coaching session

5 Questions To Ask When Silence Sets In

In this week’s guest post experienced coach Frederique Murphy shares:

5 Questions To Ask When Silence Sets In

By Frederique Murphy

"5 Questions To Ask When Silence Sets In" By Frederique Murphy

Here you are: ready, as your session with your next client is coming up and as per your usual process after having established rapport, you jump in and ask: So, what would you like to focus on today? or something similar, a question that helps you kick-start the session and get your client talking about what they would like to be focusing on today. And, then, the silence sets in…

Depending on your experience, this is a scenario that may either be familiar or odd to you, and over the years of coaching, while I agree that it might sound odd, it does in fact happen; particularly when your client has invested in one of your multisession coaching packages and you coach them on a regular basis. There will be times when they show up and it’d seem that they have nothing.

Here are 5 suggested questions to use when your client comes up with ‘nothing’ at the start of a session, so that you, when it happens, will be ready and able to serve them as you lead the session:

  • What is the greatest thing that has happened to you this week in your life/career?


  • What can you do today and onwards to ensure that this thing happens again?
  • What is preventing you from having already achieved X [insert client’s top goal]?
  • If X [insert client top’s block, e. money, time, age, qualifications…] was not a hindrance for you, what would you do?
  • What would you change if you had a magic wand?
  • Visualise… it is 12/24/36 months ahead and everything is perfect: you’ve achieved all of your goals!!! What do you see, hear, feel, taste and smell?


  • [Extract achievements and ask] How have you achieved it?

Any of these – and do trust that you, as the coach, will know which one to go for, will help you coach your client – even when they say ‘nothing’ at the start of the session, so that you can serve your client and continue delivering benefits to guide them forward in their life, career or business.

Do you already have your own set of questions to use when your client comes up with ‘nothing’ during a session? Which questions do you find work best for you? I’d love for you to share; this will be helpful for the other coaches. Comment below!

About Frederique Murphy

Frederique MurphyIt’s hard to thrive as an organisation when your employees’ mindset is letting you all down. Mindset is what sets your organisation apart – it is THE factor in determining your success. Frederique Murphy provides individuals, corporate executives, and entrepreneurs with a wealth of mountain moving mindset resources to help them become the true leaders of their life, career and business. She is a mindset strategist who specialises in Inspirational Leadership. By equipping you with inspiration and scientifically-based strategies, she instils beliefs, attitudes and behaviours to create lasting change. With over 15 years of experience in corporate change and expertise in positive psychology, neuroscience and behaviour change, she helps your organisation reap the benefits of tapping into the power of the mind. For more information on Frederique’s transformational range, visit, join the free M3 Power Community, and start climbing now!

Connect with Frederique on Social Media






What has Shakespeare got to do with coaching?

This was originally published as a bonus article in the Coaching Confidence weekly email during June 2011. To start getting your very own copy each week enter your details under “Don’t miss a thing!” to the right of this page.

What has Shakespeare got to do with coaching?

The catalyst for last weeks post was observing a workshop that the Royal Shakespeare Company “Head of Voice” Cicely Berry ran. It was a piece based around what we can learn about best practice in other fields and including a few coaching questions. If you missed it you can read it here.

This weeks message will continue with that theme as I also observed a second workshop ran by two top directors working with a group of actors on a particular speech.

You’ll notice that there are coaching questions to consider throughout the piece. Feel free to play with those questions and I invite you to notice which one makes the most difference for you.

Greg Doran is currently Chief Associate Director with the RSC and has been described as “one of the great Shakespearians of his generation.”

John Barton co-founded the RSC 50 years ago and possesses an encyclopaedic knowledge of Shakespeare and is known to be able to identify one of his plays from a single line of text. With such a background of experience and knowledge he shared his perspective about how things have changed.

One of the things he mentioned is that “Now what I do is different to what I did then …Then the basic needs were different.”

The experience of actors and the expectations of the audience not being the same is probably not a surprise when you consider that half a century has passed since the RSC began. If you have a coaching business you may be aware that your dream clients expectations and what they see their needs as being have changed over time.

That may be that you find that potential clients over time approach you with different requirements. It may also be that an individual client, if asked, will say something different at the start as compared with at the end of you working together about what was important to them about your work.

