Co-active Coaching - Part 2

By Jim LaDoux
Co-active Coaching is a great resource that focuses on how the coach and the coachee work together for the sake of the coachee’s agenda. It explores the subtexts to every conversation that include assumptions, expectations, and unspoken agreements. It brings together the essential human qualities of being and doing:
  • Who we are.
  • Who we are in relationship.
  • Who we are being and want to be.
  • How we are actively creating.
  • What we are doing or not doing to achieve the results people want in life and work.

In Part 2 of the book, the author describes the five skills a trained coach brings to the co-active conversation: 1)Listening, 2) Intuition, 3) Curiosity, 4) Forward and Deepen, and 5) Self-Management.


When another person is totally with you, you feel seen and understood. You feel safer and more secure, and trust grows. As coaches, we need to remove barriers to listening actively. We need to let go of what thinking what we’ll say next. We need to avoid sharing  our stories or offering advice. We need to avoid getting caught up in our own feelings or our desire to lead the client. Coaches focus being fully aware and laser-focused on the client and the impact they're seeking through coaching.  Co-active coaches are attentive to all the information our senses pick up when coaching. Coaches listen to what clients say, how they say it, and what they don’t say. Coaches pay attention to the words clients use, their expressions, and their emotions. Like a comedian, coaches find ways to read their audience and their environment, and to respond accordingly.

Discussion Questions
  • What prevents you from being totally focused on your coachees?
  • When have you recently adapted your coaching approach based on your interpretations of the coachee and their environment?
  • What are some of the tapes that go through your mind during a coaching conversation
  • Which tapes are helpful?  Counterproductive?


Author encourages coaches to use their intuition, to follow their instincts, and to do so with the intent to empower the coachee rather than offer advice. The author challenges coaches to express their intuitions more often, and do so in a way that doesn’t assume that their interpretations of the situation are correct.  The author encourages coaches to frame these intuitions by stating:
  • I have a sense/feeling . .
  • May I share an observation. . .
  • My instinct tells me. . .
  • I have a hunch that . . .
  • I wonder if. . .
  • May I tell you about a gut feeling I have?

Discussion Questions
  • How do you prepare clients ahead of time that you may share your intuitions?
  • How do you experience the "nudges" in your mind and body that you should share your intuition with a client?
  • When is interrupting or intruding in a coaching conversation helpful? A hindrance?


Curiosity starts with a question and causes clients to start looking for new discoveries. Curious questions shift the trajectory of our conversations and leads us to an exploratory and reflective mindset. Curiosity includes both the questions we ask and the mindset that we bring to our conversations. When we are curious as coaches, we are no longer playing the role of an expert.

Discussion Questions
  • On a scale of 1-10 (10=very curious), how curious are you with your clients?
  • What can coaches do to coach out of a curious mindset?
  • Do you have trouble being curious for your own sake rather than the clients?
  • What are the questions or phrases you use when coaching to spark curiosity?


The practice of this skill helps clients learn along the way, which helps them make continuously better choices, and become more competent and more resourceful. This cycle of action and learning overtime leads to a culture of sustained innovation and transformation.  Clients are responsible for their action in learning, and almost all of that action and learning takes place between, not during, coaching sessions. The practice of this skill often includes conversations related to setting goals, addressing accountability, brainstorming, calling forth one’s inner strengths and capacities, challenging assumptions and approaches, and making requests. It involves paying attention to results, celebrating success, and learning from failures. Failure is one of the fastest ways of learning.

Discussion Questions
  • How mindful are you of helping clients learn from their actions and results?
  • Are there ways you help normalize failure as part of the learning process?
  • What structures or norms do you help clients create to support their intentions?
  • What requests do you frequently make with clients you coach?


