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 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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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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Taking Out the Trash (or How I Manage Client Information)

What do you do with your coaching client files and records?

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The trash can is overflowing as I throw away files and papers related to my coaching clients and students. There’s a pang of regret and fear that goes along with this exercise. “What if I need these again and can’t put my hands on them?”  Then a competing voice asks “But you promised your clients confidentiality and privacy and why do you need to keep all of this information anyway?”

In my Ethics in Coaching Class we carefully read the ICF Code of Ethics and ask ourselves if our current practices are aligned with the provisions of the Code. Each of us finds some way we can do better and we commit to learn more and make specific changes.

My assignment was to get serious about managing client information and deleting files when appropriate.

Here’s the paragraph in the ICF Code of Ethics I was using as my guide:

11. Maintain, store and dispose of any records, including electronic files and communications, created during my coaching engagements in a manner that promotes confidentiality, security and privacy and complies with any applicable laws and agreements. (ICF Code of Ethics, July 2015)

On first reading it seems simple and clear, but when you start asking “How would I implement this?”, the ambiguities appear.  What do I really need to do to “promote confidentiality, security, and privacy?” and which “laws and agreements apply?” are just the first two questions I asked. 

My goal was to create routines that addressed client and student records within a reasonable time after coaching engagement or class is done.  This seemed like an easy assignment, but I ran into the some challenges - I found it was a little more complex that I thought and I stumbled into more than one a“rabbit hole”.

Here’s my homework report that I shared with the other students in the class:

First things first - Where are my client documents?

  • Client documents and information are stored in many more places than I anticipated!. It’s in tax returns; my bookkeeping software; and my PayPal account. It’s in calendar entries; contact lists; and emails with their attachments.  It’s in electronic files and folders, and on paper. Client data is stored on my hard drive, on my mobile devices, in the “cloud”, on my desk and in notebooks.
  • With laptop, iPad, IPhone, and cloud apps that sync with each other, data start in one place, then get copied in two, three or more additional places.

I was overwhelmed by the idea that I needed to protect and keep “confidential and private” all of this data that is stored in so many places!

With all of that data floating around, what (really) needs to be protected?

I decided that the IRS and Maine Department of Revenue are the only entities really interested in who I do business with, how much I’m paid, when and for how long I talk with clients, or what their phone numbers/email addresses/Skype addresses are. I just don’t think there’s any danger in this information becoming public for the people I work with. Password protection should be enough.

It is important to protect and dispose of information about the content of my work with clients and students. This includes client coaching goals; interviews and notes from bosses, peers and direct reports; coaching session prep sheets;  homework assignment reports; coaching recordings, transcripts and assessment reports; and my notes about any of this content.

Now that I know what to delete, I need to know how!

This turned out to be the hardest part of this assignment. Deleting electronic files isn’t simple (or easy) because of multiple syncing devises, cloud-based applications, and disorganized filing systems. 

It took me a week of exploring to feel like I fully understood where files are stored and how they can be deleted in the systems I use. For example a file that I receive as an email attachment is stored on the mail server, in the mail folder on my computer, phone and tablet, and in system files that are hidden from my view, and then I copy it to a client folder. Tracking down all of these copies and learning the steps needed to really delete was, to say the least, a chore. 

After a couple of weeks of exploring and learning and thinking, here’s what I plan to do.

#1: I will be rigorous about deleting client, student and assessment files related to the content of our work within 30 days of the work being completed. I have an item on my ToDo list every 2 weeks to handle this task. I will delete files from ALL places that I know they can be hiding out on ALL devices and sites.

#2: I will revise my agreements to Include language that says I will hold our work in confidence but “doing business with” information will not be protected beyond passwords on devices and websites.

Sounds simple, but it won’t always be easy! 

With the technical details figured out, I started deleting - and ran into another obstacle.

My aversion to throwing things away reared it’s ugly head as soon as I started moving files into the Trash. Luckily, I quickly noticed that this response was the same as my response to getting rid of a pair of shoes that no longer fit. While my fear says these things are irreplaceable and I will suffer harm without them, my logical brain knows that they can be replaced, that most of the time they don’t need to be replaced, and that no deaths or injuries will occur if I no longer have them. 

I can just let them go.

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Smooth the Rocky Edges of Your Coaching

Join the Coaching Master Class 

It’s Summer!

