A Coaching Power Tool Created by Holly Deanna Thede
(Leadership and Life Coach, CANADA)
Our lives are a sum total of the choices we have made. Wayne Dyer
Self-Empowerment– Deriving the strength to do something through one’s own thoughts and based on the belief that one knows what is best for oneself.
Helplessness– Deprived of strength or power (Courtesy of Dictionary.com)
Before sharing my tool, I would like to say that I have had a love/hate relationship with this assignment. I had so many power tool ideas, and after going back and forth for weeks, I finally settled on this one. It seemed natural, simple, me. In fact, I was experiencing a perspective that was holding ME back, helplessness. So, being a coach, I dived right into the coaching agreement and asked myself “What is important to me about this?”Immediately, I switched my focus from viewing this tool as a barrier, to viewing it as an opportunity, an opportunity to discover what excites me the most when I am in the deeps of a coaching session. With this change of perspective, I was able to open the gates to my mind and soul,and pour out my tool. Success!
Another reason that I chose this concept was that it is close to my heart. Growing up as a young girl, I had many experiences of feeling disempowered. This left me curious to explore, and I developed a small obsession with being in control of every little thing I could. I felt a sense of self when I could control my outcomes. Over my lifetime, I have entertained myself by playing with this concept like a toy, testing my thought sin so many different ways, and evaluating the effects of my actions. In turn, I have curiously watched many others being challenged, and evaluated the effects of their actions.
The power is in you. The answer is in you. And you are the answer to all your searches: You are the goal. You are the answer. It’s never outside. Eckhart Tolle
This powerful quote resonates with me on so many levels. It tells the reader that only you hold the power, that only you have the answer, and that your answer is never outside of you. This perspective really places the entire focus on the client, instead of the situation or other external factors. This removes blame and adds accountability. It also supports the coaching philosophy of recognizing that our clients are the most equipped to make their decisions, and we must have faith in our clients to be successful coaches!
What makes our clients feel empowered? Having the freedom to choose, taking responsibility for their actions, acceptance of oneself(to name a few). To achieve this sense of empowerment can seem so simple-we can choose;what we feel, what we think, and in turn, how we respond. However, as coaches, we know that there are times when our clients can lose sight of this. And by losing sight, they fall into a state of helplessness. Our clients can often times not even be consciously aware that they have lost sight. It is here, that a coach must provide awareness with the client, inviting them to make the shift from a helplessness state of mind to an empowered one. We must have our clients discover that they are “in the driver’s seat”, and that they hold the ultimate power to create whatever they desire.
Yet, it is still not yet that simple. As coaches, we know that when we take accountability for our actions, we will now have another obstacle to climb! If we are accountable for our responses and reactions, we are going to have to sit with the outcomes, may it be positive or negative. Our clients may be avoiding empowerment for this very reason. It must also be noted that they may not feel equipped to “deal” with the outcomes. This is especially heightened with our client when they are in new “territory”, experiencing something for the first time.
As coaches, we understand that holding our values and beliefs too tightly can be limiting, and when we hold these limiting beliefs-insecurities, fears and unhappiness will prevail. We need to spend the time with our clients to “peel back the onion” and explore these feelings to uncover their origin. If we miss this opportunity,we are not serving our clients, and they will continue to carry this with them.
How do we begin?
Before we can be effective in using this power tool, we must have presence with our client.A coach’s role is to create a compassionate, confidential and non-judgmental space in the very beginning of each session. The coaching agreement offers the coach an opportunity to make an impression by demonstrating both verbal and non-verbal cues. The sincerity in your voice and the curiosity in your eyes are just as important as the words you speak. A coach should never take advantage of this space, knowing that it takes bravery and vulnerability for our clients to express their deepest thoughts and feelings.
Setting the intention and revealing the clients’desire is key to establishing not only what the client’s focus is, but how engaged the client is in wanting resolution. Here we can ask direct questions that signify importance, or simply use a rating scale. Once this is well established, we can continue with strategies such as acknowledgement, powerful listening, questioning, reflection and observation. Framing our questions with “YOU” are critical. “Where are you in this? What will you do? “How does this feel for you?” Once we establish intent and desire with our client, we can then challenge them to move forward, in creating their own actions with readiness, boldness and confidence.
How do we help our clients make the shift?
Our goal when we identify the perception of helplessness is to shift the client into a state of empowerment. Below I have identified some common language we hear as coaches, along with some responses that we can provide for further discovery.
We also discussed the importance of body language, tone and pitch. This is just as important, if not more, for a coach to observe in their client. A slouched body, a big sigh, crossed arms, a side comment under the breath. These are cues that a coach must take notice of, and then challenge the client by asking permission to share an observation:
“Debbie, can I share an observation?” (Client answers yes) “When you said that you had no choice, you hung your head and your voice went quiet.”
We now “pass the ball” back to the client, and await a response that will provide the coach and the client with some insight that will move the client forward. Along with making these observations, we can also offer the client active listening, powerful questioning and reflection.
Debbie was going through a common law separation with her ex Jason. She was angry and frustrated that Jason had not signed the papers that would allow them to finalize the agreement of their assets. Debbie had been waiting for months now, and was anxious to move forward with her life.
When asked by a coach what can be done about this situation so that she could move forward, Debbie stated that she did not know what to do. Then when asked if she had thought about any options to explore, Debbie stated that she knows that she could subpoena Jason.In this statement, her tone and body shifted, and her body folded in. When the coach acknowledged this as an observation, Debbie admitted that she was unsure about doing this. The coach asked what about this makes her unsure. After a long pause, (using silence) Debbie stated that she could not do it; she just did not want to subpoena Jason. Debbie continued by telling the coach that she did not want to anger Jason and make things worse for her.Through the coach’s observation of having an option, but not wanting to pursue, Debbie discovered that she did have a choice. As the session progressed, through powerful questioning, observation and reflection, Debbie also discovered that she did have other options. Questions that provided further exploration into this feeling of helplessness: “What would happen if you took this step?” “Where are you in this?”“What else could you do?”
When our clients make a discovery that they do in fact have a choice;as coaches, we can visually see the shift in their verbal language, body, their tone, and their speech. This is not always a comfortable moment. It can bring about excitement or pain, or even both simultaneously. As a coach, we must hold the space and have the client feel deeply, and explore why it is they are feeling this way.
As a coach, we are provided these opportunities to offer our clients the open space to share, and we can challenge them to believe in themselves in a way they may have never done before. This art of self-discovery is a life-long skill and has permanent effects. This is a gift that never stops giving; a gift of self-development, self-love and self-empowerment.
Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences. Eckhart Tolle