Shifting three common training techniques to coaching approaches

Every coach training program has its “flavor” of what they teach coaching students.

While the intention is good to use “tools and techniques” (I’ve shortened to T&Ts in this article) in support of client awareness, these are often used from a training, consulting or teaching standpoint, rather than from a coaching skills approach.

Yes, I admit that I have a bias to doing my best to skillfully using coaching competencies instead of unskillfully using training T&Ts and calling them coaching.

Often coaches are not coaching; they are calling themselves a coach but are acting in a leading role as a teacher, trainer, therapist, mentor, or consultant.

 

Distinction One: Who is Leading the Session?

That’s one key distinction; who is leading the direction of the session? If the coach is inviting, partnering and allowing client to lead the session, that’s a coaching approach.

If the “coach” is telling, leading and directing what happens next in a session, then that’s likely a teaching/training/consulting approach.

Being deeply steeped in the teaching, mentoring and coaching application of the International Coaching Federation Core Competencies for 15 years now (since I became an ICF Assessor in 2005), I continue to learn and distinguish unskillful versus skillful ways to use T&Ts as a coach.

 

Distinction Two: Being Skillful

There are skillful ways to use T&Ts as a coach, and unskillful.

As my mentoring clients hear me say over and over again; “Every coaching skill is valid; it’s a matter How, when, and How Often you use a particular coaching skill or approach.” Most coaches have their favorite T&Ts and are often missing the skillful use of those as coaches. 

A factor for longer time coaches is keeping up with the evolution of coaching skills, and coaching competencies. The coaching profession is only about 30 years old and is constantly evolving in the application of coaching skills as we deepen our understanding of human development principles

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My hope is through this article, you find ways to experiment with skillfully fine tuning these three common T&Ts I’ve heard used by my mentoring clients, as well as when evaluating coaching recordings as an ICF Assessor for MCC, PCC and ACC credential applications.

With the three T&Ts in this article, I briefly describe each, and it’s application as T&T. Then I offer two alternative ways the T&T could be used skillfully, from a coaching approach. There might be more ways than I’ve given, but I’m limited by the amount of words I want to write in this article 😊.

 

Three common T&Ts (tools and techniques) I’ve heard used:

  1. Leading the client through a visualization
  2. Leading the client through a physical movement exercise
  3. Instructing a client to imagine color, shape, and/or texture of a feeling or thought, somewhere in their body.

Note: I’m using a general theme of a client wanting to have more confidence in their career decision, direction, choice, for my examples below.

 

Leading the client through a visualization exercise

Training T&T briefly explained:

The coach decides to lead the client through a visualization because that’s what they’ve been taught to do. Or because of something the client has said that triggers the coach to think a visualization exercise might be good. The purpose of the exercise is to connect the client more fully to their future self, or a different way of thinking/feeling about themselves in this moment.

 

The problem:
This is a training/teaching/consulting technique as the coach decides they are going to do it, without any partnering with the client. Sometimes the coach will say, “Do you want to do a visualization?” Yet most clients will not say no. So that’s not partnering with the client either.

The coach is taking the leading of how the visualization unfolds. There is no partnering with the client on what might serve them. There is often an assumption that every client will benefit from such an exercise, rather than being present to what this client needs and wants in this moment in this coaching session.

 

Alternative example 1

Ask a future oriented question, or a perspective-shifting question. Ask only one question at a time.

Sample questions might be:

If you continued on the same career path as you are now, how do you imagine your future will look and feel? (Some clients work better by connecting first with what they don’t want).

What do you imagine your future self wants to be experiencing in your career choice?

What emotions do you associate with confidence?

What would you be saying to yourself if you were confident about your career direction?

What sensory information are you aware of related to your confidence?

What do you imagine needs to change now, for your future self to emerge with confidence?

 

Alternative example 2

Another approach could be to briefly explain to the client what you are thinking of doing in response to what is occurring in this moment with this client. Offer in a way that allows the client permission to say no.

Example: Coach says, “As you are speaking about wanting to feel more confident in deciding on your next career move, I have a thought and want to partner with you on what is best for you. What other senses would you like to engage with to help figure this out?”

If the client asks you for ideas, you could offer some options such as:

You could visualize yourself making different career choices and notice your thoughts and feelings.

I could ask you questions to connect with your future self?

Which appeals to you? Or do you get a sense now of something else that would work better for you?

If client says yes to your visualization suggestion, partner with the client , “How would you like me to partner with you in the visualization?

 

Benefit of such an approach:

If you say you’re a coach, then the examples above are coaching behaviors that are congruent with that assertion.

When you partner with your client on the best approach for them, you are demonstrating trust in your client. “Cultivating Trust and Safety” is Updated ICF Core Competency #4.

 

Leading the client through a physical movement exercise

Training T&T briefly explained:

The coach decides (or has been taught) to lead the client through a physical movement exercise that might be a combination of standing up, sitting down, changing chairs, or moving around the room in certain ways. The intent is to have the client shift perspectives and gather physical and sensory information about themselves, through physical movement and the client noticing how they might think or feel different.

