CoachingExcellence

January 1, 2017
Dear Coach,

Welcome to my Blog. Here you'll find essays I've written about coaching. Some of the questions I'm exploring are (1) What makes coaching work? (2) What helps coaches do their work well? (3) How do coaches continue to be masters of their profession? and (4) What the heck are those ICF coaching competencies, anyway?

My passion is helping coaches to be their best, so they can bring the best of coaching to their clients.

There's something here for all coaches, at all levels of experience. I’ll bet you'll learn something new, find a new perspective to consider, or just encounter a new way to say what you already know from experience. It’s all good, and (probably) good for you, too! .
You're welcome to browse - I'm sure you'll find something that resonates with your experience. You can also search on Categories and Tags for specific topics.

If you find something that you enjoy, please share with your colleagues and friends, and copy the link so you can find it again. Leave a comment if you’d like. You just might spur a new essay about something I’ve learned from you!

It's my privilege to offer my thoughts on coaching.. Enjoy your reading!

Sue McLeod, PCC

What's in your Coaching Agreement?

When we talk about Ethics, we soon find that our Ethical Foundations live in the agreements we make with our clients. Like these steps in a hiking trail, our agreements provide a path over uneven terrain and can lead us from darkness into light.

Morse Pond Stairway 2

Do you like to talk about Ethics? Probably not. Not many people jump at the opportunity. It sounds stale, pedantic, authoritarian and downright dull.

Imagine my surprise when I noticed that students in the Ethics in Coaching and Coaching Master Classes were engaged, intrigued and surprised by what they learned. They were grateful for the opportunity to talk honestly and openly about this important topic.

(By the way, my classes meet the requirements for the 3 hours of Ethics training you’ll need for your ICF credential renewal and I promise it will be the most fun you’ll have talking about Ethics!)

In these conversations, we talk about the challenges we’re facing with keeping client information confidential, recognizing and avoiding conflicts of interest, knowing when (and how) to decline or terminate a coaching engagement, and what information we can keep and what we should delete.

It soon becomes clear that there is some guidance in the code on these topics but the real guidance comes from the agreements we make with our clients. Agreements set the foundation for a strong coaching engagement. They support our ability to act ethically when challenges come up. But taken to extremes, they can feel out of sync with the coaching relationship we want to create.

These class conversations prompted me to think more deeply about the role our agreements play in the coaching relationship.

I’ve seen (and used) agreements that are on two ends of a spectrum. On one end is the “not-in-writing” agreement. This could be a verbal agreement that isn’t written down. It also happens when coach and client don’t think they need an agreement (perhaps they’ve worked together before or know each other well) and don’t even discuss an agreement before starting the coaching.

On the other end of the spectrum is the multi-page, many-clauses-to-cover-all-possible-contingencies, carefully crafted in legal language to cover the coach’s tokus. It feels like bringing a prenup on a first date!

Neither seems right to me.

Coaching is a business relationship and warrants explicit agreements about boundaries, expectations, and the rights and responsibilities on both sides. The “no agreement” option doesn’t honor the professional nature of coaching. 

The coaching relationship also requires trust, mutuality, co-creation and holding the client’s interests at heart. It often involves more people and stakeholders beyond the coach and client, who also need be a part of that trusting relationship. The long, legal agreement doesn’t feel aligned with these qualities of the relationship.

Given that, my next question was “What is the ‘just right’ agreement?” Of course, the answer is – it depends! It depends on the existing relationship, the context for the coaching engagement (for example, is this coaching as part of a training program, or individual coaching towards specific development goals), and other factors (such as who else is a stakeholder in the engagement) that might impact what you include or what you exclude from your agreement.

The better questions are “what is the purpose of the agreement” and “how can you best serve that purpose with a specific client?”

Consider this. The coaching agreement serves two primary purposes:

First, it documents the business relationship including the services the coach provides and the container in which those services will be provided, such as time frame, payments, meeting logistics, client goals, coach’s methods, etc.

Second, it sets a foundation for a trusting relationship, including clarifying what the coach and client expect of each other, what will happen if something goes awry, and how the coach will keep the client’s interests at the heart of the coaching. 

The second seems to require more thought than the first. In thinking about some recent coaching engagements I realized that I had to include some unique items in my agreements. Here are some things that I felt needed to be addressed to build that trust:

  • The coaching sponsor is a friend and colleague of mine, so I was careful to cover with client and sponsor how I would interact with the sponsor during and after the coaching engagement.
  • The client and I were planning to meet in a public place, so I added language that said I wouldn’t share information about the client, but I could not promise confidentiality and privacy because others could see us together and overhear our conversations.
  • I was coaching someone who was looking for a job in one of my professional communities. We had a very specific conversation to assure the client that no one in that community would hear anything about our coaching.
  • Because I teach and write about coaching, my agreement covers how and when I share stories based on our coaching conversations.
  • My agreement with students in my classes clarifies what information I keep and what information I destroy once the class is over.

