Abintus Coaching Resources

If there is one area which creates huge panic in new coaches is when they get presented with a huge topic or goal by the client. They wonder how they are going to coach this area. They become like a ‘rabbit’ in the proverbial headlights. It can lead to the wrong area being coached, or focusing too broadly on too wide a topic that the outcomes are very weak. ‘Chunking down’ as a concept can be useful for new coaches to consider.

Scene setting

Big topics or goals serve no purpose. Rarely do they represent where the client really needs support. In coaching situations clients sometimes ‘pour out’ a topic or goal in the hope that it is useful.  Or they can ‘present’ areas to the coach, thinking that is what they want to hear.

I have had coaches share during supervision that they ‘mentally froze’. Unsure of how to approach this. Often trying (without success) to coach all of the areas the client has just shared.

The concept of chunking down is simply about breaking something down into its constituent parts. The approach can take various forms. The purpose though is to slowly and systematically get to a clearer starting point. Removing additional none value adding information.

This is a game changer for some new coaches. It takes the fear out of asking the question ‘what would you like to achieve today..?

Chunking down

Chunking down is simply breaking down what is shared into constituent parts. Then identifying the high value areas or the areas the client really wants to focus the conversation on. So in a situation where the client shares a very long winded situation with many parts to it. The coach approaches it similar to:

Thank you for sharing all of this. There is a lot to what’s happening for you. It might be worth refining this a little:

  • For you, what are the key parts in the situation for you?
  • If you had to break the situation down into more workable areas, what would they be?
  • Of all the areas you spoke about just, which ones are causing you most pain that the moment?
  • What you just shared sounds important. Which are the most important ones for you currently?
  • For you personally what is it really that you are trying to change or achieve?

There is value in the coach (and client) writing these smaller ‘chunks’ down. Or even better, getting the client to do it. This brings more focus and clarity for the client. It also enables the coach to identify possible themes or overlaps.

The coach can also drive more focus from the client:

  • You have shared a lot there, what are the top 3 things affecting you at the moment?

The coach can also get the client to be more objective about what they shared:

  • If you were to step back from the situation a moment, what stands out to you the most about what you shared?
  • What are you feeling or thinking about what you have noted down?

Using what the coach has said previous can be a useful lead in:

  • You shared at the start of the conversation you were upset about the relationship. From all you have told me, what is upsetting you the most?

Being specific

Language is key for coaches, especially new coaches. If they don’t get their language correct it brings a deluge of unwanted information.

So choosing words which focus the mind of the client is important:

  • Specifically, from what you have said, what’s most important to you..?
  • Identify for me the one or two ‘pain points’ in your current situation.
  • What do you think is the cause of why this is happening for you?
  • What one or two things stand out for you the most?

But not too much detail

Whilst the coach wants to get more detail from a bigger picture. Too much detail is in its own way too much information.

The coach should chunk down to just a couple of levels. Just get a more precise picture from the client. Get enough information to aid their clarity in setting the right goal with the client.

Other chunking down language

Outside of the goal formulation or sorting through a topic area, chunking language can also be used. Some examples include:

  • What’s an example of this happening?
  • Who specifically is involved?
  • Where is the specifically happening?
  • How did you approach that?
  • Tell me more about…
  • What’s stopping you…
  • Give me an example of…

The more the coach and client understand the situation, be more targeted and value adding the goal and outcomes will be. Having lots of information overwhelms new coaches. Chunking down give the coach space and time to get to the heart of the matter.

Want to develop your communication and coaching skills further? Contact Abintus to receive some supervision on your own coaching practice and enhance your own skills.