A powerful coaching conversation is not just holding a space where the client or coachee feel safe to open up and share. It is ultimately about moving the client forward.
When I was a student taking up a professional coaching course, I found it relatively easy to build trust with my coachees and get them to open up quickly. However, I found it challenging to move them forward, to facilitate the type of profound conversation where the coachees emerge at the end of it deeply impacted and changed.
I soon found out that it was a common challenge among my peers in my coaching class as well.
You see, coachees can also confide in their best friends or family members and openly share with them as well – what’s the difference with a coaching conversation then?
What makes coaching so useful and powerful that people are happy to pay a premium for it?
That’s right, it’s in the title of this post – it’s about moving the client forward. Let me explain.
To help ease understanding, I would say that there are two types of movement in coaching – horizontal and vertical movement.
Horizontal Movement in Coaching
Horizontal movement is about moving the client from Point A to B. A is where he is currently and B is where he wants to go – his goals and dreams.
This is the goal-oriented part of coaching. It is about accomplishments and gaining tangible results.
This is also the action-oriented part of coaching. It’s about doing and winning in the external world.
It is crucial to do the horizontal movement part of coaching very well because a coach’s proficiency is largely judged based on it, especially in the world of business where results ultimately matter.
Horizontal movement is about how far the coach helps the coachee achieve his future dreams.
Vertical Movement in Coaching
There are two types of vertical movement – go high and go deep.
This is the transformation-oriented part of coaching. This is where profound shifts take place and the client does not remain the same anymore.
Go High is about elevating the client to different vantage points to gain new perspectives, new ways of seeing and new awareness.
The client’s reality of goals and challenges lie in his seeing. If the seeing changes, everything is changed.
Many times, when a client’s view is shifted from a personal view to a global view (see the big picture), the obstacles are suddenly shifted before any solution is formulated. Sometimes, the client’s goals are shifted as well.
Here, the client’s limiting beliefs and fears are also exposed and challenged.
When he could see that it’s his thought that creates reality, then he would realize that he doesn’t have to be afraid of his experiences, really.
Go Deep is about self-discovery. It’s about diving deep into the inner world to learn his deepest values and purpose. Here, the client discover what he really, really wants, and who he wants to become.
The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.
Here, the coach performs heart-centered listening at a deep level. Intellectual learning fades into the background.
Example Coaching Questions
Since coaching is not about giving solutions or advice but asking powerful questions, I’ve listed some example questions below that could give you some ideas.
However, please note that it is more important to be in the presence of the client, let whatever questions that naturally surface during that space and use them. Memorizing the following coaching questions won’t help you – it will get in your way of making a profound shift for the client.
So, these are just a few sample questions. They usually appear very differently in different contexts.
Horizontal Movement Coaching Questions
What do you want?
What are your goals?
Where are you now?
What have you accomplished so far?
What are your biggest challenges?
How long have you been thinking about this issue?
What is working out well?
How will you achieve your goals?
How can we build your best action plan?
What needs to happen for your strategy to be working well for you?
What will you do next?
Vertical Movement Coaching Questions
What are your impossible goals/deepest dreams?
What would you love to create?
What’s your ultimate purpose?
What’s truly important for you?
What are you afraid of?
What compels you?
What are you believing right now?
How are your beliefs serving you/stopping you?
Are they true?
What are some of the biggest issues you are avoiding right now?
Is there another way of seeing the issue?
How can you see the situation in a more empowering way?
What would you do if this (big issue) is no longer an issue?
What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t be criticized?
What do you want to explore more deeply here?
Who do you want to become?
How can your work be much more meaningful?
How can your work be congruent to your highest values?
What are some of the biggest lessons in your journey so far?
How can you make the deepest impact possible?
Beyond the Model
A coach imparts immense value into his client if he is able to combine and skilfully navigate the horizontal and vertical movement with him.
A note of caution: don’t be too hung up by the definitions and technicalities of horizontal and vertical movement. I’ve explained the concept to many students and I seldom illustrated it exactly the same each time. I made them up as I go along. My real purpose is to show the distinct directions a coaching conversation can lead to.
What’s important is that you help your client move forward (go far, go high and go deep) to achieve what he really want, and make a profound shift in the process that makes your client goes “Wow!”
Again, the key lies in being in the presence of the client and serving him fully. And you have to practice, practice, practice. I’m still practicing this.