A coaching question to consider: When was the last time you checked what your dream clients expectations and needs are?

In the workshop the actors all had the speech that they were working on, in their hand, printed on paper. One of the pieces of advice that the actors were given was not to read straight from the text and worry about getting the words exact immediately. They were invited to share with audience until that happens. The focus was ”not how to speak the verse but how to make the audience listen”.

A coaching question to consider: What else can you do to make a potential client listen?

If you were to draw connections between the last two points you may say that being aware of when things change allows flexibility in approaches and communication to reflect where someone is now.

As a coach you may be aware of a benefit that your clients value above all else at the need of your work together, however, if that’s not something that they rate as important as a potential client you are likely to struggle to attract their attention initially.

One of the changes that John Barton talked about was that 50 years ago actors had far more experience of working with Shakespeare’s texts in rep theatre etc prior to working with the RSC. This has also brought a change in attitude in those who he works with – “Now actors are perfectly prepared to turn up, knowing nothing, plunge in and find out.”

One of the things that many talk about that you can get from coaching is new insights – which can be thought about as a new thought or perspective not previously seen. As a coach I love when clients are happy to plunge into a conversation and find out what happens.

A coaching question to consider: If you were to let yourself” plunge into a topic and find out,” what would you do differently?

I loved watching two different directors at work with the same group to see each reaction and hear the comments that they made at specific points.

Both directors explained that they had similar approaches about how they work. John Barton said “You do a bit, then I react and pick out what I think will be the most useful for you at this moment.” Whilst Greg Doran said that he was only going to give a “Small nudge [as I] don’t want to say more then I have to, to get you going.” Asking himself “What can I say that’s minimal that will allow them to take off?”

This means that the responses and comments are different for different actors.

Why do I mention this in this piece? I don’t know about you but when I coach one of the questions I’m considering is a variation of “what is going to make the biggest difference at this moment?” And “what is the nudge that is going to get this person going?”

A coaching question to consider: What is the one thing that is going to make the biggest difference for you?

As part of a discussion about the words in the text that the actors were working on they were told, “Words themselves have a life of their own” providing a “series of clues and opportunities, that as long as you know how to read, you can then make it your own.”

As a coach you may be aware that in a coaching conversation sometimes it is certain words that prompts you to ask a particular question. Sometimes it may be a specific statement but other times it may be a clue that suggests a belief or perception that is hindering a client.

One of the things that I can see new coaches hunt for is the “right question” to ask in a specific circumstance. I’ve come to see, over time, that there is often more than one question that can be asked. It’s picking up on the clues and opportunities that allow you to develop your own coaching style that makes a difference for your clients.

There were many, many other areas I could discuss prompted by the examples and comments I saw and heard in that session and the one I wrote about last week. However, if I did this would turn into a piece as long as a Shakespearean play!

So before I go I wanted to share one last thing. That workshop had individuals with a wide range of RSC experience involved – ranging from 50 years to those who had only just joined. They all agreed that the great thing about RSC is “the other stuff that goes on” – it’s a learning environment.

To put this into context; the RSC has some of the best in their fields working for them – to my knowledge, an actor can only audition if they are specifically invited. Yet they are continually asking questions and it’s “impressed on that [we] don’t know it all.” They “encourage you to ask questions and to explore” which was credited with inspiring “investment from the company.”

I invite you to ask questions and explore more this week and see the difference that focus has for you.



About the Author

Jen WallerJen Waller is on a mission to support, nurture and encourage coaching skills and talents from non-coach to coach and beyond.

She has created a free 7 day e-course about how to create your own unique coaching welcome pack that works for you and your clients. Get your copy here.

What can we learn from best practice in other fields? 1

Although it’s a best guess, today is the day which is credited as being Shakespeare’s 448 birthday! So it seemed appropriate to publish this post today.

This was originally published as a bonus article in the Coaching Confidence weekly email during June 2011. To start getting your very own copy each week enter your details under “Don’t miss a thing!” to the right of this page.

What can we learn from best practice in other fields?

Both this week’s Monday post and next week’s will focus on two workshops I have recently observed. Some of the following will specifically talk about a different industry with different job titles, yet I invite you to consider the points that you, as a coach, can take from this experience.

