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


Here’s an amazing and even shocking fact— A person can be smart but not intelligent. You can be smart about lots of facts and yet not able to intelligently use those facts. This is the problem with most schooling. Schools generally teach facts and test students on their ability to retrieve knowledge, but they do not generally teach people how to think. So, who does?

If you’ve ever watched the television show Jeopardy! You have seen people who are called “exceptionally smart” solely because they are like walking encyclopedias— they know lots of facts. They also know lots of facts that are not very useful. Actually these people actually are exceptionally knowledgeable, but not intelligent. They can impressively recite lots and lots of facts. But that is not intelligence. Similarly, you could know a lot about coaching, and not be able to coach effectively.


Intelligence refers to the ability to skillfully use a set of facts as information that then leads to insights and understandings which enable you to do things— achieve goals, create products, innovate new services, etc. An interesting fact is that almost none of the Jeopardy! winners ever go on to become pioneering creators, entrepreneurs, or CEOs. They can spurt facts, but not analyse them or think through the facts to insightful practical applications.

Knowledge is not the same as intelligence. In fact, you don’t even have to actually think in order to know things. Amazing! Actually you can know a lot of things and have an impressive storehouse of knowledge about something by just hearing and reciting, by memorising and then repeating what you’ve heard. Thinking, learning, and intelligence is something more than, and other than, knowledge. This is another reason for the knowing—doing gap, why you can “know” and not be able to do.


Now in Neuro-Semantics we emphasise closing the knowing—doing gap by getting your neurology involved. The Mind-to-Muscle pattern enables you to take information (knowledge, facts) and turn that information into other forms of knowing— believing, deciding, experiencing, etc. and then commission your body to “know” it in terms of what you can do with that information.

This is also a great process for coaching. After all, your clients come to you to learn new things and then to take those new learnings and fully integrate them into their lives so that they can achieve their goals and enhance the quality of their lives. That’s why the format of coaching is not lecturing, but a dialogue. It is through conversation that you lead your client to think through facts and information and turn that data into an action program in their lives.

Recently I have discovered an incredible thing whilst at the Assist Team Training Days that I actually did not know before. Originally my understanding was that we were training two skills—the receiving and the giving of feedback. And indeed, that is one thing that we are doing. Yet we are also doing some other things— things actually more important and more profound.

What we do in the two-days of preparation involves having a coach and a client conduct a 30-minute session while we are all recording as much information on the feedback forms as possible. This is the receiving of feedback—and it trains people to really listen, to calibrate, to notice all of the things that the coach is doing in terms of skills and presence. We use the feedback form of the coaching skills for the coach. It is also training people to simultaneously notice and record all that the client is saying and experiencing. We use the landscape form for the client. If you have not been on the team— this will take your listening and calibrating skills to a whole new level.


At the end of the session, we then step back and begin to reflect on what we picked up. That’s the first level of analysis. What did the coach do that successfully demonstrated any of the seven core skills? Those who are new to this are usually amazed at how much the more experienced ones pick up. “How did you see or hear all of that?” they ask.

Then comes the structural analysis. Here we go much deeper into coaching format. What was the subject of the session? What kind of conversation did they have? What kind of conversation did the client ask for? What misdiagnosis did the client offer? What misdiagnosis did the coach offer? What fallacies in thinking did you see or hear in either coach or client? Where were the coachable moments? Did the coach catch them? Did the coach manage them well? What frames-by- implication were presented during the session? And on and on.


What this reflective conversation about the session do? It enables the coach to do critical thinking about the coaching process. Actually, it is teaching how to think critically. It is using a real live case-study and enabling the team to learn how to think clearly, precisely, and accurately about the structure of the coaching conversation. This is the heart of coaching supervision.


Something I had not realised before— this is an ideal way to teach and facilitate critical and executive thinking. I knew that I had always learned lots of things, made finer distinctions about the coaching skills and the coaching conversations. I knew that almost with every single coaching session I would pick up one or more distinctions. What I had not known is that this is an excellent way to enable and empower the highest kind of reflective and executive thinking in people.

I have just completed my next book, Executive Thinking which is about critical thinking and the highest kind of reflective thinking (mindfulness, meta-thinking, etc.). The design is to enable us to be great thinkers, to actually engage in real thinking, and to use our higher executive brain functions. The design is to empower people to be both smart (knowledge-wide) and intelligent.


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