TIP #1: CHOOSE YOUR CLIENT
So, the first one; the first tip is to choose the right client. When you’re choosing your client, the things to look out for are clients who will self-coach. Now, can anyone tell me who they think might self-coach? What type of client might self-coach? Yes. Anybody self-aware; self-aware coaches and also well meaning coaches. I’ve heard a few sessions now where you can hear that the client who is a coach and known to the coach, possibly their Peer Coach or possibly the person that they coached during observed, you can hear they’re trying to help.
The coach might ask a question, and it’s not very clear. Normally a client who isn’t a coach would ask for clarification. They’d say, “Sorry, what do you mean by that?” And then the coach would clarify and ask the question in a better way. But in this situation the coach never gets the opportunity to do that because the client just knows, ‘Oh, yeah, right now the coach is asking me, “What are the measures for success?’
And they just do that even when the coach hasn’t asked. So what actually happens is the client robs the coach of the chance to demonstrate their coaching by over-helping.
I know it’s difficult to get clients, and I know it’s tempting to use coaches that you know from ICA. It’s not necessarily that you can’t do that. You can actually do that sometimes. But I think if you are going to do that, have a conversation with your coach/client before you begin and just say to them, ‘don’t help me’ and perhaps let them know that this is just going to be a normal session. If you decide to choose it, you will. If you don’t, you’ll choose another one. Sometimes the client feels almost like they’re at an exam. They’re trying to pass the exam in that session on our behalf.
TIP #2: THE COACHING AGREEMENT
Okay, so the next tip, The Coaching Agreement. The Coaching Agreement is essential. And it’s essential because if it isn’t conducted well and if the contracting doesn’t happen at the beginning, the rest of the session doesn’t really make any sense.
It’s very difficult to then pass if you haven’t actually got The Coaching Agreement right. And I know that you all know that. And I can see from the oral exams coming through that the students know that. The most common question with this; the most common issue with this – is rushing it, doing it in two minutes, and doing it in a way that’s very automated.
- What would you like to talk about today?
- Great. And how will you know that we’ve achieved that in this session?
- Great. What’s important to you about this?
Now, the problem is there’s no presence in that. The coach is not connecting with the client. So if the client comes and says, “look, my issue is I’m just late to work every day, and it’s partly because the bus stop is two blocks away and I’ve got to drop my kids at Childcare before I get there. It’s a real problem.”
And if the coach, instead of having a conversation about that, and saying “oh, that sounds awful”. Or acknowledging it in some way. “Okay, so that sounds really frustrating. Tell me a bit more about that.” Instead of connecting with the client, the coach will just go straight to the first question, e.g. “Okay, great. So how will you know? What would you like to achieve at the end of the session?” If that is the very next question then there’s no connection there. There’s no connection with the client. It’s too rushed.
The other thing is that what the client initially said might not be the actual problem. The problem could be lack of support from their partner, or the problem could be they hate their job. Very few clients come to the session fully knowing and understanding their issue and being able to fully articulate it within 30 seconds. It’s rare, in fact, that’s one of our roles as coaches is to help clients actually figure out what they want to talk about and articulate it in a way that makes sense to them.
So it’s okay. You can take five, seven, eight minutes. Or if you have to take ten minutes, it sometimes happens. And also just be aware that sometimes the client’s issue changes and you might need to go back and check it, re-contract.
TIP #3: BE A COACH
So the thing is, many of our students come from backgrounds in consulting or training, and they’re quite used to being solutions focused. I understand it’s really difficult to shake that, but stepping into the role of consultant or trying to solve your client’s problem or issue for them can be a major problem when it comes to your Oral Exam.
The other thing to be aware of here is your tone of voice, and this is sort of a bit hard to pinpoint, but tone is something that can either be authoritative or not. So just be aware of that. I guess it comes back to your belief, your internal belief about your role as a coach. If you truly believe that the client has their own answers and you truly believe that your role is to assist them to find those, you won’t have that issue of falling into the role of consultant.
