First impressions being a coach

Three reflective questions

Deep listening is tough

I’ve done about 11 hours worth of coaching now, and this stands out the most. I think one of the main jobs of a coach is to listen to how people frame their challenges. As a long time language teacher, I’ve known of the challenges, especially in English, which is idiomatic as hell. We frame a lot of what we say in idiomatic terms without a second thought. So, listening to my clients talk about things reminds me of UN simultaneous translators. They have to listen in one language, and translate into another. I think a coach is doing the same thing…listening to someone’s challenges while at the same time translating what they are really saying into some other language of explication.

We frame a lot of what we say in idiomatic terms without a second thought.

Deep listening is tough

The example I can think of is one client mentioned how far they felt from their goal. I stopped the conversation, and asked: are you far from the goal or are you close to the goal, because in fact, my perception was the client was very close to the goal they set. This simple reframing, I think, changed my client’s mindset to some extent.

One conversation at a time

This is one of the fundamental tenets of the job of coach, to help clients focus on one aspect of their challenges. All four of the people I’m working with have myriad ideas, tasks, priorities, things to organize. One client mentioned that the product was very important, and so was the marketing aspect. This client also felt that there were so many things going on in their mind that it was almost impossible to know where to start. So, I brought up the phrase “one conversation at a time” and said well, you’ve talked about the products and the marketing, so perhaps pick one and go down that road. This was enough to get them to, yes, go down that road. The client was able to do some deep exploring from that point on, and did not fret about all those other things fighting for their attention. I felt I’d said the right thing at the right time.

…you’ve talked about the products and the marketing, so perhaps pick one and go down that road.

One conversation at a time

Self-regulation is a vital skill to learn early on

In my full-time job, I have designed a professional development session on feedback. One aspect of feedback is to help learners to become self-sufficient through what is called self-regulation. This basically consists of employing three important questions as they learn something.

  1. What is my goal for what I am learning?
  2. Where am I now in relation to that goal?
  3. What do I need to do next in order to get from where I am to where I want to go?

So, sure, these three are vital skills, but there’s more! Long ago, when I was doing teacher training for prospective English language teachers, I would end my sessions with three questions for reflection:

  1. What worked best in today’s session? I now like to call this the Positive Psychology question. Appreciative Inquiry, another concept which I’ve developed a PD session for posits that you must look at things from an asset-based framework…in other words, what do we already have now that is working best for us? This is opposed to what is called deficit-focused, where people tend to ask: if I had this thing, which I don’t, wouldn’t it help me to achieve this? The issue with being deficit-focused is that the thing desired is usually something that isn’t coming any time soon. It’s akin to a useless exercise to dream about something that’s not coming, and much more useful to see what you have, and what you can do with what you have.
  2. What would you do differently? I now call this the critical and creative thinking question. Doing something differently doesn’t necessarily mean the thing you are always doing is something that didn’t work and so needs to be changed. Instead, I am finding that I will remind people that even if something works, there is opportunity to innovate and improvise the successes, so that you have multiple avenues of success.
  3. What surprised you? Of course, the Emotional Intelligence question. When I say surprise, I define it as something that happens that you don’t expect to happen. Again, this could be a good thing, though perhaps most people feel that a surprise is usually a bad or unfortunate thing.

I realized just today, that these three questions are part of the first two self-regulation questions, so I’m developing deeper questions for all three of the self-regulation questions. I have a lot to think about for this.

Three reflective questions

Collaborative suggestions

Early on, I was concerned about offering advice. The job is not about advice, it’s about reframing what people are saying so they can hear what they are saying, and answer their own questions.

What I’m noticing about myself is that toward the end of sessions I will speak a lot more than during the session when I’m working on questions to help me understand more deeply what the client is striving for.

When I get into this talking mode, it’s sounded to me like I’m giving advice. Maybe I am. I am working to distinguish this. However, i’ve started to tell myself that I’m merely summarizing what the client has been saying, and making inferences about what they mean in terms of their options for moving forward. In other words, I am offering them collaborative suggestions. In telling them what they might consider doing, I remind myself that this is also a collaborative relationship, and so this telling is part of the collaboration. What I need to do at times is to try to listen more to what I say, to make sure I’m not imposing my judgement on things, nor am I leading the client down a path they might not want to go. I shouldn’t be leading them at all, so the balance of reframing and leading is, I think something I’ll need to work on.

The job is not about advice, it’s about reframing what people are saying so they can hear what they are saying, and answer their own questions.

On Collaborative Suggestions


These are obviously preliminary thoughts, worth writing down here, and I know I’ll work through some issues I have and make sure I am subscribing to what a coach is supposed to be. Here are some other things to write about in more detail shortly.

  1. Why a laser focus on SMARTER goals is essential
  2. The best way to end a session
  3. Why I think framing language that reveals mindsets is a very deep deep venture
  4. Creating optional activities based on the conversations within a session

Production values of YouTube Channels

I’ve started on my new adventure in coaching. A couple people I am working with are wanting to find ways of creating interesting video-based content, so I wrote them an email about some shows I watch kind of regularly on YouTube, NOT for the content, but for the production themselves, as my clients are small-shop operators, and these productions below look to be small and medium-small shops that have had a pretty large degree of Youtube success. After writing the email, I realized I should also pop the info here into my blog, so here it is.

Various titles by Not another cooking show.

This guy used to own a food truck in NYC, but looks like he started his YouTube channel a couple years back. He basic technique is:

1. Talk directly to the camera in close-up.

2. Tell an opening story.

3. Show the food being made in very quick steps.

4. Show the final product.

5. Then slow going through the recipe and technique through a series of jump cuts. His talking is a series of jump cuts, as are his cutting techniques, etc. He has no qualms about the jump cuts. Why should he? It works.

