Episode 70: How to Be an Amazing Coach

Today I’m shining a light on what it means to be a Certified Clarity Coach and the aspects we focus on within the program to help you become the powerful coach you want to be.

70: How To Be An Amazing Coach

What does it take to be an amazing coach? As a coach, you have the ability to be the conduit and the catalyst for your clients and there are all sorts of skills, tools, and approaches that we use to enhance our ability to show up and powerfully serve our clients.

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Show Notes

What does it take to be an amazing coach?

As a coach, you have the ability to be the conduit and the catalyst for your clients and there are all sorts of skills, tools, and approaches that we use to enhance our ability to show up and powerfully serve our clients. In fact, that’s exactly what I teach in the Certified Clarity Coach program.

From my perspective, there are three fundamental elements of powerful coaching. In today’s episode, I’m sharing an overview of these three big skills we need to practice and master so that we can be the best at what we do.

Topics covered

  • How the Certified Clarity Coach program supports you as a coach
  • The critical skill of listening
  • Understanding when to use different levels of listening
  • Balancing external and internal listening
  • Why a good question is so powerful
  • Getting comfortable with silence
  • What it means to trust our clients
  • Why structure is such an important part of coaching
  • Being the conduit and catalyst for your clients

Resources mentioned

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Well, hello, my friend, and welcome to another episode of the Coach with Clarity podcast. I'm Lee Chaix McDonough, and I'm so happy that you are joining me for today's episode where we are going to dive into what it takes to be an amazing coach. Now there are all sorts of skills, tools, and approaches that we use as coaches that enhance our ability to show up and powerfully serve our clients. And don't worry, I'm not going to go through every single last one today, otherwise, this podcast episode would never end. But I am going to highlight the three big factors that play into powerful coaching, at least from my perspective. So today will be a really great overview of three fundamental skills that we coaches need to practice and master so that we can be the best at our craft.

