Less is more.
Respect for Coaching
Having been deeply engaged in the professional coaching field for over 20 years, I have been a student, teacher and trainer of multiple competencies, frameworks, models, and practices each aimed at improving a coach’s capability to become a master listener, reflector, questioner, communicator and change partner. Each of these pedagogies can be traced to years of painstaking research rooted in professional disciplines such as psychology, education, management theory, neuroscience, and adult education – to name a few!
A Research Experiment
One of my research experiments in coaching has sprung from the field of improvisation. Before landing upon coaching, my career journey spontaneously bumped along its merry way – from resort hotel desk clerk to an international MBA degree to Texas Trust Officer to conservatory trained actor to New York City instructor of improvisational theatre. Improvisation held an 8-year space in my world before crossing into the field of coaching. From that time, I have made intermittent inquiries into bridging backgrounds: how could I bring the discovery, spontaneity and power of improvisation to coaching? How could coaching be simplified in such a way so that people who study coaching be able to sense more sharply, listen more deeply, question more concisely, message more meaningfully and become more present?
In Three Words
When I taught theatrical improvisation in New York, I discovered another form of improvisation that was not the typical fare of comedy improv which often focused on being fast (pacing), furious (high energy) and funny (make the audience laugh). In the scenes that I directed, a wonderous new world of improvisation opened in oppositional aspects which embraced going slow (cadence), being centered (stillness) and heightening the dramatic (attending to the truth and moments of tension that existed between two players). One way to bring these improvised scenarios to life was to ask the players to play the scene, though limit all verbal communications between one another to just three words – no more, no less. What ensued were scenes no longer filled with frenetic moves, extraneous dialog or imposed narrative, but instead, emergent theatrical moments in time which offered idiosyncratic behavior, intriguing subtext, and deeper truths. You could not have scripted what we saw created spontaneously between individuals on the levels of dramatic intensity, unrestricted play and vulnerable transmission of the human condition. Simple three-word phrases took on nuanced and metaphorical meaning which stirred the intrapersonal and interpersonal relationship. Three- word responses tapped into cognitive, emotional and somatic significance: “I am home.” “There’s something missing.” “You are right.”
Three Word Coach
The three-word concept became my improvisational bridge to coaching. I began to weave the three-word scene concept into my speaking and training windows with students of coaching. In offering public coaching demonstration sessions at global conferences with me as the ‘Three Word Coach’, I would begin by telling the volunteer client that I am to start our session by speaking normally (i.e., no word count restrictions), though eventually, as we advance the conversation, I will incrementally reduce the number of words I am using (e.g., from unlimited, to seven to five and then to three). From this initiative, we (me, the client and the audience) noticed the coach’s move to three words began to increase the aliveness in the coaching conversation and transform the nature of the relationship. I was offering less, in a simpler way, to produce more – more time for the client to talk and self-discover, more cogent communication from the coach, and more truth, spontaneity and organic play within the coaching partnership. The simplicity behind of the coach’s contribution seemed to move the conversation forward, yielding greater impact. For example: “You seem perplexed.” “What’s your goal?” “Action is beckoning.”
Validated by Google
This is my first blog from a man with three names – David Matthew Prior. I was Google-validated today before sitting down to write as I entered in the search bar ‘the power of three’ and came across: The Rule of Three, or Power of Three, suggests that things that come in threes are funnier, more satisfying, more effective, and/or more memorable, than other numbers of things. Hence, I’m duly encouraged to bring this world forward a bit more. As the song says, we’ve only just begun.
Please stay tuned.