Unlocking Potential

By Jim LaDoux
The book, Unlocking Potential: 7 Coaching Skills that Transform Individuals, Team, and Organizations, highlights four key themes - trust, potential, commitment, and execution. In addition, the author expounds on the following 7 coaching skills: 1) Build trust, 2) Challenge paradigms, 3) Seek strategic clarity, 4) Execute flawlessly, 5) Give effective feedback, 6) Tap into talent, and 7) Move to the middle.  Listed below are just a few of my specific takeaways from the book. I invite your insights and comments.

1  |  Coaching  impacts  one's  mindset,  heart,  and behaviors

Coaching positively impacts one’s mindset, heart, and behaviors in ways that people are never the same again. As a coach, I often ask myself:
  • What do I want for the people I coach?
  • Do I believe in their gifts and potential?
  • How can I help clients become aware of their yearnings and potential?
  • What am I learning about unlocking people's potential?

2  |  Coaches  move  people  from  one  level  of  performance  to  another

As a coach, I find myself assessing where clients are now and what the next level of performance would look like for that person? I help clients paint a picture of that new reality. As a coach, I consider:
  • What is the quality of their family life?  Friendships?  Fitness?  Finances?    
  • Where are they stuck and what are the causal factors?
  • What have been their patterns of success that may support their next steps?
  • What gets in the client's way that prevents them from seeing a better way of being?

3  |  Being  a  great  coach  is  a  choice

Coaches are neither born nor made. Great coaches choose to be great coaches.
  • How can I ensure that I am 100% focused on your client and their wellbeing? 
  • What do I to prepare for a coaching session?  Do I need to change my routine?
  • What have I learned from my most recent coaching conversations?
  • How do my learnings translate into becoming a better coach?

4  |  Great  coaches  build  trust,  gain  commitment,  and  help  clients  execute

I think struggle with gaining commitment, particularly when I assume that it's there without confirming it.  How would you answer the questions below?
  • Which of these four practices do you do best?
  • Which one needs greater attention?
  • Who can help you develop this skill?

5  |  The  only  kind  of  commitment  that  lasts  is  internal  commitment

As a coach, I frequently ask myself:
  • How does a coach create commitment in the individual?
  • How does a coach help the client create a sense of urgency about their next steps?
  • How can I discover what motivates the clients I serve?
A red flag for me is when I seem to want certain things for the client more than they want it for themselves?  I can over-function when I hold on to this mindset. 

6  |  You're  not  coaching  unless  there's execution and accountability

After helping clients paint a clear, compelling picture of their preferred future, I like to ask them 2 questions to help them connect the big picture with their next steps:
  • On a scale of 1-10, (10=very energized), how excited are you to living into that preferred future?
  • If you answer, wasn't a "10". what would make it more compelling for you? 
i recognize that my vision for the pace of progress may differ greatly from what the client is thinking.  I like to ask clients what they could do to speed up or slow down their progress. What do you say or do when you observe a client making little or no progress?

7 |  Giving  feedback  accelerates  transformation 

I find myself doing this more often and it seems to lead to fruitful conversations. I need to remember to ask for permission to share observations and suggestions.  I ask myself:
  • Do my questions or observation amplify awareness, choices, and opportunities?
  • Do my clients see the feedback from me as a gift?
  • Can I offer feedback without suggesting that I'm judging the person?

8  |  Ailing  organizations  are  often  blind  to  their  faults

It's easy for ailing organizations to major in mediocrity. It's easy for a lack of urgency and experimentation to become the dominating culture.  Questions worth considering:
  • How do you help clients see that “good enough” isn't good enough?
  • How do you help clients no longer accept mediocrity or dysfunction?
  • How do you help clients determine if have have the right people doing the right things?
  • Are the most pressing problems related to people, process, priorities, or passions?
  • How can you help clients see their potential for influence as something much bigger?

 "They are not suffering because they cannot solve their
 problems but because they cannot see their problems.
                                                                         —John Gardner


  1. Which of these 8 themes is most important or pressing for you as a coach?
  2. Which of the 7 coaching skills do you need to pay attention to or develop?
  3. Who is currently helping you unlock your potential?
  4. What's one habit you could embed into coaching that would help unlock your potential? 
Posted in


Janny - December 12th, 2022 at 7:01pm

I really am intrigued by #3 - being a great coach is a choice: it gives me hope and energy to read more, ask more from colleagues and have confidence that I am growing into a great coach!

