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The Importance of Not Knowing

Coach Stephen Nock by Stephen Nock
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In the realm of coaching, questions are the bread and butter, a basic foundation. The client brings questions, goals, or needs and wants to the coaching process, and the coach inquires in ways that support the client to expand their current perspective into new vantage points.

Inevitably in a coaching cycle or session, the client may feel challenged by the coach’s questioning and respond with “I don’t know.” (In fact, “I don’t know” may even be the answer to the starting point: “what are your goals with coaching?”) While most of us were raised in a classroom environment where we were quizzed and tested to learn answers and be able to answer questions, the sense of not knowing can be deflating. In coaching, it’s very important to get to the place of not knowing the answer. Why? Far from being a stumbling block, this admission signals a crucial juncture in the journey toward growth. In the landscape of uncertainty lies the fertile ground where transformation takes root. If we had all the answers, if we knew how to get from A to B, there might not be a reason or benefit to engage in coaching.

So when I ask “who do you need to be to achieve what you want?” and your answer is “I don’t know,” you’ve arrived at the threshold of possibility, the perfect place for a coaching process.

We’ll also explore questions that are posed without the intention of answering them. You’ll choose questions that you hold with you to evoke your curiosity and reflect the areas you are eager to explore. Why? We both want the coaching experience to be something that supports you in a mindset of discovery, with open eyes that are keen to see something that you didn’t see from the start. Since coaching is often about “getting” something that you don’t yet have, or metaphorically getting from A to B, we need to stay curious about what “B” looks like. We’ll know when we get there because we’ll have kept our eyes open and explored along the way. The exploration questions serve as guiding lights to foster discovery throughout the process.

One of my clients recently reflected that one of the questions that matters most to them after coaching is, “When would I reach out again for coaching?” What a beautiful curiosity to hold!

What about you: how would you know when it’s time to reach out for coaching?” If the answer is “I don’t know,” rest assured, you’re exactly where you need to be.


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