Chapter Blog

The Coaching Competency that Changes Everything

by Karen Curnow

Ever feel frustrated with coaching sessions that seem to be going nowhere? Wonder how you can achieve "deeper dives” more quickly with your clients to achieve stronger, sustainable impact?  One competency that influences most others and that can make or break your coaching is a part of the core competency, Creating the Coaching Agreement:  the competency of focusing each coaching session.

In my experience of reviewing coaches for certification, this seemingly “obvious” skill can make the difference between a candidate passing or not, since an unclear focus limits a coach’s ability to perform many other core competencies as well.  More importantly, this competency can make the difference between high impact or superficial coaching. In our November Master Coaching Workshop, I was struck by the variety and quantity of possible coaching moves the coaches who attended were able to identify during a coaching demonstration, once the focus was clearly determined.  That’s the surprising hidden benefit a good focus gives us as coaches. A clear focus inspires in us a LOT of options for possible coaching moves. A clear focus also ensures that your clients walk away with learning that matters.

The question then is, how do we achieve the kind of focus that clarifies, inspires us, and ensures impact?  To answer this, the new PCC markers provide a great starting point:

  • Coach helps the client identify or reconfirm what s/he wants to accomplish in the session
  • Coach helps the client to define or reconfirm measures of success for what s/he wants to accomplish in the session
  • Coach explores what is important or meaningful to the client about what s/he wants to accomplish in the session
  • Coach helps the client define what the client believes he/she needs to address or evolve in order to achieve what she want to accomplish in the session

It’s important to do this not only by asking the obvious question, “What would you like to focus on today?”, but also by not settling for vague and fuzzy responses to this question. Usually, to get a clear focus, we need to ask follow-up questions as well, such as:

  • What would be of most support to you today?
  • What would make this a successful session for you?
  • Imagine we are at the end of our session. How will we know that we’ve accomplished your goal for this session?
  • What will having this (fill in the blank – goal) provide for you?
  • At the end of our session today, what will be different about you if we are successful?
  • There are many aspects to the topic. What aspect is most important to consider or explore today?
  • What will having this (goal accomplished) give you/provide for you?
  • What makes this concern important to discuss today?

Once the session focus is clarified, the coach can engage the other core competencies to be in service to the client, including working with the client to link the individual session focus to the overall objective of the coaching engagement.

Karen Curnow, a Master Certified ICF Coach (MCC) is Managing Director of Compass International and was also November Master Coaching Workshop speaker.

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