A Coaching Model Created By Theano Kalavana, Business Coach CYPRUS
Successful coaching is when clients come to a new awareness or at least expand their present awareness to reach their goals through actions and bring the change that brought them into the coaching journey in the first place.
A.L.T.E.R Journey of Coaching
The present model is based on both, the skills of the coach and the client and it applies when coaching leaders. These skills facilitate the coaching process and at the same time expand the clients’ awareness to reach their goal(s).
A.L.T.E.R in the dictionary means to make a change usually small but significant! The journey of coaching is about making significant changes through actions and reaching goals.
The theory of Emotional intelligence is really important in the coaching process. Becoming aware of yourself and getting in touch with your inner voice and your own feelings is paramount to self-control. When you become aware of your own feelings is easier to become aware of other people’s feelings. Basically, awareness helps the client to balance their thoughts and their emotions, without becoming hijacked by their emotions, and thus, connect well with others.
Research suggests that as people rise through the ranks they lose their ability to connect with their people. This model is intended to be used with leaders to make them more authentic and empathetic to their everyday responses. It is proven that awareness of feelings and thoughts are skills that can make leaders thrive. Specifically, a study contacted with 118 professional traders and 10 senior managers at four City of London investment banks showed that the most successful traders (annual income averages £500.000) were not the ones who focused on analytics solely or just followed their guts but on those who focused on a full range of emotions which helped them to judge the value of their intuition. When they experienced losses, they were aware and acknowledged their anxiety and thus, were more cautious and took fewer risks. The traders with annual income averages £100.000 (least successful) tended to ignore their anxiety and continued with their guts. They failed to become aware of their own emotions.
Therefore, feelings are indeed influencing our decisions and behaviors. Our responses to others are based on the awareness of our own emotions and the emotions of others. Empathy is the outcome of the awareness of others’ emotions. Empathy enables clients not just to become aware of how others are feeling but also what they need.
Creating Awareness is one of the most difficult competencies in coaching because as a coach you need to go beyond what is said, getting into the client’s concerns instead of becoming hooked by the client’s description. It is a task of identifying the differences between facts, interpretations, and disparities between thoughts, feelings, and actions. Creating awareness is a very delegate skill and as a coach, you need to help the client to discover what serving them or not. You owe to let clients see all their possibilities and resources and become aware of the situation, their feelings, their reality without filters. Interpretations on behalf of the coach are only allowed as part of integrating and accurately evaluating multiple sources of information given by the client and serve the client to gain awareness. It is a process of getting the client to see the previous situation and associate it with the previous self in it and then see the new situation and associate it with the new self.
Some of the basic questions that can be used to encourage the client’s awareness are:
- What have you learned?
- How can you use this learning?
- What can you learn from this situation?
- What is your takeaway?
- What have you discovered about yourself?
The art of listening is a sort of commitment and it means to be present with your client. A commitment to understanding how your client is feeling and how your client perceives the world. Active listening facilitates the coaching presence. Active listening is about trying to understand someone, enjoy someone, learn something and give help. In order, a coach to be able to be an active listener needs to put on the side their own prejudices, beliefs, anxieties, and self-interests. It is about caring and being curious as to what is happening in the client’s life and their experiences, needs, and goals. It is not about listening to fix or respond.
Listen attentively means controlling your own blocks as a coach (i.e. mind-reading, filtering, rehearsing, placating, identifying, etc) and being able to paraphrase using your own words what you think the client said. Paraphrasing stops miscommunication or any false assumptions, errors, and misinterpretations. The use of checking perceptions is also part of attentive listening and mostly involves checking the client’s emotions by focusing on the client’s tone of voice, paste, and breathings (body language), it is also about picking the client’s energy shifts. This is an important part of attentive listening if we miss that as a coach we will lose what is really happening to the client. As a coach, we need to pick up the cues as this will be very helpful to the use of powerful questions to encourage the client to shape their new learning from the process.
Powerful listening is more about using some further strategies that will allow the client to share more. (a) One of these strategies is pauses and waiting for at least 10 seconds after what the client shared. This strategy encourages the client to complete their thoughts and what they were sharing their emotions with. This extended silence allows the client to think more and reflect on what they are talking about. It also helps the coach not to interrupt the conversation. (b) Encouraging the client to say more by asking them to elaborate more or to share anything else related to what they are sharing with you, even nodding and a slight smile can encourage the client to continue talking. (c) Using empathy is very important in powerful listening because you acknowledge, recognize and validate the client’s emotions and thus, the client feels the coach’s presence. (d) Moving into action is very important in powerful listening especially when the client sound is stacked. The coach needs to ask questions to redirect the client to the goal and the next steps. (e) Using intuition is part of powerful listening because what really happens is also listening from the heart and intuition is one of the most powerful tools in coaching and the coach needs to share with the client. The technique of “Double click” is also a very powerful one in powerful listening as you are digging into the client’s emotions and meanings of the words he/she uses.
Powerful listening is what helps the client to build rapport with the coach and engaged in the journey of change.
Trust and rapport with your client create a safe environment to learn and develop. Creating a trusting space is so valuable in the coaching journey. In a trusting space, the client feels comfortable to fully express anything that comes into their head without feeling judged or rejected. This is what creates a great and safe environment for intimacy and client experiences coach full acceptance. Trusting space means that the coach trusts the client’s abilities, intelligence, and resources in the process even when the client doubts about them or cannot identify them easily. From the client’s side, the client trusts the process and the coach as someone who is professional and is guiding the conversation on the client’s desired outcomes as it was expressed by the client during the coaching agreement. Coach also is perceived by the client as a professional who they establish together a clear agreement and thus all coach’s behaviors are based on coaching code of ethics.
