Coaching: Empowering Others in Action

By Jim Selman

Coaching is a context and a process for delivering results. This piece, originally published in 2007, outlines opportunities and focusing questions for development within a coaching model and process, as well as essential skills and qualities for coaches.

As a context, coaching is a stand for the commitments of another person or a team within a committed relationship.

As a process, coaching involves dialogue to show new possibilities and practices.

As outcomes, coaching occurs in the inspired actions of the coachee(s) and their results.

  • Long-term
  • Self-correcting
  • Self-generating

A coach listens for possibility, for what’s missing and for commitment. They observe action and speak/listen in such a manner as to evoke new action.

Opportunities for Coaching

  • Performance assessment
  • Breakdowns (business, projects, personal)
  • Broken promises
  • Requests for coaching
  • Observed ‘missing’ (for example, a new skill)
  • Hallway conversations
  • Ability to observe/listen for gap between possibility and action
  • Ability to communicate so that coachee can ‘see’ what the coach sees
  • Ability to enrol, engage and support coachee in taking new action
  • Ability to assist coachee(s) to complete past wins and failures (to be present)

Focusing Questions for Development

To whom (and in what situation) are you committed to provide coaching? Be specific.

  • What opening/possibility do you see?
  • Given a commitment to a possibility, what breakdown(s) do you see?
  • What is missing in terms of the competence of who you are committed to coach?
  • What assessments do you make with respect to the person(s) you want to coach?

Is your relationship sufficient for coaching? Are they enrolled? Is there a demand?

  • Do they see possibility for themselves?
  • Are you and they clear about their commitments and conditions of satisfaction?
  • Is conversation now future-oriented?
  • Is there a mood of enthusiasm for what is to be accomplished together?

Is the coaching contract clear?

  • What do you expect of coachee(s)?
  • How will we handle breakdowns? Do you have their permission to lean into their blind spots?
  • When, how often and in what forms will you communicate/meet?

What breakdowns do you anticipate in the coaching relationship/process? What actions can you now see that would be appropriate?
What strategies/circumstances have you used in the past to avoid commitment, quit or give up on someone else’s commitment? For example:

  • Rationalize
  • Get too busy
  • Forget to follow up or follow through
  • Give in to discomfort
  • Not talk straight
  • Try force.

The Coaching Process

  • Look for openings
  • Is there an opening?
  • Assessment
  • Design conversation
  • Coaching
  • Is coachee enrolled?
  • Follow-up #1
  • Can coachee see opening?
  • Design next conversation
  • Coaching
  • Acknowledge progress
  • Can coachee self-generate?
  • Acknowledge progress

Coaching Skills

  • Speaking
  • Listening
  • Declaring and Resolving Breakdowns
  • Assessing
  • Designing Conversation / New Practices

Background Qualities

  • Ground Rules
  • Self-Consistency
  • Flexibility/Creativity
  • Patience
  • Compassion

The Coaching Model

(Domains of Being/Communication)

  • Structures of Interpretation
  • Paradigms
  • Contexts
  • Performance
  • Behavior
  • Experience
  • Concepts
  • Explanations
  • Stories
  • Measurable(s)
Changes with new:

  • Stands
  • Distinctions
  • Declarations
Changes with new:

  • Commitments/practices in time (for example, requests and promises)
Changes with new:

  • Agreements (for example, accepted assertions)
  • Actions