How Coaching Performance Kills Coaching

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“Why does my client seem so tense?”

“Why won’t my client go very deep in our sessions?”

“What made that prospective client not bite?”

These questions, and others like them, come up very often when working with new coaches. There are always challenging parts to starting in a new career field, but the idea that coaching performance can kill coaching conversations can be hard for a new coach to recognize.

Clients sense fear. They sense the need of a coach to perform. They sense the tension a coach feels when things don’t go exactly as planned.

This reality leads to the greatest paradox of coaching:

In order to better perform as a coach, you have to stop caring about your great coaching performance.

Here are 3 suggestions for decreasing your focus on your own coaching performance:

  1. When a question fails, recognize it with the client: “Wow, that question failed gloriously!” – This makes the performance focus on the coaching rather than on you as a coach. You can both enjoy the fact that sometimes a conversation doesn’t go as planned, and that failure in a conversation is safe for you and for them as a client.
  2. When you are not sure what to ask, don’t apologize for silence: This seems to contradict the previous point, but it accomplishes the same goal. new coaches tend to jump to their next question way too fast, making a conversation feel a bit manic and unsafe. Silence is gold in coaching conversations. Your ability to listen well makes pausing necessary. While a client speaks, you are tracking with them keeping track of any keywords they say, but not over-analyzing. Once they are done speaking, then you begin formulating your next question. This takes time – your time, and their time. While you consider your next question they further consider their own words. Pacing yourself well, then, offers more value for the client while making it clear that thinking is a safe activity for a coaching conversation.
  3. Trust the process to add value, not you: Now we are definitely getting into some fluffy-nonsense…right? As corporate as this point sounds, it is one of the most foundational principles of great coaching. The coach is not an expert that the client can rely on, but an expert in facilitating a process that the client can rely on to add value. Even if we don’t get to cover everything we want in a call, offering coaching will add value for our clients. Believe it, and the client will feel that belief, relax in the conversation and be able to open up to a greater degree which, funnily enough, creates even more value in a session.

Check out the International Coach Federation’s Core Competencies Comparison Table here. You can find the information over-performing under Competency #3 “Trust and Intimacy.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

6 thoughts on “How Coaching Performance Kills Coaching”

  1. Great post, Bryan! I found that when I focused on just being with me client instead of what I was doing, I had some of the most organic, profound coaching conversations. There is so much to embrace in letting go!

    Reply
  2. This is so great! I’d also like to add that effective coaching happens in level 2 empathetic listening. So when a coach is judging his/her own performance, he or she is not truly listening for the sake of the client and imagining the experience from the client’s point of view. When one is in level 2 listening, it’s easy to get out of one’s head and ask curious powerful questions to learn more about the client. 🙂

    Reply
  3. This is so great! I’d also like to add that effective coaching happens in level 2 empathetic listening. So when a coach is judging his/her own performance, he or she is not truly listening for the sake of the client and imagining the experience from the client’s point of view.

    Reply
  4. “I always tell my coaches 00004000, ‘It’s real easy to go hard in someone else’s body. If it’s your body, how do you feel?’” said Mike Barwis, a former Michigan and West Virginia strength coach and now a consultant to the New York Mets .

    Reply
  5. Good post. For me getting into the right mindset for the coaching session is very important. Even two minutes of mindfulness practice directly before the session begins helps me be entirely open to what is happening in the moment with the client and not to ‘care’ about my performance. This has led to some of my best coaching to date.

    Reply

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