coach being helpful can be really, really irritating to the client,
whereas wisdom is almost always welcome.
One of the most annoying things that a coach, or even a friend, can do
when I'm sharing a problem I have, is to jump in quickly like Spot the
Pavlovian doggie with well intentioned helpful hints, inane comments or
Maybe I'm the only one who gets irritated by this, but I rather doubt
it. Yet somewhere, somehow coaches are being trained to interrupt
the client's process by sharing the first thing that comes to mind out of
the coach's helpful bag of goodies.
You can hear it coming when you hear the coach start with...
"Have you tried..."
"Here's what you can do for that..."
"Oh, you need..."
"Just breathe..." (my personal favorite)
"May I offer a suggestion..."
My view is that there isn't any wisdom in the above. Rather, these
are feeble attempts by the well intentioned coach to earn their $200 an
The fact is that most clients need to be heard and can't entertain/hear
even very useful things until they've talked it out from their side.
Because, as you know, clients often work out their own dilemmas when
talking out loud to another person because of the magic of hearing their
words through their own ears. I would imagine there have been
studies to prove how effective it is to hear yourself talk, especially
when you're speaking to/with someone who is a great listener.
Because when the other person is a great listener, the environment is such
that the stuff folks want/need to say has the space/room to come out because
it's a safe place.
Interrupting with helpful ideas, suggestions, strategies or advice during
this process turns what was a safe space into a space where you are
competing with your own client. And the client starts holding
back. And then, 3 weeks later, they let you go as their coach and
you can't figure out why because you gave them such good stuff.
If there is one mistake that most coaches make it is this one. And,
in my view, it's the most common cause of losing a client, and losing
So, besides listening, actively or passively, what can/should a coach do
after the client has talked themselves out? What's the wisdom that
can be shared at this point without it turning into a helpful tidbit?
Here are two simple ways to "generate wisdom" in the coaching
process. There are many other ways and these are covered in the free
How to Coach Anyone eCourse that begins later this month and in the
Advanced Coach Training that CoachVille which begins in February 2002 as a
1. Share a distinction by asking a question.
A distinction is a subtle difference between two seemingly similar
terms, like power and strength. Yet the two words, while
generally synonymous actually exist on opposite poles. As one 'gets'
the difference, evolution occurs. Distinctions are tools and
accelerants of personal evolution and one of the sources of wisdom.
"So, would you say that you're in the middle of
transitioning from being someone who is externally focused to someone who
is becoming internally focused?"
"So, would you say that you're replacing the
power/force/push hard approach that's worked pretty well for you with the
internal strength approach where you focus on developing your strengths at
a much higher level and see where that takes you?"
2. Forward the client by creating a much bigger game.
Very, very few clients come to the coach with a big enough goal or
game. They either play safe because they don't yet have the self
confidence, or they don't yet know how to get from a to z, or they want
coaching to work and so the pick an easy goal. And, sometimes, they
don't want their coach to be disappointed in them, so they don't take the
degree of risk that they could.
The trick is to ask a question or make a statement that helps the client
see where they are in relationship to a much bigger game.
"Help me understand this. Are you saying
that succeeding in your business using traditional methods is more
important to you than mastering the advanced set of entrepreneurial skills
that will last you a lifetime?"
It sure beats helpfulness.
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