Active listening is a tool for solving communication problems that would ordinarily arise in daily conversations among people. According to Kimsey-House, Kimsey-House, and Sandahl (2011), many people often misunderstand the concept of active listening by thinking it means long sessions of listening to people’s grievances, or issues. Instead, it involves using different communication techniques, such as non-verbal communication, silence, restating/reflecting, paraphrasing, summarizing, and focusing to understand people’s views and to inspire positive behaviors among people (Rogers & Farson, 1987).
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Therefore, the essence of active listening is to pay attention to what other people are saying. Social researchers have pointed out that active listening is useful in different social contexts including anthropology, education, history, coaching, and the likes (Kimsey-House et al., 2011).
This paper focuses on its contribution to coaching by arguing that active listening is the key to transformational coaching. The findings of this paper appear within the context of admissions in the education sector.
They integrate my coaching experiences, work experiences, classroom discussions, and the works of independent researchers to support the thesis statement. Based on this line of reasoning, key tenets of this study show that active listening is the key to transformational coaching because it helps coaches to promote positive behavioral outcomes among their clients by inspiring them to own their actions and decisions.
What is Transformational Coaching?
Rogers and Farson (1987) say, to develop effective active listening skills, a coach needs to be respectful and open-minded. Therefore, coaches who adopt active listening skills need to pay attention to what people have to say (Kimsey-House et al., 2011). Coaching is in itself transformational because it is result-oriented and encourages people to own up to their actions, or take responsibility for their decisions (Kuhn, 2016).
Transformational coaching involves providing people with a direct and lived experience of their reality to pave the way for the realization of desirable social or educational outcomes (Hammermeister, 2014). It helps people to distinguish their interpretations about life and their expectations of life in general. In other words, transformational coaches help people to align themselves with “new ways of being,” which would ultimately help them to unlock their potential. Therefore, the word “transformation” emerges from different “states of being,” which most people have to live to realize their desired outcomes in life.
Why Choose this Topic?
My role as an admissions officer exposes me to the need to adopt transformational coaching as a subset of my educational duty to inspire young people to unlock their potential. Indeed, as Vella and Perlman (2014) say, the essence of coaching is to bring about positive changes in people. Active listening is at the center of this task because it helps to inspire people to adopt positive behavioral changes (Kimsey-House et al., 2011). Therefore, I choose this topic area because active listening appeals to the essence of coaching, which aims to bring about positive behavior change in people.
How to Use the Results of the Research
The findings of this study could be useful in adding to the volume of literature about transformational coaching and leadership. In other words, understanding the role of active listening in transformational coaching could help coaches to probe social and educational issues at a deeper level than they would have done if they did not employ the same skills. This way, it would be easy to understand students’ beliefs, internal frames of reference, values, and limiting assumptions that affect our effectiveness as educators in unlocking their potential.
How my Experiences, Skills, and Future Development Match to the Needs of the Organization
In my role as an admissions officer, I find that active listening is “contagious.” While we mainly employ this method to recruit new students, we find that the same recruits emulate the same values and concepts of active listening after admissions. Their adoption of instructors’ behaviors has implications for most communication styles in the institution because practicing good communication skills across different cadres of people in a school requires leaders to take responsibility for setting up a culture of active listening.
Kimsey-House et al. (2011) say, although a worthy experience, it is difficult to stimulate constructive behavior in students, especially for coaches who take pride in bringing out the best from their subjects. Active listening is one such constructive behavior. However, such a technique cannot work if a person waits for the speaker to finish talking, as opposed to actively listening to what they have to talk about.
The person who assumed the role of actively listening to other people gets the privilege of getting people’s attention as well. However, Vella and Perlman (2014) acknowledge that understanding other people could be a difficult thing to do. This is why they find it important to try to see things from a speaker’s perspective, first, before relying on active listening skills to make assumptions, or recommendations, about people’s behaviors (Vella & Perlman, 2014).
In my organization, coaches have an important task of guiding students to realize their full potential. Since students are our main clients, coaches are supposed to relate well with them and help them identify skill areas that would drive them towards becoming successful. By extension, in my role as part of the admission staff, I have found that active listening is an important part of my job description because I strive to build relationships with families and watch the people I mentor grow, develop, and graduate.
In this capacity, I have learnt that all educators need to deploy active listening skills carefully because some people may not openly accept their views. Active listening would help me to navigate some of these pitfalls by identifying students that would be a perfect fit for various school programs. Vella and Perlman (2014) agree with this view by saying that most users should use brief and broad messages to attract, or evaluate, new students.
For example, asking parents to tell a coach about their children and allowing the coach to evaluate how the school’s competencies would help improve the student’s skills would be a good start towards embracing this approach. Therefore, the process of understating how the school would help such students prosper requires the use of active listening skills. Using the active listening technique, I have been able to identify “red flags” regarding students’ characteristics that could have caused disciplinary problems after admission. In such cases, I would easily interrupt the interview and address my concern immediately. In cases where such “red flags” have been deal breakers, I have often disqualified students without going any further with the interview process.
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Areas in my Work that can benefit from Coaching
Different areas in my work could benefit from the application of active listening skills in coaching. However, understanding the application of these skills requires the understanding of different active listening skills. Goodman and Leiman (2007) proposed different active listening exercises in the admissions process. For example, they proposed that different users should use stopwatches to listen to what other people have to say.
Referring to the same technique, they say, if family members are involved in the admission process, officials should give them three-minute intervals to explain their expectations of the college admissions process (Goodman & Leiman, 2007). After one speaker finishes, the next speaker should summarize what the previous speaker said. Particularly, the researchers emphasize the need for parents and coaches to refrain from interrupting students when they are making their submissions, because students like to know that their superiors are taking their views seriously (Goodman & Leiman, 2007).