Self management requires a combination of self-awareness and the skill of recovery. It requires an ability to notice where you are, or where are you have gone in relationship with your client, and about your ability to get back on track. The context of self management involves knowing the difference between simply wandering along wherever the client leads and holding a particular focus with the client. That's why we often ask the question when coaching,  "Are we still on track with what you want to talk about?"  The quality of a coach’s capacity to self manage may be impacted by one self-limitations, lack of preparation before a coaching conversation, or one’s capacity to be fully present with the client. It may also include an awareness that the client may be better served by another individual rather than yourself.

Discussion Questions
  • What aspects of self-management do you do well?
  • What are some of your trouble spots related to self-management?
  • What are some indicators that the coaching process or conversation is "off track?"
  • What’s your process for doing an "autopsies without blame" on your recent coaching conversations?

If you've read or listen to the book, please bring your insights and questions to today's conversation. As you consider these questions, reflect on the potential ripple effect they'd have on your coaching impact with clients.  If you are a Coaching School student and reading this blog, please comment on which of the 5 skills do you feel is most important for you to pay attention to right now.

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Kim Ness - March 16th, 2023 at 12:49pm

"When we are curious as coaches, we are no longer playing the role of an expert." I love wondering and wandering with my youth. I always amazed at the questions they ask and the journeys they take. I tend to listen with my whole being when they are wondering about God or their faith. Because I KNOW I am not an expert on all things faith, I approach each of these conversations with awe and a desire to learn more, seeing through their eyes and their experiences. With coaching, I have not been as ready to bring in the wonder. I am still so new, focused on the basic agreement, on finding powerful questions, on doing it "right" that I have missed such a key part - BE CURIOUS! By nature, I am curious, always asking why or how. I know that with increased practice I will be able to move out of the formulaic process of coaching into what it more natural for me - wondering with my clients. In the meantime, I will be more aware of my need to stop, explore and reflect - learning with awe from my client.

Becky D'Angelo-Veitch - March 16th, 2023 at 4:43pm

I think intuition is the area that I would struggle with the most. It feels to me like a fine balance to invoke my own intuition without "leading the witness" or inserting myself into the client's own process in a way that could border on 'fixing'. I do think that as we move from lots of short 'one-off' coaching sessions like we are doing in class to more extended coaching relationships, the worry around offering intuition based reframing or observations may diminish as a relationship grows.

Shannon Guse - March 17th, 2023 at 6:24am

I agree that intuition often feels like fixing or leading. I often wonder how I can use my intuition to ask that next best question without leading or if I should just fully embrace what my gut is telling me and be more direct. In doing the latter, I feel I have had the best results with clients.

Julie Gvillo - March 20th, 2023 at 4:12pm

"How can I use my intuition to ask that next best question without leading ...?" The next best question. Great call!

Julie Gvillo - March 20th, 2023 at 4:09pm

You're probably right about it getting easier as we move into one-on-one coaching relationships, but I think you're doing an amazing job alreaady!

Danette - March 16th, 2023 at 5:11pm

Under Self-Management, I am intentional about the time I allot prior to an appointment. I typically do not schedule back-to-back appointments because I need time to process and/or decompress. I need to get better about sticking with the time I schedule. I used to allow people to continue talking even though our time was up. I have worked in the last few years to voice that "I'll need to switch gears at [x o'clock], and then mention it when we are within 15 minutes of that time. I recently said to someone, "Having a time constraint forces you to think through what's most important for you to share with me." The question "Are we still on track?" is a great 'tool' to help me, as a coach, as well as the individual, to stay on track.

Julie Gvillo - March 20th, 2023 at 4:20pm

I like your note about the time constraint forcing the client to think through what is most important to share with the coach. Thank you for sharing that observation. :)

Stephanie V - March 16th, 2023 at 6:01pm

I am focusing a lot on active listening. With the help of the recommendations and books, I have found myself sitting and listening to my colleagues, friends and family members. I have been able to listen to their feelings through their words and it has open up a new level of understanding. after I have received all that information, my curiosity activates and I can ask questions that would give me more details about their thoughts and feelings.

Julie Gvillo - March 20th, 2023 at 4:34pm

I appreciate your note that once you have received "all that information," your curiosity "activates." I like that idea.

