Coaching conversations that get results

A coaching colleague recently attended an International Coach Federation conference and expressed his disappointment about two things:

1. In three days, he heard the word "client" used exactly three times.

2. Everyone was talking about "evidence-based" this and that in regards to coaching, but no one provided any evidence of anything at all, especially about getting results.

It is not difficult to get measurable results for clients as a coach (what better evidence is there?), so long as you are fluent in coaching conversations that produce said results. Combine those conversations with proper goal setting and tracking, and you can be assured that results are baked into your process. The problem for many coaches is that they have received poor training and don't know the conversations that get results.

Following is a list of a few conversations that leadership and executive coaches should know:

Before the engagement begins, the coach should be comfortable with coaching conversations that guide the prospective client to determine whether he or she wants to move forward with coaching. These conversations include:

– Establishing whether or not the prospective client has a big enough problem, and can achieve enough value,  to warrant outside assistance.

– Establishing whether or not the prospective client is coachable.

– Establishing whether or not the prospective client has the authority and ability to pay for the coaching.

– Clarifying scope and boundaries of the coaching.

After the coach is hired, conversations that get results include:

– Establishing and re-establishing coachability.

– Confirming goals and how client and coach will track them.

– Assessing and asking key questions to find the root cause(s) of the issue the client faces.

– Holding the client accountable for moving forward in ways that get results — and getting below the surface when the client fails to take agreed-upon action.

– Shifting limiting beliefs that might be holding the client back.

– Supporting the client in making new, more productive behaviors habitual.

– Guiding the client through role plays to assure that the client goes into high-stakes conversations as prepared and effective as possible.

– Using methodologies that provide an extremely efficient, effective path to solve the client's most pressing challenges. These methodologies offer the coach the 20% of questions to ask that can lead to 80% of the desired results. They differ based on the specific issues that client faces, but include methods to help the client: better engage his or her employees, lead high-performing teams, change the culture, lead up, resolve conflict, set strategic direction, develop leaders and do succession planning, foster collaboration, change the culture to one that performs better, advance their career and/or make a career transition, eliminate a behavioral blind spot, handle stress and overwhelm at work, juggle multiple priorities, and better manage time, among others. (The Center for Executive Coaching provides you with 27 in-depth methodologies and tool kits so you can stand out from other coaches in this regard).

– Asking provocative questions that get the client thinking about new ways to handle current issues. One of my favorites is, "What are you tolerating?" Another is, 'Would you rather be X or be successful?" where "X" can be anything from being right to being liked or looking good.

– Shifting the client from negativity and even hopelessness to possibility and opportunity.

– Shifting the client from a vision to actual results, including when the client is stuck in places on the way to results, for instance when he or she is stuck in "analysis paralysis" or when the client agrees to take action but does not.

– Getting the client to become aware of blind spots in perceptions and behaviors, and then to make a concerted shift to better ways of thinking and doing.

– Asking permission to share an insight that might help the client see his or her issue in a new way, and move forward.

– Concluding a session with a clear understanding of what was most valuable from the session and what precisely happens next to keep moving forward.

– Asking questions to uncover new opportunities to help the client, so that a single engagement becomes a long-term relationships based on providing ongoing impact and value.

The above conversations are deceptively simple. Most coaches fail to get results because they are not aware of them, are afraid to be on equal footing with their clients and ask the really tough but practical questions, or are following other coaches down rabbit holes of the latest fad or best-selling author.

At the Center for Executive Coaching we use tried and tested methods, based on what works in the market. Founder Andrew Neitlich has personally tested each and every method we teach with his own clients, and then seen specific results when other coaches from around the world and with different industry and functional focus apply them, too.

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