What to do when a client has a lot to say...
You know exactly what I am talking about. You connect with a client. You both exchange a short greeting. You then ask the client what would be important to work on during the session and… the client responds by giving you a long discourse with a detailed description of the situation – every part of it, every emotion, every character, every step. This long statement goes on for minutes, making you even feel overwhelmed with the amount of data thrown at you, without any pause or space for a response. Finally, you find a little break where you can say something, but right after your statement, again the client goes on with yet another long monologue.
What to do in this scenario? How can we support a client who barely gives us any space to say anything?
As coaches, our value is on our ability to support the client on how to maximize their discovery moment. This becomes a challenge if we barely have any time to respond.
In the case of a verbose client, as a ground rule, I take the approach that if a client needs to talk, let them do it. This is their way of processing what is going on and as a coach, I just need to respect it. At the same time, I also believe it is very important for me to pay close attention to the nuances of what is happening so I can best support them along the way.
One thing we need to remember is that there can be several things contributing to the client’s verbose stance.
Maybe the client is overwhelmed, and this is the only place they have to download and verbally process what is going on. Maybe the client is not fully aware or knows how to handle their emotions and their way to deal with them is by talking. Maybe the client is uncomfortable with the process itself. Or maybe the client is so focused and determined that they just need the space to verbally organize what they have saved internally for a while.
Another important aspect of this issue is to realize the distinction between the different kinds of verbose clients. Not every verbose client is the same and each deserves a different approach.
Here I list two different verbose clients to consider:
Lost on Tracks
This is the coachee that can speak for hours without any difficulty in finding what to say. They talk but, in truth, they don’t always make sense. The information is chaotic and sometimes confusing. They jump from point to point, even losing track of their own thought process. They talk in circles and there is no true development or substantial insight happening.
Since our job as coaches is to provide this space for growth and development, I believe this situation may call for some interruptions. This is when we gently and respectfully jump in with a laser-focused and precise statement or question that will anchor and somehow help them organize what they are saying.
It is very important to remember that interruptions are tricky, and if we choose to do so, they must be intentional, and strategic, with a clear purpose to ground the coachee and move them forward. If we do this, it must be in a way that does not break the trust and safety and does not bring the spotlight to us. This is not an excuse for us to take charge. The client must remain at center stage. We are just the prompter giving them just a nudge to move to the next level.
To do this, we can use humor. We can start by immediately acknowledging that we know we are interrupting. We can wait for that quick catch of breath or a tonal break. Bottom line, this is intentional and with the client, not the context, front of mind.
The other kind of verbose client is the one who is on a roll. They make long statements, but you see that they are moving forward, generating their insights along the way. You can sense their thought process and how they are absolutely in control of the flow of information coming out.
In this case, it is paramount that we do not even flicker. Let the client do what they must do. Let the client continue their work. Our job at this moment is to just be a witness and to hold the space for them, giving them full permission to develop, explore, and find their way through it.
In the end, let’s continue to remember that coaching is client-centered. The coachee is the one in the driver's seat, always taking the lead and doing the actual exploration of their situation. We are partners in the supporting role, bringing our expertise in the coaching conversational framework with the sole purpose to generate a conducive environment for discovery. It is not our place to take control or try to shape the conversation into what we think is supposed to be.
This is all about the coaching mindset and what we truly believe to be our role as coaches. If we feel the urge to be hands-on and take charge, it is probably time for us to stop and question what is bringing us to this. Each one of our clients has their own way. Each has their own personality and their own needs. We respect them, staying out of their way, just holding firm the space for them to walk their own path.
Giving Structure to the Coaching Conversation
If you have been to one of my workshops and classes or if you are one of my mentees, most likely you have heard me say: “coaching is a human-to-human experience.”
At the core of the coaching exchange is this human interaction that provides the coachee the proper space for reflection, exploration, and insight. Coaching is a partnership, and our goal is to create an easy flow between coach and coachee that creates the proper space for discovery and transformation.
What is important to remember is that, like water, this human exchange needs proper structure for it to make sense. Without clear shape and purpose, even with the best of our intentions, the process becomes haphazard and completely subject to chance.
