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Deadlines in Your Coaching

One thing that is fascinating about being a coach, and working with coaches, is the fact that human beings don’t make a decision–most of the time–unless they’re nudged.

What can deadlines do for your coaching?The nudge can come from an impending deadline, accountability that matters, or even a big picture vision that is tied directly to the current decision.

I’ve seen this time and time again in my coaching. When a deadline is looming, my client makes choices that otherwise might be out of reach. Even if it’s an obvious choice that could’ve been made weeks ago, the deadline is powerful enough to be the thing that nudges them forward.

How close to the deadline a person can vary greatly from client to client. Some folks need to be absolutely up against the wall. Other folks just need to know that the deadline is looming sometime in the near future. This is something that’s important for a coach to know about their client so they can serve them most effectively.

Because of this tendency, coaches can leverage this human tendency to increase effectiveness–or more accurately–the client’s effectiveness. How can you build helpful deadlines into your coaching conversations so that your client to action sooner rather than later?

One helpful strategy is to simply ask “How soon do you want this done?” or “What will finishing this do for you and your vision?

Vision is the most powerful change agent in coaching. If you are working with a client that has a clearly articulated purpose for being coached, it is an advantage for both coach and client to evaluate how every action plan connects to the larger purpose.

In a recent coaching session, my client was envisioning how including a certain assessment in his team development would benefit the team. Every session had built toward developing a skill that the team didn’t currently have. A breakthrough moment came when the client named the skill in a crystal clear description.

He knew what it would take to develop the skill, but couldn’t name how he would assess the current state of his team member’s abilities in this area. That’s where the assessment came in.

There was a reasonably large time commitment to learning to use the assessment and include it in his team’s culture. The financial cost was pretty high as well.

The first coaching question I asked was “What will this information give you as the team leader?” He talked for almost seven minutes listing the benefits.

I followed up with “What reasons can you come up with to NOT learn and use the assessment?” His only hesitation was the cost, but then said “I have the money and the time to do it.”

My next question was “How will this help you accomplish the team’s purposes?” He had another long list of ways.

My final question was “What would keep you from getting trained?” He immediately responded “Nothing. I’m already on the registration site.”

The vision motivated him to act. It was powerful.

This kind of vision-related nudge works virtually every time. This particular client ended up choosing a training that started two weeks later, and had his team take the assessment before our next session.

What vision or deadline could you help your clients articulate and embrace in your next coaching session?


I also have a personal deadline that I want to extend for you. Let’s see if this inspires you to act.

We’re currently offering a promo code on the CoachNet store that discounts every item in the store–training, memberships, assessments, even mentor coaching. But it’s only good until midnight EST TODAY.

The code is 20NYE, by the way. Here’s where you can find the CoachNet store.

I’ve had probably a dozen emails asking some variation of this question: “Could you please extend this promo code offer until Monday (January 5), so I can access it when I get back to my office after the holidays?”

You bet. I’ll do that.

Monday at Midnight Eastern Time the promo code 20NYE will go away. We’re extending it until then.

In the meantime, if you’re thinking about coach training or mentor coaching at all during 2015, this is a great opportunity. That promo code will take 20% off any item in the CoachNet store.

I hope we see you in the training room!

Let me know if you have any questions.

The Secret to Explaining What Coaching Is

You’ve been there. You’re on an airplane, or at a party or meeting someone at a lunch appointment and they ask “What do you do?”

If you’re a coach like I am, this is a particularly awkward moment because what coaches do is difficult to describe.

I’ve been coaching since the late 1990s. I have to admit, it’s been a struggle to come up with a good answer to this seemingly simple question. My wife describes what I do as a coach as “He talks on the phone with people who want to solve problems.” Not bad, but it doesn’t quite get to the essence of what coaching really is.

The Secret to Explaining Coaching

In CoachNet training events, we talk about coaching as a simple equation Relationship + Purpose + Intention = Coaching. All the key pieces of what coaching actually is and does are there. Over the next few blog posts we’re going to look under the hood of this easy definition of coaching.

Every effective coaching situation starts with a baseline of relationship. Coaches must be able to ask questions that dig beneath the surface.

A team coaching relationship I have right now is a great example. The team leader and I have a great relationship. He’s one of my best friends and a terrific leader. He brought me in to work with his leadership team and framed the situation by telling the team directly that I wasn’t there to provide guidance or advice, but rather to help the leadership team find their own way. It was a great setup and we’ve dug beneath the surface ever since.

The team leader didn’t say this, but he implied that he trusted me completely and because of that, the team could as well. This allowed me to tailor my questions and dig beneath the surface because the team was ready to go there with me.