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And everything that I am going to share today is in full alignment with what I teach in the Certified Clarity Coach Program. So the Certified Clarity Coach Program is a 125 hour coach training program. It is accredited by the International Coaching Federation, so every single training hour can be applied to your application to become a credentialed coach. So whether you are pursuing your associate certified coach or your professional certified coach credentials through ICF, we have your training component covered through the Certified Clarity Coach Program. Within the program, we are covering just about everything you need to know to be a powerful coach. So we spend the first module really focusing on coaching fundamentals, so the absolute must have skills that you need in order to show up and be the best coach you can be for your clients. Then we move into module two, and we take a close look at acceptance and commitment coaching, which has its roots in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT. And I'll walk you through what it looks like to provide coaching through an Act lens. So those of you who have known me for a while and maybe who've read my first book, “ACT On Your Business”, you'll see how we're able to weave in aspects of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or Acceptance and Commitment Coaching into the coaching process. And we take an entire four weeks to really dive into that. After we wrap that module up, we move into more advanced topics around coaching. So we'll be exploring Relationship Coaching, Group Coaching, and what to do when you have a client who feels stuck or who isn't making progress. We'll also take a closer look at diversity, equity, and inclusion in the coaching field. And of course, throughout, we are really taking a close look at coaching ethics and what it means to be an ethical coach. We finish up the program with a final module that looks at continuing coach development, how we can stay at the top of our game as coaches, and how to navigate concluding relationships with our clients and perhaps even with colleagues too. So as you can hear, we cover a lot from a content perspective. But the great thing about the Certified Clarity Coach Program is it's not just about you receiving information, you have countless opportunities to put all of that into practice. Whether that is in our weekly coaching labs or in your peer coaching partnerships, you will have plenty of opportunities to practice all of these skills in a supportive environment, where you will be getting feedback directly from me about what you're doing great and some areas where you may want to continue to focus. So, the next round of the Certified Clarity Coach Program begins August 23, and applications are open now. So if you head to CoachwithClarity.com/certification, you will find all of the information you need about the training program. The what, the how, the why, the how often, all of that is there. In fact, if you scroll to the bottom of the page, you will find a very helpful FAQ section that answers a lot of the most common questions I get asked, including pricing. Is there a payment plan? Spoiler alert: yes there is, the details are on the website. So everything you could possibly need to know about the program should be right there for you at CoachwithClarity.com/certification, that is also where you can apply to be a part of the next cohort. So definitely head on over to that page, check it out, apply, because I would love to see you in the next round of the Certified Clarity Coach Program. And of course if you do have any other questions that aren't addressed on that page, you are more than welcome to reach out to me. My email is info@CoachwithClarity.com or you can find me on Instagram @CoachwithClarity, and I would love to explore whether the Certified Clarity Coach Program is the best fit for you. 
So today's podcast is really kind of a light intro to what it means to be a Certified Clarity Coach, and the aspects we really focus on within the program. As I mentioned at the top, there are three main areas that I want to focus on today. And the first is that amazing coaches know how to listen. Now bear with me, because I realized this one may seem a little basic, right? Of course coaches know how to listen. And yet, listening is a true skill that can be practiced and developed. And it is fundamental to powerful coaching. Because if we're not listening to our clients, then no work will get done, no progress will be made. Listening really is at the heart of powerful coaching. And it's worth exploring, because not all listening is created equal. Within the Certified Clarity Coach Program, we really take a deep dive into listening. And one of the approaches I reference is Stephen Covey's Five Levels of Listening. So those of you who are familiar with Stephen Covey may already know these five levels, they are: Ignoring, Pretending, Selective, Attentive and Empathic listening. So the first one, Ignoring, is exactly what it sounds like. We're not listening at all, we are not engaged, we're not paying attention. Someone could be talking to us and we are in our own world, doing our own thing. And we could not repeat back what they said if our lives depended on it, we are completely disengaged. So that is the basic level of listening, which is basically not listening. So that's Ignoring, level two is Pretending. And this is where we are giving the impression that we're listening. We're nodding in the right places, we're giving those cues like,  “Huh, uh huh. Okay”. And so, the person on the other side of the dialog might think that we're listening to them. But again, our head, our minds are elsewhere. We're not paying attention even though we are giving those cues. And again, if we were asked to reflect back, or summarize what the speaker had said, we probably wouldn't be able to. So that's the second level of listening, which is Pretending. The third level of listening is where we move into actual listening, and that's Selective listening. So here we are partially engaged, we are partially listening, we have an idea of what the other person is saying. But we are listening with the intention of responding. So most of our attention is actually still focused on our internal experience, we are really caught up with what we're going to say and what we're going to share. And so we're only halfway paying attention to the other person. From Selective, we move up a level into Attentive listening. So this is where we are fully engaged, we are present, we're making eye contact, it's clear that we are listening. And we are ready to hear what the other person has to say. And yet, even at this level, this fourth level, our frame of reference is still ourselves. We are still processing everything the speaker is saying through our own lens and our interpretation. So while we are fully listening, and we could definitely respond and repeat back what we heard the speaker say, we're not necessarily connecting on a deep level to where the speaker is. At this moment in time, what they're thinking, what they're feeling, we are still using ourselves as a reference point. And that's what differentiates Attentive listening from that fifth and final level, Empathic listening. So here, we are listening on a deep level, we are listening not only for what is