Boots and Coreopsis

I’m sitting on my deck enjoying the flowers (ignoring the weeds), listening to the ocean waves crash against the rocky shore (no sandy beaches here), and hoping that the wind doesn’t change direction and bring the odor of the decomposing whale that washed up on a nearby island into my idyllic morning.  Summer in Maine is lovely, but far from perfect.

And neither is our coaching. We all have some rocky areas, weeds among the masterful coaching moves, and a few bad habits lurking close by that could stink things up a little.

Is that enough of the rotting whale story? (It’s true, by the way…)

If you have questions about where your coaching might be less than ideal, or want to talk about those bad habits that you're no longer willing to ignore, I invite you to join the Coaching Master Class.

I’ve been so pleased at how experienced coaches who join the Master Class love returning to a safe learning community. We share rich conversations about our coaching, and learn from our collective experiences. Within the framework of coaching competencies, even experienced coaches have new insights into how they can serve their clients better.

Here’s what one Master Class Alumna shared with me recently about how this course impacted her:

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

I have a deep belief in both the power of sticking to and reinforcing the basic moves of coaching and being in community with fellow coaches. If this appeals to you, I hope you will consider signing up. 

You can REGISTER HERE.

In Gratitude,

Sue

P.S. Students who register early will save $150 on their Master Class investment. (Sweet, right?!) Since I save time in planning the sooner I have my class roster set, I like to pass those savings along to my students.

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Credential PSA: Procrastinators, take note!

If 2018 is your year to renew your ICF credential or you’re making the move from ACC to PCC, it’s not too early to be planning how you will meet the credential requirements!  And, if you wait until fall, it might be too late!

Over the years I’ve helped many coaches navigate this and have had my own last-minute scrambles to pull together my application, searching through ICF’s website to figure out what’s required, being surprised by new requirements, and spending hours pulling together the documentation.  I get a little nervous just thinking about it!

I’ve learned that it pays to create focus and intention around your credential applications. Here are my tips for successfully and easily navigating the process

PLAN AHEAD - Visit the ICF individual credential web pages and get familiar with the requirements for your situation. Bookmark the appropriate pages, then make a plan for putting together what you need for your application.

BE MINDFUL OF CHANGES - There is one thing we can always count on: Things are changing! This is great when it comes to continued growth and learning, but I understand that it can be frustrating when it comes to getting your credential application done. Some of the newer requirements can’t be done at the last minute!

Renewing your ACC?  You’ll need 10 hours of mentor coaching with someone who holds an ACC, PCC or MCC credential, to be held over at least 3 months.

Renewing your ACC, PCC or MCC? The ICF now requires three hours of Ethics Training.

New credential level? You will need to be able to pass the Coach Knowledge Assessment (CKA). Get ready by reviewing the Code of Ethics and the Core Coaching Competencies. Leave time to study these before you have to take the test. You do get a second chance, but you have to pay for it. Who wants that?!

BE YOUR BEST SELF: This process often takes longer than people expect and there will be many things on your to-do list, which aren’t always fun or interesting!  You know yourself and how you get things done. Are you a checklist follower? Do you need an accountability partner? Or would a group approach make this more fun and engaging? Create what you need to make this process work for you.

LEARN FROM THE EXPERIENCE! What are you noticing about this process? Which parts are harder or more annoying that they should be? I found it hard to document my CEUs when I had to search through my calendar and emails to find the information about the classes I took, so I’ve created a tracking and filing system that makes that part of the process extra easy. Learn from this year’s process, and take the time now to create the support structures you need to make your next application easier.

Our credential says a lot about who we are as coaches. Don’t let the credential process get in your way!

This is a “public service” message based on lessons learned from the coaches who have gone before you are in the credential application and renewal process. I’m happy to talk with you individually if you have questions.

SueMcLeod, PCC

Mentor Coaching and Coach Training

Sign up for my monthly newsletter HERE for pithy, sometimes irreverent, and always relevant musings on our coaching profession.

(207) 751-1689

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www.suemcleodcoaching.com

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Coaching Moves

You know I’m a big fan of the coaching competencies. I also know that there are 12 of them and many more PCC competency markers and it’s hard to keep them all in your head when you’re in a coaching conversation.

Each moment of a coaching conversation offers us a choice of what move to make next. Here are the basic moves we can make:

  • Ask a question
  • Offer an observation
  • Offer an assessment (observation + interpretation)
  • Paraphrase for clarity
  • Stay in silence

Any of these moves, when done in service to client and what they want from the coaching conversation, keep you firmly in the coach role.