TIP #4: DON’T USE PCC MARKER LANGUAGE
Okay, tip number four, don’t use PCC marker language or PCC marker questions. I know it’s hard because on the one hand, these are the things you have to demonstrate, and you really do need to know them. But try not to use the exact language of the markers. Try not to say the exact phrases like
“What is important about this?”
“How do you feel about this?”
So you can still ask the question, but just not in the exact language of the marker. Instead, use the language of the client to ask your question.
“Okay. It sounds like this is a critical time for you in relation to work. What’s important to you about being on time?” or “What is it about being late for work that matters to you right now?” So you’re really connecting with the client when you ask the question with specific language that the client has used or connected to the actual topical goal of the client.
Like most of these tips, it’s completely fine if you do use PCC Marker language once or twice in a session, just not all the time for the majority of the questions. And the main reason for that is you’re not connecting with the client if you do that.
TIP #5: AVOID ABSTRACT QUESTIONS
Okay, so this is related to the last tip – asking targeted questions. It’s really important to avoid asking abstract or generic questions.
- What is important about this or how do you feel about this?
- How will you reach that goal?
- How can you be accountable?
- Who can support you?
So it’s okay if you ask one of those or two of those. But if all your questions are like that and so the common theme with all of those questions, is there is nothing in there. If you printed out those questions and read them without listening to your recording, you wouldn’t even know what the topic of the session was because there’s no connection to it.
So you have to ask questions that are specific.
TIP #6: COACHING PRESENCE
Tip six, which follows on from this, is coaching presence. It’s really important to connect with your client, to acknowledge them and use their language. So if they come to the session and they’re talking about missing the bus and being late for work and not getting their kids to childcare, acknowledge how frustrating that must be, acknowledge that it’s difficult, and then use their language when you ask your next question.
That way you’re connecting with the clients. It really is about active listening, really listening to the types of words they use. If they use the word rushed, then you use the word rushed. If they use the word upset, you use that word, don’t replace it with another word that’s meaningful to you but not meaningful to them.
TIP #7: UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
And the final tip is to understand the context. Your assessment is not who you are as a coach. We’re assessing a particular 30 minutes session with a particular client at a particular time. And we’re assessing whether you’re meeting the Markers and demonstrating the competencies in that session. It really doesn’t relate to whether or not you’re a great coach or how happy and satisfied your clients are outside of this particular oral assessment.
So don’t get too hung up on feeling like this one recording is the measure of who you are as a coach, because it’s not. To use one of our Power Tools, it can help you to release some of the significance and bring in some of the lightness.
Q & A Session
Question #1 – Aren't abstract questions better?
Just now you mentioned don't ask abstract questions. But if we actually link an abstract question to something that said it should be okay.
Because sometimes abstract questions opens up things because if we get too specific in a question, then we're closing in what they may think; leading them. So sometimes asking more extra, more generic questions, trying to open their thinking, does that make sense?
Right. So you've asked a couple of things in that. I'll just go through them in order. So one is - Can you ask an abstract question? Yes, you can ask an abstract question. What you can't ask is twelve abstract questions. So you can ask one. You can maybe ask two. But if all your questions are like that, that's an issue.
That's the first thing. The second thing is are you leading the client or being too directive by picking up on their language?
It's a really interesting question and a really good question because this whole issue of leading the client, if you try and avoid that, you really are being just the sort of what I call an AI coach, an Artificial Intelligence coach, a bot, because you're not inserting yourself into the session at all. And your clients don't want you just to ask mechanical question, they want you to help them clarify what they think about something; they want your critical analysis. They want you to listen to ten minutes of them talking and then they want you to pick out what's actually going on there and hone in on it, and ask more about it. That's not leading. That's actually being a coach and helping them figure out what's going on.
What's leading is if the question you ask is your agenda, not theirs, does that make sense?
Question #2 – Different Trainers have Different Styles
I always have a question in my mind because I have experienced the different mentor coaching sessions with different teachers and I observed that different teachers have a different style in identifying the root cause of the question from the client recording in progress. So I'm kind of confused with the extent of how much in these OC sessions that we need to dig into the root cause of the client.
