Coaching Case Studies - 1

By Jim LaDoux
The following scenarios invite readers to see how living into the 8 Core Competencies show up differently when viewed at the PCC-level of coaching VS the ACC-level of coaching. For each of the 8 competencies listed below, you'll find a few questions to consider and respond to.

Competency  1  |  Demonstrates  Ethical  Practice

A Coachee comes to you seeking grief coaching. The Coachee is Asian. She lives and works in an Asian country. She speaks fluent English and her culture and demeanor are very Western. She has experienced multiple loses in her life. She tells you that she lost her brother through suicide a few years back. She also lost her mother and grandmother. In recent months, she lost a serious love relationship.
The Coachee shares that she has tried everything she knows to deal with her grief. She goes out with friends. She has tried yoga and therapy. She exercises regularly. Nothing seems to help. She feels “helpless” and can’t seem to be able to find “happiness.” When you ask her to define happiness, she talks about her relationship with her boyfriend. “That’s the only time in my life when I have been happy,” she says.
As you coach her, you notice that there is no affect in her demeanor and she speaks in a monotone voice. When you ask her about these, she tells you that she is sad all the time. She also tells you that she is constantly questioning the purpose of her life.
  •   How would an ACC coach approach this situation?
  •   How would a PCC coach approach this situation?
  •   Justify your answer using the ICF Code of Ethics.

Competency  2  |  Embodies  a  Coaching  Mindset

(For this competency, use the same case study used for Competency. Here is some additional information.)  The Coachee meets with you every week for several weeks. After a few sessions, you don’t seem to observe any movement forward. Having said that, the Coachee shows up every week. Every session is almost the same as the previous one.
  •   What would be an acceptable ACC approach?
  •   What would be an acceptable PCC approach?
  •   Justify your answer using the ICF Code of Ethics.

Competency  3  |  Establishes  &  Maintains  Agreements

A Coachee comes to their first session. After greeting them and talking about confidentiality and the ICF Code of Ethics, you partner with the Coachee to identify what they want to explore during the session (Competency 3.1).
  •   As a coach, what would be the next step?
  •   As a PCC coach, what’s an acceptable amount of time before you take the next step?
  •   As a PCC coach, what Isn't an acceptable amount of time before you take the next step?

A Coachee comes to their first session. She tells you that her goal for the session is to develop more confidence.
  •   As a PCC coach, what would you do next?
  •   As a PCC coach, what would not be an acceptable approach?

Competency  4  |  Cultivates  Trust  and  Safety

As an individual you hold strong views regarding LGBTQ issues. You like your Coachee and have been working with him for a while. During your next session, the Coachee discloses his views regarding LGBTQ issues. The views go directly against your own beliefs.
  • As a PCC coach, what would your approach be?
  •  Support your position with Competency 4 markers.

Competency  5  |  Maintains  Presence

You are in the middle of a coaching session. The Coachee has been exploring a specific area of their professional life. As a Coach, you are personally interested in the area the two of you are exploring. Having said that, at one point the Coachee tells you that they are satisfied with the exploration. As their coach, you feel that they are not quite done and you, fascinated by the sharing, want to explore deeper.
  • As a PCC coach, what would your approach be?
  • Support your position with Competency 5 markers.

In the middle of the session and after you and the Coachee have established the goals for the session, the Coachee brings in a different area unrelated to the initial part of the session.
  • As a PCC coach, what would your approach be?
  • Support your position with Competency 5 markers.

Competency  6  |  Listens  Actively

Your Coachee is from a different culture. In his culture, respect for the elders is expected at all times. The Coachee shares with you that one of his subordinates is an elderly man from his culture. The individual is having major performance challenges. Your Coachee asks you how he should approach the situation.
  • As a PCC coach, what would your approach be?
  • Support your position with Competency 6 markers.

In the middle of the session, your Coachee shares something very deep within herself and begins to cry. You have experienced something similar in your life and feel connected with the Coachee.
  • As a PCC coach, what would your approach be?
  • Support your position with Competency 6 markers.

Competency  7  |  Evokes  Awareness

In the middle of a session, the Coachee discovers she is very angry with the situation she is sharing with you. All of a sudden, she starts cursing and continues to express her anger. Because of your upbringing, you are very uncomfortable with cursing. In addition, when faced with outward expressions of anger, you tend to minimize and ignore the situation.
  • As a PCC coach, what would your approach be?
  • Support your position with Competency 7 markers.