I want to pay close attention to giving feedback - I have learned the techniques but am convinced that the way I bring it is so important and should be individual adapted. I am lucky to have an almost MCC coach who offered me 6 sessions for her learning journey and she is unlocking more potential!

Becky D'Angelo-Veitch - March 8th, 2023 at 10:38am

Janny, I was totally struck by that phrase as well--not born or made, but choosing every day!!

Becky D'Angelo-Veitch - March 8th, 2023 at 10:43am

I think that this post really broadened my focus. I fell as though at this point in my coach training, I am so focused on the nuts and bolts that I haven't stepped back to see the wider view. For me, points 1 & 2 were really helpful in considering what intention I am bringing to my role (#1) and being aware of the client's context (#2). As I think of the last question (What's one habit you could embed into coaching that would help unlock your potential? ) my first instinct is curiosity. Just the other day, while doing some coaching, I had to intentionally put aside my ideas for the client (fixers anonymous!!) and instead listen and learn from where they saw themself needing to go. By pushing aside my own ideas and learning to be curious about the client's wisdom I think i could really reach the potential I think I do have.

Julie Gvillo - March 8th, 2023 at 4:44pm

Oooooh, Becky! I LIKE that! "By pushing aside my own ideas and learning to be CURIOUS ABOUT THE CLIENT'S WISDOM, I think I could really reach the potential I think I do have." I understand curiosity, but being curious about their wisdom is not something I have considered. I like that! Thank you! (fellow member of fixers anonymous) ;)

Stephanie Vasquez - March 8th, 2023 at 11:06am

I believe for me is to know that the personal commitment. If my client has invested money and time to meet with me, I would like to see that they are willing to go through a (sometimes difficult) transformation so they can achieve their goals.

I think for me challenging paradigms would be a skill that I need to develop further. I can tend to jump into conclusions and/or assume things, so I need to pause and clear my mind to continue moving forward.

My best friend Laura is helping me unlock my potential and my supervisor. I think I am beginning to listen actively, specially in one on one conversations. The more I practice, the more helpful will be for coaching.

Julie Gvillo - March 8th, 2023 at 4:45pm

Oh, the JOY of transformation!! YES! Totally agree!

Darren Sutton - March 8th, 2023 at 1:16pm

I haven't really considered that part of the coach role is to help solidify the client's commitment. I've always 'assumed' their commitment - but it makes sense a) not to assume and b) that their level of commitment might not be at the level I'm expecting, which could also impact length of time for coaching, etc.

The co-hort has been great accountability - and is right now pushing me to consider if I am truly listening with curiosity or listening to 'consult' (which is my natural tendency.).

Julie Gvillo - March 8th, 2023 at 5:04pm

Right? I hadn't thought of that either. I also kind of figured that if a client is paying for coaching, there would be at least a financial motivation for follow through. But alas, I see people in Reiki who really have no desire to do the work required to heal, so ......... I can see where it's possible that a client would not have a burning desire to make changes.

Julie Gvillo - March 8th, 2023 at 4:42pm

I think the most important -- and often the most pressing -- theme for me as a coach is that coaches move people from one level of performance to another. As a Reiki Master Practitioner and Teacher, I regularly encounter people who are struggling with the results of not moving to a higher level of performance. When that manifests as a physical issue, it can interfere with their quality of life. Helping people move to a new level of performance literally helps facilitate healing in body, mind, spirit, and emotion.

The coaching skill I need to develop more fully is recognizing that I cannot want something for someone more than they want it for themselves. Intellectually, I know this. My heart sometimes forgets.

I am blessed that a friend/colleague in ministry *and* Reiki is *also* taking ICF training in coaching, and we are exchanging coaching hours. She has been helpful in helping me unlock my potential, but I've also been blessed to have a couple of hugely influential people over the course of my life who have also served in that capacity. I am incredibly grateful for that. Furthermore, the coaching practice in class is helpful. All of our classmates are kind, caring, and compassionate coaches who support and listen actively and ask powerful questions that lead to positive outcomes.

I plan to start reading at least one coaching book each month to help unlock my coaching potential.

Shannon Guse - April 13th, 2023 at 2:10pm

"I cannot want something more than they want it themselves." Naming this and living into it are two very different things especially for those of us in ministry who care so deeply for the people we work with. This will be difficult in our coaching as we help the clients discover what they need and whether they choose to move into the forward steps they determine. This will require the coaches to let go and trust the client!

