A little while ago, I wrote about moving your client forward via horizontal and vertical coaching. This post offers another approach of explaining it.
There are essentially two ways you can help your client with coaching: working on your client’s problem and working on the client itself.
Working On Your Client’s Problems
This is the goal-oriented, or as I described in my earlier post, the horizontal part of coaching. Many called this: coaching for performance.
Your client come to you with an issue and you help him build an effective strategy to overcome his challenges, and formulate a game plan around it. In the process, you help him to fix his most pressing problems.
I look at the old saying “Where there is a will, there is a way” quite differently. “Where there is a way, there is a will” is usually more true. Once he sees the way forward, the client would get unstuck and re-energized to take the next steps toward his goals.
Producing quick wins to display visible results is important especially in the beginning.
Working On Your Client
This is the transformation-oriented part of coaching (vertical coaching). This is also called: coaching for development.
To produce long-lasting solutions and growth, we are interested in how the client thinks in relation to his problems.
We want to turn the focus from addressing the problems the client is facing to the client himself. Shift from the problem to the person. Shift from the fire to the person managing the fire.
This process will inquire into how he is perceiving his issues: his thinking, beliefs (especially his limiting beliefs) and worldview. It would inevitably addresses his core values and highest mission along the journey.
What’s the point? What makes this more powerful?
Some would say this process is more tedious and time-consuming.
They are not wrong. And they may have missed the point of what coaching can do, or they may have not experienced the impact of coaching.
Life-changing conversations usually are more vertical type of coaching conversation. They are more thought-provoking, they ask more powerful questions that touch the deeper realm of the mind and heart.
Many a times, one cannot emerge from this kind of conversations the same person.
Picture a traveling object. The impact of horizontal coaching is like enabling the object to travel faster or altering its trajectory path. The impact of vertical coaching is when the object collides with something significant and it’s form is forever altered. The change can be obvious or subtle at first.
The Art of Balancing
“So, when do we use horizontal or vertical coaching?” you might ask.
Clients would usually come with a goal in mind along with his current challenges. They are looking for solutions, which is very much the horizontal type of coaching. Work with them along this while building rapport and trust until you feel the need and readiness to dive deeper.
Vertical coaching requires deeper trust and connection between the client and the coach. Every time you want to go deeper, seek for permission to turn up the flame a notch or two. Seek permission to provoke, challenge and reflect hard truths back to the client and dive deeper.
The deeper place is often less comfortable. Layer by layer, the client is stripped to face his inner core. It is necessary for new awareness to surface for new growth to occur. It is often quite liberating at the end of the process (don’t forget to celebrate that). Having said that, not every client is ready or willing to go there.
I usually don’t consciously think about processes while coaching. I would focus on what would serve my client best in the moment we are together. So don’t get too hung up on coaching methodologies and models. Used wisely, coaching processes do not stifle but liberate your coaching conversations to go deeper with your clients.
I am pretty sure many coaches have their own approach of navigating coaching conversations, or their own way of describing it. I would love to hear yours. I’d appreciate your thoughts and comments below.