Despite the ever-growing popularity of coaching in the workplace, many still associate coaching with giving advice. Effective coaching, however, helps coachees move toward self-awareness and find solutions to their challenges themselves through nonjudgmental listening and prompting. The value you deliver as a coach comes primarily from good listening, explains master coach Marion Franklin in this book summary.
Coach your clients to find their own solutions.
Master coach Marion Franklin helps clients move past entrenched, frustrating situations by unpacking the rigid thinking that may be holding them back. In a systemic fashion, she encourages coachees to probe deeply for the truth of their situation, so they can move forward without conflict. Full appreciation of this richly detailed method may require some prior coaching practice and reflection. New coaches, though, will also benefit from her deeply authentic approach.
- The “Laser-Focused Coaching” method aims to help clients change their perspective, so they can move forward without conflict.
- Coach without an agenda. Trust yourself, the process and your clients.
- Listen intently and ask thought-provoking questions. Allow clients to uncover their own barriers and truths.
- Let clients tell their stories and explore their reasons for seeking coaching.
- Probe beyond your client’s initial statements to uncover the heart of the problem.
- Listen for limiting ideas that prevent clients from moving forward.
- Direct communication can help clients immediately see their situation differently.
- Stay objective, yet engaged.
- If the root of the problem is addressed, clients automatically take action.
The “Laser-Focused Coaching” method aims to help clients change their perspective, so they can move forward without conflict.
Whatever form of coaching you practice, aim to help clients understand their present circumstances and make positive change, based on clear priorities. Unlike conversations your clients might have with friends, coaching provides thought-provoking, nonjudgmental listening and prompting. It helps clients move toward self-awareness and discovery of the things and thinking that hold them back; it unveils what they need to change to move forward and leverages their strengths to reach their goals.
“Laser-Focused Coaching relies on understanding the person, not their situation or problem.”
Laser-focused coaching adheres to these main tenets but involves a deeper focus on clients themselves: It helps clients probe their identities, beliefs, behavior and values to discover the root causes behind the situations and challenges they face. Acknowledge their deep expertise in themselves and, with questions that prompt them to think about what they truly want and need, help them gain new perspective and chart their own path toward their goals. Coaches work to set aside their own needs and interests in favor of their client’s.
Coach without an agenda. Trust yourself, the process and your client.
When you coach, enter a state of mind that allows you to devote your entire attention and thoughts to the client. Remain curious; don’t plan your sessions or even enter with a list of questions. Embrace the value of not having any clue where the conversation might lead. Release control, so you can adapt to the client’s needs. Pretend you know nothing; arrive with no preconceived notions. Trust yourself, your client and the coaching process to carry the session.
“If the coach is distracted or not able to be fully present, it is a disservice to the client.”
Adopt a friendly relationship with clients, but don’t make them your friends. Keep the relationship objective and professional at all times. Remain detached from your client’s emotions – and your own – so you don’t get sidetracked. Don’t offer opinions or advice, or otherwise try to fix the client. Never refer to yourself or share your own stories unless you truly believe those stories will help the client – rather than just make you feel good or smart. If a client calls a square a circle, don’t contradict, but instead ask why he or she thinks so. Seek coaching yourself to become a better coach.
Listen intently and ask thought-provoking questions. Allow clients to uncover their own barriers and truths.
The value you deliver as a coach comes primarily from good listening. True listening helps you add value by understanding your clients. Concentrate on listening without thinking about how you’ll respond or what you should say or ask next. Listening skills take time to develop. Your mind naturally wanders, and many things you hear trigger tangential thinking. You can’t stop this from occurring, but you can learn to recognize and resist it. Think about every interaction with your clients as an opportunity to learn more about them. Everything they say gives you data. Listen objectively and ask thought-provoking questions, so you can spot patterns and themes in clients’ words, emotions and body language. Take note of even the most innocuous-sounding or obscure comments, as these may provide important clues to understanding.
“There’s a reason behind everything a client shares in a coaching session.”
Ask yourself why clients share the information they divulge in sessions, and explore how the things they tell you might create barriers or challenges for them. Note their emotions, and read between the lines. Ask questions that get them to expand on their thinking. If a client uses a lexicon you don’t, switch to it. If a client calls a movie a picture, for example, adopt that vocabulary; this builds rapport and trust. Don’t use jargon – not even common terms like “lean in.” Let clients pause after they speak – especially if you sense emotion or discomfort. Always let them speak first in case they have more to say and so you don’t interrupt their thinking. Wait for them to answer your questions. Use silence as a tool.
