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Common Coaching Blind Spots: What You Need to Know

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Before you read on, formulate your coaching response. What would you do? Say? Ask? Write it down.

Here are common coaching responses that reflect a stepping over of the emotion of the client.

Coach: What do you need about this job?  OR

Coach: How do YOU think you’re performing?  OR

Coach: How long has this been going on?

Each of these responses is stepping over the client’s feelings.  An attuned response by the coach might be:

Coach: How are you feeling about this?  OR

Coach: Your face looks sad.  OR

Coach: Will you say more about the struggle?

Our emotions reflect the meaning we are making of our experience and drive our decision making. 

Until we’ve acknowledged and explored the emotional experience of our clients, we are working at the surface of whatever they are bringing to the coaching. And whatever “solutions” we co-create won’t have a strong foundation in what’s underneath our client’s “struggle.”

Turning Toward the Positive

Some coaches believe part of their role as coaches is to help their clients see the positive, to see what’s working, see their strengths, to find the silver lining. Coaches may consciously or non-consciously believe they should turn a client’s focus from the negative toward the positive.

Certainly, an aspect of coaching is supporting our clients in engaging in multiple perspectives. However, when we essentially indicate, by our attention, questions or observations, “Don’t focus on that! Look at the good/possible/silver lining, instead!”, then we are turning our clients away from a part of themselves and discounting or invalidating an aspect of their experience.

Coaches who tend to turn their clients toward the positive, instead of being with them in their distress, tend to do the same for themselves. And they’ll tend to like that about themselves (and other people probably like that about them too!). They’ll tend to feel “right” and “good” for focusing on the positive, reinforcing their own blind spot.

Referencing the example as above where the client is struggling with their boss, here are common responses of coaches who turn toward the positive in invalidating ways:

Coach: “You’re extremely capable. So, whether you leave or stay, I know you’ll figure something out. If it doesn’t work out with your current boss, what are the possibilities of a transfer?”  OR

Coach: “It won’t always be like this.”  OR

Coach: “While I’m sure this is challenging, it’s a great opportunity to learn. What are you learning about yourself?”

While none of those are “bad” coaching choices, they step over the present moment experience of the client and do not meet him/her where they are.

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