Water without shape has no direction. It can go anywhere and even get wasted. Coaching without proper structure is not coaching. The conversation may be insightful, but it will certainly be accidental.
At the same time, too much focus on structure, too tight of a container, can also stiffen the moment, freeze the exchange, and stagnate the process. We do not want our coaching technique to be such a focus that would make the conversation stale.
That is why I love the image of water in a jar or perhaps even a flowy river or a mighty ocean. If you can imagine it, the water is still flowing. It is alive, but it has shape, a direction that makes sense and makes the water productive and life-giving.
This is the balance we coaches are constantly striving for. We want to establish this partnership, this ease of exchange with the coachee, while at the same time, providing clear support that enables the coachee to go through this intentional process.
By now, I am sure that you understand that this structure I am talking about is achieved by developing our coaching skills. The structure happens when we can bring our clear understanding of the coaching Core Competencies, not simply as an intellectual exercise, but as living and breathing concepts, perhaps delicate and strong as a crystal vase.
Creating this balance takes time and effort. It is somehow innate to us humans, but it certainly needs to be developed to be of true value. As we grow as coaches, we will see ourselves favoring one side or the other. And that is a natural part of our growth. That is why the idea of having a Reflective Practice is so crucial, so we can monitor our tendencies and biases and purposefully shift the pendulum to the other side, always striving for the middle ground.
Coaching as a humble and courageous act.
At the core of the coaching process is the true belief that our clients are perfect. There is absolutely nothing to fix. Our clients are able, resourceful, and full of potential. Coaching comes as an added tool to support these fully capable individuals to organize their thoughts, broaden their perspectives, and decide for themselves how they want to proceed more effectively and successfully.
To be able to partner with a coachee at this level of engagement, it is imperative that we, as coaches, cultivate a sense of humility and courage deep inside ourselves.
So often in our culture, our pride and sense of self-worth are anchored in the knowledge we possess. We have been groomed and rewarded for being the expert and for always having the answer. The problem is that in this “I know” environment, there is very little space for the other. With each of us being so enveloped in our own perspective we end up defending our points of view at all costs, and rarely being able to truly listen and collaborate.
You can see that, if we bring this mindset to coaching, there will be no partnership. We would be crowding the space with so much of our “I know” that there would barely be any opportunity for the client to take true ownership of their situation and to create their own growth and development.
Especially for new coaches, this is one of the most puzzling aspects of our practice. In a way, this seems counter-intuitive. How can someone benefit from our work if we are not there to give them advice and solve their problem?
However, we must remember that coaching is not transactional. Coaching is a transformational process. And transformation only happens within, not because of external advice, but by the client reaching a deeper layer of self-awareness. With that in mind, we can see that coaching is not about the coach or what the coach possesses. Coaching is about the other. Coaching is about the client’s own world, their experiences, their mindset, and the exploration of those.
The most effective coaches are the ones who learned how to tone down their egos, and their need for being right. Coaches are willing to step out of the spotlight to give room to the client. Coaches develop the ability to go beyond their own perspectives and reach out into the client’s own world. In a way, as coaches, we are just observers – trained in our craft, experts in our process, but humble and courageous enough to give the other their rightful space.
Cultivating this level of humility is not for the faint-hearted. It requires the courage to look inside, to challenge our own values and to grow ourselves into a level of internal stability and authenticity that has absolutely no need for proof. What I believe is just one possibility that has a huge probability of being completely irrelevant in the client’s system.
We can see how crucial it is for us to have an ongoing commitment to work on our personal foundation. Where do we get our level of self-worth? Where do we find our identity? How much do we truly love ourselves? What is the balance between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards? How much do we rely on external validation? By building this internal base, then we will have enough courage to reach out, to listen, and to allow the other to flourish.
Without this level of humility and courage, we are just talking, babbling at each other without a truly authentic exchange. As humans, we thrive on connection. As coaches, we must be humble and courageous enough to give the other the opportunity to fully speak, and to be heard so they can take their rightful place at the table and fully step into their brilliance.
Essential points to consider when creating a recording for certification with the ICF.
