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Presence: What interviewing taught me about coaching

Presence is key for leaders, whether you're coaching a team member or interviewing someone, writes John Baldoni, who offers some key tips.

4 min read



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When you are live on the air, you must be fully alive!

That’s a mantra I have learned in the three-plus years I have hosted a LinkedIn LIVE interview show. It’s also a practice I have gained from nearly three decades of executive coaching. 

The key to both is presence — being in and of the moment to be open and understanding of what comes next. 


Presence for both interviewing and coaching begins with preparation. For interviews, I read up on my guests, and when possible, I read their newest books, which is often why they want to be on my show. They need to get their message out. For coaching, I learn about the individual I coach by sourcing their public profile and what I can learn from their key stakeholders, the ones who know them best. 

As an interviewer, you need to engage, connect and listen. The same applies to coaching. Let’s take each one at a time. 

Engage their interest. You need to find a way to have a conversation that builds upon what you have learned about them from their backstory. For interviews, my questions center on their immediate project, a book, or an activity they seek to publicize. In coaching, I often run a short values exercise asking the individual to itemize on index cards what they like, dislike and want to improve at work or in their lives.

Make a connection. What about this person, either as a guest for a show or an individual seeking coaching, makes them interesting? Find a connection between what they do and what you understand them enough to connect with you. 

Connection opens the door to sharing information and, in turn, opens the door for trust to build. Trust occurs momentarily but lasts because the interview is recorded. Trust is essential in coaching because it is the foundation of enabling the coach to guide and the individual to build greater self-knowledge and genuine growth.

Listen, listen, listen. For interviews, I have a list of prepared questions. Same for beginning a coaching engagement. Questions are only the thought starters. The point is to get the individual to reveal themselves to enable them to express their why, what they do and how they do it. 

All the time, I am listening to what they say, as well as what they don’t say. What they fail to reveal may hold the key to genuine connection. In coaching, these “unscripted” moments open the door to honest conversation, enabling individuals to see themselves in a new light, illuminating their behaviors in ways that shine awareness of future possibilities. 

Chemistry — how you connect — is critical in both interviewing and coaching. Consider interviews as first dates; coaching is a relationship. You need to build upon the spark of connection to engage.


I recently interviewed Tim Brown, author of The Tao of the Backup Catcher. Speaking of his career as a sportswriter — and author — he said, “I think about 35 years of walking up to guys with a notebook and asking about their lives and asking about their hearts. And I think about the trust that it must have required for them to tell me their stories to reveal something about themselves.”

What Tim said about interviewing applies to coaching, too. Trust leads to truth that enables the individual to build a stronger foundation for their story, heart and ability to improve.

None of these things can occur without a sense of presence. You need to be in the moment to get the responses that will enable the person you’re interviewing or coaching to connect their message or their desire for improvement. 


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