 

The problem:
This is a training/teaching/consulting technique as the coach decides they are going to do it, without any partnering with the client. Sometimes the coach will say, “Do you want to do an experiment?” Yet most clients will not say no. So that’s not partnering with the client either.

The coach is taking the lead of how the movement exercise unfolds. There is no partnering with the client on what might serve them. There is often an assumption that every client will benefit from such an exercise, rather than being present to what this client needs and wants in this moment in this coaching session.

 

Alternative example 1

Ask the client questions based on what you are observing about the client. Ask only one question at a time.

Sample questions might be:

If your hand movements had a voice, what are they saying to you?

What emotion are you feeling as you move your body like that?

What information does your current body posture give you about your confidence in your career decision?

How would you shift your body posture to get a different perspective on confidence in your career decision?

As you speak rapidly, I notice myself gasping for air. What are you noticing in your breathing rhythm?

If your voice was one of confidence in your career decision, how might is sound different?

What self-talk would support you to make your career decision with confidence?

What other sensory information have you become aware of?

 

Alternative example 2

Another approach could be to briefly explain to the client what you are thinking of doing in response to what is occurring in this moment with this client. Offer in a way that allows the client permission to say no.

Example: Coach says, “As you’re speaking about wanting to feel more confident as you imagine your next career move, I have a thought and want to partner with you on what is best for you. Given how much I observe you using hand motions to express yourself, moving your body and your facial expressions. There are also emotions I perceive you are experiencing. If you were to add movement to your body to gain more clarity, how might you want to engage your body more fully?

If client says yes to your body movement suggestion, ask the client, “How would you like me to partner with you as you move your body?

 

Benefit of such an approach:

If you say you’re a coach, then the examples above are coaching behaviors that are congruent with that assertion.

When you partner with your client on the best approach for them, you are demonstrating trust in your client. “Cultivating Trust and Safety” is Updated ICF Core Competency #4.

 

Instructing a client to imagine color, shape, and/or texture of a feeling or thought, somewhere in their body.

Please read all that I’ve written above for Leading the client through a physical movement exercise, and adapt.

 

Partnering with your Client

The concept of Partnering with your coaching client, is a key difference between coaching approach, and all other approaches.

The ICF definition of coaching begins with, “Coaching is partnering with clients…”

In the Updated Core Competencies, three of the Core Competencies begin with, “Partners with the client” in their definition, plus 10 further sub-points that start with “Partners with the client.”

They are:

#3 – Establishes and Maintains Agreements definition, plus 7 sub-points

#4 – Cultivates Trust and Safety definition

#8 – Facilitates Client Growth definition, plus 3 sub-points

 

Inform your client of different coaching tools and techniques you have available for them to use

As part of your coaching intake process, if there are specific T&Ts you may draw on, such as the three mentioned in this article. Then inform your client of what they are, and overview of how they work. Let the client know that if they feel any of these would serve them at any time in a coaching session, all they need do is ask.

If the coach says they might suggest a T&T, be aware that most clients won’t say no to you. Which means you put yourself in the lead position and the client is not taking responsibility for their choices in the coaching.

Be very conscious about any time you suggest any process to the client, that you are doing it in a fully partnered way.

As my wise business partner and husband, Michael Stratford, MCC often says, “My job is to continue to educate my clients on how to use me well as a coach.”  

When we partner with our client, and let them choose how to engage, we are building client confidence and trust to sense what is right for themselves, versus what the coach thinks is right for the client.

 

In closing…

Most coaches can strengthen their question structuring abilities first and foremost.

A question, using client learning preference (think, feel, sense, hear, see) and customized incorporating client use of words and concepts, can be the most powerful coaching “tool or technique” a coach has.

An equally powerful coaching “tool or technique” can be coach being observant and offering comments about what they are noticing to the client.

I’ve given examples of mostly customized questions, and observations/comments in the above article.

I invite you to experiment with more customized questions. And be more trusting of your client by allowing them to suggest and choose which tool or technique they want to use in this moment. And partner with your client on how they want to you to engage with them in its use.

 

Are you ready to upgrade your coaching skills, and prepare for your next ICF credential?

The next MCC Group #49 commences Tuesday, September 22, 2020

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Comments

  1. Rahman  August 18, 2020

    Thanks Carly. Seems like a subtle shift in approach, but a necessary one I guess, to say that you’re coaching instead of training or teaching. How do you do this in group coaching? Different people in the group might want it done differently?

    reply
    • Carly Anderson  August 19, 2020

      Hi Rahman, thank you for your inquiry. Group coaching requires a set of disciplines in the coach that are outside the scope of what I can respond to here. Coaches often act as trainers than coaches in group coaching. It’s best to have clear contracting with the group as to what coaching is, how the coaching process will work. For example, one person will be coached each time, while the others observe, and notice how the impact is on them. Then in a debrief after the coaching session (which has now moved into facilitation), there might be awareness that is present for observers.

      I recommend a great book on this topic that is very detailed in processes for group coaching. It’s called, Being Coached, by Ann V. Deaton.

      Warmly, Carly

      reply
      • Rahman  August 25, 2020

        Thank you so much Carly for your response.

        reply

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