Positive Tips and Techniques 

Guidelines for the positive coach 

Tune in 

Tuning in helps the coach to spot and work with each client’s uniqueness, keeping an open mind and fostering a spirit of inquiry while also spotting when the coach is getting too involved, making assumptions, or driving too hard. Tuning in involves noticing and probing how the client is experiencing things instead of assuming one understands what the client is saying, imposing one’s agenda in the session, or unconsciously mapping what is being said onto one’s own reality view.

{Being at the cause, having a growth mindset, paying full attention to the client, and avoiding overlaying one’s own agenda.}

Being proactive

Coaching includes setting goals and agreeing on actions requiring the coach to be active, engaged, and challenging. Coaches listen, build rapport, shift energy, interrupt, confront, and give feedback so the client maintains progress and avoids wallowing or getting off the subject.

Being open

Not all is known about the client at the start of an assignment, and new insights or information is received as the coaching proceeds. A coach should be able to work with more or less everyone, even though they may prefer to work with specific client types. The authentic client person is mostly uncovered after several sessions, revealing their values, beliefs, personality, and resourcefulness as the coaching relationship deepens.

Look for the best

Clients are resourceful people not in need of curing or fixing. So the coach’s role is to help the client seek out their best self, who can know what they want and work toward it. People sometimes develop because someone believes in them, encourages them, and acknowledges them when they do well. Bringing one’s strengths to the tasks or challenges one faces unlocks energy and brings satisfaction, even to demanding situations.

{Strengths and mindset.}

Hang in

The coach may sometimes experience strong reactions to a client’s issues, person, or actions. Such “projection” is experienced when one does not fully own something about themselves. The way forward is for the coach to notice it and consider what it is they need to accept, maybe with the help of a supervisor.

Another time to hang in is when a client seems to be attacking you. Mostly, these are times when the client’s frustration is coming out. It is a mistake to interpret the words as directed primarily at the coach. Instead of reacting defensively, the experienced coach gets curious and explores what the strong feeling is about, working with the client to deepen understanding and identify steps forward.

Build the relationship

The coaching relationship must be two-way. The coach must bring their full, authentic self to the engagement and get involved with their full person to form a real connection. The clients will respond to authenticity and genuineness by being more themselves in return and, therefore, better able to explore issues and find steps that fit their character strengths and aspirations.

Coaching is like …

Think up a simile, such as coaching is like losing weight: the idea is simple, and most people agree with it in principle, but it’s hard to do.

Psychometrics and other questionnaires

People have preferences and predispositions. Psychometrics help a client understand theirs and actively seek solutions more likely to work for them, such as building optimism and finding more effective strategies to cope with difficult moments.

Personality factors such as the “Big Five” are descriptors of personality aspects. They do not tell us everything about a person. Both ends of each scale have potential strengths and weaknesses. Still, they do not permanently condemn a person’s thinking or behavior in a certain way, for example, handling upset effectively or badly. Care is needed in interpreting feedback on instruments purporting to measure such factors. So the coach must be careful to ensure they understand clearly what is being measured and check that a report does not use sweeping statements which might be wrongly interpreted as truth, avoiding simplistic or deterministic interpretations.

Useful psychometric information facilitates self-understanding and supports a client in handling difficult times better. Taking a strengths approach is useful in working with questionnaires. Our negativity bias draws our attention to low scores or what seem to be areas we must improve. The strengths approach looks for what is good in a profile, actively avoiding negativity and judgment. The strengths-focused coach encourages the client by insisting on a thorough focus on what is good and working well and how to leverage this even more before considering any weakness.

Difficult conversations

The client may identify a situation they wish to be more resourceful, for example, in giving a difficult message to their boss or a staff member.

The client stands up and places two chairs facing each other, one representing themselves and the other their interlocutor they are giving the message. The coach says:

Adam, imagine you are sitting there giving your message to Karl. Imagine that vividly for a moment and notice how Adam is sitting confidently and sounding confident. Notice that the conversation is going well, perhaps better than he expected and that he communicates his message clearly and positively. So stay with that for a moment.

Now, listen carefully to what he is saying: What is he saying? What are the actual words he is using? What is the core of his message? Notice that.

How does Adam feel now he has said what he needed to say?

End this part of the technique and symbolically move the chairs back as they were. Then, say, “Ok, so, based on that successful conversation you just saw, what advice do you give yourself? What is the next step?”

Energizing action

Although the client determines the agenda, there are times when a client must change lifestyle if they are to achieve their goals. This is particularly relevant when the client is set out to handle a tough assignment or a difficult new role, and there is a discrepancy between the goal clarity and the energy lack in pursuing it. Physical fitness and wellbeing or its absence might become a success determinant in such a situation. For example, inactivity has major psychological and physiological effects, including disturbed sleep, greater stress susceptibility, and increased negative emotions.

A first step to cultivating positive emotions might be to get the client moving, such as by taking up more exercise.

For example, energy levels might drop mid-day or after meals, and a coaching conversation needs to be infused with a different energy. Increasing arousal by standing up and inviting the client for a walk outside can make a difference in mental attitude. “Ok, Adam, I’m starting to feel a little tired here. You know that a different physical perspective helps our mental perspective. So how about a ten-minute walk around the block? We’ll continue talking as we go.”

Using random words to get the client going again

Sometimes, people encounter a block, or the client and coach don’t know where to go next. To avoid “rescuing” by taking ownership of the issue away from the client, the coach must stay away from leading or asking lots of questions to dig the client out of “stuckness.” Use this simple technique:

Identify the block or question at hand.

Identify a thing or object randomly, or use a list, such as Apron, Light Bulb, Carpet, Cauliflower, Cloud, Donkey, Doughnut, Encyclopedia, Hill, Newspaper, etc. Ask the client to give you a number from 1-10 and identify the word to use.

Invite the client to apply this literally or metaphorically to the matter at hand.

Let them think and talk.

Get them to draw out the relevance for this block.

Things you would never say to a client as a coach

When you have particularly strong reactions to what is happening in the session that pop up from nowhere, it is relevant to offer these reactions to the client without appearing personally judgmental or taking over their agenda. Instead, such reactions might require you to use appropriate wording and translate the raw images or feelings into useful comments or prompts.