Covert Rehearsal: Using Scripts

I often coach my clients around preparing for difficult or challenging questions — and was up at 6 a.m. this morning doing just that.

I work with my clients on writing out the story they want to tell, then revising it until it is conversational and direct and focused.

And then practicing it. I’ll often tell my clients, “Practice it on the tree outside your door, on the dog, on your friends, on your sweetie. Get to the point where the answer — the story — comes out confidently and fluently, so your brain can be busy being smart thinking about something else, not stumbling around feeling like a jerk and losing confidence.”

So early this morning, one coffee down, I was preparing for a call with the HR leader of a very large corporation, writing and practicing my answer to: “So, tell me about your executive coaching methodology.” (I would have coached me to have done this before 6 a.m. this morning, but whatever.)

This is what I wrote:

“I have a very flexible, pragmatic approach. I am particularly interested in what’s bugging the client when we start the conversation — what they’re worried about, stressed about, expending a lot of energy on.  As I think about key clients over the last couple of years, I think my greatest service as a coach is as a sounding board, helping the client slow down, and thoughtfully think through the issue in front of them. In the coaching literature, my work is defined as “coaching for the executive’s agenda.” 

As a coach, I tend to focus on a couple of specific areas with my leadership clients. I am always interested in mistakes and what to learn from them, particularly around self awareness. I am very interested in decisions and conundrums and how to resolve them in a way that is aligned with the client’s values. And I actively listen for the tipping points, the small, often mundane, sustainable adjustments that can have profound, meaningful impacts on my client’s life — both personal and professional.

In terms of psychological theory or philosophy, I probably take an existential stance. I’m interested in the now, and the thoughts and decisions and choices that define who we are right now. And I have a strong bias for action — I get super grumpy with talk talk talk (I don’t wait for Godot). That said, I have an eclectic mix of coaching techniques in my toolkit, techniques based on emotional intelligence, behaviorism, cognitive psychology, and systems thinking. I kind of mix and match, depending on what seems like it could be useful at the time.”

By the time the call came around, I had this story at the tip of my tongue. I never got the literal question “So, tell me about your executive coaching methodolgy” (yikes! scary question!) but I was able to — confidently and fluently — use bits and pieces throughout the conversation. I’m not sure if my brain was “busy being smart,” but I had fun with the conversation.

This coaching technique — called “covert rehearsal” — draws from cognitive psychology theories, according to The Psychology of Executive Coaching, by Bruce Peltier, 2010, one of the most useful coaching texts I’ve read in a long time.