Improve Your Listening: Eliminate Distractions

To be a great coach, you have to be a great listener. An important way to improve your listening is to identify and eliminate distractions in your environment.
Listening intently is hard work. Often simple changes like taking a few minutes before a coaching appointment to get centered, purchasing a headset or turning off your computer monitor while you are coaching can make a big difference.

Below is a tool designed to help you identify distractions in your environment and improve your listening. When taking the assessment, score yourself based on your last coaching appointment (if you are a professional coach, use your appointments from the past week). Circle the statements that apply to you.

Distractions in Your Environment

-1 Your e-mail or IM program is open in front of you

-1 Your to-do list is sitting out in front of you where you can read it

-5 You do e-mail, IM or work on other projects while you are coaching

-1 You are sitting at your main work desk

-1 You can hear a noticeable amount of background noise (others talking, a phone ringing, etc.)

-2 Your door is open, the place you are coaching in has no door, or you are in a public place

-2 You finished another meeting, project or deadline within 10 minutes before this appointment

-2 You rushed in or worked on other tasks right up to the moment the appointment started

-2 There is a fair amount of stress and conflict in your life, or you are emotionally needy

-1 You are hungry, thirsty, tired or otherwise in a state of physical discomfort


Supportive Environment

+1 Your notes for this client are organized and easily accessible

+3 You took at least 10 minutes before this appointment to get centered and review your notes

+2 You’ve made a serious personal commitment to be all there while you are coaching

+3 Your desk and screen are clear, or you have a separate place to coach away from daily work

+1 You have a phone headset

+1 You have a comfortable environment to coach in (correct temperature, good chair, etc.)

+1 You’ve prayed for this client this week

+3 You don’t have any calls, walk-ins or interruptions while you coach. Call waiting is disabled

+2 Your appointments are scheduled at a time of day when you are alert and well rested

+1 Your connection is clear and totally reliable. You aren’t using a cell phone or voice chat


Now, add up your total points. If your score is negative, change your environment. There are too many distractions in your environment. If you are coaching professionally, the bar should be higher: if your score is less than +7, make some changes to improve your listening ability.

Tony Stoltzfus is a best-selling author, leadership coach, master coach trainer and director of the Leadership Metaformation Institute. Additional information on the role of listening in the coaching relationship can be found in Tony’s book,Leadership Coaching.

You can have great listening skills, but if your phone line is full of static or you are constantly interrupted, you’ll still find it very difficult to listen well.