(with gratitude to my fellow Georgetown Leadership Coaching faculty members who created this list)

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Do you have an Ethics Lifeline?

Who do you reach out to when the waters get a little rough in your one-on-one with coaching clients?
 

I received a call from a former student and colleague the other day. She was facing a challenge with a coaching client and needed help thinking through how to handle it. The challenge had to do with Ethics - which is not unusual when I receive these types of calls.  I think she had a pretty good idea of what needed to be done, but it wasn’t straightforward and she felt that there were risks in all directions. It was ambiguous (maybe something was amiss, or maybe not), it involved her client and others in the organization, and the worst-case scenario was serious enough that ignoring it wasn’t an option. It was helpful for her to talk it through, and she came away with a plan and the conviction that taking action was the right thing to do.

In my Coaching Master Class, we talk about Ethics first, and spend more time on it than the other competencies. In my initial class design, I put Ethics at the beginning because I thought it was a topic that we would discuss without much pre-work, as a way to “warm up” before hitting our stride with real coaching topics.


After 10 cohorts, I now see that putting Ethics first was a great decision - it is a real coaching topic. 


In listening to the ethical situations the students bring to the class, I see that Ethics is an undercurrent in our relationships with our clients and their sponsoring organizations.  They can arise right at the beginning or at any time during the engagement. They impact the services we offer and how we build our businesses, especially if we offer more than coaching.  Whenever they come up, they can knock us off center and disrupt the coaching engagement.


Talking about Ethics proactively – that is, before we need to make some of those difficult choices - is important. Many of the Coaching Master Class students have been grateful for that opportunity and have made specific changes to their coaching agreements and initial conversations with clients and sponsors. They are ready to handle some common ethical challenges before they become a problem.


Through the conversations, students also realize the value of getting different perspectives and hearing the experiences of their peers. We talk about having a “lifeline” - someone to call to help when you're facing a challenge. Your lifeline won’t have the answer, but will listen, ask questions, notice emotions that might be getting in your way, challenge your assumptions, and refer you back to the Code of Ethics and your coaching agreements for guidance. Your lifeline is a coach, really, to help you do what needs to be done to stay aligned with your ethical code.


The coach who called me had been through those conversations in the Coaching Master Class and had done some research on ethics in coaching relationships. She had the advantage of that proactive thinking, and had the phone number of her lifeline ready.


From teaching the Coaching Master Class, I’ve learned that it’s important that we stop and talk about Ethics periodically, to check in on the ethical challenges that are cropping up in your real-world experiences. The conversations remind us of what’s expected when we face these challenges, and prepare us for when they do occur.


Who is your Ethics Lifeline?

 

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What will you Start, Stop and Continue to Become a Better Coach?

Awareness - that window into what’s working and what’s not - is the foundation for change. 

 
The coaching profession values learning. In fact, coaching is all about learning. Our clients learn about themselves and howthey relate to the world. They learn new approaches to their challenges, either through new attitudes or behaviors. They learn to be more aware of the world around them and what’s happening inside of them.
 
It makes sense that coaches should be continuing their own learning, increasing their awareness and learning new approaches to their coaching and their relationships with clients.
 
Many consultants, facilitators, and coaches I know use the START/STOP/CONTINUE model to define how the future should be different than the past. They ask “What do you know to do that you want to START doing in the future? What are you doing now that doesn’t work that you want to STOP? What is still working that you want to CONTINUE?”
 
I think it’s useful to use this model when thinking about your own learning and how to improve your coaching.
 
What do you know about your coaching that is working well? How can you CONTINUE to do these things with confidence?
 
What do you know about your coaching that is just not working – for you or the client? How can you STOP doing those things in the future?
 
And where do you feel you have deficiencies? It could be things that you know you should be doing, but aren’t. Or you’re facing situations or clients that you’re not sure how to handle, and need new skills or approaches to feel more capable. What do you need to START to handle these better?
 
Before you answer these questions, take a minute to reflect. Do you know enough about your coaching to make good decisions about what to START/STOP/CONTINUE?
 
From my experience, it’s hard for coaches, on their own, to objectively view their own coaching. They have questions rather than clarity about whether what they are doing is working. So they are unsure whether to STOP or CONTINUE.
 
