5 Levels of Coaching – Which Group Are You In?

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5 levels of coaching

You are constantly asked to coach people in need – your friends, peers, employees and maybe clients.

How well you coach others impacts your relationships, health and even income.

Do you add value, which excites other people to take action? Or do you unintentionally take value, which causes people to withdraw? Do people you coach make rapid achievement, or do they get stuck?

In short, what type of coach are you?

I recently had the pleasure of participating in the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching’s Coaches Cup. We had over 300 international participants from over 8,000 graduates. Through skill and frankly luck, I tied for 3rd place after my last round of competition. It lasted ten minutes as over a hundred coaches listened.

Several people asked me how I was able to laser focus on the key issue in such a short amount of time. I think it’s a great opportunity to talk about the different levels of coaches and how each one responds to challenging coaching situations.

In that public round, I coached an executive who struggled to maintain great self-care and maximum productivity. Maybe you have struggled with great self-care and being productive. Examples of self-care are getting enough sleep, eating properly, staying hydrated and managing stress.

How would you coach someone in this situation? How would each of the types of coaches coach that executive?

I won’t share the specific session. I will share how I believe each type of coach would work with a Coachee like the executive to try to help them achieve their goal.

The Advisor

Advisors advise. As an Advisor, you listen to better understand the Coachees situation so YOU can give them the best advice.

Conversely, a good coach listens to help the Coachee better understand their situation so THEY can best advise themselves.

As an Advisor, you may lack or not use formal coaching training. And unless you are careful, it is unlikely that a Coachee will act on your recommendations.

In the case of the executive, an Advisor might ask about the executive’s goals and obstacles around self-care to better understand the situation. You would then share recommendations about how to maintain self-care (use of a calendar, accountability partner, etc).

Most Coachees would listen and either agree to try your recommendation (and not follow through) or give reasons why they couldn’t follow your recommendation (resist the advice). If you’ve advised someone, you’ve experienced this reaction which is frustrating for both parties. High functioning Coachees may take the Advisors input although it’s not the best form of coaching. Many times Coachees get stuck or stay stuck with Advisors.

If you are an Advisor, you may want to better harness your powerful knowledge and intuition by asking great questions to help the Coachee see their own solutions. “What is your goal here?”, “What do you think your biggest obstacle is?” and “What options do you see to achieving your goal?” are good questions to help the Coachee solve their own problem.

The Rookie Coach

The Rookie Coach knows that it is more effective to ask people questions to help them see their own obstacles and solutions to have the best outcome. If you are a Rookie, you have been trained and have a working knowledge of questions to help the Coachee achieve a goal. You are not as skilled at asking the right type of question at the right time as a more mature Coach due to lack of experience.

In the example, you would ask the executive open-ended questions to help them see the importance of self-care and productivity. You would explore obstacles the executive perceived and may ask the executive what they believed were ways to maintain self-care when experiencing those obstacles. The solution would be generated by the executive. You may struggle if the executive is experiencing a significant outer challenge (lack of time, money, etc.) and be unaware of inner issues. You might help the Coachee resolve the outer issue or might not and may take weeks or months to do so. This will present as an inability for the Coachee to make progression towards their goal.

If you are a Rookie Coach, you will benefit from more practice, feedback from people you coach and time with other coaches including master coaches to improve.

The Outer Coach

The Outer Coach knows appropriate open-ended questions to help a Coachee understand their goals, perceived obstacles and solutions to those obstacles for many coaching situations. As an Outer Coach, you help the average Coachee manage around or through external challenges. A bad economy is an example of an external challenge.

The Coachee may work through external challenges and still achieve their goal. The Coachee may feel paralyzed or angered when facing these challenges. The Coachee may not believe that success is possible. When this happens, the external challenge has led to an inner issue. Inner issues are challenges the Coachee creates.

Inner issues can be beliefs the Coachee makes about their world based on past experiences. These are reinforced over time. They play out as repeated behaviors that have a payoff for the Coachee. They are in a sense stuck or locked in this pattern.

When you deal with a client with inner issues, you may fail to coach them through the inner issue. Sometimes you become frustrated and just reinforce the repeated pattern which increases the Coachees resistance.

In the case of the executive, you would ask open-ended questions to help the executive see the importance of self-care and what the executive needed to do to maintain self-care and great productivity. When the executive presented outer obstacles like lack of time, you would ask questions designed to help the executive see a way around the obstacle.

“What have you done in the past to successfully maintain self-care during busy times?”, “What skill did you apply?” and “How can you apply it here?” may be useful questions. You may sense that an underlying inner issue exists or not.

You would resolve the given outer obstacle in one session perhaps more depending on the strength of the underlying inner issue. The Coachee would likely create another outer obstacle because they are receiving a psychological payoff from having obstacles in this area.

For example, it might be assumed if you struggle with poor self-care that you are at the effect of an outer constraint like time. The reality is you are the cause of poor self-care. It can be a form of self-sabotage and protects you from performing at your true potential. The fear is “I couldn’t deal with failing after truly giving it my best effort, it would crush my ego”. And you may position yourself to procrastinate with situations and then not take care of yourself to have an out when performance is not what you would like.

As an Outer Coach, you work with many outer obstacles over multiple sessions. You may or may not help the Coachee permanently achieve their goal.

