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A Case for Coaching the Who

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Many of us became coaches because we wanted to significantly impact the lives of those around us. We noticed that we were gifted at helping others reach their potential and we made the decision to devote our careers to doing so.

In order to create lasting change in a client’s life, we must learn to coach the client not their current circumstance. We must coach the client not the content. We must learn how to coach the “who” not the “what” if we want to facilitate sustainable change.

The International Coach Federation’s PCC coaching markers underline this belief stating how a capable coach explores who the client is being in addition to what the client wants to achieve.

Thus, clearly understanding the difference between “what” and “who” is critical as the change process is never solely a “what” exercise as it is always the “who” that transforms.

Let’s look at the goal setting process as an example.

Aside from ensuring that goals are SMART, we also want to look at whether the client’s goals are transformational in nature. This will help us test whether the goal is addressing content (surface level matters—the what) or if the goal is pointing at what mindsets may need to be developed to succeed (transformational—the who). If a discussion around goals only addresses what the client wants and what the client must do to have what they want, then we are missing an integral piece of what fuels the change process.

We must ask the client to look at the internal shifts that would need to occur in order to achieve their “what”. The bottom line is we want to coach the client not the content. We want to create change that will last beyond attaining their “what” and make keeping their “what” sustainable.

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