“Aha! Now I Get What You Are Saying!” Creating Client Awareness

An in-depth look on the eighth Core Coaching Competency out of our experiential online course Decoding The Coaching Genome, accredited with 21 CCEU by the ICF.

Awareness is absolutely essential to any change process. Without being able to see what is happening superficially or being unable to detect what is happening below the surface, the coach will be unable to guide the client to see what behaviors and beliefs are necessary to change. The process of creating awareness like all of the other coaching competencies is a parallel process. The coach and the client must be willing and able to accurately evaluate multiple sources of information so that the client can achieve their agreed-upon results. 1

How does the coach create awareness? Utilizing all of the other coaching competencies such as curiosity, powerful questions, listening and direct communication, the coach is constantly evoking new awareness and understanding the part of the client. Focusing on questions that elicit the client’s desires and values, noting his or her feelings, consistently increasing the clarity of the client’s vision as well as guiding them toward taking fruitful action, all create increased awareness.

The coach, although a non-judgmental player in the coaching relationship, constantly provides feedback to the client. This feedback is based upon their own experience of the client, listening to what client reports other people have said about them and noticing the impact of the client’s way of being and behaviors.

One example concerns Alec’s experience of himself at work. His co-workers feel like he’s a nice and easy-going guy but at the same time they do not see him exerting any authority on the job. As a manager of a small mid-level department, it is important that projects be completed in a timely and competent manner. Alec prides himself on maintaining a good sense of team spirit and camaraderie in his department. The previous manager was quite dictatorial and scary at times. Alec promised himself that he would never run the department that way. However, by going completely to the other extreme, projects either did not get completed on time or had mistakes upon execution. Alec had been unable and unwilling to examine the problems in his department due to his desire to maintain harmony and not be thought of as dictatorial in any way.

His coach worked with him to see the difference between standing in his own authority and being dictatorial. Further, the coach pointed out the negative impact his desire for harmony was having in the department. Over time, Alec and his coach co-designed some exercises for him to practice with his direct reports that resulted in more projects being completed on time with fewer errors. Alec has since committed to both an on-time performance schedule and an error free design process. He is also learning that his department is appreciating having more structure without his having to sacrifice his easy-going manner.

During the time that he worked with Alec, his coach was constantly curious about Alec’s own interpretation of what was happening at work as well as that of his co-workers. His coach also paid attention to his body language that changed significantly whenever he felt that he was veering into “dictatorial territory.” His coach practiced direct communication pointing out the differences between Alec’s interpretation of things and his inability to assert his authority on the job. As Alec was able to make positive changes, his coach always acknowledged both the behavioral and emotional changes that Alec created.

Creating awareness ultimately deepens your clients’ learning about themselves and expands their vision. Often, what they need to see is right in front of them yet they are frequently too close to their issues to see them clearly. Your job is to ask powerful questions and articulate what you see so that they can create the changes they most desire.

1International Coach Federation. Competency №8: Creating Awareness: “Ability to integrate and accurately evaluate multiple sources of information and to make interpretations that help the client to gain awareness and thereby achieve agreed-upon results.”

Learn more about this coaching competency and all eleven ICF Coaching Competencies in our entertaining, interactive online course, Decoding The Coaching Genome starting on September 14th 2017. 21 ICF Coach Competency Units awarded upon completion. Register at: http://thewisdomtree.academy/courses/decodingthecoachinggenome/

Article written by Judith Cohen, MCC, CPCC, MSW.

Judith Cohen is co-founder of The Wisdom Tree Academy and infusing it with her 30+ years of experience in coaching and leadership. She is also a Senior Faculty member at CTI (The Coaches Training Institute).