When I think of a coaching tool, I think of something I can pull out of my coaching ‘toolkit’ at any time. I know the tool is there. I know what the tool is designed to do, and I know how to use it.
I offer you the coaching tool of “strengthening your client self-belief.” When we first encounter our coaching client, it’s likely we’ll hear about the issue they are facing, or the unknown horizons they are seeking to move toward.
It seems to be human nature to fairly quickly go into problem-solving mindset, where we, the coach, listen for how we can help them solve their presenting situation.
What if, instead of continuing with a problem-solving mindset, the coach quickly switches to a ‘fully curious’ mindset?
We switch our listening from what needs to be resolved, to what the client could connect with, in order to resolve the issue they are facing.
Our clients have self-knowledge but not necessarily all the answers they are seeking
There is a coaching meme out there that our clients have ‘all the wisdom and all their own answers.’ Having coached extensively in the professional and corporate environments for 18 years, I now have a different meme I’d like to offer: Our client has a lot of self-knowledge and experiences, and it’s our job first and foremost to connect them to that knowing.
What I’ve noticed is when a client connects to self-knowledge and experiences, their self-belief and confidence often grows in-the-moment. I offer you three ways to make this tool consistently available to you:
#1 View your client as a success-producing human being
It might take a lot of practice to move out of a problem-solving mindset, yet I believe it’s our responsibility to do so and it’s necessary for MCC skill level. As long as we view our client as having problems to solve, we limit our client.
Our energy affects our client, even if we don’t know it. And certainly, we will ask very different questions in each mindset. Here’s an example:
Coach with a problem-solving mindset: “What do you need to do to stop the situation from getting worse?”
Coach with a success-producing mindset: “How have you successfully navigated a tough situation before?”
Our client has many, many successes to draw on, which can be in the distant or recent past, at work, or at home. By connecting your client to their successes in another context, they may quickly gain confidence in how to approach the presenting situation.
#2 Ask about a challenging past situation they navigated
We’ve all had experiences in our lives where the way we were treated, deliberately or inadvertently, was just horrible. Sometimes the facts don’t match the depth of trigger emotion we have, because we are making up a story to further embellish how hard it was, or how bad the person was to us.
In the moment going through it, is not the time to review lessons learned. When I ask a client about a past experience that didn’t end well, I often need to first create context. Here’s one example; “Sometimes a past experience that didn’t end well has a lot to teach us. I’m wondering if you’ve navigated a past experience that might inform just how resourceful you are?”
While initially the client might baulk at remembering such an event, the confidential, trusted space of a coaching relationship allows them to safely explore.
The result being your client may find more resolution (and healing) about the event, while gaining confidence in recognizing the character strengths and ways they handled the event.
#3 Your client is a whole human being, at home, at work, in sorrow, at play.
Our client has a lot of experiences to draw on, even if they don’t realize it. At this point in my career, my coaching clients are in the larger companies, so there is always an expectation that a result is going to happen from the coaching.
I remember one gentlemen I was hired to coach. He is an almost fully trained medical doctor, and an engineer. He is a brilliantly minded man who headed a medical devices R&D team, which often saved lives, or improved quality of life. And yet his team members were leaving the company because they didn’t like the way he treated them. They often felt he presented their ideas, as if they were his own. He didn’t draw fully on the talent in his team. He was viewed as giving best projects to his ‘favorites.’ He didn’t see it this way.
When I asked him why he thought team members were dissatisfied with his leadership, he thought they were being ‘sensitive.’
I asked him where he is sensitive in his life, and he started to tell me about his disabled son. There was such vulnerability and caring. After he had shared I asked him, “How can you bring some of that sensitivity to your team, so they feel your caring?” That was rather tough for him to consider at first, and took him quite a bit to figure out, but he did.
Often clients have experiences in other contexts, including personal, that could help them with their presenting issue in another context.
My client was able to shift his way of engaging with his team, with noticeable improvement in staff morale. And my client self-confidence went up when he realized he did know how to be ‘sensitive’ and it was a matter of figuring out how to parlay that in to his leadership style.
We can help our coaching client quickly gain self-belief and confidence by genuinely believing they are a very successful person, who may be disconnected from those successes. Even if they ‘failed’ in the past, there may be valuable lessons learned about their character, that they can draw on now.
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