Their clients are happy and telling them the coaching is great, and they don’t have another way to tell is something is missing. It’s hard to START something to fill a gap when they’re not even aware of the gap.
 
Awareness, that window into what’s working and what’s not, is the foundation for change. Equally important is a model of coaching that sets a standard of what’s effective. Looking at your coaching (with an learners eye) against a model (that you believe in), you can start to understand what you can Start/Stop/Continue to become a better coach.
 
It’s further complicated when you consider that how well you coach depends on what you do and how you “be” while you’re coaching. Your technique might be fine, but your “being” might affect your ability to listen to and hear your client’s emotions or energy. Or you might have a connected and supportive way of “being”, but forget to challenging your client, or holding them accountable.
 
When was the last time you honestly reflected on your coaching against what you were taught? When was the last time you recorded a coaching session and listened carefully to see if you are using all of the coaching competencies? When was the last time someone you respected as an experienced coach listened to your coaching and gave you feedback?
 
Isn’t it time you made a serious commitment to START/STOP/CONTINUE for the sake of you coaching and your clients?
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Coach, Are you an Innocent Bystander? or a Passive Enabler?

You know that feeling when you're coaching. Your client is doing what they always do. Maybe they talk a lot and never really get to the point. Maybe they "I don't know" a lot and deflect all invitations to explore new paths. And, since you've been here before, you let them do what they do, feeling powerless and "skill-less" to change the course of the conversation. 

 



You're an innocent bystander to your client.

Innocent because it's not your fault (it's the client's fault). Bystander because you're on the sidelines watching and listening, and being a little bit of a victim, too.

This term came to me in a Master Class session I was leading on Establishing the Coaching Agreement. We were discussing challenges with clients who are difficult to pin down, who can't seem to focus on what they want from the coaching, who only want to talk about what's already happened, and who never come to the coaching session with a topic in mind.

Listening to these stories led me to reflect on my own coaching. Of course, I have clients like this, too.  With reflection, I had an epiphany - I've been taking the role of "innocent bystander" with clients who don't come to the session with a clear topic, ready for coaching.

I'm now reframing.

When I pull back from the coaching conversation and blame the client, I'm not really "innocent". In fact, you could say I'm guilty. Guilty of not being a full partner, of not owning my responsibility to lead the coaching session to be a purposeful conversation.

I'm also not a bystander! My presence and actions with my client have an impact, always! By letting them ramble on, I'm enabling them to continue their default patterns of thinking, reinforcing their stories and assessments of how life is for them, and accepting the lack of focus and forward movement this is probably not working for them in other parts of their life.

From "innocent bystander" to "guilty enabler" - there's a powerful reframe! It's a wake-up call for me and I'm mindful now as I work with clients, students and colleagues to return to the core of coaching - my role is to be a partner, to support the client to "do/be what they don't want to do/be, in order to have the life they want." which mean I sometimes have to do what I don't want to do, or say what I don't want to say.

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ICFNE Maine Affiliate Program Summary - Mentor Coaching

It was a night of the full moon - both a Harvest Moon and a Super Moon, at that.  With the energy shift that moves us from August’s relaxation to September’s hustle we kicked off the second year of ICFNE Maine affiliate programs with Mentor Coaching.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The mission of the Maine affiliate of ICFNE is to create a community that fosters our learning, building the reputation of coaching in Maine, and supports us in building our businesses. To support that mission, the program was designed to be interactive and draw on the experiences and wisdom of the participants.

.... I was totally impressed with the level of engagement, trust, and support demonstrated by this learning community ... (SG)

I’m passionate about Mentor Coaching as a valuable tool for developing our coaching skills. I also want to bring clarity about Mentor Coaching so that coaches can be informed “consumers” of this valuable service, and that experienced coaches know what it means to be an effective Mentor Coach.

...Sue's workshop illustrated the power of mentor coaching in my own professional development in a hands on, real time manner.  It was structured, organized and high impact.  ... (JE)