I’m curious. Does this “framework” for coaching agreements resonate with you? Are there other things that you consider when you’re crafting and customizing agreements for your coaching engagements? 

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What to do with those chatty clients

Most coaches I talk with are stymied by what I’ll call “chatty clients”. These are the clients who give long answers with lots of detail, dominate the conversation, don’t breath between sentences, ramble all over the place, and don’t stay focused on the topic at hand. If you let them, they will talk for the whole coaching session.

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Be provocative. Break the pattern. 

 

I first ran into this type of client when I was still in my coach training.

Like many of you, I had to submit recordings for evaluation and feedback. We were graded on a scale of 1 to 10 (low to high) based on our demonstration of coaching skills and use of the tools we were taught.

I was mortified to receive a score of “1” on my first recording! And, to be fair, my evaluator was being generous. You see, I had submitted a 30-minute recording in which the client did all of the talking. Yes, really!  OK, maybe I said “Hello” and “Same time next week?” but other than that the client talked, non-stop, for the whole session.

I knew I was struggling with this client. I couldn’t t get a word in edge-wise, wasn’t sure how to interrupt, when to interrupt, or what to do if I did interrupt. I felt completely helpless and didn’t know how to change this dynamic. 

Is that how it is for you?

To capture that helpless feeling, I’ve created a variant on my favorite coaching acronym (WAIT - Why Am I Talking) for coaches who listen too much - WAIL (Why Am I Listening)

With more experience and the gift of listening to other coaches doing their work, I’ve noticed some patterns. While it would be fun to consider how we can change the client to be less verbose, I’m more interested in the coach. What is the coach doing that allows or encourages the client to speak in excess? What could the coach do differently to create balance in the conversation between coach and client?

If you have a chatty client, record a coaching session and listen. Listen carefully to what you say.  Here are a few things I hear that encourage chatty clients to chat even more:

1. Ambiguous questions: While I love a question that is not only open but wide open (like What are you noticing? or What’s important to you today?), these types of questions are also ambiguous.  If you ask me what I’m noticing, I can share all kinds of things that I’m noticing - my thoughts about… well, just about anything, my emotions, my physical body, what I see you doing, the temperature of the room, the fact that the story I just told reminded me of another thing that is frustrating, etc. If I’m a chatty client, I could start down one of these paths and it could be awhile before you can get me to focus again.  

Try this instead: Ask more pointed and specific questions that create boundaries around what you are asking the client to talk about. For example “What are you noticing about the emotions you feel right now?” or  “Given the goals you have for the coaching, what challenge are you facing this week that you’d like to focus on?” or  “Would you like to start the session by sharing your successes for 5 minutes before we start coaching?”  Yes, these are more directive than the wide open questions. But, my guess is, the chatty client could use a little direction!

2. Restating what you hear the client say: Restating and reframing are great coaching tools. The client hears themselves in a new way when their coach repeats their words. However, I’ve noticed that chatty clients use these as a jumping off point to continue talking. After the coach interrupts and say “What I heard you say is….” the client immediately responds with “That’s right and…” continues the story.

Try this instead: Resist the urge to repeat what the client just said. I know, I know… it’s the easiest and safest way to interrupt a client who is talking a lot. I get that. But if it’s just encouraging them to talk more, why continue using that coaching move?  Ask a question or make an observation instead. Here’s the challenge though. Your question or observation has to take them out of the story. An information gathering question won’t do it. An observation about the story won’t do it. You have to shift their thinking to something else, and that might require you to be a little provocative.  “I hear you’re frustrated with your coworker and that’s causing you to act like a jerk. How does is it for you to be that frustrated?” or “I’ve been listening for a few minutes now and I’m completely lost in your story. What is it you really want me to know about this?”

I know these types of moves are hard to make, especially if you and your client have an established pattern of 'client gets to talk while coach gets to listen'. So first, listen to your coaching to see what is happening. If your hear ambiguous questions or restating that invites the client to talk more, take a risk and try something new.

Be provocative. Break the pattern. I have confidence that you’ll know what to do; I’ll be curious to hear how your client reacts.

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Creating Silence

 

What stops you in your tracks?

