Give Your Client a Little Extra Push

Six Rules for Challenging Your Coaching Clients

ChallengeIn this post, I’d like to share with you some helpful insights related to issuing a challenge to your client. A challenge is an idea you (the coach) come up with that you suggest to your client.

Let me start with a recent example.

A few weeks ago I was coaching a young lady on the topic of moving across the United States. She was trying to decide whether to move from the Bay Area of California to Nashville, Tennessee. The conversation unfolded like one of those old-fashioned paper maps, with new layers revealing additional issues, complexities and factors to consider. No wonder she was having a tough time making the decision.

As the conversation progressed, the client and I both noticed that her thought process was a jumbled mix of brainstorming and evidence gathering. That is, she was quickly switching gears back and forth between brainstorming future scenarios that would make the move a good or bad idea and noticing the evidence she needed to gather in order to make her decision. For a while she’d spin scenarios about how this could work and then some scenarios about how this could be a dumb idea, and then she’d talk for a while about her need to research job opportunities and housing costs.

After several minutes of this external processing, I offered her a challenge. I said, “Julie, I have a challenge for you. You can accept the challenge or reject it or you can edit it into something you want to say yes to. Here’s the challenge: Stop dreaming about the future until after you’ve finished your research. Then your research can fuel your dreams instead of clouding them.”

The Best 15 Minute Coaching Session Ever

the best 15 minute coaching session everWe train coaches at Coach Approach Ministries. And one thing that sets us apart is that when you train with us, you will do a lot of coaching. There are lots of ways to learn coaching, but perhaps the best way is to coach in front of others and get immediate feedback. When we do this, we always add one element that always makes it much harder. We limit the amount of time you have, anywhere from ten minutes to twenty.

I don’t think I know one coach who prefers a fifteen minute session to a sixty minute session. There is something about the clock that makes us nervous. Fifteen minutes just isn’t enough time to establish a coaching relationship, discover an actionable topic, deeply explore the possibilities, design appropriate and action, and build in accountability. Too short!

Let me give you five advantages to short coaching sessions.

  1. You can concentrate on the person.
  2. You can clarify their desire.
  3. Use most powerful questions you have.
  4. You don’t have to stick the landing.
  5. Give the person permission to act.

You Can Concentrate on the Person

I don’t know anyone who can be fully present for an entire hour. At some point, you will lose focus and fade into another thought. But fifteen minutes is a nice challenge. Listen to every word your client says. Listen to how they say it. Listen for any pain behind it. Listen to when the joy releases. Listen to their word choices. Listen for where they get stuck. You won’t create a solution. You will hear it.

It is fair to say that no one has given them a full fifteen minutes of full presence in a long time. You will bring hope and healing just by making yourself available. Turn up your curiosity about what makes this person tick. Coach the person, not the problem.

Better Ways to Communicate with External Thinkers and Internal Thinkers

I'm thinking out loud. That's why you can hear me.

THINKERSNinety percent of the stress that occurs when my wife and I have a conversation is about our thinking styles rather than about any disagreement. These numbers may be way off since I haven’t done a formal study but I know that we can have a more enjoyable and effective conversation if we consider what is going on in each other’s brain as we try to communicate.

This isn’t just true about marriage. This is true whenever you are having a conversation. Coaches need to pay particular attention to this truth because conversations are our life blood. You may have a boss who never really listens or who never comes to any conclusion. If you understand how they think, you might be able to help them communicate more effectively.

Internal thinkers process almost everything inside their own head.  They have their own private conversation and work out all the details before they speak.  This often makes them very slow to respond.

External thinkers talk through their thinking.  They process as they hear themselves say it. Surprisingly, they may not even agree with what comes out of their mouth. They are just trying on the words to see how they fit.

See if you can determine how you process based on these descriptions.

Internal Processors

  • They choose every word purposefully and carefully.
  • They may need to have their thinking expanded with larger perspectives and possibilities.
  • Their thinking may be a bit narrow and rigid.
  • They don’t like to speak until they’ve thought through the entire issue.
  • When they speak their conclusion, it will sound like a final decision.
  • An internal thinker has to have some silent time to process during the conversation in order to come to their own conclusion. Otherwise, they can’t enter into an actionable agreement. They may need to sleep on it.
  • An internal thinker will make observations that seem fairly obvious. This can appear like the internal thinker believes others aren’t as observant.
  • It is important for internal thinkers to make statements out loud if they are going to take any action. But once they say it, they will probably do it without much accountability.
  • Internal processors must feel safe to talk about anything important.
  • Internal processors may be talkative in social situations, but their style is best judged in a conversation that needs to result in an action.

External Processors

  • They say whatever they are thinking and may not even agree with every word they say.
  • External thinkers share their thoughts with anyone who will listen. They do not require as much safety, but safety is still important.
  • They may have too broad a scope to their thinking.  Others will have to help them focus.
  • Coaches need to be careful not to be overrun by external thinkers.  Sometimes you have to interrupt external thinkers, though be careful of making this a habit.
  • External processors don’t choose words with great care. They may not be using a word the same way you interpret it.
  • External processors also need some silent time to process but not as much.
  • External processors need to be heavily challenged on their commitment to an action step because the words come out too easily. Spend ample time building accountability.
  • External processors probably haven’t looked at all the details.
  • You don’t have to be an extrovert to be an external processor. I’m not an extrovert.