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Creating Awareness In The Coachee

Recently I was asked by a person who is the senior manager of a coachee who I am coaching: how does a coach create awareness in the coachee?  The manager was wanting to glean insights so he could use them directly with his staff.

It got me thinking further about creating awareness and its link to ‘coaching that sticks.’

The International Coach Federation (ICF) has a useful description of the competency of Creating Awareness which is relevant for ALL coaches, both inside and outside of the organisation.  Creating Awareness is the ability for the coach to integrate and accurately evaluate multiple sources of information, and present these back to the coachee to help them gain awareness and thereby achieve agreed-upon results.  Specifically it includes the coach:

  • Going beyond what is said in helping to identify coachee’s concerns, whilst not getting ‘hooked’ by the coachee’s description
  • Invoking inquiry within in the coachee
  • Getting the coachee to identify their underlying concerns, typical and fixed ways of perceiving themselves and the world, the differences between the facts and their interpretation, as well as pointing out possible disparities between thoughts, feelings and action

A glance at the above elements, and one can see that there is a lot in there.  One of the key themes requires the coach to be present and see the patterns in what could be going on both good and not so good.  Creating awareness is ‘inside out’ / getting under the skin of the coachee/seeing things as they see them, whilst also making links to what is possible in their world from where the coachee currently is.

Creating awareness is important because it is key to creating sustainable change in the coachee, and that means value add.  Some examples are that the coachee realises for themself that:

  • their head is full of things that they cannot control
  • they are unclear as to their real purpose in their job and how they measure success
  • their own hesitancy with people makes for hesitant relationships
  • lack of accountability is infectious and starts with them.

One or several of these examples are powerful realisations which can materially and immediately affect how the coachee shows up.  This is inside-out transformational change, rather than skills-based or outside-in change.

There are many things that could get in the way of creating awareness, not least of which is the context.  Jeff Matthews in his article ‘Managers Can Be Effective Coaches’(1) comments upon the power imbalance between manager-as-coach and coachee, a vested interest in the outcome of the coaching and strong pressures for the coach to be directive in a coaching conversation.  This can result in the coachee being suspicious of the manager’s motives which works against the coach-coachee relationship.

Acknowledging the context, we argue that there is still significant scope for creating awareness.  Being present with the coachee is one of those things.  ICF define presence as the ability to be fully conscious and create a spontaneous relationship with the coachee, being open to not knowing (this is big), as well as demonstrating confidence in working with strong emotions (this is big too!).

So just as we as coaches, are endeavouring to help the coachee with change that comes from the within the coachee and shows itself outward, we too need to work on ourselves from inside out.  There is a nice parallel here of ‘inside-outness,’ which helps with the genuineness and specialness of the coachee-coach relationship.


(1) Can Line Managers Ever be Effective Coaches?  Jeff Matthews, Managing Partner, The Madison Group, Business Leadership Review VII:II, Association of MBAs, April 2010


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