The three questions coaches need to answer

I was at a coaches' training this weekend (taking the training, not leading it this time). The coaches involved had varying levels of coaching experience and confidence. They were all there to learn because like most people who dedicate their work to the study of human behaviour, they believe there is always more to learn.

We all face the same three questions as coaches:

1) How do our clients know what they want to change? We can't assume they are using the same criteria or even the same thinking processes that we are. Coaches take training because they never know enough about the processes that lead to the best choices.

2) How do we help people make change? We all want to intervene as little as possible because that seems like the most useful way to enable someone to change in a way that will work for them. But it's hard to know where to apply a useful nudge. Coaches take training because they are always looking for tools that will get better results with less interference.

3) What's the difference that makes a change stick? We all know that the answer probably involves will power, but most of us believe will power is something one has to develop for oneself. If you need your clients to maintain the changes they make in a session (say, for instance, you are working for a corporation and not for the individual you are coaching), or if you just want to do a great job for your client, you need to know that changes will stick. Coaches take training because they always wonder what will happen when the client walks out of the room.

Sometimes, even when we have good answers to all three questions, we will not be able to get the results we want from our coaching. That's the nature of work that depends on the contributions of other people. Sometimes you do your best work and it doesn't get your best result (sometimes you don't do your best work, and some winning combination does get you a great result). So it is really, really important for anyone in a coaching role to think about these three questions and improve their odds. And, of course, the outcomes their clients get.


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