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Common Coaching Blind Spots: What You Need to Know

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Coaching Clients to Act

Three of the eleven ICF Core Competencies for coaching relate to coaching clients to act. Coaching clients to plan and act is completely appropriate at times. And some coaches over rely on these competencies, leaning heavily on questions that direct the client toward planning and/or acting. When we lean too heavily on these aspects of the core competencies, it can indicate a coaching blind spot.

We humans organically discover our own unique ways to self-soothe under stress.  And when our clients are under stress, we coaches can non-consciously bring our own self-soothing strategies to the coaching. The way that we tend to self-soothe is reflected in the dimension of our internal experience that we tend to over rely on under stress.

The three primary strategies for self-soothing under stress are 1) to over rely on our feelings and allow ourselves to be flooded by them (this is extremely rare) 2) to over rely on our thinking and to analyze more and longer (this is more common and can create analysis paralysis) and 3) to over rely on our planning/acting, doing (this is most common and is what leads to Ready/Fire/Aim types of behaviors).

A common coaching blind spot is to coach our clients to plan or act (as a non-conscious way of soothing ourselves) instead of being with them in their distressing experience. We will tend to “coach the issue” instead of “coaching the client”, and we’ll ask questions not about the client’s relationship with their issue, but about the issue itself. We tend to try and fix the problems instead of using them as opportunities to bring awareness to how the client is relating to the content of their lives. For more on what we are coaching when we are coaching, watch this video.

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: “What are you wanting to do?” OR “What are you going to do?”  OR

Coach: “How are you going to address this with your boss?” OR

Coach:  “What’s your plan?”

When we prematurely coach our client toward wants or plans or actions, we are likely to be designing actions without a foundation, without really knowing what’s going on within and for the client.


How did you do when you compared your responses to the blind spots above? What, if anything, did you learn?

If one or more of the blind spot responses felt familiar, that’s ok. Blind spots are called so for a reason, we can’t see them. And we all have them. So, what are we to do?

Use every means possible to uncover our hidden blind spots.

Whether it’s through assessments like the EQ Profile or through supervision, therapy, or feedback, we owe it to our clients, our coaching and ourselves to constantly be shrinking what’s below the line of our conscious awareness.


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