Gaye Kuelsen, PCC • September 27, 2022 • 7 Minute Read
You may be aware that the ICF recently announced that from 1st August 2022, any new applications for the ACC, PCC, and MCC will be assessed using the updated application pathways. As we move closer to using the Updated ICF Core Competencies model, this month we will focus on the seventh competency:
7. Evokes Awareness
Definition: Facilitates client insight and learning by using tools and techniques such as powerful questioning, silence, metaphor or analogy
1. Considers client experience when deciding what might be most useful
In your role as a coach, part of your responsibility is to provide some structure for the coaching session, moving smoothly from the start, progressing to the middle towards the end. When it comes to supporting the client to evoke awareness, the use of a coaching tool or technique may be useful. At times, when we have just learnt a new tool, we are eager to ‘try it out’. A word or caution here…this is where you as a coach need to consider if the client’s exploring of their topic would be supported by the use of the tool, and avoid trying to fit the client’s situation in to the confines of the tool. I’m curious to hear of your experience when a tool/technique worked wonders, and even the success was not so obvious!
2. Challenges the client as a way to evoke awareness or insight
One word I notice that clients use to describe others, but more often label themselves is ‘lazy’. This is the word that when I hear it, I do say to my clients – “I’m going to challenge you on the use of that word. Tell me what lazy means to you”.
In all cases so far, I have yet to have a client who has engaged in coaching that can be described as lazy. There is a distinction here about not doing anything, and just granting yourself some downtime, or enjoying some leisure activity. We then go on to explore what would happen if the client only worked and never rested or revitalised their own self. Some clients are not consciously aware of the negative labels they attach to themselves, and highlighting and/or challenging them on theses constant criticisms helps them to become aware. I firmly believe, that once you are aware of something, you then are able to change or improve it to be more helpful to you. Negative self-talk is one such example.
3. Asks questions about the client, such as their way of thinking, values, needs, wants and beliefs
Many of us as coaches have used surveys and questionnaires to help clients identify their values which is a very useful in helping clients guide and influence their decisions or gain clarity about what is important to them. Having the discussion about the client’s needs vs wants is also an approach that can open up new insights for the client. One series of questions that can achieve a very quick deep dive is – (1) What do you want? (2) What do you really want? (3) What do you really, really want?
Supporting a client to understand their thinking process is always of great benefit, as they can learn to pre-empt the unhelpful pathways their brain usually takes, then avoiding the negative experience of the downward spiral. Being cognisant of how they think, the client can also identify the assumptions they make, which when having this knowledge can circumvent incorrect or irrelevant thoughts and emotions.
4. Asks questions that help the client explore beyond current thinking
Here is where time travel works so well. Taking your client on an adventure from the present situation to an exciting future, enables them to visualise all the possibilities. In the same way, transporting your client into the past to recall a past success, learn the lesson or understand the context, permits them to bring that prior experience to the present to propel them towards their desires and dreams. The coaching session provides a rock solid safe space for the client to explore all possibilities swirling around them.
5. Invites the client to share more about their experience in the moment
Many of us have experienced clients that are great thinkers, and are very comfortable with analysis and comparisons. To intensify their in the moment experience, ask a question so the client shares the sensations they are feeling in their body. Here is where a somatic technique or tool would also be useful, and remember to always ask the client’s permission when you invite them to consider to follow your lead. A simple process is to invite the client to close their eyes and use the five senses to help them notice what is happening for them. Asking about each sense, one at a time – What do you see/hear/smell/taste/feel? You may ask about just one or two senses, depending on the client’s responses.
6. Notices what is working to enhance client progress
Paying close attention, and recalling your client’s preferences helps them to move forward without unnecessary barriers or obstacles. This can include the use of words that better resonate with your client, so you both have the same understanding of the meaning of certain words, or avoiding words or metaphors that create un-ease for your client. When talking about building trust in self, my client was willing to make ‘commitments’ to herself, but was reluctant to make ‘promises’ she could not keep.
Altering the pace of the coaching session can support client progress. This can be slowing down or speeding up your rate of speech to match the client. Also, changing the level of the energy into the coaching space can be achieved by observing shifts in the client, or bringing some lightness or humour to the conversation.
7. Adjusts the coaching approach in response to the client’s needs
With the current advances with virtual technology, we have the opportunity to coach a diverse range of clients from across the globe. Therefore, being comfortable with a flexible and adaptable approach to coaching different clients is paramount. This updated competency, is the combination of three previous competencies – Powerful Questions, Direct Communication and Creating Awareness. Posing questions that encourage the client to go deeper with their reflections, instead of asking for information or content is supporting the client’s need to gain a greater understanding. The depth of our shared observations, and subsequent invitation to the client to respond, creates the opportunity for meeting the client’s need to shift perspective or gain clarity. Using silence to hold the space meets the client’s need to have time to think and reflect.
8. Helps the client identify factors that influence current and future patterns of behaviour, thinking or emotion
Often as coaches, we get a sense of potential connections that the client may not be able to tap into as they are too caught up in their own situation. The client sometimes is unable to take away from the drama or the detail, to see the big picture. As an observer for our client, we are able to hold up the mirror so to speak, or reflect back their words and feelings for greater impact, that the client can gain a new perspective. Asking questions about the best possible outcome, or the worst-case scenario, can help the client look at all factors to strengthen their awareness and understanding about how they operate in this world.9. Invites the client to generate ideas about how they can move forward and what they are willing or able to do
Gathering of information and understanding has little use unless it is applied or acted upon. This is the reason we support our clients to get into action. A question I often ask is – “Thinking about what you now know, what are you inspired to do?” This question seamlessly moves the client from reflection into action mode. The actions may have been identified during the course of the coaching conversation, or further support using brainstorming or additional questions can assist the client in creating their action plan.
10. Supports the client in reframing perspectives
Usually as a result of some inner conflict or struggle, clients come to coaching to find resolution and alignment with their challenges. Many clients can recognise their inner struggle, though often cannot identify the cause, or more importantly how to resolve the conflict between two opposing parts within themselves. Research has shown that we do have three brains – our head, heart and gut. First, the head is used for thinking and making meaning. Second, the heart connects to our emotions and values. Third, the gut gets us motivated and into action. Self-sabotage or inner struggles result from a disconnect between our three brains. There is a process to support your client to create alignment with the three brains which does counter any sabotage or conflict. Ask me how…
11. Shares observations, insights and feelings, without attachment, that have the potential to create new learning for the client
As we listen to our clients, our intuition sends us gentle signals and messages. While actively listening, take a few moments to also tap into your own inner space to gauge the relevance and significance of these messages that you are receiving. Regularly checking in with these messages will build your confidence and trust with your intuition. Sometimes if unsure, I may wait until a message floats to the surface a number of times, before I’m certain that it is something to be shared with the client. These observations, when shared with the client, may or may not allow the client to go beyond their current thinking or understanding of their situation. Two key elements here to remember. One – to be totally unattached to your observation, and be comfortable that you may be wrong. Two – always invite the client to respond by asking – What do you think? What comes up for you? What does that bring to mind? By offering the client the opportunity to reply, the conversation continues to flow forward.
Sharing these mentoring moments with you,