A coach – unlike a mentor, consultant, counsellor or therapist – Doesn’t use his knowledge to lead a client. He trusts completely on the skills and ability of the client to find all answers by him- or herself. Based on his knowledge of coaching tools and powerful questions, he can help the clients from where they are now to where they want to be .. and do this more quickly and efficiently than if they acted alone.
Therefore he acts as a true mirror, anticipating the clients behaviour on multiple dimensions (such as content, emotion and and body language) and reflecting back his observations in the language of his client (exact, based on evidence). To become a true mirror, he has to let go about his own mind-chatter and stories, judgements, goals and knowledge.
His attitude is best described as curious, investigating, non-judgemental, trusting, anticipating, compassionate. He never brings in his own knowledge or own stories (“Let me tell you a similar story that I have experienced and how I overcame it”). Instead, he supports the client in finding his or her own way to solve a problem and achieve goals. He is never leading the client; he is always following.
Nonetheless, a coach points with his questions like a spotlight into a direction. He is not focusing on problems and the “why”, instead he spends most of the time on asking about existing ressources, new ways, new goals, new solutions, new learning, and success.
This means, a coach:
- Is authorized by the client to act as a coach – no coaching when the client has no mental and emotional “yes” to you and being coached! Always ask: “May I coach you?” and make sure a “yes” is meant as a “yes”.
- Is not the leader and doesn’t need to feel responsible for the outcome – What a big relief! Instead he walks behind the client, but carries the client’s flag. Or like Alison Sheridan would say: “Let the coachee sit in the accountability chair and get all the learning juice out of it.”
- Points out the coachees responsibility: you have all the answers & intuition & responsibility, you will own all your success.
- Asks permission to interrupt for clarification, questions, or the use of a coaching tool.
- Never askes “why” to not enforce defensive behaviour and storytelling.
- Never makes suggestions “Did you consider doing ..”, “You could / should try …” – If the coach has special knowledge that could be useful for the coachee, he can offer to give advice, but has to cummunicate clearly that he is leaving the role of the coach. Also he needs to disattach from any given advice. To take it or not us clearly the coachee’s choice.
- Asks always open questions, never leading questions. I.e. he would ask: “What other options do you see?” instead of “Have you considered to make a communication course?”
- Is actively listening to all levels of communicated messages (content, emotion, body language). If the coach is drawn into his/her own mind chatter or emotions, he/she realizes the distraction and reconnects with the coachee. If the distraction was strong, the coach should clarify and apologize, e.g. “Sorry when you mentioned your project, I was drawn into thoughts. Could you please repeat your last statement?”
- Doesn’t tell stories about him- / herself – coaching is about the client, not the coach.
- Always questions excuses based on negative beliefs and lacking ressources. “No time, no money? – Time for what exactly, how much money for what exactly?”
- Doesn’t work with clients that can’t find a goal. (Remember: No goal, no coaching)
- Tries to challenge his client from the comfort zone into the stretching zone through asking requests and giving tough challenges.
- Encourages and champions, based on evidence. There are always existing strenghts that can be found: resistence in hard times, able to work hard, humor, listening, helping, making good plans, interest to learn, able to relax, .. Find them!
- Accepts phases of pauses, silence, “not knowing what to do and how to continue” as part of the process – and “valuable thinking time for the client”.
- Holds accountable: Clarifies and documents goals and the action plan of the client, encourages to take notes and reminds the client on this action plan at the beginning of the next meeting. (How did it go with your action plan?)
- Is not careful about the words being used: It’s not so important that the vocabulary is right — it’s important that the words feel right to the client.
- provides an atmosphere of presence, to mine for the gold. Coaching should be an oasis for the coachee, to explore new power sources and land the learning.
Feedback from the coach:
- Repeats statements frequently to clarify and understand deeply.
- Mirrors and clarifies emotions he notices: “Wow, you seem to be very enthusiastic about this goal”, “I like how your eyes are getting on fire when you tell me about your brother”, “When you were saying this you were sighing – what do you feel about this point?”
- Invites the client to feel into all emotions. E.g. “What is in this sadness? … If you would have a controller and could increase the intensity of your feeling, what would happen?”
- Ask to give in depth feedback: “Is it OK for you to tell you some things I have noticed?” – don’t call it “Feedback” as this has often negative connotations and rises fear.
- Feedback should always be relevant, appropriate, immediate, positive and based on evidence
- Makes no general judgements of any kind (“You are right / wrong”, “You are a .. compassionate / lovely / strong .. person”)
- Gives feedback just based on true evidence. (“You were mentioning several times that you are doing volunteer work. It appears to me that you like to contribute.”)
- Intuition: The coach can tell about his/her gut feeling, e.g.: “I have a sense ..”, “My intuition tells me …”, “I wonder if …” – in many cases the intuition of the coach is a powerful tool of moving clients into action or deepen the learning.
- Interrupting storytelling: Don’t allow clients to tell and repeat stories “And then I / she … “. Follow your intuition, go to the core, make a strong request or tell the hard truth. E.g. “Please tell me if I go to far – It feels as if you are avoiding something. What could that be?”
- Broadens limited perspectives into Metaview: Change the perspective on a given situation to broaden possibilities. e.g. “OK you lost your job. You have fears about being able to care for your family. What could be another perspective on the fact that you lost your job? And another ..?” – “If your life is like a road and we could fly high like an eagle above it – what would we see?”
- Champions the coachee by telling the truth about the client’s strengths (based on evidence). “You have demonstrated so many times that you can speak in front of an audience. You can do this!”
- Challenge: A request for the coachee, that would bring him out of his / her comfort zone. The coach will usually ask for something far above the coachee’s limit.
- Homework: An intuitively chosen, powerful question or exercise with mutltiple answers that will connect the coachee with a deeper learning or experience. E.g. “What is success?”
- Freedom of choice: The coachee is free to take requests. He / she can always say yes, no, or make a counteroffer.