Shannon Guse - March 17th, 2023 at 6:19am

Curiosity is the skill I find most important and most difficult to naturally acquire. In my paying attention to the client, I am collecting details, but rarely asking questions to deepen my understanding. As I continue to coach, I hope to become more curious by asking questions that get the client to dig deep and allow me to help them address their true needs and hopes. I have hesitated to ask these questions for fear of stepping into counseling territory, and I need to become more comfortable in this area.

Julie Gvillo - March 20th, 2023 at 4:37pm

You've got this! :) I wonder if you were curious as a child? Oftentimes, we lose our curiosity as we become adults. Perhaps some time playing with curious children would help reactivate that in you if it was there and is just overwhelmed by grown up to do lists.

Maria G. Covarrubias - May 3rd, 2023 at 10:49am

Thank you Julie for offering the suggestion to play with children to regain our curiosity by paying attention to their awe and natural curiosity. I have a couple of grandchildren I could practice with. Love it!

Julie Gvillo - March 20th, 2023 at 4:07pm

I would say the skill I need to pay the most attention to right now is self-management. I take time after a session to clear my head and to evaluate, but I am most likely not taking adequate time for preparation *before* the session by thinking about our most recent previous conversation and recalling the important points that might need follow-up.

Nicole - March 30th, 2023 at 8:41am

I think self management is the biggest struggle for me. I often forget to ask in my coaching sessions whether or not we are still on track because I'm so focused on the client and the conversation; I often find that asking that question directly would interrupt the flow of the conversation and so I'll resort to recapping and then asking a follow up question instead. Is this effective? Or should we be asking that question directly no matter how the conversation is going? I also wonder about how to discern that you aren't the right coach for an individual and how to build a network of other coaches that you know well enough to refer someone out after a couple of sessions if you feel like you aren't a good match.

Tony Myles - April 13th, 2023 at 2:45am

I'm most interested in growing in self-management. I recently added an app to my phone with different goals for the day/week. I like checking off when I do them, even though I'm not a checklist kind of guy. I'm finding that clear goals that are set into bite-sized steps help me develop a routine that keeps me moving forward. Being organized doesn't have to be bad, but can help manage my time more effectively and prioritize tasks that lead to progress..

Maria G. Covarrubias - May 3rd, 2023 at 9:58am

Coaching for me is intriguing and challenging at the same time. I have found out in the last three months that it is possible to relate with others without trying to fix them, knowing that clients are responsible for their own outcome. My responsibility is to provide a safe space for the client that will give him/her the opportunity to explore new creative ways of seeing and being by casting powerful questions that will build bridges from the present to a brighter and more fulfilling future. I also have learned that curiosity is a skill that I need to develop further to really make an impact in my client's coaching. I was taken away in the last class coaching demonstration how the coach reassured the coachee stating “I got lots of curiosity.” This expression made me realize the importance of showing my curiosity in the drafting of my questions for the client to gain clarity and get to the breakthrough of developing the next steps. This acknowledgement was powerful and an-eye opener for me. I think the question for me right now is “how do I continue to develop or regain my sense of curiosity to become a better coach?

Melonee Tubb - May 12th, 2023 at 2:18pm

The skill I have been working on the most lately is intuition.

How do you prepare clients ahead of time that you may share your intuitions?

-Asking for permission to share observations and being clear and direct with them from the beginning that part of my job is to notice what is not being said. Also, make sure to share observations from a place of curiosity not of judgment... it is important to leave plenty of room for the client to correct me if I'm off base.

How do you experience the "nudges" in your mind and body that you should share your intuition with a client?

--I can feel these in my stomach and in the back of my neck. I will actually find myself cocking my head one direction if there's something that is tickling the back of my mind that I can't quite put my finger on.

When is interrupting or intruding in a coaching conversation helpful? A hindrance?

--It is helpful if it helps the client stay on track with their stated intentions. It is a hindrance if it happens too often or comes from a place of impatience or discomfort.