Once the gaps and areas for growth have been identified and the goals have been defined, clients can move on to exploring their choices and strategies for achieving them. The choices clients make whether to do or not do certain things contribute to creating a life that is more or less rewarding. Coaching allows clients to gain access to a wider range of perspectives and therefore, adding more choices. Clients’ choices are essentially about changing their perceptions of themselves and the world (beliefs) and their ways of showing up in the world (attitudes and behaviours). Coaching helps clients make the choices that serve them best.
These are the choices that are aligned with clients’ vision, values, strengths and passion and purpose.
Action and Learning
Clients come for a change, they want to see results and they want to move forward. The outcome of the work that client and coach do together is both action and learning, which combined create change that is sustainable and effective.
Through the process of coaching, clients are empowered to get in action, to stay in action and to learn from their actions. Action may look different for different clients. For some clients, it will mean achieving specific goals, for others it will mean establishing new habits and for others still, it may mean having more peace.
The second outcome is learning. Through learning, clients are empowered to make better choices and thus become more resourceful and confident. The cycle of action and learning over time leads to sustained and effective change. Clients take action and learn, which leads to more action based on their learning and the cycle continues.
Coaching contexts and skills
In the coaching process, client and coach are working together as partners. Client brings their commitment and motivation while coach brings his/her commitment as well as the coaching process. In my model, I identified 4 main contexts, which are continuously at play in the coaching process.
To be listened to is an empowering experience. Sadly, one we don’t experience very often. In everyday listening people listen to words and focus on who says what without really listening to the underlying meaning and significance of what is being said. We hear the words and then disconnect as we process the words internally and think about how it relates to our own story and what we are going to say next.
In the coaching, on the other hand, listening is a portal for the coaching process. All other contexts depend on listening. Coach listens on a deeper level, tuning into the meaning behind the story in order to gain insight into the clients’ inner landscape – what do they believe in? What are their values? What is their purpose? Are they on track with their vision? Are they living in alignment with their values? Coach listens to client’s energy, body language, and tone of voice to understand where the client is mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Coach also listens for resistance, fears, backtracking and the internal voices, which make the clients doubt their ability to achieve their goals. Coach listens and acknowledges clients’ goals and motivation for change and growth. Coach listens curiously and nonjudgementally. Listening on purpose, with the client’s goals and desires in mind, in the present, without making assumptions and judgement is one of the most important values that the coaching process can offer to the client.
Coach asks questions to get a clear picture of where clients are at and what they want on “micro – situational” level, as well as “macro – big picture” level. Coach asks for what clients want to achieve, for potential choices and strategies to achieve their goals, for the obstacles that can get in the way and how to overcome them. Coach also asks the client for their vision, values, goals and purpose. In coaching, the intention is to ask powerful questions with a curious frame of mind for the purpose of provoking introspection and reflection in clients. Coach’s curiosity invites clients to look for solutions and answers within them, which validates and expands the clients’ resourcefulness and creates an important learning experience. Besides powerful questioning, the coach can use his own intuition or gut feeling to gain a quick insight and perception on what is going on internally and externally for the client.
Once coach has a clear picture of what’s going on, he articulates his observation and insights about the clients’ situation as clearly as possible without any judgement and without needing to be right. Coach’s observation and perspective helps clients to see the big picture of what they are creating by their action or sometimes lack of action. By communicating broader perspective to clients, coach helps them to reframe their perspectives and find new possibilities for action.
Change is not easy and it can take a lot of commitment and effort to stay on track. Validation can be compared to oil, which keeps the parts moving in a car. Coach can validate the clients by celebrating their past accomplishments, expressing belief in their future potential and more importantly, by acknowledging who the client is in their core.
Clients get motivated and energised when their efforts and progress, no matter how big or small, are recognised. They are enthused and encouraged to hear that someone believes in their potential and ability to create their ideal future.
More importantly, when coach calls out their true authentic self and their inner strengths, it may well be transformative for clients. By recognising and validating their inner strengths and qualities, coach gives clients more access to them. A true and honest validation will help clients to grow more resourceful in the future as they recognise the truth of who they are. Validation goes to the heart of where the client is growing, getting stronger and enthuse clients to keep moving forward and growing.
The most visible outcomes of the work that client and coach do together are action and learning. There are several processes involved in the process of empowering clients to get into action, to stay in action and to learn from action:
Identifying choices for action
Coach assists the client in the process of designing actions by engaging clients to explore alternative solutions and strategies and to make related choices. Coach may challenge clients’ assumptions and perspectives to provoke new ideas and find new possibilities for action. Sometimes coach can assist the clients to generate more ideas, possibilities and options by brainstorming with clients. However, it is always clients who choose which action to take.
Planning and goal setting
Coach helps clients with establishing a coaching plan and goals that address concerns and major areas for learning and development. Helping the clients with the basics of goal setting can make a big difference in their success. Splitting the goal into manageable pieces is the first breakthrough for some clients. The best goals are specific and measurable, allowing clients to track and monitor results. Such actions are action orientated even if the action behind is qualitative.
Checking the clients’ commitment level to take action is important. Sometimes the choice can be modified in order to increase the client’s commitment.
Progress and accountability
Accountability is the cornerstone of coaching. It’s about coach asking clients for the account of the actions and learning – what client did/did not do? What were the results? What worked? What didn’t work? What did they learn and what they would they do differently next time? Accountability helps keep clients on track as they plan and commit to action and as they learn from the action they take, or in some cases, don’t take.
Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives (2011) by Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl, Laura Whitworth