to make referrals. Finally, the consultant may want to
formalize a weekly coaching time with the client. This
will be discussed more in the next section.
The difference between formal and informal coaching lies in the set up. Formal coaching requires the
consultant and client to agree that the upcoming engagement will be a coaching conversation. The advantage is that the client will have on his ‘coachee’ hat,
clearly understanding the intent of the session. The
length of a formal coaching session should be agreed
upon (usually 30 minutes to 1 hour), and the consultant
may want to define for the client what to expect, possibly using information shared in this article.
An informal coaching session happens when the
consultant puts on his coaching hat, often unbeknown
to the client. As mentioned earlier, if coaching during
the opening meeting, the consultant may shift into this
mode simply by starting to ask more questions and listening more than speaking and instructing. The informal
session may or may not include specific action steps.
HOW TO COACH
Many reading this article may be trained or certified
as a coach, so this section may be redundant to a degree,
but the approach and acronym should be fresh to all. The
acronym C.A.L.L.S. will outline the coaching engagement. Often times while consulting, coaching “calls!”
“C” stands for ‘Connect.’ Connect with the client
at a business and personal level by asking how he is and
how things are going. Share a bit about yourself and
circumstances as appropriate.
“A” represents ‘Ask.’ Asking questions is the core of
coaching. Those trained as a life or executive coach know
how critical open-ended, powerful, well thought out and
planned questions are in effective coaching. Some initial
questions are asked when connecting, but now is the time
to delve in and help the client self-discover and find fresh
motivation to move forward. Questions after connecting
should fall into three areas at this point:
1) Defining the goals the client wants to focus on. E.g.,
ask: “What goals do you want to accomplish that we
can discuss here?”
2) Delving deeper into the external and internal
influences. E.g., ask: “What do you think might be
hindering or helping in the achievement of this goal?”;
3) Deciding on a couple of action steps. E.g., ask:
“What specific actions steps do you think you need to
take to accomplish what we just discussed?”
Prepare questions ahead of time in advance of each
coaching session. The general rule while coaching is to
ask questions that begin with the word “What” primarily
and “How” secondarily. Asking “Why” questions can
put the client on the defensive. Asking “When” and
“Where” questions tend to be more leading and closed-ended than open-ended.
“L” stands for Listen. When asking questions, the
coach is to listen actively and intently to the client. This
means looking at the client, listening to the content
of his answer along with the tone of voice, as well as
observing his body language. Lean forward if sitting.
Smile. Nod. As the consultant listens, new questions to
ask will likely come to mind.
The second “L” and the “S” go together and
represent “Lead and Summarize.” Here the consultant
takes back some control and leads the client to a summary
of what took place and what was discussed during the
coaching conversation. The consultant should draw
from what he picked up while actively listening in order
to restate (and even write down and show the client)
what he heard, especially regarding the action steps.
Some questions might include:
• What in my summary is on target? What is not?
• What new insights do you now have?
• How certain are you that you / we can get this done
and accomplish these action steps?
• How can I support you specifically regarding these?
In review, coaching is helping a client get from
where he is to where he wants to go, and in this context, in his business. There are poor and good examples of coaching. The best coaching incorporates
open-ended, powerful questions and strong listening
skills on the part of the coach / consultant. Use the
acronym, C.A.L.L.S. to remember the key elements
to good coaching: Connect, Ask, Listen, Lead and
Summarize. When a coach connects genuinely, asks
poignant questions, listens attentively and leads and
summarizes effectively, the client will desire further
engagement and be more open to mentoring, ultimately referring other clients to the consultant.
Bruce Catanzarite is a Project Director at Cogent Analytics, a
Greensboro, N.C.-based consulting firm.