Are you leading your coaching client?

One of the things that distinguishes coaching from other modalities such as teaching, training, and consulting, is the agenda is client-driven. The client chooses the focus of what to be coached on in every session. The coach seeks to understand that focus, and then to attend to that agenda.

Even when a company pays for coaching and has expectations of outcomes, each coaching conversation is based on a client-driven agenda.

But is that really possible, to have a client-driven agenda?

Yes, it is when it comes to the topic and outcome the client wants from a coaching session. However, the coach influences the client through the questions they ask and observations and comments they make.

We influence positively as well!

What we reinforce as being good is also a way of leading the client. For example, if we acknowledge something we like that the client said, we are possibly leading the client to think that is the ‘right’ way to think or act.

An example might be your client shares they feel it would be good to involve more people in the decision-making process. And before the client has had time to consider other possibilities, the coach says, “That sounds like a great idea!” Now the client might think they have to go that path, instead of considering other options.

As a coach, we are in a position of authority, as not all clients will disagree with their coach. So we need to be conscious of what we say and the influence we are yielding.

Be conscious of what you say

Using the example above, here are two examples of what more conscious responses might be:

How would involving more people achieve the result you are seeking?

What concerns, if any, do you have about involving more people in the decision-making process?

As a mentor coach for preparation toward the MCC credential, we pay particular attention to being present and connected to the client’s world, and to our own world. Connection is one of the Ten Characteristics of MCC Skill Level that I’ve written about. I consider the ICF Core Competency of Coaching Presence as the core of the core competencies (you can learn more about The Target Approach model to demystifying the ICF core competencies) because this competency is about being connected and present in the moment, to yourself, and to your client.

We need to be as conscious as we can be about the influence we have over our client in every question or every comment.

We are always influencing and therefore leading the client!

The truth is we can’t not influence, and therefore lead, our client. This is because any question we ask will lead the client somewhere, as will any comment or observation. The thing is, are we asking a question that supports the client to think more deeply about themselves, and their mindset, in their situation?

The more we focus on the “Who” of the client (mindset, values, beliefs, strengths…) the more we ‘lead’ the client toward themselves and what is true for them. For MCC skill level, being “Who” focused is of absolute importance, rather than “What” focused.

Here are some mentor coaching distinctions we work with for ACC, PCC and MCC credential levels:

  • ACC is What focused, which leads the client to think more strategically about their situation and how to solve their presenting issue.
  • PCC is a combination of What and Who focused, which leads the client to also think about themselves (mindset, values, beliefs, strengths…) in their situation.
  • MCC is Who focused, which leads the client inward to draw on their self-knowledge at a deeper level. There is a belief by the coach that there is no issue to be resolved, only a presenting situation to learn and grow from. While still achieving the result the client desires.

In closing….

Self-awareness is a key for every coach. We need to be aware of our preferences, and what we think we need to say or do to be an effective coach. Being quiet for longer than we feel comfortable is often a good first step. Rather than automatically speaking after the client stops, pause, and allow some silence. Notice what you are feeling. Notice if the client says anything further. And then decide what question or comment to say next.


Are you preparing for your first or next ICF Credential?

Do you want to “Sharpen the Saw” as a Coaching Professional?


Start early with your mentoring requirements in the year of your renewal, especially if you plan to submit for your next credential instead of renew your current one. You will need to submit your application by mid August in order to accommodate the 18 week ICF process.

The Mentor Coaching Group program is approved for 24 ICF Core Competency CCE units! (which includes 10 hours of mentor coaching)

You can learn more here


Carly Anderson will be ‘flying solo’ in 2017 as Karen Boskemper goes on to work on other projects. I will her miss her wisdom and support, and yet wish her all the best in her next endeavors.

We offer an awesome mentor coaching group and individual program that has many exclusive offerings for our participants. You can read some testimonials here

We have been trained by the ICF to assess using the new PCC Markers. Carly also assesses for the ICF MCC and ACC credential.

One of our unique offerings is an extensive library of MCC, PCC and ACC coaching sessions for our participants to listen to, evaluate, debrief, and learn from, along with The Target Approach to demystifying the ICF core competencies. These are incredibly valuable learning tools, and will accelerate your understanding of competency distinctions.

Carly has created products to more deeply understand Establishing the Coaching Agreement and Ten Characteristics of MCC Skill Level.

Here’s where you’ll find more about The Mentor Coaching Group