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Thursday, March 08 2012
Whether it's appropriate for coaches to give advice is an important debate that keeps arising.  After hearing many different points of view and contemplating it myself, I have to question whether like for most things in life, there's truly a blanket answer. So in this quest...

Hmm I wonder:  What’s considered to be “advice"?
  • Something like ”you need to . . .” or “I think you should . . . ”  or  “It would be best if you . . .”  is clearly advice.  And I assume the majority of coaches probably prefer not to use this approach.
  • Looking at my own coaching however I wondered about “May I make a bold request?”  or “Would you be willing to take on some homework?” or “Could I share a tool with you that I have found to be invaluable?”
  • Even with checking to be sure I'm in alignment with the client’s agenda,  these kinds of conversations can certainly be seen as providing direction. And some may even consider it subtle advice cloaked in the form of a question.
Hmm I wonder:  What about tips, tools and expertise?
  • Across every niche, whether it be life, spiritual, relationship, health, etc., one would be hard pressed to find a coach’s website in which they don’t offer some wonderful information, tips, tools, etc., in their area of expertise.
  • Do coaches not at some point(s) offer their hard-earned wisdom to their clients during a session?  What form does this or “should” this take?
  • Is this advice, sharing, teaching?  What’s acceptable?  Who decides?
Hmm I wonder:  What does the ICF have to say about it?
  • Even for the ICF credentialing purposes it’s not crystal clear:  They say that "one will not pass if they focus primarily on telling the client what to do or how to do it".  So then is it OK to do it part of the time, if that’s the way someone wants to coach?
Hmm I wonder:  Did Thomas Leonard offer any insights?
  • Interestingly, Thomas Leonard, the man considered to have originated modern coaching and founded the ICF had this to say years ago about coaches giving advice:
    "Many of the newer clients hiring coaches are hiring that coach not only for their coaching skills set but also for the coach's situational knowledge and solutions set. Traditional/purist coaching will be around for a long time, but the market is asking for coaches with solutions, not just coaches who are good at evoking or supporting. Both are important. The definition of coaching is expanding because the marketplace is demanding it."
Hmm I wonder:  How much of a role might the specific niche play in this discussion?
  • Personally I love and resonate with what I believe to be the basic premise of coaching: that there is an inherent greatness within each of us and we are the only ones who have the answers for our own lives. 
  • I liken it to the example of when Michelangelo was asked how he created his masterpiece sculpture, “David”.  He replied that he didn’t, he simply chipped away all that wasn’t David.
  • Nevertheless, when I go to a business or marketing coach, they could help me chip away from now until eternity, and I will never have the answer as to how to get better SEO or the mechanics of creating a successful landing page!
  • In the purist coach approach yes they could ask me questions to help me discover where I could go to find the answers for myself but then again I might as well go to business school.
Hmm I wonder: Then where does this informal study that I really relate to fit in? 
  • A Master Executive Coach on one of the MMC calls (unfortunately I can’t remember just now who it was) said that she had performed her own personal study over a number of years.  She found that when she gave the client advice, a very small percentage of the time it was acted upon.  But when the client came up with their own strategy, a high percentage of them acted on it and to their advantage.  

Hmm I wonder:

  • Perhaps then for each of us it all depends on our definition, the approach, the intention, the frequency, the niche, the timing, the client, our own personal coaching style and of course good old trial and error.

And after all that wondering: 

