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9 March 2020


Five skills & examples

In this month’s blog, I focus on what the client gets from the coaching experience and, in doing so, I hope to be able to help you visualise what a coaching experience can be like and what you might get out of it.

Last month I shared on my social media a short article from the AoEC regarding the key skills required by an Executive Coach and I think it is helpful to use these, as well as examples from my own coaching, to bring the reality of such client experiences to life. 

I have changed the names of the clients in the examples below to maintain confidentiality. 

In reality, I would typically use a mix of key skills in every client session, but I refer here to example client sessions that have a particular focus on one of these skills to bring them to life.

The first skill so utilised in the examples that follow is Listening.

Whilst I actively listen to all my clients, the client that comes best to mind regarding the power of effective listening is Brian.

Brian found himself in a new role and we were working together to bring him up to speed as soon as possible in that role. However, the business he was in had recently had a reorganisation and, as a result, Brian was put at risk of redundancy. Brian was angry and confused at this and as to what he wanted to do (whether to look externally or at options offered within his current organisation).

Through the safe confidential space that a coaching session offers, Brian was able to talk about his anger and frustrations, with me listening and supporting him whilst he considered the options that he had. In doing so, Brian decided that his best option was to stay within his current organisation and did so calmly and professionally.

The second utilised skill is Facilitation.

This focuses on helping the client to “draw out their problem-solving abilities”. 

Mary was moving into a new role, inheriting a new team and wanted to strengthen processes, improve cross-skilling and develop some performance metrics. To help Mary think through what this might entail I used a creative technique called Timeline, in which Mary visualised what her endpoint could look like, where she was starting from and what steps she could take, in a sequence, to get there. 

As the coach, I don’t advise on the end game or the steps along the way. Rather, in this example, I facilitated the technique that allowed Mary the thinking space she needed to work out how she could achieve her goal (as a sideline, it’s also fun as you walk the particular Timeline along the floor in this kind of coaching session).

The third skill is Presence.

This means that the coach is wholly focussed on and there for the client. 

Sheila wanted to achieve a better work/life balance, establish greater clarity on her purpose, and to use this to think through to where her career was going next.

Sheila’s ideal purpose was a personal one that unfortunately was not possible. Strong presence in this situation, however, allowed Sheila to talk candidly about her disappointment and acceptance in not being able to achieve her ideal purpose and to park it sufficiently to look afresh at her wider purpose in life and what that meant concerning her career development.

The fourth skill is Questioning.

This involves asking thoughtful questions that deepen the client’s awareness of their objectives and what they are going to do. 

In the example, to illustrate this, Jenny had taken on a new role and one of her objectives was to develop her leadership voice/presence. 

Through questioning on what this meant to her, Jenny identified someone she thought was strong in this area and scored him on a scale of 1 to 10 and then gave thought to what he did that made him a strong leader. Jenny scored how she saw herself on the scale currently and where she wanted to be in the future. Then, through further questioning, she identified how she planned to practice and increase her leadership voice in upcoming meetings with peers and colleagues.

The fifth skill is Working Creatively.

This helps clients to see a challenge from a different perspective and, in so doing, to create greater awareness of this challenge and to identify new ways of working on it. 

In this example, Maureen was in something of a rut at work, unsure whether she wanted to do the job that she was currently in, or two others that she felt might be better aligned to her interests. 

To help Maureen see the appropriate options through a different lens, I used a technique called Spaces in the Room, in which Mary chooses a space in the room that speaks to her about each role in turn. She goes and stands in that place and imagines herself in the role at a point in the future and describes how it feels and her contentment in the role, etc. 

After moving around the room for each role, Maureen then reflected on her thoughts regarding the roles after imagining being in them. This approach helped Maureen to decide that she was going to stay in her current role until she had delivered the key tasks required of her and, whilst her thinking developed, where she saw her career developing in the future.

I hope the above gives a flavour of what a coaching session might entail, as well as how it feels, and possibly prompt you to think about what you might focus on in your own coaching sessions. If it does, and you would like to get in touch to discuss this further, please do so.

David Alcock

From the author:

As coaching is not an advice-giving service, these blogs are not written with the intention of proposing solutions to common leadership challenges. Instead, they are thought pieces with the aim of prompting the reader to think more deeply about the topic and reflect on whether it warrants further exploration, with or without a coach.

If you would like to hear more about coaching and how to make it work for you, feel free to subscribe to my newsletter and to share this blog with anyone that might be interested in learning about executive coaching, how it works and whether it could be of benefit to them.