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Active Listening: Using More Than Ears To Hear

Episode #1068: Gain a new insightful perspective from Karl Van Hoey—a Master Certified Coach (MCC), Executive Coach, Leader and Strategic Facilitator of Otolith Consulting, and Co-Founder of the Team Coaching Global Alliance—on the importance of active listening which “requires more than ears,” what it means to have a radically human organization, and the transition from conviction to curiosity. Karl shares a personal heartwarming lesson on empathy and his journey from a career in Human Resources and Law to his life passion of Executive Coaching.

About Karl Van Hoey

Karl Van Hoey is a Master Certified Coach (MCC), Executive Coach, Leader and Strategic Facilitator of the Otolith Consulting Group, and Co-Founder of the Team Coaching Global Alliance. He is also an International Coaching Federation (ICF) Senior Subject Matter Expert, Executive Professor at EHSAL Management School, Founder of, and an author.

Before his career in Executive Coaching, Karl was a successful executive in HR leadership roles for companies such as British American Tobacco and EY. Today, Karl has a passion for helping executives build radically human organizations and helping other coaches on their journey towards certification. Along with his current coaching practice, Karl is also a board member of the People Managers Community and an advisor at Harvard Business Review.

Key highlights

Lessons and learnings from COVID-19

Timestamp 02:40

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Karl shares that he made several changes to his business. Because of the lockdowns in his country, Karl lost much of his group and team coaching. He shares that he had “two choices. Choice one, simply stay in my bed and do absolutely nothing. Or option number two, try to do things that I never did before.” Karl chose to start giving webinars worldwide and transition his individual coaching to a virtual format. He also started building a Facebook group called Coaching Journeys. In doing this, Karl gained more global visibility and has gained connections across the world with those he did not know before COVID-19. Today, Karl shares that he does not want to lose the global activities has built digitally, and would like to balance face-to-face and virtual coaching.

Creating radically human organizations

Timestamp 22:27

When asked how he helps his clients maintain an executive presence, Karl shares that he avoids teaching them and instead brings “awareness” to “their being.” He states that “It is much more about the leader they are or they want to be than about the leadership competencies that they should master or apply.”

In his coaching, he helps his clients get to their “identity level” to “explore the deeper levels, their identity and who they are.” In doing this, he helps bring faster impact and progress to their goals and ambitions. He applies this philosophy to his consulting as well. He helps businesses create radically human organizations. This means that in consulting business leaders, he helps them transform human behavior by facilitating, coaching, and advising leaders and employees.

In both his coaching and consulting, Karl goes deeper into the root of challenges by examining human behavior and identity with his clients.

The three awakenings

Timestamp 37:52

When asked about his best days ever as an executive coach, Karl shares that one of his best days was a difficult coaching session he had with a mentor as he was working towards his MCC. He shares that he had three awakenings in these coaching sessions. His first awakening instilled confidence in himself. The second awakening created resiliency in himself. The third awakening was the realization that he had to keep going. Severin comments and states that it is “a sign of intellect and humility and wisdom to be able to take a hard experience and to share.”

Active listening with the entire body

Timestamp 43:11

Karl shares that active listening is listening with “the entire body.” Karl explains that by using his body as an “organic antenna,” he can capture and sense everything that happens with a client’s disposition or body language. He then shares with the client what he notices and checks to see if his perspective is correct. In mentoring other coaches, he mirrors this behavior in order to show them what it means to be actively listening to others.

From conviction to coaching

Timestamp 51:53

Before becoming an executive coach, Karl studied law and worked as a lawyer. In order to be a lawyer, Karl had to be sure about himself and well-spoken. He explains that this caused him to be very sure in his own convictions. Overcoming this “was one of the most confronting and demanding challenges” in his journey to become an executive coach. In overcoming this, he has turned his “way of speaking into a way of listening.”

“Coaching has a role to play”

Timestamp 55:59

When asked about his “why,” Karl shares that he believes “coaching has a role to play… globally.” He states, “I believe that the art of coaching can have a tremendously positive and also sustainable effect on the way that our leaders converse with each other” and that it can “help in building and strengthening ecosystems.” In this, Karl helps make the world a better place through his coaching.

A lesson in empathy

Timestamp 59:33

When asked what makes him happy in life, Karl shares a story of a life lesson that his son taught him. He shares that when his son was 3 or 4 years old, he took him to the zoo on a hot day. After his son’s ice cream fell on the ground, Karl purchased another one. However, his son kept crying. Karl asked, “what else can I do for you?” and his son responded by simply asking for a hug. Karl explains that this was a great lesson in empathy, which he uses in his coaching today.

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