Employ empathy. Explore clients’ emotions with them, but remain objective. Prioritize the relationship and trust over problem-solving. Admit or even act like you don’t know things to get the client to talk and think. Don’t just thank clients for sharing, thank them by specifying what was helpful and why. Let clients find their own barriers and truths. Avoid telling them things other than obvious facts.
Let clients tell their stories and explore their reasons for seeking coaching.
Start with a question that explores the client’s reasons for coming. Ask clients, for example, what component of their life or career they would most like to discuss in the session. Let clients tell their stories. Listen carefully, and then make sure your follow-up question focuses on deepening your understanding of the client – not their situation.
For example, if a client tells you he or she might leave a firm because of a bad boss, acknowledge his or her frustration and ask how the conversation might help the client make that decision. If you need more context, ask for examples. Make sure you understand clients’ reasons for telling you certain details and why they cause problems. Build your understanding gently, bit by bit, with questions about clients’ feelings or reasons for thinking they need to make a certain decision.
“Reflection can be thought of as encapsulating the essence, and if possible, the emotion of what your client shared.”
After listening deeply at the start of a session and asking careful questions about the client, you’ll probably find an agenda for the rest of the session emerging. Still, let the client lead. Let clients talk about what they want to discuss – their agenda, not yours. This builds trust. In asking questions, paraphrase what you believe you heard the client saying, but don’t make statements. For example, avoid saying, “Your boss never listens to you, right?” Instead, try: “You feel as though your boss doesn’t value your ideas or opinions. What makes you think so?” Make sure the client feels heard and understood.
Don’t ask questions to satisfy your own curiosity. Instead of “What did they say next?”, ask, “How did you feel after hearing that?” Ask “what,” not “why.” The latter can sound judgmental and might put the client on the defensive. Using “what” shows you’re curious about the client’s feelings more than his or her reasons. Compact, open-ended questions place the onus on clients to think, which empowers them and likely provides you with more information.
Probe beyond your client’s initial statements to uncover the heart of the problem.
Clients may not deliberately lie, but they may conflate one problem with another, skim the surface of an issue or perceive their situation inaccurately. Their current perception, in other words, may prove incomplete or entirely wrong. If you run with a client’s initial remarks, the session and those that follow could be based on a false premise, severely limiting your ability to help them.
Remain skeptical and stay at a big-picture level when listening to clients. Avoid zeroing in on the details at first. Get to clients’ root truths by asking them peripheral questions about what they say they want. Explore their vision of the future and make sure it aligns with their truth. A client might sigh and then express a desire to take a year off to travel the world. Further exploration might reveal the client really just needs more freedom. Help your clients find their purpose and their truth.
“Until, and unless, you get to the bottom-line truth for your client, you are merely providing a Band-Aid.”
Look for the broad themes and patterns in clients’ words and feelings. This helps you zero in on the truth and what they need to do to change. A client’s talking about a divorce, poorly performing investments and a son off to college, all in one session, for example, might suggest a theme of loss. Dozens of common themes emerge in coaching: rigid thinking, tunnel vision, taking things personally, feeling rejected and more. Each has roots in self-esteem. Don’t necessarily call clients out directly for lack of self-esteem. Rather, ask them what causes their negative thinking or what provokes their need to beat themselves up.
You’ll get better at spotting themes by listening for limiting language, such as when clients say they believe they have no choice or few alternatives, or express a feeling of lack of control or the inability to make a decision. When you identify the root problem, you can laser-in confidently, knowing you’re working on the right problem. Alternatively, you might learn that laser-focused coaching doesn’t offer the best way forward for a particular client.
Listen for limiting ideas that prevent your client from moving forward.
Your foundational work helps you find that place where a client welcomes a shift in perspective. This shift can prove critical in moving past intention to change itself. To identify an opportunity for a shift, look for flaws in clients’ beliefs about what’s holding them back. Ask what would happen if they stopped doing the things that cause them grief. If they won’t delegate, for example, ask what that position costs them and what they get from doing everything themselves. They might come up with flimsy justifications at best, which might help them see reasons to change.
“Laser-Focused Coaching enhances your ability to assist your clients in creating deep and profound changes.”
