October 06, 2022 by Amanda Reill
When hiring a coach, clients are often seeking direction. They want to head somewhere but are potentially overwhelmed by the infinite possibilities, or perhaps they don’t know where to begin at all. They may be facing self-doubt, imposter syndrome, or a feeling of ambivalence. How do you help someone clarify where they want to go?
You start with their values.
“Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.” - The Dalai Lama
A values inventory is appropriate at many different junctions of the coaching journey. It’s an excellent focus for any coaching session, but especially helpful early on in the coaching relationship. Your client may be:
All of the above require some level of clarity on one’s direction to move forward.
Values are the tracks that keep our train running in the direction we want it to go. We may not even be able to see the final destination, but in a greater sense, we know where we’re going when we understand our values. More importantly, we know who we’re going to be and become along the way.
Much of our confusion and circular thinking come from not having properly identified our primary values in life. These values could be things like:
When asked, some clients will be able to identify their top values right away. Others will request more time to think about it. Still others may stare blankly and not know where to begin. For some, this exercise may be a bit intimidating as it seems to require a “commitment,” which may be something they fear. You can reassure your client that their list of values is a work in progress. As your coaching relationship evolves, they will always have a chance to revise their list of values as new self-discoveries come to light.
Your client’s initial response to the idea of a values inventory is a helpful indicator of what tool to implement. For some, the exercise is as simple as asking the question: “What are your top 3-5 values?” Even those who can immediately rattle off these values will still benefit from the exercise. They may know their values, but hadn’t discovered how they connected to the struggle they’re currently facing.
For those who need a little more guidance, there are numerous coaching tools to implement:
Explore whether the client’s investments in time, primary relationships, finance, and other resources match their proclaimed values. Allow powerful questions to drive the conversation, reminding your client to free themselves from judgment. Identify together what the positive intentions were behind how they had chosen to invest up to this point. Even “wasting” time on social media can be a cloak for the value of self-care and the need for personal whitespace. You can work with your client on finding other ways to express those values if they aren’t content with how they’re currently doing it.
Fleshing the values out and making them specific can make them even more meaningful. “Family” is a good value, but “Establishing a secure home for my kids” is more measurable. “Courage” is a good value, but “Being a calculated risk-taker” encompasses a more specific picture.
Explore more about Balancing Values with this Powerful Paragraph.
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