A crucial step in applying for a certification with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the preparation of sample recordings of coaching sessions conducted by the applicant. This, at first, seems like a simple task. However, this recording is the primary tool for the coach to demonstrate their skill level in the ICF Core Competencies. The ICF has specific expectations about this recording, and it may be a challenge to come up with a great sample that represents us well.
Below are a few points I have gathered over my years of experience mentoring coaches through this process, as well as being an active member of the assessor’s team for the ICF.
Record, Record, Record
I often see coaches starting this process naively expecting that the perfect recording will happen on their first try. Most likely that will not be the case. Once the record button is pushed, the pressure is on and usually our performance mode kicks in, our presence is gone, and the session ends up not being very successful. There is also the fact that the coachee may also get self-conscious about the recording and will need to get used to being recorded as well.
The recommendation here is to plan to record multiple sessions. Make recording a habit. Record as many sessions as possible and… listen to them. The more we record, the more used to the process we become. And then, after a while when we least expect it, the recording happens.
Also, the very first session a coach has with a new client rarely is a good sample of their skills. We need time to establish the coaching partnership and for the client to get used to the rhythm of coaching. Perhaps after the fourth or fifth session we can created a flow that allows us to be at our best.
We must remember that one of the requirements of this session is that it is done with an actual coaching client. Someone we have established an ongoing process with. One single session with a random person will not fulfill this requirement.
Select the Right Client
We coaches love our clients. We tend to think they are all awesome and perfect. However, if we pay close attention, not all of them are best for a recorded session. Verbal processors are probably not a good choice. Even though they do the coachee’s work well, they usually do not give the coach much opportunity to demonstrate their skills.
Clients who are themselves coaches are most likely not a good choice either. Trained coaches know the process too well and in trying to support us, they usually end up doing too much of the work and again, not allowing the coach to fully express their skill level.
The suggestion here is to look for someone who will be a good partner. Someone who can dance without taking the lead. Someone who will be engaged and can together create an easy conversational flow.
I also believe it is a good idea to engage with a few separate clients specifically for this recording process. Enter in an agreement of 6 to 8 sessions with the clear expectation that the sessions are going to be recorded, submitted for supervision with a mentor coach and later to the ICF. This way, the clients can be clear about their purpose for the engagement. This clarity of direction and purpose will facilitate the coaching conversation even under the recording pressure.
Aim for a 25- to 35-minute recording
If applying for an ACC or PCC, I would suggest planning for recordings around the 30-minute mark. This allows plenty of room for the coach to demonstrate their skills in all competencies while still staying clean, clear, and precise with the framework. If applying for MCC, the recording will most likely need to be longer to allow for more space, silence, and deeper exploration.
Onboard the Client Well
Coaching is a partnership. This means that both parties involved are working in synchronicity. For the coachee to enter this process well, the coachee needs to know what this is all about. How can anyone play without knowing the basic rules of the game? It is important to take the time during the first conversation to explain the expectations of the coaching process. Perhaps we can even share the basic tenets of the PRIME MODEL. Careful with the temptation to explain too much and overwhelm the coachee. This is just an overview, not coaching training. Simply let the coachee know that there will always be a need for a session agreement, and for an action plan at the end – all this happening through a process of discovery and exploration.
Coachees need to be aware we will be asking a lot of questions, that they will need to do the heavy lifting of the session and that they are also expected to do some pre work and reflection. It is unreasonable to expect that without any explanation, the coachee will engage in this process well.
Be Clear but Simple with Ethics
Since the recording is supposed to be with an ongoing coachee, for the sake of this recording, the ICF assumes the coach has established a clear overarching agreement for the whole engagement where ethics have been fully addressed. There is absolutely no need for a full ethical disclaimer at the beginning of the session. We would not do this in every one of our sessions with our clients, would we? No need for this in the recording either. The suggestion in this case is to simply make a quick statement either at the beginning or at the end (or both) of the recording like: “Thank you for allowing me to record this session.” This acknowledges that the client is aware of the recording in a simple and uncluttered way, allowing the session to start with the coach giving the client immediate control over the conversation.
Work with an Experienced Mentor Coach
This is perhaps the most rewarding part of this process. Before sending the recording to the ICF, it is important to have them assessed by an experienced Mentor Coach, giving the coach the opportunity for growth and development. The process of certification is not just about getting the accolade. Certification is yet another chance to hone our skills and become even better coaches. This to me, must be the primary focus of anyone aspiring to get an ICF certification.
