LAZY. How does it sound when you hear this about someone? What impression does it give you of the working style of a coach or a leader? To attribute lazy behavior to a coach is a compliment in my eyes because this means that the client does the work in the coaching session. To say this of leader shows a great deal of trust in the people they work with.
As a professional coach, I deeply believe this is how it should be: Leave room for the wisdom of clients and direct reports, team members and peers, friends and colleagues to emerge.
The LAZY model is not only a coaching structure but also a philosophy and a mindset that underlines the attitude of the coach and that of the manager when leading with a coach approach.
Being a LAZY coach or manager who coaches manifests itself in the following ICF compatible coach competencies and behaviors:
L – Listening
A – Awareness building, attention and ambiguity
Z – Zest
Y – You, coaching is all about you, the CLIENT
The LAZY model is simple, easy to understand and follow, yet powerful. LAZY reflects a coach behavior, which is difficult to adopt with an oversized ego and in this modern world, pushing us to look clever every moment and come up with tidy answers, clear solutions. In my eyes, the word LAZY symbolizes a “not knowing” attitude, one that refrains from giving advice, making suggestions or providing answers. The coach just sits back and lets the client explore their own way to the desired outcome. It is an attitude that empowers the client to think and act, and it trusts the client to be fully capable of running their life.
The LAZY model is a minimal coach competencies package—this is why it is so suitable for managers who may only coach at particular times, yet it relates so nicely to the ICF Core Competencies.
Let me explain how:
Listening is clearly tied to Active Listening. However, it is also related to Coaching Presence and even Powerful Questioning and Direct Communication, as these competencies are also rooted in the coach’s ability to listen well and work with whatever is offered by the client.
Awareness starts with attention—attention to everything around us externally and inside us simultaneously. This can lead to Awareness building, which is one of the ICF Core Competencies. No coaching happens without new awareness or new insight gained by the client.
Under the letter “A,” we can also add ambiguity, which is about “not knowing,” accepting the possible ambiguity of the situation. Ambiguity is one of the dominant features of today’s VUCA world, when coaching is so much needed to help the individual find their own way. In a coaching session, we never know what comes up and we have to be happy with whatever surfaces. According to my interpretation, if the coach is LAZY, then they do not seek to control the situation and instead let go of control and suspend all judgement, welcome ambiguity and are present with full attention to the widest range of possible scenarios that may emerge from the client and for the client.
Zest expresses the energy level of the coach and reflects on the energy level of the client. It means the coach noticing the variations in tone of voice, pace of speech or inflection of the client, and sharing this very valuable observation in support of the client.
Spotting the energy level also helps to identify where the inner drive or the motivation of the client lies. Motivation of the individual—the client, the direct report—is indispensable in a work environment since it drives change and contributes to high performance through the action that it generates.
You. There is no doubt that coaching is all about YOU, the client. This is the first lesson that everybody who wants to coach has to learn.
When I am a LAZY coach, I am acting intentionally for the benefit of my client, to encourage their own thinking and to support their development. I know for sure that only those solutions that come from the client work, so I can afford to be lazy!
I challenge all managers to act LAZY as often as possible, so their people can feel clever and successful when they rejoice over their own emerging ideas and solutions.