I had the pleasure recently to assist ACI’s 3-day Coaching Agile Teams class in Dallas with my friend Long. It had been a little over a year since we attended the class as students, and it was a great refresher for us both. I recognized similarities between the class and the Coaching Training Institute (CTI) classes that I have been taking in Austin, which helped reinforce some concepts for me. And Long and I practiced our level 3 listening.
Level 3 listening is also known as global listening—awareness of the energy between you and others. Awareness of how that energy is changing. You notice shifts in attitude. You are aware of whatever is going on in the environment. You are conscious of the underlying mood, tone, or impact of the conversation—where it is taking you and the person you are talking to.
The role of the assistant is to hold the space for learning. Making sure materials are available, being ready to participate in activities, and providing feedback to the instructors at the end of the day are the easy parts. There’s something else, and I’m not entirely sure how to describe it: you shape the environment to provide a fun, positive, and safe learning experience for the students. Assisting the class means sitting behind the students, so you end up facing people’s backs for hours. With the instructors at the front of the room and the assistants at the back, a container is created around the students. And we each contribute to the energy of the room--we form a force field of sorts.
So what did I do in the back of the room to practice level 3 listening? I listened to what was being said and how it was said. I watched people’s body language. During group activities, I listened to the overall noise and noticed energy shifts. I felt happy and tried to radiate that. I loved the moments when my eyes met an instructor’s gaze, and I contributed something good in that instant. I relished in the activities when Long and I could share observations and ask one another questions. Most of all, I was present.
Level 3 listening requires practice since it is not how we listen normally. It takes real effort; I found myself ready to fall asleep earlier than usual on class days. It is a key skill in coaching, and I am delighted that I was able to practice it amongst friends in the CAT class. What a lovely way to spend 3 days!