Abintus Coaching Resources

This resource is adapted from Dr Alan Watkin’s TED talk on ‘helping people to be brilliant’. For coaches it helps us understand why asking questions around people’s thoughts and feelings can transform performance. Coaches can be afraid to venture into the thinking or feeling arena with clients. However, by considering this model, it opens up a client’s self awareness and creates opportunity to create powerful change.


Often business managers focus on their employee’s performance (results) and their behaviours. Appraisals focus on getting people to do things differently or better to improve their performance. This can work, but not all the time. Managers often focus on these two areas because they are visible every day. Every day they can see people’s performance (or lack of) happening. They can see the behaviours demonstrated by their employees – good and bad. However there is a lot more that makes up performance than simply what employees ‘do’.

When a coach starts to explore a clients Thoughts they are beginning to explore and unlock their thinking behind something. Gaining more understanding of the reasoning behind their particular Behaviours and Performance 

Similarly, exploring their Feelings in a situation or with a particular person can bring to the surface potential causes or reasons for the client behaving and performing in a certain way. This is in turn affects their performance.

Behind these Feelings are a range of Emotions brought into the body by ‘data streams’ feeding the persons Physiology.

So for example, a client might anxious when speaking to a senior manager they don’t get on well with. This affects the Physiology of the body – increased heart rate, perspiration, stomach churning. This in turn creates an emotional state in the client – fear or nervousness perhaps. From here the client will develop certain feelings toward the senior manager. They will also think in a certain way towards this person. All these are internal manifestations for the client. However, they then become externally visible in the person’s subsequent behaviours and performance toward and with the manager.

By unpicking and understanding the physiology, emotions, feelings and thoughts the client can begin to manage and control them more. Thus developing a more healthy approach and being able to make more healthy informed decisions.

For a coach, identifying key thoughts and feelings with a client open up powerful dialogue. Understanding and exploring causes, reasons, history builds powerful platforms for the client developing more logical, rational and meaningful behavioural outcomes. In doing so they create new neural pathways in the brain which enable more healthy future habits and response mechanisms to people and situations.

Before delving deeper into a clients thoughts, feelings and emotions the coach has to establish a strong relationship with the client. They may even set the scene beforehand within their contracting to explain the types of questions and areas they will use and explore, and the reasons why.

It is not uncommon for coaches to be uncomfortable delving into seemingly personal questions. Here, the coach should reflect on the reasons they might feel uncomfortable in order to overcome it. The coach can initially ask ‘light’ touch thought and feeling questions to test the water. Seeing how the client responds, noting changes in their body language and demeanour. Also if they state they want to explore certain areas this can create a readiness in the client, preparing them for the upcoming questions.

Subsequently, the coach can develop a repertoire of questions they find make the conversation with the client more accessible.

To see the full Dr Alan Watkins TED clip around making people brilliant click here.

The coach is present to bring about change for their clients and helping them to achieve their personal goals. The coach wants to also create permanent change. By considering underpinning internal reasons or causes, this will begin to bring about more profound internal AND external change for the client.