If you are an Outer Coach, you might benefit from training in inner coaching and psychology to help the Coachee understand WHY they are struggling with a certain external challenge and how to help them resolve the underlying issue.

The Inner Coach

The Inner Coach knows how to ask appropriate open-ended questions and share intuition in a way that helps the Coachee connect apparent outer challenges to true inner challenges. You help the Coachee understand how certain behavior patterns (default behaviors) are comfortable and serve them (normally protecting them from taking risk). This allows the Coachee to more objectively determine how they want to behave in the future.

When someone you coach can connect WHY they have obstacles, they are less likely to create additional obstacles to maintain the pattern.

This leads to true coaching breakthroughs where Coachees decide on permanent actions to achieve their goals and improve their life.

As an Inner Coach, you are looking to help the Coachee see where they are making inaccurate assumptions and interpretations about situations. The Coachee may have beliefs about the world formed from their past which causes them to avoid reasonable risk. These are thought distortions and cause the Coachee to not view reality clearly. They therefore are unlikely to take productive, positive action. You may refer, or work in addition, to a trained psychologist or therapist depending on the nature of underlying issues.

You would explore the inner issue and related inner issues over several sessions. Resolving the inner issue is likely to permanently improve this area of a Coachee’s life.

In this case, you would ask open-ended questions to help the Coachee explore the importance of self-care. You may ask what challenges the Coachee experiences in trying to maintain self-care while looking for external challenges and being open to an inner issue.

You would quickly identify the outer obstacle and also sense that an inner issue was present. You would work with the Coachee to help them see and resolve the inner issue. This is aided by your intuition.

As an Inner Coach, you ask questions and may share limited insights based on intuitive hits that are occurring during coaching. “How do you feel the lack of self-care relates to when you have big projects?”, “How does lack of self-care and sub-optimal productivity serve you during big projects?” and “How do you think that behavior protects you?” are questions that you might ask although your questions are typically more organic in nature.

Questions like these help a Coachee see that the external challenges around self-care are self-imposed. The lack of self-care is serving a psychological function or it wouldn’t be occurring. It is normally a protective function. If you tell the Coachee this, you may be met with resistance. You want to ask intuitive questions to help the Coachee see this connection and willingly take positive future action.

If you are an Inner Coach, you will benefit from experience and time training with Master Coaches. You will also benefit from your own work to stay centered and present, and harness your intuition to help the Coachee explore and overcome these challenges.

The Master Coach

A Master Coach helps the Coachee achieve a permanent result in the shortest time possible.  You know how to harness your intuition. You have enough training and experience to quickly identify an inner issue and help the Coachee understand and address the issue.

As a Master Coach, you realize that almost all external challenges are caused by inner challenges. As external challenges are presented, you are very present and open to all possibilities that can occur in the coaching session – one of which is how you use external challenges to connect and resolve inner issues.

Where an Advisor or Rookie will struggle when Coachees express outer challenges, You expect them. You see them as a rapid way to help the Coachee understand themselves and a path to achieve their goals.

You know that helping the Coachee see the underlying inner issue and resolving it (a Coachee’s fear of failure or rejection for example) improves the expressed external challenge (lack of time for self-care for example) and many other related external challenges (lack of time with family, inability to address conflict in a key relationship, etc).

As a Master Coach, you may ask similar questions to that of the Inner Coach although in less time and with deeper intuition in helping the Coachee see assumptions, interpretations and unhelpful beliefs. This could happen in a few sessions or a few minutes depending on several factors. I have seen people make life changing decisions (changing jobs, relationships or customers) after a short discussion with a Master Coach because they now understand why and how they have kept themselves stuck.

While it may seem the Master Coach approach takes time, it can actually occur faster than the other approaches. And with much greater effect. You help resolve Coachee challenges in one or two sessions that lower level Coaches will not resolve in one or two 3-month cycles.

In the case above, you would acknowledge and validate the Coachees position and emotions. You may then explore the goals around self-care (and productivity) and look to raise external obstacles. You would quickly use the external obstacle to identify what you believed could be an inner issue.

You would ask intuitive questions of the Coachee to clarify the issue and help the Coachee see the issue. You would then ask questions and share insight to help the person resolve the inner issue and take permanent forward action.

Master Coaches work with the Coachee on additional external challenges and the underlying inner issues. Helping the client see and resolve multiple inner issues is likely to help the Coachee achieve multiple goals.

If you are a Master Coach, you may benefit from trusting your intuition and maintaining your own practice of staying present and centered. Peer coaching with other Master Coaches with greater experience and styles can help you become even more skilled at using finesse when coaching.

You may choose to not become a Master Coach. Although you may choose to be like a Master Coach.

You can:

– Listen and ask open-ended questions to help Coachees better understand their own circumstances

– Expect Coachees to express outer challenges that may or may not seem logical

– Help Coachees connect outer challenges to inner issues by asking intuitive questions

– Assist in exploring assumptions, interpretations, unhelpful beliefs and protective behaviors

– Observe the Coachee take their own insightful action when they understand these dynamics

– Maintain practices like meditation to stay present and centered

Master Coaches have cultivated wisdom. They are an enormous asset to individuals and organizations. They make a major impact in health, wealth and relationships.

The next time someone asks you for advice, how can you use that opportunity to help someone learn more about themselves?

How can you use the experience to better determine the type of coach you want to be?

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