One of my favorite coaching paradoxes: Masterful coaching requires a willingness to “dance in the not knowing,” and ….there are certain things a coach does need to know.

So how do you know what you DO need to know AND what exactly does dancing in the not knowing mean?

First, you need to get clear about two things:

 1)    What is (really) essential for you to know in any coaching interaction so you can get to the heart of the matter quickly without being sidetracked by details of your coachee’s story.

2)    Why you feel you need to know what you think you need to know.

You may not need to hear and completely understand all the details and back-story in order to serve your client. In fact, those can get in the way.

You do need to know whether or not talking through the story and details supports your coachee’s discovery and learning process, but that’s not the same as your needing to know it in order to feel confident in the coaching.

 So if you don’t need to know the details and background, what DO you need to know?


    • How to tell if you and your coachee are fully present and engaged.
    • How the most effective connection between the two of you looks, sounds, feels.
    • What is really important to your coachee and why.
    • What your coachee believes will change when they achieve any desired outcomes, and how this is important.


You also need to know what is most present and alive for your coachee and how it relates to any desired outcomes.

You really need to know when your Jello™ gets jiggled (when your inner wobblies get triggered by something about your coachee). And you really need to know how to keep your wobblies from distorting your curiosity.

So this means you need to know how it feels when you are most deeply rooted in your own sacred center – and how to discern when you aren’t. And you need to know what motivates you, Coach, at any given time: do you desire to serve your coachee or to please, comfort or reassure?

Here’s why this matters so much: when you know what you really need to know as a coach, you will have more capacity to be a co-learner in a journey of discovery. You will naturally partner. And this means you will automatically dance in the not knowing. Which means fewer leading questions, less “telling” or advising and far more invitation to growth.

Best of all, you will NEVER need fear getting stuck as a coach. You will trust that no matter what comes up in the coaching, you will stay fully present and engaged in ways that support continued discovery.

Can you see how freeing this is for you as a coach, this notion of totally fearless coaching?

One of the fastest ways to access the “not knowing” in a coaching interaction is to ask your coachee where s/he wants to go next in the coaching conversation. When you do this, you demonstrate a willingness to follow your coachee’s lead vs. a need to be the One In Control.

Bottom line: when you know what you really need to know as a coach, you have far more bandwidth for the kinds of not knowing that lead to the deeper connection, juicy  discoveries and lasting learning.

If this article resonates for you, you will likely enjoy the November, 2014, Heart and Soul of Coaching program. The link for the recording is emailed each month to members of the H&S community. Click here if you are not yet a member and would like access to this and other learning programs for coaches.

In celebration of your unfolding path of discovery!