Just to give you a very brief example, that if the client asks for that, I want to reduce 10% of my anxiety during the coaching sessions of this 30 or 20 minutes talk and then what would we as a coach stick or focus on? One type of coaching technique I learned from the mentor coaching teacher is you need to get to the root cause as to why she got this anxiety and does it make sense? And the other like, what I've learned is stick with the 10% and to identify the method to reduce that 10%.
It's a great question. So thank you.
I just want to address the first thing that you said where you had different trainers tell you different things, and that is common, and that will happen. And the reason that happens is because coaching is not a science. You might have heard it being called an art AND a science. So first of all, coaching is not mathematical. It's not something that you can prescribe in a particular way.
And also it's contextual. So even me answering your question now, I can give you my opinion on this, but unless I was in that session with that client and knew about them and knew about you and how long you've been coaching them, it's very difficult to answer the question. You have to trust your own knowledge as a coach and your own knowledge of your client as to what you do.
The other reason you sometimes get conflicting approaches from Trainers is because we deliberately employ coaches at ICA who have diverse backgrounds and diverse coaching practices. And we do that to give students access and exposure to different types of coaching. But this means that the answer to a specific question you've asked in class would be different in an executive coaching situation versus a life coaching situation. The client will want different things from their coach in both of those two niches.
Q. Then in terms of your questions about the 10% - do you get to the root cause, or stick the the action plan?
My opinion on that, and in fact there's a generalization about coaching, which is that coaching really isn't interested in the past. It's interested in the future. So as a coach, you look at where is your client is now and where they want to be in the future. And if you really want to look at the root cause of something, you would go to therapy or go and get a psychologist or someone who could look at your patterns of behavior; look at all the things that influenced you growing up. Look at your core beliefs for example, or the relationship with your mother or the relationship with a teacher you had and how that has impacted you.
A coach wouldn't necessarily do this. Coaches are more likely to look at where you are now and where you want to be in the future?
Having said that, sometimes you actually do have to spend a minute or two looking at the reason for something, asking the 'why' question. It's not common. It's not generally what coaching is about. Coaching is not really about understanding why the anxiety happens. It's about understanding the goal here is to get rid of the anxiety and you want to reduce it by 10%. That's your goal. But having said that, it might be helpful to know what the client thinks is going on with that, without spending a whole half an hour session or a full hour session on it.
And the other reason that would be interesting to know in your particular example is because it's possible that actually it is bordering on a situation where you might need to refer - depending on how great the anxiety is. Because we're not counselors and we're not trained in that. There's so many variables. Is it workplace anxiety? Is it personal anxiety? What level is it?
I would definitely ask a couple of questions to clarify and see what's really going on and double check before establishing the agreement. But it's not a question I can answer in a concrete way without knowing the exact context of your client and the session.
Question #3 – Can we “think ahead” of the client?
I come from a management consultant background, but the thing that I have been trying to focus on is - I wouldn't say specifically reading, but it was thinking ahead of the client. It's kind of a subheading of that. I had a lot of presence and I was really listening to the client. But more than once, more than twice, you might potentially be thinking ahead of the client. And then when you're asking the next question, you might be leading; kind of putting the words down like stepping stones for them to walk on.
It's very difficult to answer, because I'm not entirely sure what you mean. Thinking ahead of the client..... Sure. I'm always thinking ahead of the client. I'm thinking ahead. I'm thinking behind. I'm thinking around. That's always happening. So I don't think that thinking ahead is an issue. Your questions need to be a questions that are related to what the client was talking about and takes them in the direction of the goal that they stated at the beginning. So without a specific example, it's difficult.
I will say, though, with my knowledge of you and the potential coaching that you might be doing, you possibly will have an agenda in your coaching. So it's quite difficult because I would say to you that the type of coaching you're doing outside of the ICF Oral Exam, you are possibly leading a little bit because you do have an agenda. There's a bigger context for the coaching you're doing.
But what I will say in terms of leading is that it's probably good in your Oral Exam to pick someone you haven't coached before so that you won't be tempted to make explicit reference to what you already know about them (eg. last week you mentioned that… and now… )
That's why I included the last slide, because the goal of the Oral Exam is to pass, so it's better to choose a recording that doesn't do that. Choose a recording that's 30 minutes of coaching that you can clearly see maps against the PCC markets.