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The scene in the photo above literally stopped my in my tracks. I was hustling from Georgetown's building on Mass Ave. to meet a friend for dinner and passed this opening between the buildings. Stunned by the glowing purple sunset, I stopped and (of course!) had to capture it with my camera. There's nothing like a gorgeous sunset to take my breath away and create a pause in my thinking and my purpose.

Powerful questioning in a coaching conversation can do the same. They can be magical. When your questions are working, they seem simple and effortless. It's not just the words we use. It's the pace and timing, and the intention behind the words. It's not just one question, either. It's a group of questions that respond to the client, build on a theme, or shift their perspective in a new direction.

And, sometimes, it's what we don't say or don't do that creates what our client needs - silence.

I was reminded of this the last time I was in DC, staying with friends and teaching coaching.

I was playing “What’s That?” with the precious two-year old son of my friends. I had turned the tables on him. Instead of being on the receiving end of his incessant questions, I was questioning him. He quickly answered when I pointed to his socks, pants, shirt, hair, and nose, but was stumped when I touched his forehead. He paused, looked around, and there was an unusual silence. I resisted the temptation to tell him the answer or move on to his arms and fingers.

After a what seemed like an endless pause, he started to speak… “ffff…”. Another pause, then “fffooorrr…”.

More quiet and glances around the room. Suddenly he looked back at me and said “fore….head!” with a big smile.  I was delighted! And grateful I had allowed the silence for him to think and create a new connection between his forehead and its name.

The next day I was with a group of students, observing their coaching. One coach had the good fortune to ask a question that the client didn’t answer right away. To her credit, the coach endured the silence and waited. In our debrief discussion, the coach admitted that she was mortified, thinking that the client didn’t understand the question. The client countered that the question was a tough one. She needed the time to think.  It was the perfect opportunity to remind the students that clients will tell you, pretty quickly, if they don’t understand your question.

The questions that invoke silence have taken them to a place where there isn’t an easy answer.

When you have the good fortune to create that silence, take a deep breath, stay connected to your client, and wait. What’s happening in the silence is more valuable than anything you can say

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Strengthen your coaching core - ICF MD Chapter Webinar Series

CoreStrength:  3-Part Webinar Series Covering ICF Core Competencies

Hosted by ICF Maryland Chapter

Presented by Sue McLeod, PCC

REGISTER HERE

*** Purchase All 3 Webinars and SAVE ***

(Sessions held on April 3, April 17and May 1 • 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM)
4.5 CCEUs – Attend All 3 Webinars
4.5 CCEUs – Complete All 3Post-Webinar Assignments

$250 – ICF Maryland and Global Members
$300 – Non-Members 


Individual Webinars

1.5 CCEUs – Attend 1 Webinar
1.5 CCEUs – Complete 1Post-Webinar Assignment

$100 – ICF Maryland and Global Members
$125 – Non-Members

  Don't miss this incredible opportunity!!! 

Webinar #1:  Creating a Trusting Relationship for Coaching (April 3, 2018 • 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM)


The magic of coaching begins with the relationship we create with our client.. Strong mutual trust and trust in the coaching process create asafe space for clients to honestly share their hopes and dreams, fears and frustrations.. When we accept the client as they are every time we meet, and treat them as a partner, the opportunity opens to work together to create the results the client desires.

This workshop is your opportunity to learn about the core strengths that create this magical relationship. Learn about the three types of trust - coach trusting the client, client trusting the coach, coach and client trusting the coaching process. Learn how creating trust and intimacy and coaching presence support the rest of the coaching competencies. This workshop is an invitation to reflect on the quality of the relationships you have with your clients, and learn from Sue’s experience and the wisdom of other coaches how you can strengthen this core of your coaching.

 “I really appreciate the way you have illustrated the model, where everything points  to trust and intimacy in the relationship!”    ~ webinar participant

Webinar #2:  Defining and Aligning with Your Client’sAgenda (April 17, 2018 • 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM) 


What differentiates coaching from other disciplines? The answer lies, in part, in how coaches use the skills of Active Listening, PowerfulQuestioning, and Direct Communication. The practice of these skills in coaching is different than consulting, teaching, counseling, and our everyday interactions with friends and colleagues. Supported by the foundation of a trusting relationship, we listen intently to the client, we ask questions that expand their thinking into new perspectives and possibilities, and we share our observations and experiences as input to their process, not as the answer tothe problems.

This workshop is your opportunity to deepen your understanding of how to apply these coaching skills and take an honest look at your own listening, questioning and communicating. We’ll explore how these skills are supported by the trusting relationship we have with the client and serve the client’s work to create the life they desire. Through sharing and discussion ofthe challenges we face, we’ll find pathways to return your coaching to these fundamental coaching skills. 