Regardless of what level of certification we are pursuing, this process can be tremendously rewarding and enlightening – if we are open to it. My suggestion is to use it wisely. It is yet another step in our education. Every coach I have mentored that has embraced this process from this point of view has firmly declared at the end the tremendous benefit of it all.
All these certification requirements are not in vain. There is a reason for them and bottom line, they exist so we can all operate at a higher level, supporting our clients in the most effective way possible. Work with an experienced Mentor Coach to get the best out of this process.
The process of certification is a long hall. This is not something that happens overnight. Be patient. Give it due diligence. Remember also that even after all the preparation, and after submitting the material, it will take time for the ICF to review all the documentation. Plan for 9 months to a year – if not more.
Finally, we all know that there are many professionals out there with successful coaching practices who are not certified. At the same time, having a certification is no guarantee of success either. However, the ICF certification is an irrefutable demonstration of the coach’s commitment to excellence and our pledge to continually seek the highest standards of our profession. It is a confirmation of the hard work we did to master our skills in a process that has been tested and proven for its efficacy. It signifies that we follow specific ethical guidelines, and that we are not simply coaching from one single perspective and experience. Instead, we operate backed by the best practices of more than 40,000 coaches from all around the world.
Over the past three decades, ICF Certification has gained tremendous reputation worldwide. The process is challenging for a reason. I commend every certified coach for their commitment and willingness to join this amazing community.
Keeping a bird's eye view of the coaching process.
In coaching training, we put so much emphasis on the importance of developing our skills to manage a single coaching session that at times we may lose sight of the fact that these individual conversations are part of the overarching process the client is going through. Even though clients can achieve breakthroughs in one single session, transformation and growth take time, and it is crucial for us to learn how to support the coachee to navigate this long-term endeavor.
Since the beginning of our training, we learn that the client is the one who sets the agenda for each conversation. Sessions should start by giving the client the opportunity to clarify what they want to be the focus and the expectations for that individual interaction. While this is one of the fundamental points of coaching, if followed alone, it will probably lead to an aimless process without a central direction.
Remember, Core Competency #3 – Establishes and Maintains Agreements – addresses not only the importance of an agreement for the session, it also clearly addresses how to support the coachee in establishing and maintaining the focus for the whole coaching program.
What is interesting to me is that, if we pay close attention, the framework of the coaching conversation works both on a micro and macro levels. A skillful coach is an expert in supporting the coachee in both the session and the overarching coaching agreement. As coaches, we need to have the capacity to stay in the moment, and at the same time keep a bird’s eye view of the client’s development and main goals.
This does not mean that we become responsible for the direction where the client goes. This is still the client’s responsibility. Just like we are not responsible for naming the topic for each session, we should not take charge of where the coaching is going in a broader sense. However, just like we are responsible for bringing the framework where the coachee can establish a session agreement, we also need to create opportunities for the coachee to measure their process and to evaluate, tweak, and/or course correct, if necessary.
One of the best practices here is to create time markers where both the coach and the coachee already know they will be checking in. This will vary depending on each client and each process, but perhaps good opportunities would be every three or six months to stop and ask the client how they are doing overall.
This can be done at the beginning or at the end of a session or sometimes, even take a full conversation. Again, this is not a case where the coach is taking the lead. This is part of the partnership we establish with the client. It is like checking in with the client in the middle of a single coaching session. How are we doing so far?
Another great opportunity to take this approach is at the beginning of a season, perhaps an anniversary or at the start of a New Year. These cultural markers can give the client the time to take a breath, celebrate what has been accomplished and start again with renewed energy towards their goals.
The crucial question every coach needs to answer.
I’ve been there... We feel like we have been putting a lot of energy into establishing our coaching practices. We say we are committed to the coaching mindset. We tell ourselves that we are serious about coaching, and still, it seems we are not making much progress in generating the opportunities we so look forward to.
I know that feeling very well. When I first started my coaching business, it took me years to get real traction. I was focused and determined. I knew that coaching was in complete integrity with who I was and my personal vision. Yet, I could not get the business off the ground, no matter what I tried.