Throughout the course of the session, the Coachee reveals that they are dissatisfied with their job.
  • What would you do to assist the Coachee expand their thinking about their job?
  • Support your position with Competency 7 markers.

Competency  8  |  Facilitates  Client  Growth

  • As a PCC coach, what questions would you ask a Coachee to meet the standards for Competency 8?
  • Support your position with Competency 8 markers.


Share  your  comments  below  about  the  coaching  scenarios.
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Shelly McNitt - August 29th, 2022 at 11:30am

I appreciated this walk through and start to the course. The shift from coaching the "what' to coaching the "who" and how to ask questions differently to focus on the who. I want to continue to be in tune with the client’s language, feelings, beliefs, potential blind spots, and other barriers to moving forward. This can help frame powerful questions to build clarity and context for the client. Being present is an important role as the coach and trust the process. The client is in charge.

Jason Bland - August 31st, 2022 at 10:15am

Reviewing these case studies together in class was an excellent way to open up conversation around the 8 core competencies, specifically in the areas of digging deeper as a PCC level coach, and not being so quick to give up. Instead, a PCC level coach should push and challenge the client in order to get to the root of the problem, and never casually accept what's initially presented as the true root problem.

Dan Solomon - August 31st, 2022 at 11:36am

Working our way through these Case studies was a very effective way to begin our exploration of PCC level coaching. Digging into to the Core Competencies was an excellent refresher for me as an invitation into going deeper into the Competencies as an entre into PCC-level understanding and practice of the Core Competencies. Initially our class discussion "blew out the cobwebs" for me but as our discussion progressed I began to glimpse how being rooted in a deeper understanding of the Competencies was key to becoming an exceptional PCC-level coach. Our discussion helpfully introduced the PCC-level practice of moving beyond the "what" to the "who" of the client's situation.

Tom Smith - September 3rd, 2022 at 12:03pm

I found our first class really helpful in laying the groundwork for moving from ACC level to PCC level coaching. Last spring during the ACC class, I caught glimpses of the move from focusing on the what to the Who in my own coaching and my fellow coaches. This class provided specific examples of what that move looks like. It helped clarify the work of a PCC coach and provided a great introduction for what is to come. I find myself more readily shifting now from the what to the Who as I continue to develop my coaching skills. It is becoming more natural, session by session.

Janny - October 4th, 2022 at 11:01am

Starting off to think around case studies was really motivating! It is wonderful to learn from other students how they would react/ask another question. I felt I already needed to know the difference between ACC and PCC and would have liked to have an intro class :), and maybe to learn more about the students in this class - their coaching journey, their hopes and challenges. I hope we will use case studies again in class!

Charity Cuellar - August 14th, 2023 at 3:05pm

I like working through these as a distinction between coaching the what and coaching the who. Particularly in the coaching agreement, i thought it was particularly helpful to do further exploration of what a client wants to discuss by simply asking them, "What do you want to discuss?"

I also liked the further distinction between the who and what of ACC vs. PCC- PCC allows for freedom to explore a person's heart motivations, and I think that building into the courage to name and explore those deeper parts of our lives lead to true transformational moments.

Jim - August 16th, 2023 at 8:11am

Your comments make me think about ways I might gain insight into the client's yearnings, motivations, values, etc. In the past, a basic intake form for clients to fill out has been helpful. Any thoughts on ways to surface these motivations during coaching conversations?

Dr. Felix C. Villanueva, MCC - August 16th, 2023 at 12:48pm

Charity, this is a great insight! That's the reason why we want to focus on the "Whoness" of the person. Once they understand their motivations and feelings, finding the answers to the "What" become much easier.

Danette Matty - August 22nd, 2023 at 7:01pm

Charity, I agree. The distinctions you mention seem simple, but it helps when they are pointed out in class in real time (e.g., "That was PCC coaching."). With practice, it will become second nature, almost like a second language. I'm glad we will have more practice!

D. Matty - August 14th, 2023 at 8:00pm

As others have noted, actually thinking and talking (fumbling) through these scenarios forced us/me to think in real-world terms. What would be the appropriate question here? Is it okay to ask permission to share a story that might bring helpful perspective to my client? As curious as I am, as useful as I desire to be, and regardless of my expertise in a given area, if the client voices that they feel done with an issue , can I let it float in respect and deference to the client?

