Ask, Don’t Assume

Ask questions before coaching.

As coaches, we understand the value of asking questions and not going off of our assumptions. Before you start coaching, you need to ask questions. As part of the first ICF Core Competency, communicating what coaching is and what it isn’t is an important step in setting a foundation. However, conversation needs to go beyond our explanations to exploring our clients perceptions.

Unasked questions may lead to unmet expectations.

A few days ago, I left the house to run errands. It was near lunch time, but I didn’t have time to prepare anything to eat. I assumed since my husband was working from home that day that when he got hungry, he’d make us both lunch. Needless to say when I returned, hungry and damp from being in the Pacific Northwest rain, there was no lunch waiting for me. Why? I didn’t ask, I assumed. Likewise, my husband assumed I would get something while I was out, since it was lunch time.

In the coaching relationship, there can be assumptions on both sides. The assumption that gets the spotlight today is the assumption that your client understands exactly what coaching is and what coaching isn’t.

What is coaching?

Okay, you define what coaching is, what it isn’t, and how it’s different from other service professions. Your client nods their head, communicating their understanding. Good enough, right? Nope.

A better way of approaching the “What is coaching” conversation is to first ask what the client thinks coaching is. Have you ever Googled it yourself? There are so many definitions that pop up, ranging from a horse-drawn carriage, railroad car, and bus, to an athletic instructor. Even Wikipedia says that a coach gives advice!

So what can you do?

Firstly, provide your client with the International Coach Federation’s definition of professional coaching before you meet with them (the ICF FAQ page is a great resource). Second, ask them what they think coaching is and what their expectations are for coaching. Have a conversation and be curious about your client from the start! Don’t rush through this part of building a foundation with your client. When you take the time to ask questions before you jump into coaching, you’ll have a more successful relationship because you and your client will be on the same page instead of a completely different chapter.



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