by Ken Andrukow, TwoBrain Mentor
I am an introvert by nature. I prefer solitude and quiet. Those who have spent time around me know that I am not particularly talkative. I’d much rather listen. Large groups overwhelm me, and being the centre of attention is way outside my comfort zone. The idea of standing in front of a group of people used to be enough to make me physically ill. All of this seems as though it runs contrary to what it takes to be a good coach, speaker, business leader or mentor.
What I have discovered throughout years of serving others is that people like being listened to. It makes them feel important. So I take it upon myself to try and make sure that each person I interact with is left feeling important and heard. It is simple to do, but not always easy to execute.
Making someone feel important cannot be accomplished by a cursory “What’s up” as you stroll by, or a distracted high five. I have to make the effort to get someone to get to the point where they say more than “fine” when I ask them how they are.
For a long time I thought I was a boring person. I remember telling someone this once, and their reply was “Well do you want to learn how to be perceived as interesting?” I was so excited to learn this epic secret to becoming a fascinating person, that when the lesson came I was slightly disappointed:
That was it. If you want to be perceived as being a more interesting person, ask others questions about themselves. To be an engaging coach, I take the time and make the effort to get to know people. Let them talk about themselves and dig deeper.
It’s easy to say that we don’t have time. We have an hour to get things done, there is no time for a casual conversation to get to know someone, never mind getting to know all of the people who are in a class. That is why I make sure that I am out on the floor before class and I hang around afterwards. It’s only an extra 10 or 15 minutes of my time, but it is what makes a difference to people. In those brief few minutes on either side of the hour I am able to talk unhurriedly with a member. I am able to abandon that coach/member dichotomy (within reason) and just talk to someone as a person. Just being around outside of class time makes a difference in how those that are coached perceive me.
When I am talking to a member, my focus is on them entirely. It doesn’t matter what we are talking about, I am looking at them and I am listening. If someone comes up to me while I am writing on the board, I put the pen down, I turn to face them and I listen. When I am talking to someone I hold eye contact. I don’t look down, I don’t let my focus shift, I don’t stare blankly waiting for my turn to speak. I don’t make them feel as though they are interrupting me, or keeping me from something more important. They are the most important person in that moment, even if they are giving me a minute by minute rundown of their morning.
When I am coaching, I am often behaving counter-intuitively to my introverted nature. I am energetic and outspoken. I do everything I need to so that I am sure that the members fully understand the workout, and are able to execute it safely, while still having fun. In that hour, my entire purpose is to serve the people who have taken the time out of their day to take a class. For them, I am an outgoing and dynamic source of information and encouragement. I stand in front of them confidently as I take them through their WOD, because that is what they need. Afterwards I can recoil back into my shell to recharge. The reason why I am engaging as a coach has very little to do with who I am, and much more to do with what I choose to do on a daily basis to make people feel important.