Dr. Felix C. Villanueva, MCC - August 16th, 2023 at 12:51pm

Danette, as we discuss in class, stories are powerful tools to assist clients to move forward. The challenge many coaches experience is sharing a story without leading the client to a specific solution. Once you find the balance, stories can be used in effective ways. As to your second question, the client is ALWAYS in charge. We follow them where they want to go.

Ed Horstmann - August 16th, 2023 at 7:22am

I am beginning to see the significant differences between ACC and PCC coaching. As we move in the direction of PCC coaching it feels to me that there is an even higher level of awareness needed by the coach in order to discern where the coachee can be challenged. There is also a new level of freedom in terms of that opportunity to go deeper. It's important to understand where the coachee is in terms of that readiness to move into more vulnerable territory. Going back and forth between ACC and PCC approaches was fascinating, moving from the what to the who, which also requires a greater vulnerability on the part of the coach. But the key thing for me is always to be aware that the coachee is in charge. The coach can release performance anxiety, adopt the beginner's mind, and ask away!

Jim - August 16th, 2023 at 8:09am

Ed and others, what might be some of the indicators for a coach to know that they can go deeper? Say more about the need for the coach to be more vulnerable.

Michelle Townsend de Lopez - August 16th, 2023 at 12:55pm

I believe that in providing a supportive space and holding it for the client is important, but making sure the coach is bringing their best self and a deep self that way intentionality is present and not wondering off or trying to be polite. If we do our own work and are mentally and emotionally prepared then we are better equipped to have that sacred space to allow for new awareness and exploration therein for the client. We also then are more focused and confident in who we are and bring that it shows in the partnership with the client and their ability to trust us.

Dr. Felix C. Villanueva, MCC - August 16th, 2023 at 12:54pm

Ed, great insight! At the PCC Level we want to focus deeper on the "Who" of the client. Yes, as coaches we need to become more self-aware in order to accompany the client through deeper exploration.

Carl Horton - August 18th, 2023 at 8:10am

I must admit that at first I was caught a bit flat-footed by the questions about "PCC-level" responses to the case studies. I felt like I was being transported to a dimension I'd never been to, asked to perform at a new level I hadn't tried with intention. With the coaching group mostly in the same situation, we all began to give it a try and it became quite enlivening. I was able to revisit the core competencies, which I admit weren't fresh in my mind, and the session became not only a brush up on things past but a taste of things to come. A good first session for this PCC-level course.

Jim - August 21st, 2023 at 10:57am

Carl, I expect that your ACC-level training quickly be refreshed in the course. You may find it helpful to review the Coaching Manual, particularly Chapter 2 where the core competencies are highlighted. I'm glad you're part of the class given your many insightful comments you offer.

Brian Wallace - August 28th, 2023 at 10:11pm

Since I missed most of this class, it's taken me a while to get caught up.

I think what I've realized is that on some level, I've always gravitated toward coaching the who rather than the what. My current primary job gives me a lot of opportunities to utilize coaching skills, but because these are people that I am engaged with on an on-going basis, I'm not necessarily concerned about the immediate what of the situation but rather focused on their long-term vocational journey. It's also been my observation that often, an issue that presents as a "what" issue, if you dig down a little bit, also has a who layer to it. For example - what might be "I want to improve communication with parents," while the who issue is "I don't think the work I do is worthwhile and lack the confidence to communicate it well".

Jim LaDoux - September 20th, 2023 at 11:29am

I like you comments about gravitating toward the WHO vs the WHAT. I think it's helpful to know what your tendency is as a coaching as you seek the appropriate balance between the 2 areas of focus.

Tony Myles - September 27th, 2023 at 7:58pm

The real distinction here is remembering the "who" is a hot priority, while we may tend to focus on the "what" - it's the difference between listening and fixing. The very first question launches this, because it's not just "What do you want to TALK ABOUT today," but "What do YOU want to talk about today?" The coachee is always in the driver's seat, even if they approach the time wanting the coach to drive them somewhere.

Tapping into this helps us tap into real client growth. It's been so helpful to reinforce learning the core competencies in real-time every time we practice.