And trust me, I tried everything. I listened to the “marketing gurus” on the internet. I played with all the social media networks. I built a pretty website. I focused on a niche. I wrote articles and blog posts. I went to networking events. I created programs. I joined focused groups. I took business development courses and experimented with every possible gimmick that showed up in front of me. Still, nothing.
While I was spending all this energy on these initiatives, once in while I would remember a question one of my first mentor coaches asked me once:
Is this a hobby or a business?
Of course, I would quickly answer the question affirming my commitment to make the business work. However, only later I realized that, in truth, I still did not quite understand the difference. There was a shift that had not occurred in me and therefore, despite all my efforts, the results I was getting were just a confirmation of the mindset I was carrying.
Our attraction to coaching comes because we see its power and how much it aligns with our core values. We want to do good in the world. We love people, and we want to support our clients reaching for their best and true potential. Somewhere inside of us we know this is just right for us. And with that conviction we start doing what everybody else tells us to do: build a website, post on LinkedIn, create a logo, register our business. However, if we are sincere with ourselves, even with all the energy that we dedicate to coaching, there is still a part of us that is tentative, skeptical, a nonbeliever. Trust me. That makes all the difference.
Reconciling our passion for coaching with the business aspect of coaching is perhaps one of the greatest challenges I see coaches facing especially at the beginning of their careers.
We come to coaching because we want to coach, not because we are eager to run a business. Isn’t this the reason many small businesses fail? We are passionate about a craft, but we are not fully invested in the business itself. We say we want to be successful but in truth, what we truly want is something else – perhaps to retire, to have a flexible schedule, to work less and make more money. That is where our minds are, and while all of this may be possible, there is still work to be done to get there.
It takes a mindset shift for us to realize that regardless of whether we are internal or external, whether we have an independent practice or get affiliated with a coaching platform, we still must commit to the business in all its aspects – not simply to get clients, but make the business successful.
In coaching, we talk a lot about certain dualities – the “what” and the “who”, the “form” and the “flow”, and how important it is to find equilibrium in them. We also need to find a balance between the “passion” of coaching and coaching itself with the “business” of coaching.
For me, it was only when I truly embodied and believed in the business mindset of coaching that my practice began to grow. It was only when I realized that I needed to not only follow a passion but fully embrace the development of a company that things began to take shape. This is a choice we need to make. It is a subtle but important step in every coach’s story.
The imperative mindset shift for promoting our coaching practices
If you want to get a coach paralyzed, scared, frustrated, and de-energized, just tell them that it is time for them to market their coaching practice. Marketing is a dirty word in the coaching world – and rightly so. We want to coach. We don’t want to sell. We got into this industry because of our respect and belief in the potential of our clients. The last thing we want to do is to convince anyone to buy our services.
Coaching is based on the premise that the client knows best, that the client leads the process. Getting into this mode of telling people what they need – in this case, coaching – goes against everything we believe in. This perspective of marketing is a complete contradiction to who we truly are.
Coaches want to support. Coaches want to open the space, to make an invitation, so clients can have the freedom to make their own choices – better choices.
If we use this coaching mindset even when promoting our practices, we will see that there is no place for marketing. I would even dare to say, there is no need for marketing.
I spent seven years of my professional life working as a senior graphic designer for a boutique marketing company in the New York metropolitan area. I worked for companies of a wide array of industries and sizes – from multinationals to mom-and-pop businesses. Even though I loved (and still do) the creative aspect of the job, I absolutely despised the mindset of having to convince people to buy more, especially to buy things they did not really need.
People know when they have a need. If something is missing, I don’t need to tell them. They will feel it and will have the impulse to search for it. If something is uncomfortable, they will seek comfort. If something is not working, they will try to find a solution.
At the same time, I also know of the tremendous benefits of coaching. I have seen how individuals and organizations grow and transform through the power of coaching.
This is a perfect match that requires no selling. There is a need in the marketplace. More than ever people are crying for support to reconnect with their humanity and to bring this humanity to their workplace.
