A Surprising Coffee Shop Coaching Moment

If you seek out coaching moments, you’ll certainly find them. However, recognizing them when presented to you in the unlikeliest of places is the greatest opportunity to make a surprisingly unexpected impact.

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In my new book, Sales Leadership, I introduce my uniquely designed, groundbreaking L.E.A.D.S. coaching model that, when coaching, will be your communication strategy for every conversation, When I say every conversation is a coaching conversation, here’s an email I received from a manager who had attended my coaching course the day before.

As you read this story, notice how coaching isn’t something that happens in the office, but every day, in every situation, and every conversation.

An Unexpected Coffee Shop Conversation

Hi Keith,

I wanted to share an interaction I experienced this morning that gave me a bit of an ah-hah moment after attending your program this past week. I will start off by saying, I was not in the best mood this morning. I was waiting to order a bagel at the only place that I know of in my town that makes a proper bagel. There’s usually a pretty long line, and this morning was no exception.

I tend to be somewhat impatient while standing in lines. My mind tends to race when I feel like I’m idling…

While standing there, hungry, impatient, and irritable, I had the feeling that someone was looking at me. I looked down to see a little girl, maybe 5 or 6 years old, peering up at my face with a warm smile. I smiled back at her briefly and returned to my racing thoughts, while checking my texts and emails. A few minutes later, she turned to her mother and started talking, which pulled my attention back to the moment.

The interaction between the daughter and her mother was as follows:

The daughter said, “Mommy, that lady is really pretty.”

Her mother replied, “Do you think you can tell me who you are talking about without pointing your finger?”

“She’s right behind us,” the daughter said.

After looking at me and smiling, asked her daughter, “What do you think would happen if you told her that you think she’s pretty?”

Pausing for a second, the daughter responded with, “Ummm… I don’t know.”

“Well. How do you feel when someone says something nice to you?”

The daughter giggled and said, “Pretty gooood.”

“So, how do you think she would feel if you told her that?”

The daughter didn’t respond to her mother’s question, but instead smiled at her, and then turned to me. Very politely and confidently the little girl said, “Um. Excuse me. Hi. My name is Libby. I think you’re very pretty.”

Libby had just made my wait in line a little more enjoyable, and my day much better. I sincerely thanked her and told her that she just made me feel really good. Continuing to talk to Libby for a few minutes, she explained to me that Sundays are her favorite day of the week.

She also told me, very factually, “I think bagels are like cupcakes. They’re really yummy, but things like that are only healthy when they’re special. We can’t eat them all of the time, because they wouldn’t be special anymore if we did.” This little person had some insightful wisdom! Libby’s self-assured confidence and liveliness were engaging and remarkable to me.

First, as I observed, this mother seems to be quite the master of the whole mom thing. I don’t have children, so I am not a subject matter expert. However, after my interaction with Libby and her mom, I thought about several ways a similar situation could have played out between other parents and children, and of course, between myself and my team.

A well-intentioned parent who might have seen an opportunity to make someone else’s day a little better could have responded to their child’s initial statement with something along the lines of, “You should tell the lady that you think she’s pretty. It will make her feel good.” The child might have awkwardly stepped outside of his or her comfort zone and offered the compliment to the stranger. This directive approach could also backfire. If Libby’s mom never took the time to uncover how she felt and expand her  daughter’s perspective,

Libby may not have said anything out of fear or discomfort. This mother, on the other hand, seemed to recognize an opportunity to increase Libby’s confidence, instead of just pushing her out of her comfort zone. The use of open-ended questions seemed to encourage little Libby to arrive at her own conclusion of what the next action should be. When Libby acted, she was visibly confident in her decision. It was neat to watch.

Personally, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to experience this interaction from a perspective that I might have otherwise missed. I wanted to reach out and share this story with you and thank you for directly impacting my awareness in this way. Its amazing how different things can look when you start looking through different lenses.

With gratitude,


Be Mindful of What’s Right In Front of You

This story is a great illustration of the power of coaching, patience, and being present in the moment. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, or who the person is, whether at work or at home, coaching is simply the most effective form of communication, and the preferred language of elite leaders.

Questions are the Universal Language

Every coaching framework consists of well-crafted, precision-based questions to facilitate the  conversation, which empowers people to self-reflect and arrive at a solution or new insight on their own.

At the core of coaching, the theory is simple: To tap into each person’s unique talents, strenghts, values and individuality to bring out a level of greatness that they may have never seen on their own. That’s what I call creating daily miracles. Even in when waiting on line at a coffee shop. Look around? Who can you coach today?