Without trust, the coaching process cannot work and none of the skills can be applied. The same applies also to the coach. The coach needs to be confident and trust their abilities, their skills by using awareness and self–management. Self-confidence inspires trust in the client. Confidence generates actions and actions to generate confidence.
Building an environment of trust and a professional relation that is based on trust further inspires the client to create this type of environment with his/her surroundings. Especially, in leaders that as they climb the ladder of rankings they lose connection, this can also lead to losing the trust of their people, thus, it is very essential to be able to get inspired and realize the benefits from creating a trusting environment. It is proven that leaders who are multipliers trust the abilities and knowledge of their employees and they encourage them to develop further. Whereas a leader who is diminishers don’t trust their employee’s abilities and mostly undermining them, and therefore, they lead based on micromanagement. Evidence also showed that if you work in an environment that trust is lacking that means you are experiencing stress and your actions are guided by these negative emotions which are resulting in not getting the right decisions.
Expand the ways of thinking of the client through applying different frameworks that are relevant to the client’s goals and character, powerful questions, and direct communication. One of the great traits of leaders is their ability to visualize, therefore, in coaching leaders visualization is one of the useful strategies to apply. Visualization allows the client to see things in a new or different way, shaping new images, ideas, and outcomes. In visualization, the client can safely think without focusing on the negative voice. When you visualize something the brain is functioning as it is already doing it. So it facilitates your goal as to where you want to be, how it feels to be there, the different directions that you can take to get there, preparing yourself for the potential obstacles along the way, and at the same time focusing on the feeling you will get when you reach the goal.
A coach can facilitate further expansion by asking the client powerful questions that are beyond the current thinking of the client about him/herself, the situation that he/she is describing, or the outcomes that he/she desires. Breaking the client’s cycle of thinking is a major process of expanding the client’s ways of thinking by unlocking his/her underlying beliefs; this can be done by using powerful questions and clear direct communication. Direct communication is a “clean” communication that is free of judgment and assumptions. Direct communication is about modeling the client’s vocabulary and at the same time keeping the comments, intuitions, and observations to the essentials without including any solutions or leading the conversation to a specific direction or result. Powerful questions need to be open-ended, one at a time in a way that will allow and encourage the client to think, reflect, and do most of the talking. In this process, the coach can also challenge the client by getting his/her permission first if needed. Leaders appreciate the challenge in the process of coaching as it is partially the way they function in their everyday life. It helps them to connect the things and expand their awareness instead of the coach serving them as a consultant and offer advice. Powerful questions put the client in discomfort and this is where the new learning about him/herself is achieved. Powerful questions are about achieving a deep level of conversation with your client, rise above fears, and boost the process of reflection. Powerful questions are the result of the coach’s intuition or something the coach sensed /noticed. These are usually questions that serve the client’s needs in that precise moment and they are related to what the client shared. Powerful questions and direct communication expand the client’s mindset overall.
Some of the basic questions that can be used to encourage the client’s expansion are:
- What could you do differently?
- What might be an alternative?
- What is true about that?
- What comes to your mind when you say that?
- What has made you have these concerns?
Reaching the client’s goal through active engagement is what coaching is about. Clients choose to work with a coach to help them move forward and reach a change through their actions. As this model applies to coach leaders, based on experience the majority of them come to a coaching session with their own plan of action, some of them also know the steps that they want to take to achieve progress. The coach needs to be a great active listener and use powerful questions to facilitate leaders clarifying further their plans and actions. Coach has to engage the client to explore further, to share their thoughts, perspectives, alternatives, their supporters towards their actions.
Coach has to check through powerful questioning how leaders’ goals and actions resonate with them. Encourage them to talk about the value that they have about their goals and actions. Coach owes to support client’s value-based goals so that they can reach them. Reaching goals is never a straight line and the journey is considered as an important part, not the result. Therefore, it is essential for the coach not to be judgemental but to be fully appreciating all the efforts the client is putting into the process.
Motion Questions work well when clients are not ready for action and they focus more on the process. Questions such as “what would make sense to do now?” or “Think of someone who experiences the opposite thoughts and emotions from you, what do you think will be his/her first steps at the moment?”.
Reaching goals requires a sense of commitment; therefore, the coach is entitled to encourage clients to make commitments to their selves and /or the coach. Commitment facilitates the action plan of the client and creates a structure in which the coach will help the client to make their shift and reach their goals. Commitment needs to be realistic and doable for the client, even if the coach feels that the client can reach much more, the coach is obliged to follow what the client forms as his/her commitment.
Finally, one of the most important skills throughout helping a client to reach their goals through small or big actions is to use acknowledgment. Acknowledgment is one of the most powerful services of a coach, it means commenting positively on any small shift that the client achieved. It is a source of empowerment and motivation for the client to stay engaged and keep working towards reaching their bigger goals.
Some of the basic questions that can be used to encourage client’s reach their goals through actions are:
- What can be your next steps based on this awareness?
- Where do you want to go from here?
- How do you plan to use this new learning?
- What might get in the way of accomplishing your next steps?
- Who and what can further support your actions?
- How can I support you further to enhance your accountability?