To help, I’ve added a few coaching questions to consider throughout this piece, however, feel free to ask your own coaching questions as they occur to you.

Last week I spent a delightful, if somewhat rainy, day in Stratford – Upon – Avon. The Royal Shakespeare Company (the RSC) was having an open day with various events scheduled throughout the day.

For those who are not aware of The RSC they are a theatre company who see their “job to connect people with Shakespeare and produce bold, ambitious work with living writers, actors and artists.”

The first workshop I watched was led by the RSC’s “Head of Voice” Cicely Berry. We were first treated to a bit of history about how in 1969 the RSC was the first theatre company in the UK to employ someone specifically to work with actors just for voice. It was felt that the training that the young actors were getting did not prepare them to “fill spaces.”

Being a new approach, Cicely Berry described how she was working on her feet, figuring out strategies and techniques as she went along.

She described how one of the issues she saw was that often actors lost connection with characters by conforming to what the director wanted.

Coaching is often discussed as being a “new field” and I do see some coaches figuring out new strategies and techniques as they go along – ones that work for themselves and their clients.

However, I also see some coaches who have lost connection with themselves – either because they are conforming to what a respected “expert” has wanted or by their own interpretation about who they “should” be as a coach.

A coaching question to consider: if you were working on your feet figuring out strategies and techniques as you went along, what would you be doing different?

As head of voice, Cicely Berry says “My job is to get them [the actors] free from their left hand side of the brain, understanding and really hearing it for themselves.”

A coaching question to consider: Are you aware as a coach what your role is working with your clients?

I know, personally I can have many different roles depending upon the client I am working with and where they are at any given moment. Certainly, as a coach one of the roles that I am aware that I do is to assist my client to hear their own inner wisdom – instead of listening to the stories and logical reasons they had been telling themselves.

As it was a workshop you probably won’t be surprised to hear that we also saw the actors participating in various exercises designed to emphasis various technical aspects.

One of these exercises was about recognising the beat and rhythm of a particular piece as the underlying rhythm gives incredible energy and makes it active.

A different exercise focused upon demonstrating that it Isn’t necessarily the volume you speak but reaching out with constinents etc that means you can be heard even in the back row of the auditorium.

A coaching question to consider: what else could you do to add incredible energy to something you are currently working upon?

Even though more mature in her years and walking with the use of a stick, she still got up during exercises to stand in the middle of the action. She made sure that she was monitoring what was happening and what each participant was doing. Often the exercises involved lots of movement and quick changes in direction. In the middle of this if any actor turned unexpectedly in her direction she just put a hand in front of her and stood her ground so they didn’t unintentionally bump into her.

A coaching question to consider: What more can you do to be more in the middle of the action?

As I watched I was aware that if we were to use labels that coaches would be familiar with there were numerous examples that we could use.

For example, after explaining an exercise she asked a variation of the question “Do you mind doing that?”

You may be familiar as a coach with checking someones willingness to an action. This phrasing not only does that but also being a closed question she was inviting a straight forward yes or no answer without any “story” associated with that.

At the end of each exercise the participants were asked, “What did you get from that?” giving them the opportunity to reflect and reinforce the learning from the exercise.

So my final coaching question to consider this week is: “What can you learn/take from this post?”

Is it history?

This was originally published as a bonus article in the Coaching Confidence weekly email during May 2011. To start getting your very own copy each week enter your details under “Don’t miss a thing!” to the right of this page.

Is it history?

One of the subjects I studied at university was history. There are skills, methods of analysis and approaches that I still use in my day-to-day life which may not be obvious.

There are also other skills and knowledge that I learnt directly from studying that subject which are far more obvious. For example an ongoing project has been researching my own family history – knowing my way round certain historical records is rather helpful for that.

I’m also involved in recording onto databases certain historical records to make them more accessible and easily searchable. Some of these records are hand written, while others may be typed. They are all from a past era in time and it can take some time to become familiar with the language that is being used.

I don’t mean that the records that I’m working on are written in a language other than English – there is just specific terminology that can take some interpretation.

Some documents can be really easy to understand and interpret. Others can take longer as I adjust to someone’s particular handwriting style or the abbreviations they may have been using.

