Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Content free coaching

Posted on Wednesday, January 25, 2012 by International Coach Federation

Sounds puzzling? Impossible? Not impossible but definitely a challenge!

This is one of the best ways I know for honing your coaching skills, whether you’re experienced or new to coaching.  Content free coaching:
  • Improves your ability to tune in to what is going on for your coachee beneath the words they are actually saying;  to pay more attention to the ‘music’ and ‘dance’ (their tone and body language) which really indicate what they are feeling and thinking.
  • Develop and practice powerful questions that don’t rely on content, such as “what’s happening now? ”, “what else ?” “and what else?” “and what else?”!!
  • Remove any temptation to ‘solutionise’  - when you don’t know what their topic is you can’t possibly start thinking  about your solutions.
The quality of your attention is exquisite.  Where will your question take them?  How will it land?

I’ve used this to hone my own skills and also when training other coaches.  It was particularly striking with a group of managers whose career success so far was largely based on coming up with answers – it made an immediate step change in their ability to be curious about the coachee’s ideas rather than their own and stopped them solutionising, one of the biggest challenges for manager-coaches.

So how do you practice coaching content free?
  • Find a friendly fellow coach.
  • Ask them to think of a topic they want to be coached on.
  • Ask them coaching questions and reflect back – after each question they should think through their answer and indicate when their thinking is finished and they are ready for the next question or observation from you.  Your next question or reflection is based on what you have detected and what your intuition suggests will help next.
  • Get feedback from your coachee on what you did that helped …or didn’t.
Caroline Talbott
What are your key tips for honing your skills? Or your powerful ‘content free’ questions?   Share them with us at

Caroline Talbott
coaches and develops leaders, especially those who have had success in a profession (eg lawyers, chartered surveyors, engineers, HR specialists) and then moved into a leadership role.  She is also a coach trainer and passionate about her own professional and personal development.
Professionals in Leadership blog. Caroline Talbott - catalyst for change. Twitter: @CaroCatalyst.

1 comment:

  1. In the ten plus years of being a counselor and advising my clients I am grateful that my college classes and my interviewing class focused on Motivational Interviewing (MI). MI focuses on asking questions and soliciting feedback. I have been coaching now for only one month, and yes, it is hard for me to have "content free" interviewing (coaching)! Doable, but hard.


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