Be attentive to your clients agenda

Big Jump

I think that every coach would agree that we are hired to support our clients to discover and achieve what they want, and find their way to implement their ideas, not our way or our ideas. This empowers our client to be responsible for their discoveries, decisions and actions, and more likely to follow through.

Yet, in practice, it’s often harder to be fully attentive and present to the client’s agenda because we all have our own biases of what we listen for. This is addressed in the ICF core competency of “Coaching Presence.” The coach needs to be aware of their own biases and agenda.

What’s in it for the coach?

A coach may not be serving their client well if they feel valued by providing solutions or think they are getting paid to get the client to a result, or even coaching to get their own development needs met. If a coach is getting more awareness during a session than their client, the coach is attending to their own agenda, not the clients. If the coach feels they are responsible for their clients results, they may be better suited to consulting rather than coaching.

How to attend to the clients agenda

ICF core competency #2: Establishing the Coaching Agreement is considered an ‘application’ competency in The Target Approach model I’ve created of the competencies and it is the mindset of the coach and their own level of personal growth (i.e. their Coaching Presence) that affects their ability to craft and attend to the client’s agenda.

The way we stay with the client’s agenda is to help the client to craft their desired outcome/s for each coaching session. The depth of inquiry into the client’s agenda shows the level of the coach’s curiosity and listening abilities.

ACC skill level

At ACC skill level, the coach asks the client what they want to work on and accepts what the client first says without further inquiry or exploration and just starts coaching. The coach’s presence comes from a mindset of problem-solving, and focuses on the presenting ‘dilemma’ (their ‘What’) rather than the client’s way of thinking, feeling, expressing, and succeeding (their ‘Who’) that would help them to solve their own dilemma.

PCC skill level

At PCC skill level, the coach goes the next step and inquires further as to what the client wants to accomplish, and how they will measure success against their topic/s by the end of the session. The coach still engages in the presence of a problem-solving mindset while at times focusing more fully on the ‘Who’ of the client. The coach realizes the value of a coach is not in solving their client’s dilemma for them, but tapping their self-knowledge so they can solve their own. The coach will check in during the session if the coaching is moving toward the outcome the client wanted to ensure they are still on the client’s agenda.

MCC skill level

At MCC skill level, the coach is no longer in the presence of a problem-solving mindset, but in the presence of personal growth, expansion and transformation. The master coach sees every dilemma as an opportunity for personal growth, and seeks to connect the client to their success strategies, which are most often their strengths, values, vision, passion, their energy and successes from the past.

The coach’s questions and reflections are fully focused on the ‘Who’ of their client which also involves listening for the inner thinking barriers that might be hindering the client from tapping more of their inner resourcefulness to move their ‘What’ forward. The coach will check in during the session that the coaching is on track for the client, yet it will sound intuitive and seamless because it’s using the client’s language to inquire and sounds in-the-flow. The coach checks again at the end of the session to see what progress has been made from the client’s perspective.

At any skill level, the coach is always seeking to understand the gap the client has from where they are now to where they want to be, which starts with Planning & Goal Setting so you understand the client’s goals for coaching.

The more a coach has mastered their own presence and coaching skills, the less you’ll hear process as being obvious in the coaching session.

Coaching starts even before the session agreement

Coaches often treat the coaching agreement discussion as if it is separate from the coaching session. A masterful coach will be asking evocative questions that have the client reflect and will make observations that potentially bring awareness from the very beginning, recognizing that coaching occurs from the moment coach and client are speaking. A master coach’s presence determines how they engage all other coaching skills and competencies

A coaching session only exists because our client wants to achieve something, which you’ll have likely discovered as part of your intake process (Planning & Goal Setting). It’s up to us coaches to develop ourselves so we are aware of what biases we bring with us and can put those biases aside (or be transparent with the client about our biases). We inquire as to what they want to accomplish and ensure we are attending to the client’s agenda. We always seek to draw out the brilliance, success strategies and inner resourcefulness of our clients in the process.

In The Mentor Coaching Group, we always start with Coaching Presence and Establishing the Coaching Session Agreement. We share further distinctions on the various ways to establish and follow the session agreement based on personal style.

Reading this article or distinctions provided by the ICF however are no substitute for coaching and receiving feedback from a qualified mentor. That’s why the coaches we mentor coach an ongoing client in our group calls who is not a coach. This allows for real-time learning and debrief after the client leaves the conference call. Our clients report they learn so much by coaching in this safe environment, by hearing others coach and then having a meaningful debrief. We also provide written competency-based feedback to our mentoring clients every time they coach.

Are you preparing to apply for your MCC, PCC or ACC credential and need 10 hours of mentor coaching that meet ICF requirements?

Or do you need core competency CCE’s to renew your credential?

Registration for the next 3 month Mentor Coaching Group is closes April 25 (commencing May 6 from 2pm-3.30pm Eastern.) Space is Limited.


Carly Anderson and Karen Boskemper offer an awesome mentor coaching group and individual program that has many exclusive offerings for our participants.

One of those 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.

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

Carly and Karen also offer other mentoring options which you can find in the Store