Webinar #3:  Leveraging Your Coaching Skills for Learning,Growth and New Results (May1, 2018 • 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM)


It’s easy to stray from the purpose of coaching after you and the client have spent some time together. When coaching sessions become opportunities for clients to share what’s happened in the last week, complain at length about the status quo or explain how other people are causing their problems, you’ve likely drifted away from the coaching competencies that define why client’s hire us and what’s necessary for them to make progress towards their goals.


This workshop is your opportunity to revisit the “purpose” in the “purposeful conversations” we promise our clients. These core strengths include defining the agenda, intentions or goals of the coaching engagement ande ach conversation, searching for the new awareness that opens new options, and defining the action steps and success factors for the client to make changes in their life. We’ll explore how these competencies set the framework for all o fthe coaching competencies to work together to support the client to create the life they desire.


                                                                 Don't miss this incredible opportunity!!! 


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What? Me Worry?

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I’m a worrier.

In the back of my mind there’s a constant stream of worries. big and small - about family members, business, and clients. I worry about what’s on my to-do list, what I’ve forgotten to put on my to-do list, and how I’m going to everything done. My worries are small (what to make for dinner) and large (how my favorite team will fare in the big game) and global (what’s going on with the global economy).

My moment of acute self-awareness about the degree of my worrying was when I noticed that I was worried that I wasn’t worried enough. Doesn’t that sound a little over the top?

I’m not the only coach who worries.

I’ve heard from many of you “If the coaching police could hear my coaching, I’d be arrested!”. Although a bit overstated, this captures an underlying worry that we’ve strayed from “pure coaching” (or coaching the way we were taught or the way we think ICF expects us to) and wandered into the territory of advice-giving, letting the client talk too much, or other perceived “sins” of coaching.

(For example, see my Blog Post “Am I Coaching or Something Else?” for a my thoughts on crossing the line from coaching to consulting.)

Worrying about things beyond my control wastes energy. While I can don my lucky hat for the big game, there’s not much I can really do to help my team win.

For things that are within my control, I’ve learned to sit with the worry and consider if there is some truth lurking underneath. Maybe there is something I am being called to do. When I’m worried about a family member, I can (at a minimum) reach out to them and make a connection. When I’m worried about my do-to list, I can spend thoughtful time clarifying and prioritizing. And when I’m worried about what’s going on in my community, it’s time to take action.

When you are worried about your coaching, what is calling for your attention? How will you know what needs to be addressed?

Students in my Coaching Master Class bring their worries and find clarity from our work with the competency model. One student was concerned that she didn’t know how to use Direct Communication. As we explored that competency, she discovered that she was using Direct Communication effectively - she just didn’t know it. She could put that worry aside. Other students find things they aren’t doing as well as they could. They discover they really are doing more telling than asking, or they skip the agreement setting or forget to nail down actions. Through our conversations, they turn that worry into a learning intention. By the end of the class, they have new coaching moves and feel more skilled and confident.

What are your worries about your coaching? Move from worry to clarity by looking more closely at your competencies and find where you can let go of the worry, or shift into learning.

The Coaching Master Class is designed facilitate this type of reflection, with the added bonus of being with experienced coaches as partners for your learning. I bring my experience as a coach, trainer, and assessor to keep us aligned to the coaching competencies.

Sue, There’s something magical that happens when people get together in the learning environment you create. So, on one level, there is this ethereal feeling of camaraderie. But then there's another level where I'm getting real, practical information and help on what to do to be a better coach. My notebook is full of new questions to ask my clients. Kelly Kienzle, PCC

Are you ready to transform your worries into better coaching skills and more confidence? Join the Coaching Master Class starting on March 12.

  • 18 Core Competency, CEU, including 3 hours of Ethics.
  • Small group, interactive learning.
  • Eight (8) on-line webinars between March 12 and August 6, 2018
  • More details including class schedule HERE
  • Save $150 by registering before March 2.

If you're not ready for a class, Mentor Coaching is a “personal trainer” approach to improving your coaching. We’ll get to the evidence from listening to recordings of your coaching, make some grounded assessments based on my knowledge of the competencies, and find powerful ways for you to shift your coaching and your confidence.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are interested.

With gratitude for the student and client who teach me so much!

Sue

(I remember the line "What? Me Worry?"   from Mad Magazine's Alfred E Newman. Here's a link if you're curious https://www.madmagazine.com/blog/2012/12/19/totally-mad-excerpt-who-is-alfred-e-neuman)

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