6. Take a photo of the final project in a very careful presentation of the food with the video title superimposed over the shot of the final product.

7. End with him eating the food and final comments.

8. Jamming his knife on the cutting board to show that he’s done.

There’s good use of music in the background, and lots of close-ups of the preparation, frying, baking, etc. It’s edited so that it moves along quickly, but coherently.

Most of his videos are between 6 to 15 minutes long, and he produces maybe three to four videos a month.

Film theory: various titles by The Film Theorists

I absolutely love two things about these productions.

1. The animation of the narrator is just so unique. He uses a lot of still shots, but animates over them, and moves them around  in great synch with what he says.

2. He’s a natural narrator, too. This guy uses his voice in a deeply interesting and engaging way. He also ends every show with his tag line ‘BUT THAT’S JUST A THEORY, A FILM THEORY’ and his exaggerated way of saying this is, for me at least, very memorable.

This is obviously a YouTube channel with a highly skilled animation editor, but they still manage to put out a lot of content very quickly.

Most of his videos are a maximum of 20 minutes, and he produces something maybe very other day! He’s got a crew working for him!

Various titles Pitch Meeting by Film Rant

Every “pitch meeting’ video is pretty much exactly the same in structure. It’s the same guy dressed in two different outfits, one of him wears glasses (the writer making the pitch), and the other, the producer with the money, doesn’t.

He shoots on green screen and the backgrounds he uses are only different depending on the year the film that is being pitched was made. This means the device behind the screen writer is either an old typewriter, a newer typewriter, an old computer, or a newer computer. What makes me laugh is the quick edits in the conversation between the two characters. Also, the writer has a tag line “Super easy, barely an inconvenience”. The back and forth style with quick edits as they look at the stories behind the movies are pretty interesting observations, but this is definitely for adult viewers.

Almost every pitch meeting is between 6 to 9 minutes long. He seems to be his own production crew, but he has produced a lot of content in addition to the Pitch meeting series.

Geography Now: Country in focus by Geography Now.
This guy set out in the beginning to make a video about every country on Earth. If you dig through his archive and watch earlier productions then watch the Pakistan production, which is only about a year old, you’ll see a marked increase in production quality, and he expanded his ‘staff’ in later productions to help out. There’s a ton of interesting information, and he really innovated in telling some of the stories of the country, and highlighting a lot of different things that are unique about every country. He clearly loves what he’s doing in this series, and recently stopped because of covid, with a promise to return to finish what he started.

Most of his videos are a bit longer, so look for 18 to 30 minutes episodes. With his expanding staff, he’s up to about the letter “T” on the list of 190 or so countries around the globe.

Various geography themed content by ibx2cat
There’s one feature about this guy’s videos that I haven’t researched and that is how he’s able to have himself in the corner live as he works his way through various websites, including a LOT of use of Google Earth to zoom in and out of various countries as he talks about details of that country. He records everything in one cut, so, there’s no editing at all, and kind of rambles at times, but I like his fast talking style, in fact, it’s very fast at some points, and he’s clearly in love with talking about his topics. 

His videos are anywhere from 5 minutes to 45 minutes, but I can still sit through a 45 minute ramble because obviously I’m a big geography buff. He seems to put out videos two to three times a week, and obviously he’s a one-man show.

Blogging at HCT

Just want to document somethings I’ve posted over at my college website, the Higher Colleges of Technology here in the United Arab Emirates.

Time Capsule: November 8, 2017 –

Note: lifted from my FB post, and embellished here, cuz it’s fun to embellish.


What will work:

1. Before the election, non-partisan redistricting to get rid of Gerrymandering.

2. 100% public funding of elections. PACs made illegal, and Citizen’s United decision reversed through legislation.

3. Campaign period limited to three months before election day.

4. Second Tuesday in November is a national holiday called “Election Day”. Polls open Tuesday 12:00:01 AM. Polls close Wednesday 12:00:00 AM.

5. Uniform Federally Printed Paper ballots for the Presidency. Collected and sent to Washington DC for counting. State ballots for everything else. Exception for the two or so million of us who live overseas. Then, some form of secure digital authenticated transaction for voting for president, then for state candidates and issues. Just don’t contract Equifax for that. Those US Based who will be overseas on election day do paper mail-ins.

6. Absolute news blackout when polls are open. When Alaska/Hawaii polls close, the press can do their thing.

7. Abolish the Electoral college. Five times in history, but two times in my lifetime is enough to show the system doesn’t work as planned. Instead use “The Alternative Vote” for instant runoff.

Why none of the above will work:

1. Get rid of Gerrymandering? Will get on that right after we’ve put in comprehensive gun control.

2. Citizen’s United, where money is speech. It’ll always be louder than actual people actually speaking their opinions. See the Cruella DeVoucher confirmation story for more on that.

3. Trump filed for re-election literally right after he was done with his inauguration ceremony. Like, it was the same day or the next day (too lazy to look it up to confirm). He’s gamed the system so that we, the taxpayers, are now paying for his “campaign rallies”.

4. Empirical evidence showing shorter voting times in heavily Democratic districts, especially those with a minority population as its majority, has worked well with voter suppression.

5. Citizen’s United again. Three Voting machine companies have a stranglehold, and their money talks more than me.

6. The press will scream first amendment. The Supreme’s will probably take their side, because it’s a money thing again.

7. It was a good idea when populations of states weren’t that far apart from each other. Wont happen any time soon without a constitutional amendment, and that’s a pipe dream for reasons (too lazy to explain, but state government control is the key).

Thanks for playing. Factual mistakes are all mine. Comment on anything else that will work.