If we keep that in mind, we will see that the only thing a coach needs to do to be successful is to simply put themselves in front of their potential clients. No need to sell. No need for a brilliant marketing proposition or dazzling campaign. No need to convince anyone. We just need to be visible. And by that, I mean, to let people know and understand the support we can offer.
Don’t get me wrong here, visible does not mean passive. There is work to be done. We need to be very clear about who we are and what we do. We need to be able to clearly articulate the power of coaching. We need to be able to demonstrate this power, and what I sometimes think is the biggest hurdle for new coaches, to truly believe in it.
But once we have that message, better yet, once we live that message, the only “promotion” we need to do is create opportunities to share it.
As coaches, we have no need to market our services – no need to sell. As coaches, we share. We invite. We let people know we are here. We open the space so clients can willingly step forward.
What is at the core of what we do as coaches?
One of the most exciting parts of being a coach is the realization that what we do goes beyond the routine of making a living. Coaching is a celebration of humanity. It is a tool that supports our clients to integrate, to live their lives, and build their organizations in integrity and authenticity.
Coaching came to be as a formalized profession out of a cry from the corporate world – a realization that the traditional way of work, where we were asked to keep our personal lives in the parking lot, is unsustainable, inhumane, and ultimately unproductive.
Just recently, the ICF released a revision of their Core Values. This comes out of the same effort to update their Core Competencies, Code of Ethics, PCC Markers, and certification process. It is a demonstration of the commitment the organization has to the ongoing evolution, growth, and professionalism of coaching worldwide.
As expected, the Core Values are simple but powerful. And they accurately speak to the core nature of coaching.
A commitment to a coaching mindset and professional quality that encompass responsibility, respect, integrity, competence, and excellence.
A commitment to develop social connection and community building.
A commitment to being humane, kind, compassionate, and respectful towards others.
A commitment to use a coaching mindset to explore and understand the needs of others so I can practice equitable processes at all times that create equality for all.
We couldn’t be more proud of these statements. They truly express what is at the core of what we do.
As coaches, we have a commitment to bring our best to our clients. We strive to grow, to stay current, and to evolve. We strive to bring a level of excellence to everything we do. It is a question of integrity and true respect for the trust our clients put in us every day.
Just like I mentioned a few months ago in another blog post, we are a group of professionals that can only truly thrive in community. It is together that we are strong. It is by sharing that we learn. As humans, we are social beings and collaboration is a matter of survival. It can never be “us and them”. Our efforts are around unity, generosity, and living by sharing and giving.
That is being human – and at the core, this is what we do. Our job is to support our clients to be even more connected to their humanity, to recognize who they truly are and live from that place. Therefore, it is imperative that we pledge to be kind and compassionate, not only in words but in how we show up every day.
We believe in the value of every individual. We believe in the resourcefulness and potential of every person and every client. Regardless of their background or whatever shape and form they come with, we operate from the principle of respect and honor. This requires a level of self-awareness on our part and a commitment to challenge our own biases, limited points of view, prejudices, and even subtle acts of discrimination, to make sure we are open, flexible, and ready to learn from each other.
As we look at these Core Values, it is important to remember that coaching is not just what we do. Coaching is who we are. And this is not just a catchy phrase, but the raw reality of this profession. There is no way we can possibly be effective if we are not truly committed to growing through and embracing these ideals.
Creating a fertile ground for innovation.
Awareness is at the apex of any coaching conversation. This is the moment where the client reaches an insight and is able to see their situation in a way that they had not seen before. Awareness is what the client is seeking, simply because after awareness, action is just a consequence.
For the coach, especially new coaches, reaching this moment can be intimidating. How can we bring a client to this new level of discernment that neither they nor we know in advance? What is the secret? In my mentor coaching practice, I have seen many coaches questioning their ability to be effective particularly because of the fear of not being able to bring the client into this new awareness.
That is why I say that coaching is a courageous act. We embark on this process with our clients not knowing the destination but trusting that together we will be able to get there.
However, as elusive as it might seem to be, awareness is inevitable – and that is where we can all place our confidence. There is no doubt in my mind that when two human beings come together and sincerely put their best efforts in judiciously exploring a situation or a topic, something new will show up. That is the power of connection. In human terms, 1+1 is never a simple addition. We cannot help but to multiply, and it is in this alchemy that innovation happens.