Question #4 – Abstract Questions vs Open Ended Questions
I thought you brought up a really good piece about the general questions - we call them open ended - but they don't have enough context to them. And my reflection to that was, first of all, I'm glad to hear that. But I believe that in the training I've been in, there's been a good percentage, maybe 50, 60%, where that was brought up over and over. Keep the questions open ended, keep them broad, keep them general.
Okay, so there's a difference between open ended questions and broad generic questions.
Open ended - You don't want to ask a 'yes' 'no' question because the session will be over in ten minutes. So you want to ask open ended questions.
But your questions can be broad, but they have to be anchored into the context of the conversation. So a really good thing to do is record yourself in a Peer Coaching session and then upload it to something like www.Otter.ai, and create a transcript for yourself. Then take all the questions you asked out of the transcript and put them in a separate document. Then you can see all the questions you asked. You can't see anything the client said. And when you read those questions, if you can't tell what the session was about, your questions are too general and abstract.
So for example - if, say, the issue was missing the bus and being late for work. So the issue, is the bus late for work. Instead of saying, "well, how do you feel about that?" You would say, "How does it make you feel when you're late all the time and you miss the bus?"
It's not difficult to just connect it to what the client was saying instead of leaving it abstract.
Question #4 – Can we ask “Why” Questions
Well, I have one more. And that is that in some of your examples, use the word 'why'. And the word 'why' has literally - this is overly dramatic - but it's literally been beat out of us. Don't use why. Change it to a how or when or whatever.
Yes. It's like learning any new skill. I mean, you've heard this before. First you have to learn what the rules are and then you can learn how to break them. And it's like that.
When students first come to ICA, that is a broad general thing. Coaching is not interested in the why. It's interested in the what and the how.
However, it's not always true. So I think with all the Trainers and all the learning they share from their own experience, it's their own experience in that moment, at that time, they're not in the session with you. Coaching is contextual. You have to take on board what's happening with your client. And yes, there is a place for why.
It's like any of these things. You can't spend half an hour on the why. You can't spend the whole 30 minutes asking all abstract questions or leading the client. But if you lead the client once, it's okay if the rest of your session is completely fine. So I think, don't have anxiety about leading the client.
That can go, in fact, don't have anxiety about any of this, because any little thing that you do that's just once is okay. It just can't be the dominant thing. The tips I was sharing before, they're tips from sessions where at the end of the 30 minutes session, it was like, okay, well, that was really a consultancy session, not a coaching session. And there's a range of things that created that tone of voice type of question, choose a client. It's not generally one thing.
Having said that, one of the reasons “why” is problematic, is it can then take you down the ‘story’ path as opposed to focusing on what is actually happening, because then your client gets involved in all the details and the story and that can happen. But you really have to connect with your client and take the cues from your client. And if you need to ask ‘why’ for something you can do that. You just can't spend 30 minutes doing that.
Question #4 – Leading Questions
I think what I feel is missing is what should I be looking for in the client? Because in one of the Observed Coaching that I'm in, I'm getting the feedback that I could maybe pick a better client, another client would be better. But it's still not clear to me, like a client that does what exactly? Cause what's basically missing. But like, you know, different clients have different stories.
Thanks for asking that question, because I forgot to mention this. The other thing that can be challenging for coaches is if they choose a client that they've had a relationship with before, you can ask questions coming from your knowledge of the client before, which is understandable and would be completely fine in the real world.
But the Assessor knows nothing. It's an artificial process in a way. They're just assessing a 30 minutes session. They don't know you, they don't know the client, they don't know anything, and they just take it on face value. And so if a question appears that's not related to anything that the client said in that first 20 minutes, it's leading, but it possibly wasn't leading because they mentioned it last week. So it wasn't leading.
From that perspective, it's probably good in your Oral Exam to pick someone you haven't coached before. And the other thing with the Oral Exam is you don't get to just do it once and submit that, you can record three or four sessions, find three or four different people and do that.