The ICF’s definition of Mentor Coaching is “coaching on your coaching”. After small group discussions on what it means to be a mentor, we reviewed the Georgetown University Mentor Coaching Model, which says that a Mentor Coach is an expert in coaching and a partner focused on developing coaching skills.  There are similarities to coaching and there are differences.
...Sue McLeod's presentation clarified the importance of mentoring to developing and sustaining the quality of my coaching... (JC)
Mentor Coaching begins with establishing your goals for development. Next, the Mentor Coach provides feedback on your coaching, and then engages in a coaching conversation focused on developing your coaching skills.  
The feedback is based on the Mentor Coach observing your coaching, assessing what they see and hear against a standard of coaching (such as the ICF Core Coaching Competencies), and providing feedback in a way that you can hear and understand.
The Mentor Coach then engages you in a coaching conversation that explores the feedback, looks for opportunities for new awareness about your coaching - including identifying habits and blind spots such as avoiding emotions or skipping over designing specific and measurable actions.
...Mentor coaching targeted areas for my development and offered improvement strategies that were spot on.  I want more!!!... (JE)
 After discussing the model, we moved on to demonstrations and practice.  Like coaching itself, the best way to learn about Mentor Coaching is to experience it!
We used the new ICF PCC Level Competency Markers as the basis for assessing the coaching.  Participants found the markers to be easy to understand and observe as they watched a coaching conversation. They were also humbled by how difficult it is to capture everything that’s happening as they prepared for giving feedback.  
...I want to thank you for such a rich program you presented on mentor coaching.  It was enlightening! It made me step back and think about my coaching and how I follow (or not) the core competencies.  I've been coaching for 11 years and it's so easy to forget!  I am now committed to taking one competency and practicing  the skills for 2 weeks and then moving on to another one... (DB)
After a demonstration of a mentor coaching conversation, we broke into triads for everyone to have the opportunity to be a part of a Mentor Coaching session. The room was energized as coaches coached clients and mentors observed. Then it was the mentor’s turn to try his/her hand at a mentor coach conversation. We finished up with a little feedback to the mentor coach. 
... As a result of the program, I will now be more intentional about how I elicit feedback and mentoring on my coaching ...  (SG)
Everyone was gracious and courageous in jumping in to try mentor coaching, and came away with a deeper appreciation for Mentor Coaching, Coaching and the community of coaches that we share.
...The interactive exercises enabled me to connect with and observe other coaches and appreciate the impact of good coaching... (JC)

Thank you to ICFNE Maine affiliate for the opportunity to present this program. And a special thank you to Susan Gallant, Janet Eastmen, Deb Bergeron and Janice Cohen for allowing me to include their comments in this blog post.

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"Just the Facts" - about Mentor Coaching

Mentor Coaching Overview


What is Mentor Coaching (according to the ICF)?
 
  • Coaching on your coaching 
  • by an ICF credentialed coach at or above your desired credential level
 
Roles in a Mentor Coaching Relationship
 
Mentor Coach - person providing coaching on your coaching
Mentee - person receiving the mentor coaching
Client - person being coached for the purposes of evaluating the Mentee/Coach’s coaching
 
How is Mentor Coaching done?
 
Option 1: Using Recorded Coaching Sessions
  • Mentee records a coaching session with a Client
  • Mentee and Mentor Coach separately review the recording to assess coaching behaviors and identify focus areas for the mentor coaching
  • Mentor Coach and Mentee engage in a conversation about the coaching that includes
    • Feedback
    • Coaching for development
    • Action planning for improved coaching

Option 2: Live Coaching Sessions

  • Mentee coaches the Mentor Coach, or Mentor Coach listens to a live coaching sessin with another client
  • Mentor Coach and Mentee engage in a conversation about the coaching that includes
    • Feedback
    • Coaching for development
    • Action planning for improved coaching
Who is a Mentor Coach?
 
Expert in coaching competencies, effective coaching behaviors, experience in delivering effective coaching, and understanding the human traits that support or hinder effective coaching.
 
Partner playing an equal  role with the mentee in their development. In partnership you invite the mentee to create their own focus of learning, their own awareness, their own plans for improvement. In partnership, you share your expertise, observations, assessments, and feedback using a coaching approach designed to foster the learning and development of your menthe.
 
Why Use A Mentor Coach?
 
Mentor coaching is a great option when you're ready for a "personal trainer" approach to becoming a better coach.  Learn more HERE.
 
For More Information about Mentor Coaching
 
International Coach Federation (ICF) - Mentor Coaching Duties and Competencies
 
 Lees, Janet. "Mentoring and Supervision [Special Issue]." Choice Magazine Volume 10, no. 3 (September, 2012). 
 
Sue’s Blog Posts 
Who Needs a Mentor Coach?  September 2013
Are you curious? About your own coaching? August 2014
 
For More Information about ICF Coaching Competencies
 
ICF Website - search for:
  • Coaching Core Competencies
  • Competencies Comparison Table for ACC, PCC and MCC
  • PCC Competency Markers
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Coaching Presence: Are you with your client right NOW!