This team and I built trust very quickly. We moved to the ideal level of connection for a coaching situation. We got to the stage of relationship without any roadblocks.

Relationship in a coaching situation is different than other relationships. It’s NOT a two-way street. Coaches leverage all of their gifts, knowledge, experience and training for the client’s benefit. The client has a chance to receive and apply all of that insight.

This demands an unique kind of trust in the relationship, and a high level of compatibility.

A church planter I know has tried to engage me as a coach three different times. In each situation, three or four sessions into it, the planter has said “I don’t like this, because you never let me help you.”

He’s right. I don’t.

In coach mode, the relationship is slanted toward the client’s benefit.

And the client has to be ok with that.

If they’re not, it’s probably not an ideal foundation for a coaching relationship.

It’s the relationship that makes deep reflection possible. It’s the relationship that gives the coach permission to ask a hard question and the client to allow the coach to focus on them and what they want to accomplish.

Your coaching presence informs how you show up in your coaching relationships. Learn more here. But there’s another, even simpler way to get a sense of how you are in your coaching relationships: How you are in your relationships is generally how you are when you coach.

Lots of coaches have terrific senses of humor. Some are goofy and some are sarcastic. Those traits show up in coaching all the time. But when you evaluate your coaching relationships, ask yourself this: “Does this trait of mine help the client gain clarity?”

(If you don’t know what your go to behavioral traits are, ask 3–5 friends to tell you what they see you doing consistently. But be prepared for what they tell you! Then, ask yourself how that trait might apply to your coaching!)

How you come across as a coach speaks into what the client gets out of the relationship. Your sense of humor and/or compassion might help your client put together a very specific and aggressive action plan. Or it might make assembling that plan harder for the client. You want to be helpful.

This is hard for a lot of coaches to accept, but it’s true: How you interact with the client has an influence on what they end up accomplishing. Do you know what tendencies of yours bring out the best in other people? (I think this is MUST KNOW INFO for coaches!) How are you leveraging those behaviors in your relationships?

Bottom line in a coaching situation is that the client can do whatever they want on the key issues/action plans they choose to work on. You do have a role of influence in the client’s actions. Use your powers for good.

Even if the client changes their action plan in between sessions. Which is going to happen!

But, as your coach, I do request that you tell me what you’ve done and if you change what we talked about.

We’re in this together. This is a relationship. That’s the core of coaching.

What do you think? How do you know you’ve got the right kind of coaching relationship? What signs do you watch for? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Strategy & Tactics in a Coaching Relationship

A game of strategy AND tactics...just like coaching.

A game of strategy AND tactics…just like coaching.

One of the coaching questions I’ve found myself asking more often in recent sessions is “How does that action step help you achieve your goals?” It’s a pretty bold question…and forces the leader to evaluate their plan with an useful lens.

The bad news is that too often the answer is “I don’t know…” or “It doesn’t…” A question like this really plumbs the tension between the urgent (the things that are on fire at the moment) and the important (the stuff that helps you make the most progress). Another way to say that is that bold questions bridge both strategies and tactics.

The best coaching relationships are both strategic and tactical. In fact, a lot of coaching conversations are both…and the best coaches understand how to balance the two options. Think of it like a chess game (or any game)…to have the best chance to win, you have to think about what it will take to ultimately get a checkmate AND what you can do next.

First some definitions:
Strategy: a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim. This is the big picture of why you’re working with your client. You might describe it as the master plan.

Tactical: actions carefully planned to gain a specific end.

Do you see the difference? Strategy is big picture, the large scale objective(s). Tactics are the steps to get there. In the International Coach Federation competencies, think of strategy as Planning and Goal Setting (Competency #10) and tactics are more of Designing Actions (Competency #9). Strategy is the route you’ll take to get where you’re going, and tactics are what you’re going to do along the route..

Strategy comes into play when you’re aligning the actions that your client designs with equal for all purpose of the coaching relationship. Strategy gives you a lens to use to line up each of your next steps so you make as much progress as possible. Effective coaches touch on big picture strategy in every session, but it rarely dominates the conversation.

Tactics get chosen & implemented when the client is designing individual action steps to move them closer to the overall vision. You’ll spend some time in every coaching conversation talking tactics. The best tactics line up with your stated goals and provide forward momentum that moves you closer to your vision.

Think of strategy as a physical fitness plan that includes, diet, cardio, weight lifting and yoga. Tactics are things like leg workouts, interval runs, and back stretching routines.

Any coach that’s worth a darn has seen both strategy & tactics in coaching…got a story you’d like pass on? I’d love to hear how you walk the line between these two key elements.

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