This way, active listening skills help parents and students to explain their views easily. This process would also help students to feel validated and important. Thus, the underlying theme of active listening is validating other people’s opinions, even though a coach may not fully agree with what another person has to say. In this regard, polarization reduces and the probability of conflict is low. These situations pave way for developing consensus among different stakeholders.
Nonetheless, sociologists have often said that no matter how good a parent shares a relationship with a child, there would always be instances where there are tensions regarding the parent’s willingness to let the child act independently (Goodman & Leiman, 2007). Such tensions could occur regarding the “when,” “where,” and “how” of the child’s independence. Goodman and Leiman (2007) say the rule of thumb, in this respect, dictates that the child’s independence would come two years after he, or she, demands for respect and two years before the parent admits that the child needs to be independent.
These conflicts show that there are intrinsic psychological and emotional tensions between parents and children, which may emerge during the college admissions process. Vella and Perlman (2014) expound on this observation by saying that such conflicts emerge when parents feel that their children are unable to make sound decisions regarding the college admission process. In this regard, many parents often consult the coaches regarding the best selection of colleges and education programs, even in cases where children have already shown a preference for specific colleges or courses.
This is a clear lack of understanding the importance of active listening in parent-student interactions. Therefore, active listening could help parents and coaches avoid some of these problems. However, the success of this initiative depends on the recognition of important strengths and opportunities for parents and coaches alike.
The International Coach Federation (2016) says core competencies support a greater understanding of the skills and approaches required of proficient coaches. It groups these core competencies into four clusters that include setting the foundation, co-creating the relationship, communicating effectively, and facilitating learning and results (International Coach Federation, 2016). My key competencies fall under the “effective communication” cluster, which entails active listening, powerful questioning, and direct communication. Within these clusters, I believe my personal strengths are patience and powerful questioning skills.
Skill Areas I would wish to Improve
Two communication areas that I would wish to improve are my listening and direct communication skills. I say so because I recognize that good coaches need not only reformulate and question their clients; they should also brainstorm about the possible goals of doing so. However, Rogers & Farson (1987) say, coaches should allow the respondents to conjure some of these ideas on their own. Therefore, the coach’s work is to guide them in doing so. In my experience, I have come to understand that by changing my listening skills, people have been more willing to open up to me. In fact, in some instances, they tell me more than I believe they should do. Therefore, by improving my listening and conversation skills, I believe I could engage people better and improve my relationship with them as well.
Key Action Steps
Kimsey-House et al. (2011) mention the action steps that most coaches should pursue to improve the above-mentioned skill areas. They outline five action steps that I believe are useful in improving my listening skills. They include
- Paying attention to the listeners (giving them an undivided attention).
- Using body languages and subtle non-verbal communication skills to convey attention.
- Providing feedback.
- Deferring judgment.
- Responding appropriately.
To improve my direct communication skills, Goodman and Leiman (2007), say coaches should use language skills that have the greatest impact on their clients. In line with this reasoning, he proposes the following key steps
- Being clear, articulate and direct when making points or providing feedback.
- Reframing or articulating responses to help clients understand their views from multiple perspectives.
- Clearly stating coaching objectives and the purpose of different objectives.
- Using respectful and appropriate languages when deliberating with clients.
- Using metaphors or different analogies to illustrate specific points, or paint verbal pictures of what people intend to say.
Following these action steps could improve my listening and direct communication skills.
This paper has demonstrated that active listening is an important tool in transformational coaching. Indeed, listening is not a passive act; it helps to bring new insights to coaches. In this paper, we have found out that when transformational coaches practice active listening, they often convey to the listeners that they are paying attention to what they have to say and are interested in helping them become more self-aware of their actions.
The main message we get from this statement is that active listening uses transformational leadership tools that work. Indeed, while it may be difficult to convey respect to people, by merely declaring so, it is easier to make them believe so by behaving respectfully. Active listening helps coaches to do so effectively.
Thus, key sections of this report show that active listening is integral to transformational coaching. Its role in admissions is undisputed because it helps instructors and students find a consensus regarding the suitability of students in different education programs. In this regard, active listening promotes positive communication by helping coaches to affirm the views of other people, even without necessarily agreeing with them.
This is why sociologists have used the concept in different fields of study. However, it is important to understand that active listening is mainly dependent on a user’s attitude. This reason explains why many observers have trouble using it among users who have attitudes that have fundamental differences with the concepts of active listening. Those who do not recognize this clash exhibit sterile and “empty” behaviors.
Such behaviors are easy to recognize because they seem “fake.” Therefore, unless users can demonstrate a spirit that respects their potential worth, it is difficult to use active listening, effectively, to improve human relations. Nonetheless, active listening aligns with two of my key competencies, which are patience and powerful questioning skills. In this regard, the knowledge contained in this report could help me improve my proficiency as an educator and coach.
Goodman, S., & Leiman, A. (2007). College Admissions Together: It Takes a Family. New York, NY: Capital Books.
Hammermeister, J. (2014). John R. Wooden, Stephen R. Covey, and servant leadership: A commentary. International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, 9(1), 65-67.
International Coach Federation (2016). Core Competencies. Web.
Kimsey-House, H., Kimsey-House, K., & Sandahl, P. (2011). Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives, 3rd Edition. London, UK: Brealey Publishing.
Kuhn, R. (2016). What is a Transformational Coach? Web.
Rogers, C. R., & Farson, R. E. (1987). Active Listening. In: Communication in Business Today. Washington, D.C.: Heath and Company.
Vella, S. A., & Perlman, D. J. (2014). Mastery, autonomy and transformational approaches to coaching: Common features and applications. International Sport Coaching Journal, 1(1), 173-179.