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What's In A Coach's Toolkit?
Coaching frameworks, techniques, and interventions are at the heart of all life coach training programs. They are also essential to every professional coach's toolbox, representing the evidence-based skills and knowledge that we draw upon daily in our coaching sessions.
So let's break down the difference between them, and take a look at how they can be used in real life!
A coaching framework is the arc of questioning that a coach uses to move a client on a path of inquiry from point A to point B.
One simple coaching model that can apply to a variety of situations is “The Hallway Coaching Conversation.” This one is so handy that it's the very first framework we teach in Lumia's life coach training program!
A Hallway Conversation consists of three questions:
- Where are you now?
- Where do you want to be?
- What is getting in the way?
The name Hallway Conversation is a nod to what often happens spontaneously in an office environment between colleagues. But it applies anywhere, anytime!
You can use these three questions to form the basis of an entire coaching session. It's also a quick and easy process you can use whenever anyone grabs you and says, “Do you have a minute to help me think something through?”
Another framework we encourage coaches to hold in mind is a 3-step process called "Subject-Observer-Designer," which comes from the Stanford Life Design Lab.
Rather than a process you "apply" directly in a client session, this one offers the coach a bird's eye view of how the coaching process itself works. The model demonstrates the evolution in learning, growth, and agency experienced by our clients when the coaching process is working as intended.
- Subject - this is where a client begins at the start of a coaching engagement. They are often arriving from a stance of being "Subject TO” the conditions of their life, including their environment, social conditioning, unconscious beliefs, and perceived limitations. The process of coaching helps surface ideas and beliefs that have been operating below the level of their conscious awareness and makes them more visible.
- Observer - this is where the client begins to experiment, try things, and observe what happens when they begin to move the pieces of their lives around the board. In coaching, they are trying on new thoughts, beliefs, and actions. As you engage together in reflection, they become the "Observer" - paying attention to what works, what doesn't, and what happens in their life as a result.
- Designer - as the client puts these new ideas into practice, they come to see more clearly how they can be an active agent of change in their life. Empowered by the process, they shift from "Subject" to an intentional "Designer" of their desired future state.
Techniques are the bread and butter of the coaching process, and are used on repeat rotation as a coach does their work.
A coaching technique is a verbal or mental enactment that a coach uses to either:
- Understand the client more effectively; or
- Help the client see themselves, others, or a situation in a different way.
Two of the most common coaching techniques are active listening and reframing.
Active listening involves using your whole body as you listen to the client, using all of your senses. You are listening not only to the words that are being said, but also to any emotion, expression, or feeling that you notice or experience.
Let’s take a look at a concrete example. A client can say the words “I’m just fine,” in many different ways, but tone and expression are the factors that belie meaning. Likewise, a client may be speaking with such authentic conviction that a coach will experience an intuitive response, like feeling body tingles as they speak.
The experience of maintaining focus in order to pick up information that goes beyond language is what makes this form of listening an active practice.
Similar to active listening, the coaching technique of reframing takes client statements and moves them beyond what is being said and into a position of considering that which is possible.
An example of this is a client showing up to a coaching session with information that a product test at work has failed. With a coaching reframe, you might begin with an exploration of the word failure itself, and the emotional charge that often comes with it.
The word failure can often seem finite, fixed, and inherently bad. And yet, in every failure there is a treasure trove of learning to be unpacked. Coaches know this because learning and reflection are necessary parts of the coaching process.
An excellent coach might observe through active listening that their client's tone seems down, that perhaps there’s appropriate disappointment blocking the client’s ability to source learning and find some positive outcomes in a failed product test.
The way a coaching technique could be used here is for the coach to ask permission to offer a re-frame.
If the client accepts, the coach may inquire if the client is open to unpacking all of the valuable learning that has come with this experience, and charting a path forward with a whole new arsenal of data.
It might take a bit of time for a client to fully internalize a reframe, particularly if the topic is emotionally charged. For this reason, it’s important to validate and allow space for a client to really feel their feelings through clearing and venting before moving into the space of learning and reflection around a given situation.
Coaching interventions are intentional exercises that a coach presents to a client to help that client achieve a specific goal.
A great example of a coaching intervention is Narrative Journaling. This is an example of an exercise that a client can undertake in order to drive insight and self-understanding.
When a coach has an intervention that they would like to offer the client, it’s important to remember that there is no guarantee that a client will be interested, or that the intervention will always be a good fit! That’s why it’s important to set the context, and ask for agreement up front.
How to Introduce a Coaching Intervention
To ensure the client understands why a coach is proposing a specific exercise or tool, the coach first explains to the client how the intervention they would like to introduce works and why it might be helpful.
The coach then asks the client if they would like to participate. If the client agrees, the intervention is either treated like an action step for later, or done together in session.
Let's explore an example of each approach:
1. Action step with accountability
Intervention: Asking the client to write a letter to a future lover explaining what they need in order to feel cared for, or “an instruction manual for being in a relationship with you.”
The purpose of this exercise is to get the client thinking not only about what they need but what they need to communicate to a future partner about where they are in their relationship journey.
2. Done in session
Intervention: Inviting the client to try a physical enactment to understand how they are holding emotional energy in their body in real time.
If the client is having a hard time making a decision, for example, you might invite them to look for a “yes” or “no” inside the body. With permission, the coach might walk the client through a full body scan and notice where they are experiencing any sensations (hot, cool, tingly, tight, and so on). The coach might then ask the client to explore if any of these bodily sensations are familiar, and if so, what they communicate. What does "yes" feel like in your body? How about "no"?
Interventions are used differently depending upon your method of coaching. As you explore and discover the ones you really like, they can help you to drill down on some nice niche specializations, or areas for further professional training and development!
For examples from Lumia graduates whose coaching niches involve expertise in various effective coaching models, check out:
- Cultivating Joy in Difficult Times
- What Is Emotional Hygiene Coaching?
- Understanding "The Masculine" In the Process of Coaching
Ready to Become A Coach?
One of our values at Lumia is that we dare to be different. Our coaches ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and you’d like a partner in the process, come check out Lumia Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.