any contradictory fearful beliefs.

We see the purpose as powerful, but really it’s just that there is nothing in the way of it. When there is nothing in the way of a person creating something, this thing gets created. That is human.

Actually, that is LIFE.

But how does this translate to leadership?

When we are around that nothing-ness, when we see it up close, when we engage with someone who is a ‘zero’ – it rubs off on us.

By experiencing a zero, we become a zero too. It’s almost like magic how it works.

I’m sure you’ve experienced it. You have spent time with someone who has total certainty about something and as a result, just being with them, melted away any doubts you had.

Great leadership (and great coaching) is multiplication. 

If YOU want to be less limited, spend time with a zero.

If you want YOUR PEOPLE to be less limited, be a zero yourself and do some multiplication with them.


Zero times anything is always zero. 


  • Where are you as a coach or a leader NOT being a zero for your clients?
  • Who is a zero that you could spend time with that, through multiplication, would help you to be a zero too?

You Can’t Want What You Don’t Understand

The other day I was in conversation with a COO who was complaining about his sales team not performing.

“They just don’t want it bad enough,” he told me. “I wanted it so much more when I was selling.”

We talked and he could see that his sales people were coming from a ‘victim’ place. They were complaining about circumstances (the irony of the COO being a victim by complaining about his sales team’s victimhood did not escape me, but I choose not to go there).

He could see that when he was in sales, he came from an ‘owner’ place. He created what he wanted instead of complaining about what wasn’t working.

I asked him how he was going to empower his team to be owners.

“They don’t want to be owners,” he said.

“How the…do you know that?” I snapped, biting back an f-bomb.

“They just don’t or they would be owners already.”

“That’s bullshit. Have you considered the possibility that they don’t know the difference between being an owner and a victim?”

What I shared with him is that he had a distinction they don’t have. He had a conscious understanding of the difference between two ways of being.

Furthermore, I had him see that a conscious understanding of difference is required before someone can want something.

“You can’t want what you don’t understand,” I said. 

His eyes glazed over and our conversation fell silent.

I could see that he was seeing how not wanting it bad enough wasn’t really the problem. The real  problem was that his team – his people – didn’t consciously understand the difference between being an owner and a victim.

If and when they could really see this difference, they were almost certain to want to be an ‘owner’.

Who wouldn’t?

But first they needed to see it. And so he knew exactly what he needed to do.


  • What are your people not wanting bad enough right now?
  • What distinction are they missing that would give them enough perspective to want something else?
  • How are you creating this – how are you stopping them from having that distinction?


Is Your Mission Statement Empty Words?

Too many organisational ‘mission statements’ I come across are empty words drafted only to sound intelligent on a website or the cover of an annual report.

Is your organisation’s purpose and mission a part of the consciousness of everyone involved?  Or is it something you have because you’re ‘supposed to’ have one?

Organisations that excel do so for the same reason that people do – they have purpose within them that drives them.

Some will call this ‘organisational culture’. Culture isn’t strong enough though. I like ‘organisational religion’.

What is your organisation’s religion?

Do you know it? Do you believe in it? Does everyone believe in it?

If you want to lead a wildly successful organisation, then it needs a religion.

Every powerful and lasting religion has a purpose – this is your organisation’s mission. Every great religion also has rules to live by – these are the principles your organisation stands for.

Your work as a leader is to bring everyone into the faith. To have them be devout followers of that religion. To live it.

How do you do this?

Wear the robes. 

Be the example of faith in your religion.

Create a mission for your organisation that you will die for. Create principles for your organisation that you will live by, every day.

Live for this mission and by these principles even when nobody is watching.

Because the god of your organisation – the potential to succeed or fail – is ALWAYS watching.


  • What are YOUR beliefs and values?
  • Where are you NOT living them?

“Just be YOU” – Silly Advice?

When I used to hear people say things like…

“Just be YOU!”
“You are unique!”
“You are special!”

…it always sounded to me like when a mother tells her child she loves him/her. Sure it is endearing, but it’s not necessarily true. Of course she thinks that – she’s their mother!

