Jullien Gordon on How to Build Career Coaching Conversation Skiils

In Chapter 13 of 21 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, business coach Jullien Gordon answers "How Are Your Coaching Skills Improving as You Build Experience?"  Gordon learns ways to ask someone questions to understand where they are coming from.  He learns different ways to improve the questions he asks and the coaching conversation - and outcome - that results.  Jullien Gordon is a high performance coach and consultant to organizations, individuals and teams who want to increase employee performance, motivation, engagement and retention.  He earned a BA from UCLA, an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and a Masters of Education from Stanford University.


Erik Michielsen: How are your coaching skills improving as you build experience?

Jullien Gordon: So my coaching skills, they come from my personal journey, but before anything, rather than coaching from my experience, I actually coach from my listening. So I actually focus on listening to the individual first. What I found is that oftentimes, especially when you think about self-help books and things of that nature, a lot of times when you read those books and then we try to apply somebody else’s framework or definition of success to our life, it doesn’t work out, because that’s theirs. And so when I coach, I don’t necessarily just take my experiences and translate them to the individual and say, “Here, do this,” instead, I start with deep listening and really thinking about what their situation is and then try to put myself in their shoes and then based on my experiences and my insights regarding that situation, it may inform my answer, but sometimes when I’m helping them, I’m really focused on asking the right questions. Rather than giving people answers, I’m focused on asking the right questions, because I think that when you ask the right questions, then the individual gets insights, and that insight leads to authentic answer for them. And so I think there are some coaches out there who take their experiences and then try to superimpose those experiences on the individual and say, “This worked for me, you should do exactly this,” and that’s not really the way I coach. My experiences help me understand an individual and where they’re coming from in a deeper way, especially as not only I have my experiences but I hear and have the experiences of others that I coach and that I connect with, all those stories are in my listening but I pull bits and pieces from them to help ask the right questions, not necessarily give answers for my coaching clients.

Erik Michielsen: That’s great. How are you learning to ask the right question?

Jullien Gordon: Pausing like this. Not trying to be right. And trusting that the individual, or my audience when I’m speaking to larger groups, have the answers within them, and that I’m just creating the space for them to actually explore what’s best for them. That’s really what it’s been for me. And like I said, sometimes my experiences and the stories that I hear from others help shape the question but I stay with questions rather than answers. A lot of people want answers, but I think when you give somebody a standard answer and they apply it, it may not work for them in the same way that it worked for you.