A Mentor Coaching Story


I was listening to a coaching recording, getting ready to give the coach feedback to support his development as a coach. “So far, so good”, I thought. Bob (not his real name) was asking open-ended and curious questions, he and the client were working on a clear coaching topic, and he seemed fully engaged in the conversation. 

As I continued listening, I noticed a subtle shift in Bob’s coaching. At the beginning, he seemed slightly behind the client, asking questions about what she had said a few seconds earlier and missing what she had just said. Not a big concern, but I started to be curious.  A little later, he was very connected to the client and focused on what she was sharing in the moment.  “Better”, I thought, but now I was curious to know what had changed for the coach.  In the last section, as the conversation shifted to designing action, Bob’s coaching shifted again. Now he was ahead of the client, expressing his ideas for her future and pushing her forward, while she was still clearly pondering the present moment and exploring what she was learning. 

 
 
Now I was truly curious - not about the client - but about the coach. What was going on  to cause Bob’s focus to shift so dramatically as the coaching conversation progressed?
 

When was the last time someone listened to your coaching
with curiosity
about you? 
 
When we coach, we’re in a private conversation with the client. All the focus is on the client.  So who is paying attention to the coach? Who is listening objectively, being curious about the choices the coach is making, and noticing patterns or subtle shifts in the coach’s language, emotions, and presence?
 
Without that objective view, how can we learn what we’re doing well, what we’re missing, and how we can continue to improve our coaching?  Relying on our client isn’t enough. Remember our clients aren’t experts in coaching. Relying on our own impressions of our coaching isn’t enough. We all have blind spots and selective memory.  And even additional coach training isn’t always enough. New knowledge about coaching or adding new coaching tools doesn’t always help us improve our day-to-day coaching.
 
Mentor Coaching fills that role. As defined by the ICF, Mentor Coaching is coaching on your coaching, based on actual recordings of you coaching a real client.  Your mentor coach listens to your coaching, makes note of what you’re doing well, and notices opportunities you missed, and patterns and habits you’ve developed. Then, in a coach-like conversation, gives you feedback and helps you to see where and how you can improve your coaching.
 

I like to think of a Mentor Coach as your “personal trainer”. Your Mentor Coach stands besides you, watching and listening, reminding you to do your best, encouraging you try something new, exploring what you need to push beyond your self-imposed limits.
 

Oh - and what about Bob?  In our Mentor Coaching discussion, I shared what I had noticed and we talked about what was happening for him during that session. At the beginning of the session, he was taking notes and this caused him to lag behind the client. In the middle, he relaxed and stopped taking notes.  Without thepen in his hand, he connected to the client and what she was saying. Near the end, he got excited about what was possible for his client. He disconnected and tried to pull her into his vision of the future. After our conversation, he saw that he could be a better coach by putting away the pen and paper, and setting aside his own excitement to stay connected to the client.  “Ahhh. Much better”, I thought.

 

If you're ready to look closely at your coaching, Mentor Coaching might be just right for you. Learn more here.

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The Big Question: Am I coaching or doing something else?

We all bring more than just coaching skills to our coaching conversations
 
Sally and Joan (not their real names) joined the Coaching Master Class for a deeper dive into their coaching skills and competencies. After the usual logistics and introductions we jumped right into a conversation about the ICF Code of Ethics. It didn’t take too long for their big question to surface.  “I’m worried that someone will find out that my‘real’ coaching isn’t really coaching. I do coaching and I add in other things, based on my expertise and knowledge about the areas the clients want to work on.  Am I really coaching or is this something else?”
 
We created the terms “pure coaching” and “hybrid coaching” to hold the distinction.  I was struck by the level of worry these coaches had that what they called “hybrid coaching” wasn’t acceptable.  I was concerned that their worry affected their coaching. Could they be as confident and bold in serving their clients if this was in the backs of their minds?
 
I was sure that alleviating that worry would help these coaches be the best they could be. Since I’m committed to coaching excellence, I also wanted to understand this question better. Were they really coaching, or did something need to change for their coaching to be aligned with the coaching competencies?
 
With our distinction between “pure” and “hybrid” coaching in hand, we focused in to understand this big questions, and to find ways to address their concerns.
 
