I am working for an organization that wants some of its employees grow into learning coaches. The ambition is to generate a pool of them. These learning coaches will help to develop
- the learning processes of their colleagues and of some external partners;
- a learning culture, simply by starting to coach learning processes.
This week I explained the Logical Levels of Robert Dilts to them. I love to work with this framework. I think it:
- represents in a comprehensive way, a complex environment of aspects such as identity, mission, values and behaviours.
- clearly distinguishes single loop versus double loop coaching.
Let me briefly explain that. Single loop coaching requires coachees to profoundly reflect on the “what” and “how” of questioned areas. Double loop coaching requires reflection on the “why”, the purpose and drivers of the “what” and “how”. Sometimes double loop level is also called the meta level: the why of the what and how.
When I explained this topic, a participant asked a very interesting and prompt question:
“This is very fine, Karl, but are we as learning coaches even supposed to discuss these “heavy” topics with the coachee ? I do not feel comfortable to question someone’s mission on earth, you know… Shouldn’t we just keep it to learning.”
I could have thanked the Gods for that question. Let me try to share some parts of my answer.
When your coaching role is clearly devoted to the challenges your coachee has with learning, you should stick to that role. Then you are a coach for the learning process of the coachee.
The way coachees learn, as for all other things in life, is not isolated. It is part of their entire life. It’s not only about the skills they (do not) develop, about the what and how of their learning. It’s also about why they learn something. What is their purpose of their learning ? How does it fit into their personal mission?
You are a learning coach. You have observed that your coachee seems to struggle with excel. In spite of the fact (s)he has already done a few trainings and has practiced a lot, there is no progress.
Lately (s)he has come to you to share concerns about the own learning and lack of progress made in excel.
A question could be: What precisely is difficult for you in Excel ?
An answer could be: Well every time Nadia is trying to explain me to make macros, she gets nervous if I don’t understand or do it quickly enough. And it has come so far now that I do not dare to go and ask her anymore…
A new question could be: I hear two things now: excel and Nadia… How do you want to continue?
An answer could be: Well if Nadia would just have a little more patience, I could ask all I want to ask and make progress.
Question: I hear you say you need a bit more patience from Nadia. How do you deal with teachers lacking patience, more in general, when you try to learn something?
An answer: I hate people not having patience. It reminds me of a my ex. (S)he was even worse. I am sorry, I simply cannot stand that. Should I even be telling this?
Question: You may tell, if you like so, and I will listen. We will certainly try to understand the impact of that situation on your today’s learning. Because that’s the purpose here.
The coachee is not talking about excel anymore. (S)he will very soon start talking about very personal and perhaps painful aspects of the private life. The coachee’s values will certainly be part of that. His/her mission may even come in.
Critical part for the coach
As a learning coach it is critical:
- not to follow the coachee in the content of the “new” story.
- however to listen extremely carefully to it.
- to interpret it taking a learning perspective. What elements about the ex and about patience could be relevant for the coachee’s learning process ?
- to share your interpretation with the coachee.
- to ask the coachee if it’s correct and to confirm or correct if needed.
- to go ahead then based on a validated summary of all you’ve heard. What impact does all this have on the way you learn today from people with a lack of patience ?
Connecting the why with the what/how
At this stage you’ve connected the deeper why of the excel problem (the why had no link with Excel) with the what and the how (failing to make progress in Excel). You’ve done that without going in detail on the content of that deeper why. You’ve only listened and summarized. Your next question did not go further on the why. It made the coachee turn back to the what and the how.
Learning coaches should only be interested in the learning process of the coachee. That is how learning coaches can work with the logical levels on double loop level without going into the detail of certain topics. Doing so would lead the coachee very far away from the learning purpose.
The participant seemed to understand my answer. As matter of fact the entire group was very silent all of a sudden. I asked if they were ok. Yes they were, but it was clear that the introduction into double loop coaching and these levels, had opened a new perspective and awareness for them.
Some eyes started to shine as if they were saying: “Why haven’t I seen this earlier ?” It’s the power of coaching.
This video shows an excellent summary of the Logical Levels