When working with someone to change a behaviour (e.g. worrying, procrastinating less, becoming more assertive) it is important for coaches to fully dive in and explore that behaviour with their client before moving on to solutions or actions.
There is an element of holding the space for the client, using powerful questions to unlock awareness and supporting someone notice what that behaviour is and how they’re viewing it.
At times, what we see as ICF Coach Trainers is that coaches might immediately jump into ‘action-setting’ where the focus of the coaching conversation becomes about setting a new goal about that behaviour. Or perhaps setting actions or milestones to get there or improve a behaviour.
The challenge here is that the person might not be fully aware of the behaviour and how it’s impacting them and there’s a risk that they either can’t set any realistic goals around it or they choose goals that might not be truly in line with what they value and want.
Take for example a client who comes to a coach saying they find themselves worrying a lot. A coach, trying to be helpful, might start subconsciously directing the coaching session with questions about actions. Perhaps asking the coachee to explore ways to worry less, or techniques the client can come up with to minimise their worry.
This might prove difficult for both parties. Instead, what the coach can do is to stop and support their client notice and understand this behaviour as a first step to action. This ‘noticing’ might even last a whole session so don’t rush it!
To help the client notice a behaviour more deeply a coach can ask:
- the client decide what the actual behaviour is. What does the behaviour look like? What does it sound like? What the label are they using for it? For example, if your client says ‘I’m a worrier’ you could focus on what that truly mean to them. What feelings come up for the client as they’re disclosing this to you?
- if anything precede this behaviour? Is there anything that triggers this behaviour? Are there any specific situations that the client finds support this worrying? What thoughts trigger this worry? What feelings lead to this behaviour? Are there any sensations that lead to this behaviour?
- what are the consequences of this behaviour? What happens over time when the client holds this behaviour? What are some of the payoffs? Who is impacted by this behaviour?
By spending more time exploring and noticing a behaviour with our clients we support them in developing action points and goals that are more in line with their values. This will inevitably increase their commitment and chances of success.
This idea of analysing and noticing is taken from a coaching and therapeutic framework based on Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT). This approach to coaching is part of our ICF Diploma in Integrative Coaching, which is our leading coach training programme.