What were they doing in their coaching sessions that was concerning to them?
    
They were using their expertise to frame their questions, provide new perspectives, and explicitly share information that was new to the client.
 
How were they doing this?
    
Sometimes they asked permission - “Can I share something that might be useful?” and sometimes they assumed permission because the client had hired them for that expertise. They offered what they knew, without insisting that the client believe it or use it.
 
 
Why were they doing this?
Because it fit, in the moment, with what the client was working on. Because they believed that it would serve the client at that time.
 
 
What would you say? Is this coaching, or something else?
 
As we worked through the competencies, we came to the following conclusions:
 
When offering your expertise to the client, it’s important to maintain your focus on serving the client and the client’s agenda. This expectation is woven into all of the PCC level coaching competencies. 
 
This means that what you share should be pertinent to the topic at hand. It also means that it’s presented in a way that serves the client’s continued growth, development, and ability to become self-sustaining.  My students talked about offering another perspective, not the “answer”. Even when teaching the client something new, they hold it as “just another perspective”. Allowing the client to choose what to do with the information reinforced their trust in the client - the she is able to integrate new information and make choices that serve her best.
 
There’s  also an Ethical question that arises. Is it “ethical” - that is, aligned with the ICF Code of Ethics and Professional Practices - to coach using our expertise and knowledge in this way?
 
As we read the Code of Ethics, we saw no prohibition on bringing what we know to the coaching. In fact, we noted that we train in different domains of coaching (leadership coaching, relationship coaching, etc.) and engage our client in these specialized coaching services. Of course, our clients would expect us to have perspectives on leadership if they’ve hired us to be leadership coaches!
 
What we saw is that ICF asks us to stay true to the following tenets:
  • Honor our agreements with our clients
  • Do not misrepresent our services or qualifications
 
What is your agreement with the client? What services are they expecting you to provide? 
The agreement should clearly state that you are providing specialized coaching and clarify what that means. Clients should expect that you will bring in your expertise and know how you will use that expertise in the coaching engagement.
 
Are you qualified to provide that expertise or perspective?
Think about your qualifications for sharing your knowledge with your client, including formal training, education, research, and real-life experience. If your client wanted only that expertise, would you be a qualified candidate to provide them? If you can say “yes” to that (and others would agree), offering that experience to your clients would be appropriate.  
 
In the End…
 
After looking at this big question through the lens of the coaching competencies, the students completed the class with less worry. They could see how they were coaching and using their expertise to serve their clients. That was a success in itself!  
 
They also committed to reviewing their agreements with their clients to make sure they were representing themselves and their coaching appropriately.  And, they made a longer-term commitment to pay attention to their motivations for sharing their expertise during coaching sessions, so that they were staying aligned with serving their clients in the moment.
 
As the instructor, I was impressed by the honesty and vulnerability that these coaches brought to their work in the class. Without that, we wouldn’t have learned as much as we did, and the impact on their coaching wouldn’t have been as great.
 
What’s your Big Question about your own coaching?
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Who Needs a Mentor Coach?

Mentor Coaching is a new requirement for some of the ICF credentials. But, who is required to have mentor coaching to fulfill the requirements?


To quickly answer that question, I've put together a handy guide in table form.  Find your current credential level in the first column, then find your next credential level in the top row. Find where they intersect and you'll find the mentor coaching requirement!  Simple!

ICF Requirements for Mentor Coaching
Information accurate as of Sept. 30 2013
 
Mentor Coach must hold credential at or above your certification level
 
Graduates from Accredited Coach Training Programs (ACTP)
 
 
Current Credential
Next Credential
ACC
PCC
MCC
None
name the mentor coach from your training program
none
none
ACC
10 hours
none
none
PCC
 
none
none
MCC
 
 
none
 
 
Portfolio Candidates (those who have not completed an Accredited Coach Training Program)
 
 
Current Credential
Next Credential
ACC
PCC
MCC
None
10 hours
10 hours
10 hours
ACC
10 hours
10 hours
10 hours
PCC
 
none
10 hours
MCC
 
 
none

The light blue boxes show the requirements for renewing your current certification level.

Does this make it clearer????  If you have questions, please leave a comment and I'll answer them as best I can.

And, I recommend that you bookmark the page on the ICF website that has the requirements for your next credential and check it periodically. Download the sample application to see exactly what information you're required to provide.

Requirements have changed and are expected to change again in Spring 2014.

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