Danette - March 8th, 2023 at 8:46pm

The Commitment piece stands out to me. As Darren notes, I assume if someone asks me to coach them (particularly if they or their organization pays), they are committed, or at least, they want to be. But vocational ministry has shown me that people may come to see a ministry leader for a few different reasons - to be heard, counseled, or empathized with, but not necessarily because they are committed to growth or change.


I want to grow in creating commitment in individuals. I may believe in the person and want great things for them. But it's challenging when they approach the conversation with ambivalence or a learned helplessness. Then I feel like I'm pulling them rather than pushing them.


What Stephanie writes about needing to grow in challenging paradigms, not jumping to conclusions, or assuming things resonates with me. I try to fight against these tendencies.


I'm learning quite a bit from our weekly coaching classes. The cool thing I observe is that everyone can be themself while coaching effectively. One does not have to become a different person (personality) in order to coach another.


Internalizing and memorizing the most effective questions will help unlock my potential because they will become second nature.

Charity Starchenko - March 14th, 2023 at 3:48pm

I like #6- execution and accountability. I think seeing people taking the next best step, even if it's small, takes me a long way in knowing that I'm helping people move past challenging mindsets and toward a preferred future.

Kim - March 15th, 2023 at 4:44pm

The reminder not to assume commitment is helpful. I would have assumed that if they were seeking coaching, they were committed to the process. But its also likely that the idea of coaching sounded better than the actual work involved. Once in the session to check in on how committed they are the work is important. I like the scale question and asking what they can do to move closer to full (10) commitment. If they aren't fully committed, it will miss a huge part of what makes coaching unique - forward movement.

The other part that stands out for me is to ask for permission to give feedback. As I continue to distinguish between what it means to be a coach versus a counselor or mentor, giving feedback is one place where I have tended to shy away. There is value in giving feedback as long as it increases client awareness and doesn't hold judgment. I wonder how many clients would be comfortable saying NO to your ask about giving feedback? Establishing trust and openness will really help with this.

Nicole - March 29th, 2023 at 12:28pm

"The only kind of commitment that lasts is internal commitment" is a skill that I need to consider more and to continue to develop. I often wonder how to engage the things that really connect clients to the motivating factor to get them to actually move.

Tony Myles - April 13th, 2023 at 2:18am

Coaching is in many ways helping people and teams level up. I do think that I'm especially excited to help with how "ailing organizations are often blind to their faults." I've been there and perhaps still am at times. I'd like to ask questions no one is asking to help them uncover new steps they aren't yet taking.

One thing I need to work on is realizing I can't want it more than they do. This means setting down my assumptions and engaging in active listening. Thankfully, my home church is good at helping with this and holds me accountable to stay humble. Plus, I've had some super influential people in my life that have helped me grow.

I'm leveling up myself by listening to some good podcasts on these topics.

Shannon Guse - April 13th, 2023 at 2:08pm

Which of these 8 themes is most important or pressing for you as a coach? While they are all important, without trust, you can't be vulnerable and move forward. Focusing on developing a healthy and safe client/coach relationship is key.

Which of the 7 coaching skills do you need to pay attention to or develop? I need to let go of needing a tangible "to do" at the end of each session. Being more present with the person and coaching the WHO, not the WHAT is a skill I am still developing.

Who is currently helping you unlock your potential? My coaching "quad". As we practice coaching each week, we are open, honest, and encouraging. We nudge each other to continue to improve our skills.

What's one habit you could embed into coaching that would help unlock your potential? Using Appreciative Inquiry and providing more positive feedback would help me move from a "here's the problem" to "here are some solutions" mindset. I easily get stuck in the negative and need positive motivations and reminders.

Melonee Tubb - April 19th, 2023 at 3:30pm

The most important theme for me currently is the theme around commitment. Specifically in how to help a client find the unique internal motivation that works for them and to not be demoralized to the point of giving up when it takes some time to figure out what that is. It is easy to make promises to ourselves based on great intentions and very disheartening when we don't fulfill them. I want to help people escape the oppressive structures that come out as "shoulds" and instead create goals that are exciting and motivating to them because they align with their values and purpose.

Matthew May - November 6th, 2023 at 3:51pm

I always liked the concept of "You're not coaching unless change happens." I keep that in the back of mind because I acknowledge that a client brings me along their journey to facilitate change. I am fulfilled when my client is fulfilled and when they have actionable steps to achieve their goals.