Too many coaching relationships brainstorm action steps that seem good at time…but in the bigger picture, don’t really take the person being coached anywhere close to what they’re trying to accomplish.

When coaching a client toward outcomes, there are two different kinds of progress worth drawing out:

Learable change

]1 You know, book learnin’.

Learnable progress:  measured by what a client learns during the course of pursuing a new goal. 
This might be research, new skills, insight learning, or other meaningful knowledge that’s acquired during the course of pursuing a particular goal.  This also can include character-development and other internal growth components.   The core component is that this new information must change the client’s thinking on one or more levels.

Observable change

]2 Change that you see…and believe in!

Observable progress:  By setting the right goals and choosing the right action steps, measuring progress should be clearly visible to the naked eye.  Observation is the core of any good change system.   Effective coaches help mark starting points and note when the scenery around their clients change because they’re moving forward.

It’s crucial to note while both kinds of progress are just that, progress.  For the coaching you do to be it’s most effective, there has to be progress toward something.  Vision–the bigger picture–has to drive.  If your clients can describe how what they’re learning in your coaching relationship is pushing them toward their vision, that’s helpful progress.  Observable progress toward your vision is helpful as well.