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It’s great to see coaches finish their training eager to start coaching as part of their qualification. Initial supervision conversations with the coaches bring valuable insight for them. Often new coaches go in with ‘both feet’ and with the best of intent wanting to remedy the client’s situation or ‘fix’ a problem in a situation. However this if often more about the coach’s agenda and needs, it is also taking a quite transactional approach to their coaching. There is a more powerful approach I introduce them to its all about ‘coaching the person’.

Scene setting

I notice that often, early coaching conversations are at quite shallow level, very transactional in nature with new coaches. They have a goal, they hear about a situation and then try to explore different ways or approached to resolve it and that’s it. What could they do? How could they go about it? What different things could they try? All in order to achieve the client’s goal. Here, the coaches are looking for external solutions to what are often internal issues, so they will never meaningfully work together.

In our discussions I share about how could they more ‘coach the person and not the problem’? After getting their head around this they begin to make a shift in their thinking toward the client, who they are and their outcomes.

‘Coaching the person’

The idea behind the phrase is simple.

Rather than trying to get a short-term fix, or sticking plaster on the area the client is focusing on (problem / issue / situation), the coach takes on a different angle. Rather than looking for external things to change the client’s situation, they look internally instead.

They use questions with the client to get them to consider their thinking, mindsets, perspectives, emotions, behaviours, being and experiences (person). As these areas are being explored deeper thinking will be prompted in the client, bringing about increased awareness and understanding of themselves. In doing so this brings about more transformational change at a deeper level. By doing this the client will in all likelihood achieve their outcomes, however they will do this in a more personal, engaging and longer lasting way.

  • Typical approaches / questions which coach the person include:
  • What’s going on inside of you around this situation?
  • How does it make you feel? What are you thinking around this at the moment?
  • What’s important to you about this situation?
  • How do you personally view this situation?
  • What’s working / not working for you around this?
  • How do you want to think / feel about this in the future?
  • What fulfilment / value / opportunity would this bring you?
  • What behaviours do you want to be able show moving forward?
  • If you achieve this what will it bring to you as well as your role?
  • How would you natural be inclined to approach this?
  • What boxes does the way forward need to tick for you to be happy about an approach?

Building it into your coaching

Getting in to the rhythm of using this approach is important. But how can you start to coach the person? Well simply by considering the type of questions they approach the client with, getting the client to reflect and by using careful challenge. Keith Webb on his own website encourages coaches to ‘listen for invitations to coach the person’ probing in areas such as:

  • Perspectives– “Given the economy right now, we need to go slowly”
  • Emotions – “I’m worried that…” or “What she said really ticked me off…”
  • Assumptions– “He would never let me”. Or, “I don’t have a choice…”
  • Limited beliefs– “I can’t.” Or “I’ll never be able to…”
  • Motivations– “I don’t want to…” Or, “That was so fulfilling.”

When asking questions the coach is also observing the client and picking up also on how they are saying things, their body language and perhaps what they are not saying.

The coach is comfortable with the silence allowing the client to consider their thoughts and more importantly, ideas. If the coach is ‘machine gun’ firing questions the conversation will always remain on the surface, problem focused.

The Eblin Group suggest other valuable approaches too:

  • Focus on What and not How.
  • Use the word ‘you’ in questions. This will further encourage introspection and examination – “What are you trying to achieve?” “What do you think needs to be done here?” If you were in their shoes, what might be your thinking around this?”

Transforming your coaching

Once you start to use this approach and become comfortable about it, it will transform your coaching. Many new coaches focus upon performance and behaviours because they see them and hear about them form the client. Whilst coaching is about performance, good coaches recognise that it is clients thoughts, feelings, emotions and experiences which drive both their behaviours and their performance.

Going beneath the surface and being comfortable in asking more emotive questions takes practice and time. But the rewards for both parties are significant. I have seen many coaches have a huge ‘light bulb moment’ in their practice by embracing this approach.

Coaching is about people, therefore it is only right that coaches focus on their clients and see them as holistic beings who are driven by powerful elements, beneath the surface. The more the coach can access this the more personal change and growth can occur in their clients. In doing so, coaches move from fixers and problem solvers enablers of personal transformation.

Interested in finding out more about becoming a coach or receiving coaching? Contact Abintus today for more information.