In his intriguing autobiography, Code Talker, Chester Nez speaks about the unbreakable code developed by 29 Navajos during World War II. This code turned the U.S. war effort in the South Pacific from sure defeat to sure victory because the Japanese were no longer able to decode the messages being sent. Only those who learned the code could translate it. How did this code become so effective in changing the outcome of the war? The Code Talkers became so automatic with the code that they could transmit it quickly under the direst conditions of war. They achieved that capacity by internalizing the code through ongoing practice, making the process so innate they did not have to think about it and could stay focused even when their lives were threatened. The lesson for all of us is to think about how to move our coaching skills to the level of automaticity achieved by these men. Obviously ongoing rehearsal was what was required of these men, yet they mastered the code in a matter of weeks because of their efforts to do so.
What might be some ways you could master the practices of Cognitive CoachingSM so that it becomes something you do without thinking about it? Here are a few ideas to move you toward unconscious competence:
• Have coaching conversations with yourself when you are driving or just sitting and having some coffee.
• Schedule a time every day to have a 10-minute coaching conversation with another person. You will both benefit.
• In meetings, think about a mediative question or paraphrase you might offer before advocating for your own ideas.
• As you are reading a novel or watching a television show, think about what kinds of coaching conversations you might have with one of the characters.
• Before you make an important decision, write down three coaching questions you might ask yourself.
• Start each day as you drive to work thinking about opportunities to coach others during the day.