A Coaching Power Tool By David Elser, Executive Coach, UNITED STATES
Most individuals enter coaching because they want to be of service to others. They achieve personal satisfaction by helping people realize their full potential in life or work. Coaches strive to build trust and safety with a client as they travel on a coaching journey together.
The Use of Common Coaching Responses Praise vs. Acknowledgement in Coaching Sessions
Many coaches select a niche that is important to them, perhaps they have a lot of experience in the specific area or are simply passionate about a cause. Having commonalities and similarities with a client is beneficial for both parties in regards to coaching chemistry. It may provide opportunities to relate and connect, thus allowing each other to feel comfortable giving praise or acknowledgment when participating in coaching sessions.
Coaches want to be liked and appreciated by their clients for their desire to help them move in a productive direction. Therefore, they tend to provide recognition in the form of praise. But, when it comes to facilitating a client’s growth, one should be aware of the pitfalls when providing praise.
The Differences Between Praise vs. Acknowledgement When Coaching
This power tool describes the differences between Praise vs. Acknowledgement when coaching. The latter is more beneficial for the coach to use during a coaching session as it fosters a positive and productive coaching experience for the client. It is also a better feedback approach to help the client move forward in their desired direction to realize their measure of success.
Individuals love to receive praise for their performance. The act of expressing approval or admiration is how dictionary.com defines Praise. People enjoy working with others that recognize them for their efforts. It is also a valuable feedback tool for rewarding desirable behavior to increase the likelihood that the observed behavior continues.
In the coaching space, it is about the client’s thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Not the coaches. That is where praise can sometimes go awry as it often starts with a reference to the sender of the feedback. Also, it is usually unspecific when delivered. For example, “I am very proud of your progress” or “I am so proud of you for completing that action item”.
Remember, it is not about your opinions as to the coach, it is about the clients. Therefore, a coach needs to understand this drawback and be careful when giving simple praise when coaching.
Sometimes, a better way to indirectly convey praise is through asking a question. For example, “What about your progress are you most proud of” or “How do you feel about completing that action item”.Often, praise can come in the form of a compliment. Such as “That is a great idea for your action” or “That suggestion provided is very creative”.
Another feedback approach to be cautious of is a simple form of encouragement. For example: “You got this, you have come a long way” or “Be strong, you are moving in the right direction”. Offering your opinion is creating bias and could be leading. It is about where the client wants to go and achieve, not the coach.
Learning how to successfully facilitate client growth and evoke understanding in a coaching session is important. Providing simple praise may not always be the best approach. A better approach is to provide Acknowledgment.
There are various meanings of the word Acknowledgement according to dictionary.com. They include: recognizing a fact, showing recognition, expressing appreciation, indicating receipt, and taking notice of a reply. When used in a coaching space, Acknowledgement should be motivational and spark insight for the client.
It is about observing and highlighting the client’s success and recognizing them for their values, determination, actions, and/or effort as they strive for success. Even if they did or did not reach their anticipated outcome or goals.
When a coach presents Acknowledgement, it often starts like praise. For example, it often starts like, “I want to acknowledge you for ______” The blank should be filled in with what you heard or observed to help the client feel good about their efforts or what they accomplished. Even if the client did not live up to their expectations.
Although the phrase is from the coach’s viewpoint in the form of an “I” statement, it is presented in a way that brings attention to a client’s efforts when they have gained insight, realized growth, and progressed in a positive direction toward achieving their goals. Also, the coach should present Acknowledgement in a giving manner that celebrates the person in a non-judgmental way.
It is important to note, avoid using the word “but” when providing Acknowledgment. It may refute your intent and cause your efforts to be devalued by the client, leaving them with doubt.
The best definition of Acknowledgment for coaches is defined by International Coach Academy (ICA). They state it as the recognition of someone for their truth or existence. It is a sincere and specific identification of a value, quality, skill competency, strength, attitude, or act of goodwill . Applying and delivering Acknowledgment in this manner as opposed to offering simple praise is a great power tool for any coach.
Praise vs. Acknowledgement Travel on a Coaching Journey Together
Maintaining positive chemistry and facilitating client growth is rewarding both for the client and the coach. Providing proper Acknowledgement as opposed to simple praise will enhance these behaviors. If delivered properly, it will support the client’s progress towards reaching their coaching goals.