4 | Coaching Tips & Truths 

What do you need to pay closer attention to when coaching clients?

Over the years, I find that I keep coming back to some of the essential coaching practices and approaches that result in consistently good coaching conversations. These practices help surface the most pressing issues, accelerate the clients progress, keep the primary focus on the client, and bring out God’s best in them. Review the 15 tips found in this chapter and think about which tips are most relevant to increasing your impact as a coach.

1 | Make getting the relationship right your first priority.

The better you get at developing a trusting, confidential relationship the right way, the more likely you'll be an effective coach. Coaching is always about the client, and where he or she wishes to go rather than the needs or intentions of the coach. Coaching assumes a relational connection that’s built on transparency, trust, and vulnerability. Effective coaches are able to present themselves exactly as they are. They create safe and sacred space that allows clients to share their hopes, dreams, challenges, and shortcomings. Coaching starts with connecting and is exemplified when coaches are naturally curious and laser-focused on the wellbeing of their clients.

  • Send ICF's Code of Ethics to your clients so they know about  the ethical standard you abided by.
  • Invite the client to share some information ahead of the coaching session about who they  are and their hopes for coaching.
  • Remind yourself of your client's potential and your capacity to draw out their ideas and next steps through coaching.

2 | Follow the client’s lead.

Coaching is a partnership where, like dancing, you follow the client’s lead. "What do you want to talk about? " is a great opener and is the beginning of honoring the basic coaching agreement. Questions coaches ask should help clarify the focus of the coaching relationship, the purpose of the coaching session, and where clients want to end up as a result of coaching. Coaches allow clients to pick the topic, the measurements, the depth, even the pace of the conversations. If the client doesn’t say it, then the subject is off the table. Coaches must avoid digging deeper into topics that clients haven’t commented on during the conversation.
  • Do a quick self-evaluation after each coaching session. 
  • Ask yourself, "Did I follow the client's lead?  Did I avoid trying to fix their problem?  Did you help reveal their potential?

3  |  Make the client the hero in the story.

Donald Miller, the founder of the company, Storybrand, states that the best marketing always makes the client the hero in the story. Coaches help clients identify their preferred future, describe the gap between their current situation and the preferred future along with the challenges they face, and then find ways to overcome their challenges that prevent them from achieving their desired outcomes. In the process of helping their clients shine, coaches help clients create a plan that moves them consistently toward their brighter future. When coaches become the “hero” in the story, it’s usually becomes they’ve switched, intentional or otherwise, to playing the role of a counselor, mentor, or consultant.

4  |  Tap into the client’s vision to accelerate transformation.

Vision-casting is powerful catalyst for sparking transformation. Coaches help their clients define their dreams and better understand what motivates them. Coaches help clients connect what they do next with the dreams they’re seeking to fulfill.  Questions coaches often ask to tap into a client’s vision include:
  • “What would you like to be different in your life or ministry a year from now?”
  • “If you could wave a magic want, what would you change about your current setting?”
  • “What’s the legacy you’d like to leave for your children or grandchildren?”
  • “What do you want this organization to remember you for?”
  • "How soon do you want this done?"
  • "What will finishing this do for you and your vision?"
Keep your client's attention on how their vision will require them to change. Help them name the measurable changes the transition process will require.

5  |  If nothing’s changing, you’re not coaching.

Coaches go beyond walking alongside clients and serving as confidential dialogue partners. They help clients name and act on their intentions. They nudge clients toward their preferred futures and invite clients to set short-term wins and deadlines. Coaches invite their clients to pay attention to changes in their attitudes, assumptions, approaches, and actions. They help clients take shuffle steps toward their desired outcomes. After helping clients describe their dreams; coaches help them drill down on their intentions and list what they need to do now, or next, to live into their preferred future.
  • Help the client focus on just one or two areas that they'd like to take action on.
  • Help the client make their actions concrete. Help them name   what will they specifically will do and when it will be done.

6  |  Get your facts straight and focus on the right issues.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in a coaching conversation is figuring out what’s the primary focus of the conversation and the most pressing issues. It’s easy to rush this process and end up not addressing the client’s most pressing or significant issues based on misleading information and false assumptions. Some questions I often raise to surface these issues include:
  • Help me understand how you arrived at this conclusion?
  • “On a scale of 1-10, how important is this issue to you personally?”
  • “In addition to this problem, what else prevents you from moving forward?”
  • “What are the 3 most pressing issues you’re currently facing? Which one is most important?  Most urgent?”
  • “What leads you to believe that this is your biggest issue? What else, or who else, plays a contributing role?”

