I often see or hear those new to coaching either ask directly or voice a fear about not knowing what to do if they get “stuck” in a coaching session.
For the purposes of this post I’m going to interpret “stuck” as having no idea what to do next. If this is a fear that you experience then let me share with you that you will probably find that the more coaching experience you get, the more techniques, strategies and skills you’ll gain making the prospect of getting stuck less and less likely.
To get you started (or to add to what you have already) I’ve included 7 pointers below.
It certainly doesn’t help the client if you get caught up in your own head with any thoughts going at a thousand miles per hour or start to panic about what you’ll do next. So firstly take a breath and allow yourself to relax.
As you return your full focus to your client you may notice that your client may also benefit from taking a moment to slow down their thoughts and also take some time “out” to breathe.
With your full focus upon your client pay full attention to what they are saying, the words that they are actually using and not any interpretation you may have added. There can sometimes be clues in the language that they use that when you incorporate into a question can produce powerful responses. Because these questions are “tailored made” for the client you won’t find them written down in any coaching course material.
Also notice how someone says something, for example if they are telling you about something they say they really want yet they don’t “come alive” when they talk about it use it as a signal to explore more about what they are not saying.
Are you clear with what your client wants to get from the session?
If you feel that your coaching session is heading in an aimless direction, it can be worth checking that you (and your client) are clear about what is the goal for the session.
Once you have that clarity ask yourself, and even your client, what will move them closer to achieving that session goal.
What is getting in your clients way?
Have you identified what’s stopping your client from moving forward? You don’t need to have shared this with your client if it’s not appropriate but if you can see the perceived “problem” then it is easier to identify a line of questioning/activity that will move through, around or over what is stopping them.
Sometimes it can be as simple as asking them to take action during the session – if they’ve been putting of making an appointment to give a presentation you’ve established they are more than prepared for – pass them the phone and invite them to do it then and there. If the issue is more than not having prioritised making that appointment it’s likely to highlight what is getting in their way so you can identify the next step.
For your client to see something as a problem, what must a client believe to be true?
Sometimes what can cause a coach to be “stuck” is because a client is telling them about something they think of as a problem, yet the coach doesn’t perceive that as an issue so struggles to find an effective next step.
It can be worth asking yourself what a client must believe is true for that to appear a problem to them.
It can also be worth checking that this is actually a problem for them – sometimes a client will have “heard” and answered a different question to the one you actually asked. So it could be that the reason you can’t imagine how this is a problem is because it isn’t a problem! (I’ve written previously about clients answering a different question to the one asked here.)
What question can I ask that will make the biggest difference right now?
You may not have an idea of the question that’s going to make the biggest difference right now but what about your client? “What question can I ask that will make the biggest difference right now?” firstly allows the client to dictate the direction of the session.
You’ll find that the slight change in asking them to think in a form of a question can be an additional stepping stone to leading to an answer that provides a big insight for the client. It can also be an indication for you as a coach the story that your client is telling themself about this situation.
Do something different
If what you are doing isn’t working then try a different approach.
Perhaps you may want to ask your client to physically move, take the coaching conversation on the move by going for a walk, or just by swapping seats. In the right circumstances this can all be enough to be a catalyst for a new perspective.
Maybe you may want to introduce a “coaching exercise” that involves writing/drawing on paper instead of working mainly talking. Alternatively, you may have a “technique” from a different and complimenting “discipline” that you can put into practice.
By doing something different you will move the coaching session into a new place, one where it can be easier to see the next step towards that session goal.
These are just 7 pointers, what else would you add?