I was very pleased when, in the new version of the Core Competencies, the ICF decided to use the verb “Evokes” associated with the Awareness competency. In the previous version, we used to call it “Creating Awareness”, almost meaning that it was the job of the coach to generate the awareness for the clients. That to me is an impossible task. Awareness cannot be created, and it is not up to the coach to reach this state of insight or to fabricate it in their clients. The only thing we can do is to partner with the coachee in creating the proper conditions for awareness to surface – and that is where all the other Core Competencies come into play.
The secret of awareness is not in awareness itself. For us to support our clients into getting their aha moment, we must start from the beginning. How well have we established the coaching agreement – both for the whole process as well as each session? How deep is our presence? How broad is our listening? How easy is our language and communication with the client, especially in formulating questions and sharing our observations?
Awareness does not happen on a whim. Instead, it is an inevitable fruit of the careful work we do all along.
The great point of it is that this way, it becomes very easy to troubleshoot it. If we are not being able to bring the client into an awareness or if the awareness is consistently somewhat superficial, it is time for us to reflect on the skills we are demonstrating in all the other competencies and see how we can polish them even further so that we are better able to provide the breathing space for awareness to grow.
The secret of awareness is in building sharp coaching skills and in trusting the humanity of our clients and ourselves. This is a recipe that can never fail, and this is one of the foundational and brilliant points of our coaching profession.
Silence is who we are...
It is summer here in the northeast of the United States, and I am getting ready to take some time off. As much as I love my work, my clients, students, mentees, and co-workers, it is time for me to go outside, see different sights, and catch a breath.
Space is a vital part of our human experience. It is in breathing that we renew. It is in slowing down that we can observe more deeply. It is in retreating that we can broaden our view. And since coaching is a human-to-human experience, space and silence are intrinsic parts of what we do.
We learn about the role of silence in coaching right from the beginning of our training. Silence gives the client the time to process, to notice, and to listen to themselves more deeply, accessing points within to create an awareness that was not there before. I like to think of silence as this rare gift that, in itself, can transform the coaching conversation, and bring new insight to the coachee.
However, even though we intellectually understand the concept of silence, it usually takes years for us to truly master this skill. We may theoretically understand it, but when it comes time for us to engage in coaching, the idea leaves us completely. We end up in this automatic mode where we are filling every space with sound bites, verbally processing without intention, stumbling with our words, stacking our questions, and often interrupting the client’s line of thought.
That is because silence is not just a technique. For us to use silence effectively, we first need to live it. Again, coaching is a human-to-human experience. If we want our clients to access their resourcefulness and potential, we must first show up in our humanity and authenticity as well. And if silence is not a part of who we are, we will struggle with this concept.
That is why the role of self-care, personal foundation, and having a reflective practice is so crucial to the development of a coach. We cannot simply expect our clients to go into their Who, to look beyond, to stretch, and see new possibilities if we are not willing to practice this ourselves.
How rested are you right now? When was the last time you took a break? What is your self-care routine? When did you last spoke with a coach – not to practice, but to be coached? When did you go for a walk, or look at the sky, or notice the breeze touching your face? When was the last time you had a belly laugh, or looked deep inside another person’s eyes?
We live in a culture where being busy has become a badge of honor. The busier we are, the more successful we must be. But we all know how silly this idea truly is. That is why coaching is so powerful. Because it gives the client an evidence-based structured space to process what they could not in the grind of their day.
But coaching is not just theory. Coaching is not just a methodology. Coaching is not just about competencies and markers. We can all be so articulate about coaching, but can we truly live it?
That is why I am taking a break this month. It is time for me to access my silence within, and to create new space for myself, so when I come back, I can be even more present to you. I encourage you to do the same.
One of the most important points of being an effective coach is to stay current to what is happening in the coaching world and up-to-date with your skills. Don't miss the next article for ForCoaches. Subscribe below and be notified of my next article.
As a mentor coach, I am always giving feedback to my students and mentees helping them develop their coaching skills and prepare for their certification with the ICF. ForCoaches is a place where I can publicly share some of my insights and experiences. What does it mean to be a truly effective coach?