Executive Coaching on the Next Level – Part 3/3

Apr, 9, 2020

5)   Fierce Courage to Challenge Appropriately

Having assessed several hundred coaches over the past 17 years (from relative newbies to coaches with over 10 years experience), I noticed that very few of them had the courage and ability to appropriately challenge the coachee. I found it was often fear to upset the coachee that was holding them back from being more challenging. Also, I often heard statements like: “I first need to build more trust before I can challenge them, this will take a few sessions.” There are two things wrong with this statement: a) if you challenge appropriately, it can actually enhance the trust in the coach; and b) great coaches don’t need ‘a few sessions’ to build sufficient trust, they know how to build significant trust in the first meeting with the coachee.

Challenging appropriately requires fierce courage which is easier to ‘muster’ if we don’t get attached to the outcome and instead fully focus on engaging the coachee towards an outcome. Doing it appropriately requires to have the right intention (‘the only reason why I challenge the coachee is because I strongly believe it will be in the coachee’s best interest’) and the right skill. Am I able to be tactful and clear in the way I challenge the coachee without reducing my frankness? These are skills that can be learnt.

6)   Resourcefulness & Knowing when to Break the Rules of Coaching

Let’s be honest: the coachee doesn’t really care about your methodology. They don’t care whether you apply coaching, training, teaching, directing, standing on your head, or anything else. What they truly care about is to develop towards their objectives in the best, fastest and most sustainable way. It’s just that the coaching methodology tends to be most often the most effective way to accomplish that. But most often is not always. There are situations where other approaches are more likely to work better and where you need to ‘break the rules’ of coaching. However, there is a saying: you first need to master the rules before you break the rules, otherwise you may break them in the wrong situations.

For example, if we take the case of Anita above: applying our 3-step approach leveraging logic to build a higher level of self-esteem is not coaching at all. It consists of a number of closed questions that have only one correct answer – essentially the opposite of what coaching typically is (open questions, multiple possible answers). And yet, we found that using this non-coaching methodology at that point accelerates the development of a healthy self-esteem and can be made sustainable through the regular coaching methodology.

Another example is resourcefulness: you might discuss with your coachee the need to potentially fire one of her/his direct reports. You apply coaching to support the coachee in this decision process but there might be legal implications, too. Unless we’re legal experts also, we should obviously not give legal advice to our coachee, but we might be resourceful in sharing some sources where the coachee could get the needed legal inputs, for example. Again, that’s not coaching per se, but would add value to the coachee. The key is that we have to be quite certain about the reliability and accuracy of our sources that we share.

7)   Ability to Bring the Best of YOU

While it’s very helpful to learn processes or models such as GROW, ASSAPPP, GAP, etc. to give coaching a structure, it’s also important to recognize them just for what they are: models and processes. I like to use the metaphor of reflector posts or guide posts on the street. They help the driver not getting off the road but don’t determine how you actually drive. Models and processes have the same purpose. They should provide guidance to avoid that you ‘get off the road’ but should not hold you back from bringing yourself fully into the conversation. Every coach has a unique background, certain strengths and the question is how you can leverage that for the benefit of your coachee.

It may take quite a bit of practice to be able to learn how to best leverage ‘YOU’ for making your coaching most effective and efficient. Supervised coaching and self-observation plus regular feedback from the coachees you work with can help bring that to the forefront.

One More:

From Transactional to Transformational

I didn’t list that as a separate point because this aspect underpins all of the above. Coaches add a lot more value to the coachee if they can move from transactional to transformational coaching. To give a simple example:

  • A coachee struggles with her boss; she feels that the boss is not fair towards her and is overly critical
  • Transactional coaching: we focus on the persona of the boss and how the coachee would need to try to influence the boss to improve the relationship with him
  • Transformational coaching: we try to identify thought and behavior patterns of the coachee that may have led to this situation in the first place and may negatively impact her also in other contexts. So if we can resolve / improve these areas, she would not only improve the situation with her boss but can benefit from this change

The good news is: Coaching on the Next Level can be learnt. It doesn’t necessarily have to take many years to get there, but significant investment in yourself and conscious effort will need to be deployed.


Charlie Lang
Charlie Lang
Founder and Chief Content Architect
Founder and Chief Content Architect – Charlie Lang is a C-Suite coach and a pioneer in the coaching industry in Asia Pacific.


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