Coaching by nudges

A recent post on this blog about “what coaching is“, as usual prompted further questions and requests for more information on what coaching entails.  Clearly there remain misunderstandings about the role of coaching within businesses and organisations, with some people still associating it with a form of remedial ‘treatment’. Having said that, I do see far greater awareness and understanding today, than even a few short years ago. Not so long ago, you might have heard a reaction from a colleague that went something like this.

“Oh you are getting ‘coaching’.  Why?  What’s wrong?  Did your annual appraisal go badly?”

The implication (and misunderstanding) of course being that coaching was being used as a tool to ‘fix’ something that had clearly gone wrong.  Perhaps to raise someone’s poor performance to a more acceptable level.

Now, I find you are much more likely to hear something like the following.

“Oh you are getting ‘coaching’. Amazing!! They must think a lot of you and see massive potential.  I wish I could get coaching through my company.”

This shift in mindset, also reflects a much more accurate understanding of what coaching is; an approach that helps people fulfil their potential.  Not a tool for rehabilitation or rectification, but a vehicle that allows people to explore their values and beliefs, their vision and their purpose. It is much more sought after, and is now seen as one of the ‘perks’ of the job. Career changers, especially those in middle management and executive positions, are more and more looking for coaching as an incentive, and benefit provision, when choosing between companies, reflecting the increasing value being placed upon it.

Coaching enables people to gain greater self-awareness and insight, allowing them to make informed choices and decisions, to be more conscious of how they react in given situations, and to develop life-strategies that will serve them more effectively.  Coaching, quite simply, helps people get more of what they want, be more fulfilled, and enable more success.

One of the dilemmas faced by the coach, from moment to moment, is to decide whether the next thing they choose to say will be more useful to the client, than what the client was about to think for themself, without the coach’s intervention.  When the client is ‘doing the work’  that’s needing done, then the best skill the coach can exercise is that of ‘active listening’. Listening intently, with total presence, at what is being said (and what not said).

The client’s thinking process can be ‘nudged’ along by powerful, open questions from the coach, taking them deeper and into touch with their emotional systems. It is here that clients encounter their deeply-held beliefs and assumptions, sometimes helpful, and often not. By raising awareness and insight into these internal processes, clients empower themselves to make changes.

Sometimes the questions promote wider, more expansive and creative thinking, helping the client to make connections, explore possibilities and create options.

On other occasions,a question may provide a ‘jolt’ or an ‘interrupt’ to the client’s thinking. The coach’s skill is to detect when the client is pursuing a barren or repetitive cycle of ‘self-talk’ that is not moving them forward.  A question that comes from ‘left-field’, or challenges the assumptions being made in their current thought process, is often required to move the coaching onto richer more productive territory.

For a great list of powerful questions, many of which were contributed by readers of this blog, have a look at What’s your favourite Question? (note some of the suggestions are in the comments below the post itself).

The coach’s skill and presence is key in knowing when to nudge gently and when to nudge with some disruptive force.  A subtlety that will be the subject of a further post no doubt.


Would you, or members of your management team, benefit from exploring ways to make significant improvements in personal and/or collective effectiveness and productivity? Perhaps coaching will provide the edge that you are seeking in 2014. Coaching has been proven to directly impact the bottom line.   Making a start is easy. Simply  submit your contact details on the Contact Us page and I will be delighted to have an initial discussion.

About me:  I enable people in business to operate more successfully.  You may be struggling to implement corporate strategy, you may want to get more productivity out of your teams but don’t know where to start,  or your people may not be having as effective conversations with each other as they could be. I will work with you to enable you to formulate more effective ways of leading, to raise awareness of blockers to successful ways of working, and ultimately to help you and your managers to lead more successfully.  


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