Don’t make suggestions

 Whether it be a recorded session that you submit to the ICF, or a live coaching exam that you are participating in, this is a huge tip to take notice of.

Do not suggest resources to your client, especially if they haven’t asked you for suggestions. It makes you sound like the expert. This includes books, articles, assessments and models. These are all training tools, not coaching tools, and you are in a coaching exam to demonstrate your coaching skills.

Some coaches fall in to the trap of thinking they need to suggest a book or resource at the end of the coaching session. Maybe they believe this is giving value to the client. The real value comes in your mastery of the coaching process and effectively using coaching skills.

I’ve fallen in to the trap of suggesting assessments and books, and many coach training programs give you assessments, tools and models to use with clients. The mistake they make is not distinguishing that these are training tools that can be used in a coaching methodology. But on their own, all assessments, tools, models, etc. are teaching, consulting or training tools.

Instead, use your coaching skills to help the client identify resources for themselves. This means you are now also demonstrating the Progress and Accountability competency (#11), as resources are a form of support for the client.

Mentoring Tip

The way to use training tools in a coaching situation is to use it as a last resort, not as the first suggestion. However, in a coaching session for your credential application, definitely do not suggest any models or assessments or books for the client to read anywhere in the session, as you will only confuse whether you are coaching, teaching or training. And you will be scored lower on your coaching exam.

What do you think? Have you ever fallen into the trip of giving tools thinking it was supportive of the client? If so, please leave your comment. Scroll to the very bottom of this page.

6 thoughts on “Don’t make suggestions

  1. Love your tips Carly!
    Could you give an example of what types of questions you might ask to help the client identify resources for themselves? I’m somewhat confused because I was informed that it’s ok to suggest a resource if we think it will help the client. What would be a better way of saying: “In light of what you have shared today, I have a resource in mind that may, or may not be of interest to you. Would you like me to share it with you? or May I share it with you?”

    Thanks Carly!

    1. Great inquiry Karen. First, as the coach, we need to be conscious of our intent for suggesting a resource. For example, we may have loved a book, and the client talks about something and we go, “Oh, they’d love that book.” But is it really in the best interests of the client to suggest it to them? Maybe it would add pressure, and add to their information overload (I have to read the book because my coach suggested it….). Maybe all they need is 3 pieces of information from that book, which you may be able to skillfully bring in to the coaching through your messages or questions.

      Instead, ask the client what they need in order to move forward. What information would support them? Or maybe it’s a person they know or want to be in touch with. Ask them what they want to be able to do as a result of having a resource. Probe further with your questions as to what they are seeking from a resource before suggesting one to them.

      1. Thank you Carly. I can see the mastery of the coaching skills in your approach. The distinction is not just subtle, it’s actually quite obvious. In our desire to help and support our clients, we can so easily with good intention step right into their process.
        As alway, thanks for sharing your brilliance. Karen

  2. Very good dialogue here. I often suggest books so now I know that’s not necessarily in the client’s best interest. I think I may have experienced the power of not doing that in a recent conversation with a client. My client took it upon herself to research some books to tackle a specific obstacle. When I asked if she wanted me to have a copy, too, or if she would like to lead the way, she replied that she’d like to lead the way. I could feel the sense of empowerment when I let go of the “lead.” She’s doing well, too. Now I know why!

    1. Yes Joan. It seems helpful at the time, and we may not even realize it’s not the best way to be helpful for the client. If a client does want us to recommend a resource, then we can still use our coaching skills to understand what they want to accomplish, and their learning style, before recommending one of our favorite books. Some clients do better with articles, some with a checklist, some with a book. And others do best by researching it themselves.

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