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In Content—Know Nothing in Structure—Be The Expert

This article was originally written by Michael Hall – gently edited by The Coaching Room


Last year I was at one of the ACMC trainings and strongly urging people to adopt the know- nothing frame of mind.

I quoted Fritz Perls, “Lose your mind and come to your senses.”

I quoted Milton H. Erickson, “When patients come into my office, I greet them with a blank mind and I look them over to see who and what and why they are, without taking anything for granted.”

Soon thereafter, at the morning break, one participant came up to me and from my calibrations, I would say that she was not in a very good state. She seemed stressed and nervous and upset. She said that she just did not get it. “Why am I here learning coaching and coaching skills and Neuro- Semantics if you want me to ‘lose my mind’ and to be ‘know-nothing?’” It wasn’t until I sorted out a distinction that I had not made in my public descriptions that she suddenly got it and experienced a delightful Aha! moment of insight.


What was the distinction that led to that aha moment? That as a Meta-Coach, you are to be know- nothing about the client— the client’s goals, values, beliefs, ethics, etc. and that you are to be the expert in process— in how to facilitate the psychological processes of learning, unlearning, meaning-making, meta-stating resources, embodying new beliefs, transformative change, etc.

What had been confusing was her idea that she was to know-nothing about everything in the coaching conversation! Nor was she the only person to suffer from that misunderstanding. In several recent ACMC trainings, I have met people mis-informed about NLP who had bought into the idea that the coach is not allowed to do any leading. Yet that is just another form of the same confusion.

With the client’s content, we do not lead. It is not our place to tell the client what to do, what to believe, what to value, who to marry, what job to take, etc.  But it is our place, once we know what the client wants (his or her agenda) to lead the processes so that the client achieves his or her outcome. The client empowers us (as the coach) to lead him to his goal. The client hires us to use coaching to lead her to her goal. The content belongs to the client, the process belongs to you as the Meta-Coach.


Precisely because the content belongs to the client, as the Meta-Coach, you use the well-formed outcome questions to help the client get specific and clear about what he really wants. You use those questions for intelligence gathering so that your client then enters into a contractual agreement for her agenda in the coaching conversations. You get the contract.

Precisely because the process belongs to the coach, as the Meta-Coach you are thereby hired to lead the client to her goal. That’s your job— to lead. That’s the contract.  You lead the process and because that’s your job, you often have to interrupt, confront, challenge, and call meta- moments. And that’s because your client sometimes finds it hard to follow your lead. They might think they know what you should do! (They want to be both client and coach!)


This is where their mis-diagnosis comes in. Clients often (perhaps even usually) mis-diagnose the solution that they think will resolve a problem — which they also mis-diagnose. This is where you have to take charge and be the coach-leader that you need to be. But remember, in Neuro- Semantics we do not think of leadership as “command and control.” We think of leadership as inspiring, enabling, empowering, etc. so that we “bring out the best in people.” We lead in such a way as to enable our clients to become self-leading.

The coach as leader means that there are times where you have to take charge of the coaching conversation. If you don’t— the conversation will spin around, chase rabbits, and overall become unproductive. That’s why you sometimes have to interrupt where the client is going— they are getting off the subject, they are not answering the question, they are experiencing thought- intrusions distracting themselves, etc. That’s also why you have to confront them— they often say contradictory, incongruent things without being aware of it. Sometimes they operate from a blindspot that you can see and they cannot.


That’s why you also need to constantly be challenging— inviting your client to see their situation and how they are settling for in a mediocre way and not believing more in themselves or may be selling themselves short. Will they feel uncomfortable? Probably. Will they feel shaken up and out of their comfort zone? Yes. Will they think you are asking them to stretch beyond what they think possible? Yes! And that’s why they need you to do the leading at those moments!

You are not just a Meta-Coach, you are a coach-leader. So be one! Step up to leadership — facilitation leadership as a coach.


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