being said, but what is not being said. And we are able to place ourselves in the shoes of the speaker, to understand where they might be coming from and how they might be feeling about something. When we reflect back what we hear, we're able to do so in a way that's additive. So perhaps we're adding some additional insight, or perspective, referencing where the speaker is coming from. So Empathic listening really takes Attentive listening to the next level. It is that source of deep connection where someone really feels heard and understood. Within the coaching relationship, coaches are experts at Empathic listening. A powerful coach knows how to make a client feel seen, accepted, and heard. And I find in my own coaching work, I tend to vacillate between Attentive listening and Empathic listening. There are moments where empathic listening is definitely called for, especially when a client is sharing a personal story, or kind of updating me on what they're experiencing in their day to day lives. Other times Attentive listening is sufficient. And I find I use a lot of Attentive listening when we are in active planning mode, when we are creating their roadmap for the next six months, or when we're breaking down and creating strategy for a particular project or launch. Sometimes Attentive listening is the most appropriate form of listening, and actually furthers the coaching dialogue, and allows for our sessions to be really effective. And then of course, other times Empathic listening is appropriate. And so that's part of being a masterful coach is knowing at which point we use each level of listening. Now, I'm going to suggest that coaches not use Ignoring or Pretending or even Selective listening, we do want to make sure that we are fully present and 100% connected with our clients when we're in session. So really, we're looking at Attentive and Empathic listening. And within the Certified Clarity Coach Program, we talk about ways that we can build our active listening skills so that we are able to show up and support our clients, first and foremost, by listening at the level they need. The other thing coaches know how to do really well is they can balance External listening with Internal listening. So what do I mean by that? Well, External listening is really when we're listening to the client and we're pulling in data from outside us, data that is external to us. So we're listening to what the client is saying, we're noticing any shifts in their tone, in the words they use, and how they present any nonverbal cues, in addition to the verbal cues. So we're really open and taking in all of that external data. And while we are doing that, we are also present and aware of our own internal responses. We notice when a client says something, how we respond in our body, or we notice the thought that we create, or the emotional response we have as we are listening. And we are able to balance both of those things so that we can show up and have our focus be on the client. And we can respond attentively, and empathically. And we're also keeping one eye looking inward, to our intuition. So that when we get a gut feeling about something, when we get an intuitive hit, when we have that message inside that says, “That's important, follow up on that”, we pay attention to it. So we're able to marry all of those external cues with our own internal knowing. And so we're able to listen to the client and honor our internal responses. Well, I think this is one of the most important skills for coaches to develop. Because, well, one of the pillars of the Coach with Clarity Model is Intentional Use of Self. I believe wholeheartedly that the greatest tool we have at our disposal as coaches is ourselves. It's our wisdom, it's our intuition, It's our ability to create structure, and to co-create the ideal end result with the client.
And to do all of that, we need to understand how to balance our own internal world with the external world, and with what the client is experiencing. And so again, these are skills that we hone and practice within the Certified Clarity Coach Program, so that coaches are comfortable tapping into their own intuition. They know what that looks like, they know what it feels like, and then they know when and how to share that, if appropriate with the client. And that's all part of the Active listening process: how we can show up and listen to our clients, and how we can also listen to what our own inner voice has to say, as well. So that is the first skill that I believe is fundamental to powerful coaching. Amazing coaches know how to listen, and they know what type of listening to do at what moment in order to further the client's agenda, and help them get what they want. So now that we have listening down as a skill, the second factor of making an amazing coach is that amazing coaches know how to ask the right question at the right time. So, the art of questioning is something that can be developed and refined over time. And some of the most amazing coaches I know are so good at crafting a question to elicit a deeper understanding or deeper reflection within the client. Powerful coaches know that a well timed question will bring greater insight, and momentum, and forward progress for a client than simply telling them what to do. I believe that a good question always trump's good advice. This is one area where I get a lot of questions. Whether it is within the Coaching with Clarity Membership, or in my free community, the Coach with Clarity Community. It also comes up in the Certification program as well. Because when people come to us, when they seek coaching, a lot of times they come because we are experts in our field. We've been doing this a while. We've got the knowledge, the training, the experience, and our clients can benefit from that. So then the question is, “Well, how do I serve my clients then if all I'm doing is asking them questions, at what point do I actually tell them what to do?”. Well, that's a good question. We go into that in great depth within the Certified Clarity Coach Program. Because it is a balance between providing feedback, guidance, even advice as the coach, but then also allowing our clients to come up with their own solutions. Within my own coaching practice I have always found that when a client is able to generate their own solution to an issue, they are far more likely to put that solution into play and have a successful outcome. Versus if I show up and tell them what to do. This is one of the things that differentiates coaching from other helping professions, like consulting or even mentoring. Because as the coach, our first approach is not one of advice giving or problem solving. Our first line is always going to be asking questions to deepen the understanding, and to inspire our clients to come up with their own solutions. That's always going to be where we start. Now, there are times where it may be appropriate for us to share our thoughts, or opinions, or strategies on how we might do something. There's a process to do that. And we need to know at what point in the coaching relationship and also at what point in the individual session, it's appropriate to do so. And oh my goodness, we have like a whole class topic devoted to that within the Certification program. But for the purposes of today's podcast episode, I'm simply going to stress the importance of asking really strong questions at the right time. And that is one of, if not the most, fundamental skill that an amazing coach needs to master. So most times to do that, coaches are going to use open-ended questions. So questions that allow the client plenty of room to respond, imagine, and come up with alternate ways of viewing a situation. So when we talk about open-ended questions, we contrast that to closed-ended questions. So closed-ended questions are those questions where you're going to get a one word response basically, or a very short answer. So yes, or no questions are closed ended questions. Asking for a very specific answer is often a closed-ended question. So as an example, if I was meeting with a client, and we were reviewing what they had done since our last session, a closed-ended question might be, “Did you follow through on your commitments?”