Learning-inspired Questions and Creating Awareness

 For those of you who know The Target Approach, you’ll know that I consider the ICF Core Competency of Creating Awareness to be an “Output” competency, because it is a result or output of some of the other core competencies we engage with.

To me, a coaching session is significantly about giving your client the space to explore their topic, situation or presenting challenge and have a shift. That is they get an Ahhhh! Hmmmmmm! or an Ahaaaa! You can hear the shift in the client’s energy through their tone of voice and self-expression when such a shift has occurred.

So in any given coaching session, the platinum we are seeking is a self-generated shift in awareness as a result of the partnership between coach and client, that connects the client with how to move forward (actions).

Stay out of the client space

When you hear such a shift in energy in the client, you need to be silent and allow the client to continue to unpack their emerging awareness. When the client articulates their awareness, they are often in the process of learning something new, or confirming something they already knew but hadn’t connected the dots. So give them silence and space, without rushing them.

When your client has awareness emerge, you can assist your client to articulate their learning by asking them a learning-inspired question. Here are some generic examples:

  • What are you uncovering now?
  • What’s coming up for you around this?
  • What are you learning?
  • What are you learning about yourself?
  • What are you learning about how to approach this situation?

In the ICF PCC Markers, you’ll find specific behavioral markers under Creating Awareness that I encourage you to embrace and include in your coaching.

Invite Learning Reflection

When you specifically invite your client to consider their learning, you help them to clarify through articulation what might be emerging for them.

And often once articulated, the client organically becomes aware of what to do next and starts articulating actions. If they don’t you might ask something like, “What, if anything, would you like to do with that insight (awareness)?”

In The Mentor Coaching Group where coaches are upgrading (learning) their coaching skills, or moving toward their next ICF credential, we focus on listening for energy/tonal/emotional shifts in the client, and how to ask learning-inspired questions that support the client to gain awareness, and get in touch with what they want to do next.

Partner (check-in) during the session

Another way to allow the client to consider their emerging awareness and learning is by checking in during the coaching session by referring back to the coaching focus/agreement such as:

  • Where are you now in regard to your understanding of [how to have this conversation with your boss]?
  • Considering what you wanted from our coaching session today, what’s become clearer to you so far, if anything?
  • I want to check with you, are we on track with what you wanted to get from our coaching session today? Your client will often naturally start articulating what they got, or you could ask, “What have you gotten (learned) so far that’s useful for you?”

Check-in on learning nearer the end (not at the very end)

While you can ask a learning-inspired question at almost any time in a coaching session, you can specifically ask toward the end of the session. When I was a newer coach, a trap I fell into was asking at the very end of the session, “What’s a key takeaway for you today?” The client would often speak about their emerging awareness, but there was no time left to explore that awareness or what they wanted to do with it!

So leave enough time for the client to reflect on their emerging awareness, because they might need time to consider what to do (actions) with that awareness. And instead of asking, “What’s a key takeaway?” I find better questions are learning-inspired questions, for example:

  • What have you learned about yourself today?
  • What’s become clearer to you about how to handle your situation?
  • How will you use what you’ve learned today to move yourself forward?

Awareness often leads organically to Actions

Then explore what they want to do with that awareness which might lead into a conversation about Designing Actions, and Managing Progress and Accountability toward those actions.

An experiment

I invite you to experiment with asking learning-inspired questions throughout the coaching session, and notice how your client responds and adapt your questions accordingly.

Are you preparing for your first or next ICF Credential?

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


Our next Group/Individual Mentoring Program commences February 15, 2016 and is almost SOLD OUT and carries 23.5 ICF Core Competency CCEUs!

Don’t wait until later in the year to start your mentoring requirements or to obtain CCEU’s for credential renewal!

You can learn more here

Carly Anderson and Karen Boskemper offer an awesome mentor coaching group and individual program that has many exclusive offerings for our participants. Both have been trained by the ICF to assess using the new PCC Markers.

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