7  |  Seek the right questions rather than the right answers.

If you tend to be a fixer or like being the expert, you may find it hard to not give advice or suggest ways to move forward. Great coaches find ways to tap into the client’s wisdom through powerful question such as, “I don’t know, what do you think?” I like to ask BOLD questions that:
  • BUILD forward momentum.
  • OPEN up possibilities and new pathways.
  • LEAVE space for reflection and re-imagination.
  • DO something that helps the client dive into action.
Bold questions have more than one answer. They create space for the client to explore something that is unfamiliar or even daunting. They point client toward something that wasn’t on their radar.

8  |  Keep questions concise, concrete, and open-ended.

Keep your questions short (6-8 words) and concrete. Allow space for the client to reflect and respond. Recording a few of your coaching sessions (with the expressed permission of the client). Create a transcript of the coaching conversation. Notice how long your questions are. Pay attention to how much you’re talking compared to your client. I find that the best coaches almost always speak less than 20% of the time. You may discover that the power of your questions are inversely proportional to their length.

9  |  Avoid explaining your questions

Leave out the details when asking questions. Allow the client to fill in the gaps as needed. When you seek to set up or explain your questions, you increase the likelihood of injecting your assumptions and values into the conversation. You may lead clients in directions they didn’t wish to go.

10  |  Create space between coaching sessions.

Leave at least 15 minutes between coaching sessions to clear your mind. I like to take a short walk or do some stretching exercises. I like to pray for my clients and discern which core competency I want to pay closer attention to during the session.
  • What might you do mentally, physically, or spiritually to prepare for a coaching session?

11  |  Smile while on the phone or via Zoom.

This may sound foolish, but it usually helps coaches be more present and playful during the coaching conversations. Coaching can be fun AND impactful. Enjoy the clients you seek to serve. In similar fashion, think about how you might draw out the gifts, strengths and potential of your clients.

12  |  Share observations while avoiding interpretations.

Coaches listen actively, and do so, with their eyes and ears. Share your observations using “I noticed” statements such as (allow space for silent reflection):
  • “I noticed some hesitation when you responded to that last question.”
  • “I noticed that you seemed energized/animated when discussing . . .”
  • “You tone of voice changed when you began talking about . . .”
  • “You broke into a big smile when mentioning . . .”
  • “I sense some sadness in your recent remark about . . .
  • “I noticed that you didn’t mention what you did to help ensure that project’s success . . .”

13  |  Craft questions that stretch clients and inspire action.

Coaches facilitate change in clients by stretching their capacities, their awareness and perceived limitations. Coaches raise questions that help clients step back and learn from results, or step forward to a new way of thinking, doing and being. Great coaches strive to move people beyond a state of inertia and toward a state of learning, experimentation, and action.  

14  |  Invite the client to do pre-work or post-work.

To accelerate a client’s learning and progress, ask the client if they’d be open to learning about, or reflecting on topics or projects that increase their awareness or capacities. This could include items like making a list of resources (assets) to support their progress, listing 3-5 people who could help, mentor or hold them accountable, listing skills they need to develop, etc. Having clients tend to these types of action steps often helps clients move forward, faster.

15  |  Ask the client, “What did you find most helpful from today's conversation?”

This question helps you understand what’s stirring in the mind of your client, what types of shifts may be occurring in their assumptions, attitudes, actions and approaches, and also gives you a window into how your coaching is impacting other people.  It may give you insights on what to raise in a future session, and help you refine your coaching approach and practices.

CHAPTER  4  |  Student Assignments

Outcomes  and  Assignments

  • To pay attention to the foundational elements to lead to consistently effective coaching experiences.
  • To customize the list found in the chapter and make it your own.
Why do these hacks help clients get better results?


              Insights,  ideas, and  applications  from  former  students

"The shorter the question, the better the answer. I also need to need to become more comfortable with pausing after asking a short question to give clients time to reflect and respond."

"I need to remind myself of the incredible capacities of my clients so I don't sabotage their success. I also need more  space between coaching sessions so I'm ready to listen to what the client shares."