Projects can be a straightforward list of names etc and can be more repetitive in the work needed as well as more superficial with your understanding of the data. Others involve far more involvement.

One of the projects that I recently did was make a record of names that appeared in newspapers. This was an African American paper from the turn of the 20th century and there was a story within one of the pages that recorded disturbances after a mesmerism act had visited town.

It appeared that some of the local youths had learnt some mesmerism skills and had used these for their own amusement. An example of a disturbance was one boy who stood up and shouted in Sunday school every time a particular phrase was used!

I’d be very surprised if at the time the instigator of this act would imagine that in over 100 years time someone would be reading about their exploits and sharing the account with others.

I also wonder if those who had been upset by the situation would still have the same feelings if they were looking back on it from 100 plus years into the future – would it still seem important to them?

As a coach I have seen plenty of clients make use of the benefit of hindsight – both actual and when someone imagines looking back at an event from the future. You may even have guided a client to think of something in the past and seen the difference it made to them.

As an individual I also know that sometimes just taking that step back from a situation, often makes it seem far less significant or scary. It can also put things into a much wider context.

Today I invite you to play with the following:

  1. Pick a situation or scenario that you are currently stuck with or want a new perspective.
  2. Make sure that you are in an environment where it is safe for you to be distracted – for example do not do this when driving a car!
  3. Imagine that you have somehow travelled 100+ years into the future and someone else is reading an account of that situation
  4. From this new perspective, 100 + years into the future, notice what your thoughts are now.
  5. From 100 + years in the future become aware of any advice/action you would share with the you from 2012.
  6. When you are ready bring your attention fully back to 2012, bringing any observations and advice back with you that you want to and is appropriate.

Feel free to take any action you want to with your new perspective.



About the Author

Jen WallerJen Waller is on a mission to support, nurture and encourage coaching skills and talents from non-coach to coach and beyond.

She has created a free 7 day e-course about how to create your own unique coaching welcome pack that works for you and your clients. Get your copy here.

April “From Non-Coach to Coach Discovery Sessions” now available

Are you transitioning, or thinking of moving from being a Non-Coach to a Coach?

Are you uncertain about how you will do that?

One big problem I’ve noticed that many coaches struggle with is the transition between being a non-coach to a coach.

They’re often busy focusing upon what they think they “should” be doing. They either miss the chances to serve (and even profit) from opportunities already waiting for them or they are too scared to take the next step.

I love to be of service to coaches, particularly those who are just starting out on their coaching journey like you! So I’ve created a special 1 hour session to help with this problem, my From Non-Coach to Coach Discovery Session.

Scheduling wise I can only offer a set number of these sessions a month but they are open to all. I’m now taking bookings for April calls.

Your consultation will be laser-focused on 1 thing, and 1 thing only: You becoming the coach you want to be.

You get my expertise, loving strong coaching, AND specific action steps to move you forward quickly. Together, we’ll …

  • Create a crystal-clear vision of exactly what being a coach means for you and how it fits with your business and lifestyle goals.
  • Clarify exactly what’s been holding you back from making that transition to become a coach and why you are not already serving clients.
  • Identify the next action step(s) for you to take so you can easily make that transition from non-coach to coach

I’ll lay out specific action steps for you, and finally, I will make at least one coach’s request to you to get you going. And the best part?

Your 60-minute From Non-Coach to Coach Discovery Session is absolutely FREE

If you are longing to step up, get out there, start getting clients, start making money AND be of greater service to the world …you can see what a tremendous opportunity this is!

The only “catch” is … you have to act fast to get one of this month’s sessions!

To claim one of these FREE sessions, here’s all you need to do:

The first of two steps to booking your from Non-Coach to Coach Discovery session is to answer the questions below.

The second stage is selecting a time that works for us both, once you have submitted your answers you will be directed to a site to book a specific time for our call.

Comments or questions are welcome.

* indicates required field

Using quotes in coaching – remembering them in the first place

In last week’s coaching post I asked “Do you use quotes in your coaching?” In that post I talked about why you may want to use a quote in a coaching session.

