If I’m Not an Expert, Why Am I Talking?


To be a great coach, you need to know and understand the process of Stakeholder Centered Coaching and you also need to understand and share with your clients your content, your area of expertise. For instance, is your focus leadership, communication, or strategy? My focus is behavioral change.

My friend Chris Coffey, who along with Frank Wagner leads the U.S. Stakeholder Centered Coaching® certification and has trained thousands of coaches himself, and I discuss the importance of the coach’s content, or subject matter expertise, to the coaching process in the following short interview.

Chris: When it comes to coaching, there are two parts: the content and the process. The process, what we train people in, is Stakeholder Centered Coaching. The content is the expertise that each individual we certify brings to the coaching engagement.

For instance, I say I am a leadership coach. I help people get better at leadership and communication skills. I’ve also taught conflict management, decision-making, and argumentation. These are the skills I know that I can bring to the engagement. I am not a relationship coach, so while clients may talk with me about their relationships, this is not my area of expertise.

I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t pretend to! When I’m coaching a client, I’m big on asking questions to see where they go. For instance, I’ll ask the client what they see as benefits to being coached, taking a certain action, making a change. Sometimes I’ll push back and ask them to tell me why they want to get better at something.

Marshall: Great observation – sometimes I don’t have the answer. Just recently, I received a LinkedIn message and a person asked me about a topic, which is out of my area. I sent a note back and said, “I am not an expert on that topic.” He sent me another note, which said “You’re being evasive. You should answer my question.” And, I said, “No I really don’t have to answer that question. One, I don’t have to answer any question. And two, I always tell myself, if I’m not an expert on this topic, why am I speaking? Why am I talking?”

What I love about Stakeholder Centered Coaching is, let’s say the client get stakeholder feedback that says she’s not doing a great job of listening.

As a coach, I could give her generic advice on how to be a good listener. It’s probably good advice based on what listening means to me. On the other hand, my advice / opinion is not what matters. What matters is, what does listening mean to her?

The best person in the world to tell me what listening means to you is you. And when you explain to me what listening means to you, then you have made clear to yourself how you want to change to be a better listener. You have heard from the world’s greatest authority what listening means to you, and that authority is you!


I am so excited about my new book, How Women Rise, with my lead author, Sally Helgesen! Our book was released April 10th and is already Bookscan #1 in for Women in Business and in the Top Ten for all Business Books. Please order it here!






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