Are you leading or empowering?
Jul 19, 2020
Having a coaching conversation with the client to assist them as to what they want from the session doesn’t mean the coach takes over and takes charge with where they believe the session should go. Rather, it’s allowing the client the choice as to where they want to go and uncover what is important to them and giving them the opportunity to explore their own authentic ways forward.
The coach is the facilitator of the conversation versus the solver of both difficult challenges and joyful opportunities clients bring to coaching sessions. By listening deeply, reflecting back and asking stretching questions to support the client to create new perspectives, the client can navigate through their ‘blind spots’ of thinking and perhaps limiting beliefs to find an empowering way forward for themselves.
So how does a coach – particularly a new coach – know when they are directing a client?
Leading dialogue could sound something like this: “Here’s where we’ll go now”, “This is what we’ll do now”, “I’d like you to go here”, “Let’s look at success”. These are some examples of clear commanding language about what the coach wants the client to do.
The client is at the forefront of the session, not the coach. Questions such as: “Where would you like to go now?” or “What’s coming up for you now?” or “You say ‘X’, is ‘X’ something you would like to explore?” gives power back to the client to make the choice as to where the session goes.The use of “I” in your coaching conversations is also a strong indicator of when you are potentially leading the client. An example of clearly directing the way forward sounds something like , "I think we should explore this now."
Taking control of the conversation by taking your client on a visualisation, for example, can also be leading. Visualisations can be a powerful tool, but only if you ask the permission of the client to use it, and explain for what purpose a visualisation may support them with their goal and as much as possible incorporating what you understand is important to your client.
Allowing your client to choose the way forward and where to take the conversation is key as it will allow them to discover, as well as take ownership for their way forward.
Asking a client stretching open questions to gain new ideas is not leading. For example, a simple question like: “What else?” or “What else would you like to commit to doing to support your new chosen way of being?” Asking them how they’ll support themselves to reach their goals and how they can stretch themselves even more gives them a choice.
As a coach, it is our role to challenge our client to stretch beyond their current comfort zone of doing, thinking, being, feeling and experiencing for the purpose of creating new awareness. And we always let the client know it's their choice as to what they will and won’t do: there’s no right or wrong.
A useful way to assist you to spot whether you as a coach are leading your client or not is to record your sessions and listen to them. Listen to hear what you’ve actually said in the session as opposed to what you sometimes think you’ve said. And ask a coach mentor to support you to recognise potential patterns of leading.
It’s important to remember, the power of professional coaching is allowing the client to be in charge of the session, and ultimately, in charge of their choices and their life. The more you trust your client to decide where to focus and what activities they will do or not do – as well as trust they are ready to be challenged in their thinking, feeling and doing - the more powerful the session will be.
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