I have always been a great fan of the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi about the psychology of optimal performance.
His idea of flow has resonated with me ever since.
In my life I had the good luck of experiencing flow states in different occasions.
When you are “in the flow” everything disappears – including the self.
You are totally absorbed in the activity, passionately engaged in what you are doing.
Time disappears. Joy and doing are all there is.
One word follows another, one movement follows another, in an effortless flow of action and creation.
A frictionless world.
I experienced flow in writing; I experienced flow in running, sometimes with mystical over-tones; I even experienced flow while leading workshops.
But I have always wondered which form flow would take in coaching.
I experienced it.
Flow in coaching is about tuning in to rhythm of the interaction rather than on the content of the conversation.
Or, as my friend Svea Van Der Hoorn put it recently during a workshop: in the discipline lies the magic.
Just like a tango dancer who is so connected with his partner and so engaged in the dance that he knows exactly when and how to lead his partner into the next step – in the same way a Solution-Focused Coach in a state of flow knows exactly when and how to lead the client into the next phase of the coaching conversation.
Flow in coaching is definitely linked with the concept of not knowing – having no specific expertise in the clients’ field of work can be a tremendous asset.
The details of the problem the client is experiencing is noise – the signal is that little shift in the coachee’s tone of voice which tells you the client feels he or she has been heard and therefore we can move on to negotiating goals; the subtle smile which tells the coach that the coachee has found something that worked in the past and so we can start asking amplifying questions around that exception; the eyes of the coachee staring in the distance and contemplating the landscape of the Miracle – let’s leave the client there for a while; the signal is noticing the client shifting from “problem language” to “solution language”; the signal is that little key word buried there in that long sentence or that sparkling moment in that long litany of complaints.
Content changes but the process does not.
There is an opening, there is a middle and there is an end – there might be endless variations, thousands of different words and meanings, but the grammar of a Solution-Focused coaching session stays the same.
I am indebted to Coert Visser for having me reflect some more about the importance of not-knowing.