  • I wind up where I began with my original premise: that neither life nor coaches nor coaching is all black and white, there are many beautiful shades of gray. There seems to be lots of room in the industry for all different styles and approaches.  There are certainly many different needs and personalities of clients.
  • So I just say thank God for the wonder of coaching:) And to be able to choose the shade of gray that works best for me.
Seriously:  What a gift!
  • How fortunate we are at MMC to hear many of the different styles of coaching that are happening out there in the world.  
  • It has opened & broadened my perspective.  I’m learning and growing both as a coach and as a person. 
  • And as a result of hearing others coaching, especially the Masters, I’m constantly refining and redefining my coaching and who and what I want to be and represent as a coach.
Posted by: Gail Moore AT 05:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  12 Comments  |  Email
Hi, and thank you for the great blog and the "Hmmm, I wonder" questions. Very thought provoking. The coach who said she did a study on advice was Meryl Moritz. At the end she said that executive clients value choice bits of advice from their coaches. My experience has been that it all depends. At times a personal experience can be very much appreciated. Sandy Vilas said that Thomas Leonard gave him tons of advice. And Sandy´s call was practically all advice, which was an interesting change. I look forward to more blogs!
Posted by ann voli on 03/10/2012 - 03:18 PM
So well your thorough post. I find my clients are coming to me for motivation and accountability - among other things. I find I give little advice - more guidance. I will say, however, that there are times that I do share strategies that I know work. I find sharing the strategies can help the client see other possibilities.
Posted by Heidi Michaels on 03/11/2012 - 10:14 AM
Ann thats been my experience as well that the occasional personal experience at just the right moment can be very beneficial. Thanks for sharing and for reminding me it was indeed the wonderful Meryl Moritz who said that. I often quote her wisdom. And thank you too Heidi. Great point about how "sharing strategies can help the client see other possibilities". I really love & appreciate hearing what coaches think and how they work with their clients and deal with their practice. So many thanks to you both!
Posted by Gail Moore on 03/12/2012 - 12:53 PM
Loved this post. I'm in agreement with Thomas Leonard. I know when I hire a coach I'm looking for their coaching AND their vast experience from which I can tap into. I make sure to check with my client at the beginning of our relationship to see what they want. Many will say they appreciate the strategies or "best practices" that have worked for me or other clients. Before sharing and not specifically coaching I will ask my clients if I may change hats to let them know what's coming is a strategy, tactic, or straight out answer to something they've just asked.
Posted by Victoria Cook on 03/12/2012 - 02:53 PM
Thanks for sharing that Victoria- appreciate the "may I change hats?"- very respectful!
Posted by Gail on 03/12/2012 - 04:00 PM
i use the "powerful request/s" where I find the client in a Gap,or in a stoploss point...only when it clear that mere questioning puts the client in further confusion / helplessness. I use metaphors ( I use to be called the Metaphor Man in the ICA classrooms :).) I use short stories, suggest readings (Use Chicken soup for the soul ) I use role reversal (You coach me Coachee)..rarely I seek help of a well-wisher with the coachees' nod ( friend , supportive parent, spouse) to give a new dimension to the coaching process... this combination mostly works...But I work at keeping ME out of it ( I have a small Ivory card that says "GRACE me the Wisdom to KEEP ME out ".. I wonder how other coaches do it, very very eager to learn...Thanks
Posted by Srinivas Krishnammorthy on 03/12/2012 - 04:26 PM
Appreciate your post Srinivas! Interesting, I was planning as one of my future posts to inquire as to how other coaches "get out of the way". So perhaps you've started us off-thanks.
Posted by Gail on 03/12/2012 - 05:57 PM
I consider the definition of advice on " opinion or recommendation offered as a guide to action, conduct, etc.: I shall act on your advice. 2.a communication, especially from a distance, containing information: Advice from abroad informs us that the government has fallen. Recent diplomatic advices have been ominous. 3. an official notification, especially one pertaining to a business agreement: an overdue advice." How could there be any question? Definitely!
Posted by Caron MacLane on 03/14/2012 - 12:49 AM
Thanks for weighing in, Caron
Posted by gail on 03/14/2012 - 11:02 AM
For me the bottom line is the relationship. Since the mid 70's, the model I've used has been one of partnership. Even when a coach has significant expertise, if they don't return the power to the client, the relationship changes to a more hierarchical/expert model and that's not coaching. It's consulting, mentoring, teaching, etc. Of course those models (hats) may be useful at times as we, our client's partner, share something from our expertise. What's important is how do we return the power and respect the client as the only real expert on his/her own life? Barbara Luther's coaching conversation today was a lovely example of how to do this with respect and grace. She gave a lot of information, but it never endangered the partnership.
Posted by Bobbie Burdett on 03/14/2012 - 09:11 PM
Beautifully said, thank you Bobbie!
Posted by gail on 03/15/2012 - 03:19 PM
This comment was written on my FB biz page by Deah Curry. Wanted it to be included here as well & Deah said that would be fine. She had a follow-up which you can read on FB and if you feel inspired please "like" my page while you're there! "I've wondered about the emphasis on not advising in coaching, as the evoking and supporting approach seem squarely in line with a therapeutic dynamic. Plus, clients seem to prefer paying for concrete knowledgeable guidance, more than for powerful questions and discussion of options and resources. Hard and fast rules aren't as useful, IMHO, as doing what is best for each client to help them achieve their goals. A blend of both seems wise."
Posted by gail for Deah Curry on 03/24/2012 - 01:45 PM

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