. Well that's closed-ended, because the answer is going to be yes or no. I could very easily change that to be an open-ended question by moving away from “Did you?” and moving towards “How did you find working on your commitments this week?” or “What came up for you as you were working on your commitments this week?”. Those types of questions give the client plenty of room to answer, it's not strictly yes or no. Did you do it or not, but tell me more about the process. So in general, as coaches, we want to be using more open-ended questions to really allow our clients to talk through things. That being said, I also find a well timed, well placed, closed-ended question can also be powerful. As coaches, one of our responsibilities is to reflect back to the client what they're saying, feeling, or doing. Oftentimes, we serve as a mirror to the client. And a very simple closed-ended question can sometimes provide a very powerful reflection in terms of what the client is believing, or thinking, or doing. So I don't mean to suggest that closed-ended questions are something to be avoided. They're not, and they can actually be an incredible tool for personal insight and growth. That being said, they need to be well timed. And I would say coaches on the whole do better by starting from a place of asking an open-ended question, and introducing closed-ended questions sporadically when they could really support the client’s process. In addition to asking questions, open-ended or closed-ended, amazing coaches also know when to ask a question, to clarify or to offer space for reflection. And when to use silence. Silence can be just as powerful a tool as questioning and when we are comfortable with silence, and when we're able to leave room for the client to do that inner work in silence, that can often lead to a very significant shift or insight for the client as well. So we're not just peppering our clients with question, after question, after question. We also know when to slow down, when to pause, when to allow room for contemplation, and how silence can be an important tool in doing that. So in addition to that, knowing when to ask the right question, we also know when not to ask a question, and when simply to remain silent. So we've covered number one: amazing coaches know how to listen. And we've covered number two: amazing coaches ask the right question at the right time. This brings us to the third and final piece that I want to share with you in today's episode, which is that amazing coaches know how to trust. They know how to trust the client, they know how to trust the process, and they know how to trust themselves. So let's break that down each one, let's look a little bit at what it means to trust the client. And this goes back to what we were talking about before as well, which is, “When do I share all of my great ideas, experiences, and advice with my clients?”. Well, amazing coaches know that the client is always the expert in the client. We believe in their inherent strengths, we believe in their worthiness. And we know that within them lies everything they need to solve any problem, to accomplish any goal, and to live the life they want. We believe in them wholeheartedly. We operate from a place of unconditional positive regard. And so we trust that they have what they need to create the success they want. Our job then is to illuminate their talents, their skills, their resources, again to reflect back everything we see and maybe some things that they don't see about themselves. And then once those are uncovered, we can partner together so that they can decide how best to use their own internal resources. We're able to do this because we trust them. And we know that, yes, in partnership with us and through this co-creative process, they will be able to come up with strategies and solutions that will work best for them. So by placing our trust in the client, we relieve ourselves from feeling like we have to come up with the answers, we've got to come up with the solutions, the client is counting on us. That's not how coaching works. We don't have to have all the answers. We don't need to know everything. Because we trust in the clients expertise in themselves. Our expertise as coaches is in the process. We know how to create a relationship that's built on mutual trust and support. We understand how to bring structure into a relationship. So that whatever it is the client wants to work on in the coaching relationship, we know when and how to work with them to make that happen. And we know how to structure each individual session so that each session results in a successful outcome that gets them closer to their overall goal. And structure is such an important part of coaching. We spend several weeks within the Certified Clarity Coach Program going over how to create that structure within the relationship and within the session. That's right there in module one of Coaching Fundamentals because it is that important. And that leads into the second part: trusting that process. Amazing coaches understand why it matters, why it is so important to bring structure into not just a coaching session, but really to the entire relationship. We know just how important it is to have a clear process for our clients. And that process doesn't just benefit the client, it benefits us as well as the coach. Clients really appreciate being guided through a systematic process. When they know you as the coach, having a plan to get them from point A, to point B, to point C, they can relax into the relationship, and that builds the trust that is integral to the coach-client relationship. And as the coach, we can feel more confident in our ability to partner with the client and co-create that change they want, because we have such a strong process to support us. Within the Certified Clarity Coach Program, I teach this from two different perspectives. So first, we're looking at kind of the global process that we take our clients through, and how we can help them define their vision and their goals, and then create objectives accordingly. This is my Clarity Mapping approach that I teach within the program. So once we have that broad overview, and we feel really good about where we're heading now, we can use each coaching session to support our clients in that process. And this is where Keyhole Coaching comes into play. So Keyhole Coaching is my proprietary coaching method that I teach within the Certification program that walks you through exactly how to create structure for each session to support your clients. The beauty of this, though, is that it's not formulaic. It's not, “Okay in every session, you have to do this, and then this, and then this, and then you wrap up”. It's actually structured in such a way that you can provide that container in which to have the coaching session. But there's plenty of space for exploration and for growth. Because that's the thing, we all know that there will be times in a coaching session, or even in a coaching relationship, where things may feel a little hazy, a little uncertain. This is normal, this is often part of the growth and exploration process. And because we have a system in place to support us, whether it's Keyhole Coaching or Clarity Mapping, as coaches, we know that we can trust this process. We can guide our clients through it. And it will result in a successful outcome for the client. And so we really can trust the process. So we trust the client, we trust the process. And finally, we trust ourselves.