I was then asked a great question on twitter about if I had any tips about how to remember quotes. Many potential answers sprang to mind, all longer than the 140 characters I can use in a tweet so today’s coaching post was born. Feel free to add your own method and thoughts at the end of today’s post.

I will share some ways that I personally have used to remember quotes as well as offering some thoughts around this in general. As you read this, I invite you to notice which ones are most appealing to you.

Firstly, don’t presume that you have to remember them word for word to be able to use a quote. I know that may seem an odd place to start in a post about remembering quotes but I think it’s worth pointing out. There are several situations that can let you refer to a written form of the quote.

This may be down to the situation that you are coaching around. I used the example last week of coaching a customer-facing employee in a business where you may choose to quote a specific customer – is that a quote you wrote down at the time of observation, or is it a quote that you have taken from a written piece of feedback etc?

Can you incorporate reading a quote directly? Either from notes you use/take during a session or other methods.

For example, if you coach via the phone, can you pin some quotes within sight to glance at when needed? If you have written the quote down/it’s in a book, could you just reach out from where you are working and grab that so you can read out the quote?

Be prepared. Perhaps your client sent you a completed pre-session preparation/ exercise of some form in advance and a particular quote sprang to mind as you read it. What’s stopping you from having that quote to hand to use in case it’s still relevant when you talk to that client?

Last week I also spoke about using quotes to “borrow authority” to focus your clients attention or increase their willingness to answer a question or do an exercise. It can be used as a convincer to add extra-perceived credibility. If this is an exercise that requires you to print materials, could you add the quote onto the page in advance?

Make use of the strategies you already use when you coach – if you make a point of using the precise language and phrasing that a client uses, how do you do that? How can you use that same approach to use the same precise language and phrasing in a particular quote?

How much attention to quotes are you paying? It’s a lot easier to recognise that you are using quotes if you have acknowledged that they are quotes in the first place. 🙂 It’s also easier to remember to use “a quote” if you have mentally thought of that phrase/saying etc as a quote.

Over the years I have used various methods that have led to me memorising quotes. Some of these methods have been a conscious attempt to easily recall a quote. On other occasions it’s just been a by-product of another event/activity.

Some of the most popular tweets that get shared from this blogs twitter feed come from song lyrics, films and TV. Consider the quotes you already have in your memory.

When I was still in education, one of the ways I revised for my history exams was to learn various quotes to back up various historical perspectives of events. I had turned this into a game – I wrote each quote on it’s own card, the quote on one side and a brief description on the other. I could then use those as a memory aid and just play, often involving repeating what was on the card.

On other occasions I’d use them to play and draw “Pictionary” style representations of the quote that stuck in my memory (often because they just looked ridiculous, after all I was studying history not art 😉 )

I also remember learning one set of quotes stood in a different location in the room – so when I came to recall the quote I imagined standing in the location that I’d connected to that phrase. I was even known at one stage to replace the lyrics of songs with the quotes instead.

I’ve also found that I’ve learnt quotes purely because I’ve heard or seen something over and over again – maybe because it’s stuck to the wall in a prominent place. Perhaps I’ve heard someone else say it many, many, times over.

My suggestion would be if you decide to actively memorise quotes to use a method that appeals to you and is fun and easy for you.

What other methods would you add to these suggestions? Has something popped into your mind as you read this that you want to go and play with?

About the Author

Jen WallerJen Waller is on a mission to support, nurture and encourage coaching skills and talents from non-coach to coach and beyond.

She has created a free 7 day e-course about how to create your own unique coaching welcome pack that works for you and your clients. Get your copy here.

Do you need a gallery floor plan in your life?

This was originally published as a bonus article in the Coaching Confidence weekly email during September 2011. To start getting your very own copy each week enter your details under “Don’t miss a thing!” to the right of this page.

Do you need a gallery floor plan in your life?

Over the summer I visited the National Gallery in London with my sister. For one reason or another it’s a venue that I had never previously visited.

If, like me, it’s somewhere you haven’t set foot inside, let me briefly explain. The National Gallery houses the national collection of Western European painting from the 13th to the 19th centuries. It is on show 361 days a year, free of charge. I’m told you can see over 2300 on display.

Generally the art is arranged chronologically, geographically and by style throughout 70+ different rooms. Rather than using a map we thought we would logically visit each room and browse all the pieces on display.