Consider re-framing clients’ challenges for them. For example, if clients believe someone wronged them, ask them to consider other reasons why the person may have lied, snubbed or otherwise offended them. For instance, you might ask, “Is it possible your mother left for reasons related to your father rather than you?” When you sense a change in clients’ perspectives, reinforce it by stating where they stood previously and where they seem to stand now. Ask them to confirm the shift in their own words.
Direct communication can help clients immediately see their situation differently.
Don’t advise clients or judge them, but do practice candor in your communications with them. Don’t worry about offending them or losing them as clients. Within reason, ask what you would ask if you knew no negative consequences would come from your questions. Say what you mean clearly but sensitively. If a client acts like a victim, address it, but explain what you mean first. For example: “You seem to feel silenced and impotent around your domineering colleague, like a victim might.”
“The purpose of direct communication is to immediately allow your client to see their situation as it actually is.”
Stay alert for defensive tactics clients might use to avoid talking about what really matters. If they get emotional, give them time to think and collect themselves. Let them speak first. Listen to what clients think they want – to start a business, for example – and then walk them through implications they might not have thought about, such as long hours, risk and reduced income at first. Lead clients to options they might not have considered, such as resolving a vague feeling of isolation by moving to a new neighborhood rather than quitting a job.
Help clients realize they have choices. Don’t lay those choices out for them, though; help them arrive at options themselves. Help them identify the coping strategies they may have created to avoid tackling problems head-on. For example, they might blame others for their circumstances or do so much for others they leave no time for themselves.
Stay objective, yet engaged.
Coaching can easily stray into therapy. You can’t and shouldn’t avoid this entirely, but if you maintain an equal partnership in coaching, you’ll avoid the sage-student relationship inherent in therapy. The client’s feelings and beliefs matter, but as a coach, don’t relate those feelings and beliefs to your own. Keep the focus on the clients and your questions about them.
“As soon as you notice that you agree with your client, it’s time to take a step back and act as if you don’t understand.”
Don’t let your own opinions or values interfere with your objectivity. A client’s beliefs or values may match yours, for example, but the client definitely came to those truths differently – ways that you need to know about. When meeting with a new client, assess whether another coach might better serve his or her needs.
If the root of the problem is addressed, clients automatically take action.
Before ending the session, ask a final question related to how clients will move forward. Ask what might stop them, how you can offer support and, importantly, who else might help. Don’t offer to do things clients should do themselves; rather, offer to collaborate with them – especially in terms of holding them accountable.
“Laser-Focused Coaching does not work in every situation. It works best when your client is stuck or frustrated with an existing way of thinking and can’t seem to move forward.”
Clients should create their own supportive environments. Invite them to find support (either a person or something) that can help them as they move forward. End a conversation collaboratively. Ask the client if there is anything further related to the conversation, or if it’s a place to end. That way, they make the decision to finish and acknowledge that they are complete.
Marion Franklin is a master coach, mentor and teacher. She is author of the audiobook, Life’s Little Lessons: Improve Your Life One Lesson at a Time.
Communication in Management, Human Resources and Personnel, Business Leadership Training, Leadership, Management
Table of Contents
A Word from Marion
Part I: A New Approach
CHAPTER 1: The Foundation for Laser-Focused Coaching
Part II: The Beginning
CHAPTER 2: The Laser-Focused Mindset
CHAPTER 3: Listening with a New Intent
CHAPTER 4: Setting the Foundation
CHAPTER 5: The Art of the Question
Part III: The Middle
CHAPTER 6: Don’t Believe the Client
CHAPTER 7: Understanding Human Behavior
CHAPTER 8: Using themes to See the Big Picture
CHAPTER 9: Lasering In on What Matters Most
CHAPTER 10: Creating Shifts
Part IV: The End
CHAPTER 11: Moving Forward and Closing the Conversation
Part V: Masterful Coaching
CHAPTER 12: The Heart of Direct Communication
CHAPTER 13: Advanced Coaching Techniques
CHAPTER 14: Coaching Challenges
CHAPTER 15: Communication Styles and Types
Part VI: Moving Forward
CHAPTER 16: A Different Option for Initial Conversations with Prospective Clients
CHAPTER 17: A Sample of a Laser-Focused Coaching Session
A Final Word
About The Author
Stay tuned for book review…