Just as we hold unconditional positive regard for our clients, we do the same for ourselves. We believe in our own strengths, we believe in our inherent worthiness, and we offer that grace and compassion to ourselves just as we do our clients. And as a result, we're able to trust in our abilities as a coach. We know that we can create powerful change in the lives of our clients. And we believe in our capacity to serve them both as a conduit, and as a catalyst. That is actually- I took those words from a statement that I repeat to myself before every single client session, every single membership call, every single meeting of the Certified Clarity Coach Program. Whenever I am about to engage with a client or student or member, I center myself by saying, “May I be a conduit? May I be a catalyst?”. Because that's how I view my role as a coach, I am a conduit for energy, for information, for insight. So it's not coming from me, it's coming through me to the client. And as a result that becomes a catalyst for more efficient, more effective, faster change. Because that's the other thing. We believe that our clients have everything they need to create the success that they want, they really do. So why would they want to work with a coach? Because we catalyze that experience, we can make it faster, we can make it more efficient, and we can certainly make it more fun. So you are welcome to borrow my personal phrase if it serves you. And I want to remind you that you also, as a powerful coach, have the ability to be the conduit and the catalyst for your clients. And it starts with trusting yourself and trusting your abilities as a powerful coach. And with that, let's move into this week's Clarity in Action moment. This week's Clarity in Action moment is brought to you by the Certified Clarity Coach Training Program. So this program is a 125 hour, ICF accredited, coach training program. Where you will learn the fundamental and more advanced skills to becoming a powerful coach. It is a wonderful blend of instruction and application. And in fact, the majority of those 125 hours are going to be you actually coaching. So whether it is in our weekly coaching labs, or whether it's as a peer coach, or a peer client, you are going to have plenty of hands-on coaching experience because that is how we improve as coaches. In addition, you can choose to add-on mentor coaching to your coach training experience. To obtain an ICF credential, every applicant is required to have 10 hours of mentor coaching, seven of which can be grouped and three of which must be individual. As a registered ICF mentor coach, I am thrilled to be able to offer mentor coaching as an optional add-on to the training program. And this is big, everyone who submits their deposit for the program by the end of June, will receive the mentor coaching add-on at no additional cost. So normally, it is an additional $1,000 to add on the mentor coaching to the training program. But if you sign up and commit to the training program by the end of June, you will have that mentor coaching requirement included as part of your tuition. Very excited to be able to offer that. So if you're listening when this drops on June 28th, that means you have a couple days to submit your application to reach out to me. And we can secure your spot in the next cohort, so that you can have both the training hours and the mentor coaching you need to be an ICF credentialed coach. So just head to CoachwithClarity.com/certification to learn more, because there's never been a better time to become a Certified Clarity Coach with Coach with Clarity. Alright my friend, let's dive into the Clarity in Action moment this week. So we've covered three factors that go into being an amazing coach. Number one is knowing how to listen. Number two is knowing how and when to ask powerful questions. And number three is trust, trusting the client, trusting the process, and trusting yourself.  
Of those three, listening, questioning, and trusting, I'm curious to know which of those come most naturally to you. And which of those may need a little more attention, and a little more development. As coaches we all bring our natural strengths and abilities to the table when we're working with our clients. And there will always be areas where we're invited to go deeper to expand and to build our capacity as coaches. And so that's why it's really important to take a little time and acknowledge where we excel, and what comes naturally to us, as well as the areas where maybe we need to spend a little more dedicated attention so that we can round out our skill set and ensure that we are showing up to every session giving our clients 100%. So when you think about listening, questioning, and trusting, which one of those comes most easily for you, and which one of those might need a little additional development? And from there, you can decide, “How do I want to go about improving my skill set as a coach?”. Certainly, if you're looking for a formal training program, the Certified Clarity Coach Training Program is a fantastic option. For some people, maybe a more of a continuing education approach would work, and that's where I would encourage you to check out the Coach with Clarity membership. And then for others it may be working with a mentor coach, and having someone that you can partner with for your own personal and professional development. So whether you choose a full on certification program, a continuing education approach, or mentor coaching, if I can be of service and support to you in your coaching journey, it would be my honor. So just head to CoachwithClarity.com to learn about all of the different ways I can support you in your coaching journey. And if you are considering becoming an ICF credentialed coach, then I sure hope you will check out the Certified Clarity Coach Training Program. It would be such an honor to partner with you in your coaching development. All right, my friends. That's it from me for this week of the Coach with Clarity Podcast, but I will be right back in your feed next week. So if you have not yet followed this podcast, be sure to do so that way next week’s show will show up automatically in your feed and we can spend more time together. So until then, my name is Lee Chaix McDonough, reminding you to get out there and show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity.


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