However, after years of coaching people to live their truth – after years of working with leaders to act and speak more authentically, to be more self-expressive, to have deeper personal integrity – what I can see is the ‘mothers’ weren’t just under the spell of their parental love.

“Just be YOU”, although highly conceptual and hardly pragmatic, is deeply wise.

What I have seen is that the more you are willing to cut through the BS, the more you are willing to say exactly what you think and feel without holding back and the more you are willing to do life and work exactly the way YOU want to do it – the more often successful results are created.

Here are three reasons I see as to why ‘just being YOU’ is a powerful strategy for success:

1. TRUST – You are in integrity with your truth and this congruence helps people to trust you.
2. PASSION – You are doing what gets you most excited and your passion is contagious.
3. VALUE – You automatically differentiate yourself and in a world of conformists this difference creates value.

This last point, about differentiating yourself, is what the moms mean when they say things like “you are unique” and “you are special”.

If you want to create more success, then listen to your mother.

Just be you.


  • What is one way you know are you NOT being you?
  • How might this be stopping you from creating what you want to create?

Can I Be of Service? [Rant]

I find it off putting when strangers email me saying “Let me know if I can ever be of service.”

How am I supposed to know how or when you can be of service? I don’t even know what you do!

To me, this is a lazy and uncommitted approach serving people.   The intention may be there, but the effort is futile.

If one really wanted to serve, they wouldn’t put the onus on others to figure out they could help – they would get really curious and really present and find out.

I can speak about this because (of course) I’ve been guilty of this approach in the past. The moment I noticed it though, I made it my mission to stop making empty offers of unspecific support.

Are you making any offers like this in what you do?

How could you take some of the responsibility off the person you are offering to serve?

If I’m not Crying, I’m Lying

You know how when you express love for someone, sometimes it is so intense that you tear up.

You say “I love you, man” and your eyes start watering like a baby.

I noticed that sometimes when coaching I have the thought to say something to the person in front of me but then I can feel that if I do it’s going to bring the tears.

Part of me wants to hold back. I used to listen to that part. I used to stop myself from expressing the kind of love for people that has me feel that wave of intense emotion.

I’ve stopped stopping myself through. I think that wave of emotion is actually some sort of existential realisation of our forgotten inherent union. It’s the same feeling as finding your home after being lost, or finding out your friend is going to live. It’s a very happy feeling.

I’ve actually chosen to believe that if I stop myself from sharing the thoughts that have me feeling like that, then I am essentially lying.

I am lying by holding back what’s most true for me – something inspired that is trying to unfold through me.

So this is my new mantra: “If I’m not crying, I’m lying.”

I say it so boldly, not because I want to always be crying, but because as a coach and a leader I endeavour to be creating that kind of depth in all of my interactions with people.

Doing so creates the most powerful connection in the world – the one we have forgotten and which already exists.

Where are you holding back tears?

Let those words roll.

Follow the Butterfly – Passion Looks Crazy

Imagine you are high up in the sky, looking down at somebody walking in a field. The person is moving in ridiculously haphazard directions. Stopping. Starting. Turning left right. Turning around. Repeating.

They are not going in a straight line. They are not finishing anything.

Imagine now you zoom in to a few feet above their head. At that point you see it’s a woman and she isn’t walking randomly at all. In fact, she is following a butterfly.

You watch the expressions on her face. She is getting to know it. How it flies. It’s colours. What it loves. The longer she follows it, the better she gets at knowing what the butterfly wants. She can anticipate where it is going next.

Following your heart is like following a butterfly.

From high up, it might look like you aren’t getting anywhere. Like you’re all over the place and not finishing anything.

Not finishing things may mean you aren’t succeeding on the outside, but it can also mean that you are learning to follow your heart.

And you get that despite from up above, it looking like she was all over the place – a life littered with failures and false starts – was not time wasted. She was doing the same thing the whole time.

That is what following your heart is like. It might look crazy in the outside, but in the inside you’re always doing the same thing. You’re following your butterfly.

Let go of things needing to look sensible on the outside and see your chaos as a perfect sign that you are following your heart.

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