The Adaptive Coaching model – Step 1: Notice

The first step in my coaching model is Notice.

Noticing things gives us subjects to connect to others about, and respond to, thus ultimately learning from.  We tend to notice things that disturb us, just as the rest of the living world does.  Disturb doesn’t necessarily mean something negative, but has the connotation of a thrown pebble disturbing the still surface of a pond.

My husband tends to notice things like people walking close to him or me, or moving vehicles.  Even in the middle of a conversation he will look, turn his head, stop talking, and wait until he is satisfied he has the information he requires to continue.  Some people would call it “distraction”, but that has a negative connotation.  He admits it is probably an adaptation from being a father of 4 small children, the sole income earner in his former family, and from over 20 years of commuting by car into a large city every day.

The capacity to be disturbed is an adaptive trait.  In the living world, organisms that are skillful at noticing things have a head start on those who aren’t.  Now, whether or not they are later able to effectively respond to what disturbs them is another story.  We’ll talk about that in my post on the Adaptive Coaching Model step called “Respond”.

So, when we talk about noticing, what are we talking about with people in a business setting?

Let’s say you are in a meeting with your boss and your peers.  You’re talking about a new project for a team you’re on.  You will notice lots of things: the boss looks tired, the head of another department keeps having side conversations with the head of HR, your rival for the next promotion is sitting right next to the boss and seems to be smiling, the room is stuffy, the coffee tastes worse than usual, there’s a high-pitched whine from the air vent.  The list is endless.

All of those things are external to yourself – the usual suspects.  But do you notice anything about yourself?

Is there tension in your body? Where is it? When do you feel it most?

Are you moved to speak or stay silent? Are there people you choose to respond to and others you choose to ignore?

When you speak, how is your voice? Loud? Soft? Hoarse? High-pitched?

Are you mad about anything? Sad? Afraid? Glad?

This is a very short list of the kinds of things that are important for any business person to add to their repertoire of things to notice in a meeting.  Once you notice them, you have more information about the things that are in your control, the things that matter in business.  Those things may be as obvious to others, including your boss, as the stuffy room is to you.  

Of course, the hard part is staying present in the moment to integrate all the input you are getting from the environment, the people, and your own body and thoughts.  It’s vitally important to keep noticing even when your mind starts to process the information.  You may start to imagine that your rival for that promotion is the boss’s favourite.  You remember how often you’ve seen the two of them together lately.  Without giving you any value, those thoughts are taking your attention away from the present, and you are missing what is actually going on.  Over time, if that is what you accept in yourself, you may make serious mistakes in your interactions with others, mistakes which can create stress, fear, regret and other unhelpful feelings.

But if you can think and feel at the same time, if you can be aware of what you notice and use that information to get the best results for you and your boss, your team, your family or your world, you will be able to take the next steps with grace and professionalism.  That’s noticing, the challenge of now, and the first step to becoming skillfully adaptive in any business environment.

For more information about The Adaptive Coach, see – 20 years of adapting in business.


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