The main building was opened in 1831 with extra wings added at later stages. Rooms are numbered and on a map appear to be relatively logically ordered. However, without the benefit of the floor plan, because of the building layout you may find yourself walking from room 25 into 28 with no sign of room 26.

We were not alone in standing slightly bemused in fantastic surroundings but in a spot where we could choose to go in at least four different directions.

Personally I enjoyed exploring and the unpredictable journey we ended up taking to visit each room. It also reminded me about this can often be the approach that we take when working on a project or goal in our own life. We may have established what we want but then not look at a plan for where to go next.

Some people will love that approach and exploring and yet others find it very frustrating. Personally, I think it’s whatever works for you and what you want, keeping the flexibility to use both approaches as you see fit!

This week I invite you to consider a project you have been working on – have you identified a plan?

If so, and it’s not working, what would happen if you allowed some time to explore?

If not, and you feel it’s not working, what would happen if you did find/create a plan to follow to the next stage?

Have a week full of exploring,



About the Author

Jen WallerJen Waller is on a mission to support, nurture and encourage coaching skills and talents from non-coach to coach and beyond.

She has created a free 7 day e-course about how to create your own unique coaching welcome pack that works for you and your clients. Get your copy here.

Do you use any quotes in your coaching? 1

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” (Rudyard Kipling)

If you have been following this blog on twitter you will have noticed a regular number of quotes tweeted throughout the day. These are quotes that often prompt a response from those reading.

It’s not at all unknown for one person to contact me to share that they disagree with the words in one quote, whilst someone else will tell me that the exact same quote is positive and encouraging, maybe even offering a new useful insight.

So are you reading that and thinking that a quote like that would be one that you would or wouldn’t like to use in a coaching session?

Quotes are yet another thing that can be at the coaches disposal to use during a coaching session. As with all methods that are at our disposal as coaches when and if you decide to use a quote will vary on individual circumstance. But why would you want to use quotes?

I thought I’d share some of the things I consider when using quotes and which ones to use. Quotes are not the only way of doing many of these points; it is just another approach to have added flexibility.

I may use a quote as a starting point with a client. Perhaps a way to gently test if my suspicions about a belief or perspective that is causing an obstacle for the client. Using the quote as a way to gauge their reaction and take the next step.

I may also use a quote to “pace” the clients current position before leading them into exploring new perspectives. By “pace” I mean starting with the same perspective as the client. It is quite possible that the quotes that are most appropriate in this instance are not necessarily a perspective you personally share.

I personally believe that my work is not just about what happens during our scheduled time together but also about being a catalyst and facilitating outside of that time. If I know I’m working with a client who likes to learn by researching it is possible that I will use a quote to credit an origin of an approach etc if I suspect that they may want to explore that in more depth.

It is not the only reason I may use quotes as a coach. I may want to use a quote to gently provoke and challenge. Placing a distance between the words of the quote and the person saying it in some circumstances can make it easier for the listener to hear the message or underlying question.

Some coaches also use quotes if they feel that a more direct option may damage the coaching relationship. Perhaps they are at the start of their coaching relationship and feel that the client may feel defensive if it’s offered as a direct observation or question.

You can also use quotes to “borrow authority” to focus your clients attention or increase their willingness to answer a question or do an exercise. It can be used as a convincer to add extra-perceived credibility.

For example, coaching a customer-facing employee in a business you may choose to quote a specific customer. It’s entirely possible that your client will be far more open to a conversation around this than if a bystander voices the same opinion.

Or maybe you know that your client admires Richard Branson and the way he does business. You may choose to introduce an exercise around adding fun into a situation with “I’ve heard Richard Branson say ‘A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.’”

You may also use quotes that can inspire and motivate, grab attention or trigger new thoughts. It’s not at all unknown for me to share a quote for no better reason that it’s one that I think a client will like! 🙂

What about you? Do you use quotes in your coaching? If so what else would you add to this post?

About the Author

Jen WallerJen Waller is on a mission to support, nurture and encourage coaching skills and talents from non-coach to coach and beyond.

She has created a free 7 day e-course about how to create your own unique coaching welcome pack that works for you and your clients. Get your copy here.