Monday, July 2, 2012

Working my way down to clues

Posted on Monday, July 02, 2012 by International Coach Federation

This post originally appeared at

My relationship to the world around me is primarily visual. Some of you will happily join me and note that you are inclined to see things rather than hear or touch them. We even use language like “I see.” as a response to a request or comment or explanation. That’s a clue or cue to how to best work with me.

We are all born with some sort of way to process the world around us. Small children touch, taste, test everything and watch big people … all of the time. When my grandchildren were very small they crawled and I crawled with them … a revelation regarding the world around me. I saw newly what I didn’t know I was seeing when a tiny little girl.

We all process information in all the usual basic ways: visual, kinesthetic, verbal, and auditory. I’m going to add: linear and non-linear, interpretation, meaning, recognition, empathy. It’s all fascinating and doesn’t begin to include personality, morality (ethics) and character. I learned by watching those I admired …visual learning once again.

What does this have to do with coaching? From my perspective, in coaching we don’t need to be complicated or complex … it’s suffices to know that individuals process information in the basic ways. A question can be asked in different ways if we know just this much about our client: “How might (do) you (see, feel, hear, verbalize) the situation?” “What does that mean to you?”

It’s truly important how we speak to our clients and connect to what works for them … the ICF the competency that recognizes this is called Direct Communication. Think about it. If I don’t pick up the clues as to how my client processes information and just push on with a story or recommend a book or expect a particular response … not much is going to happen except nice agreements and a friendly conversation … which is fine but it’s not powerful coaching.

We are now down to clues (the kinds discussed above, for starters). Clues (or cues) are the keys to exploration, discovery, forward progress, the euphemistic “going deeper,” awareness and creativity. Ignore the clues and stay painfully on the surface seeking information, agreement, and a nice experience, maybe even fun. Mostly, the focus of a coaching conversation where clues are missed will generally result in a client not being challenged or engaged in exploration and discovery. From whence might come an important action to take when nothing has been discovered?

The purpose of coaching is to partner with a client in exploring the heart of his/her agenda, to allow that client to discover something new and important, and then to work with that client in designing steps forward in order to act on that discovery and new learning. The client then does the “heavy lifting” while coach is there for support and appreciation.

Christine Martin
A high performance business and executive coach since 1992, Christine Martin, MA, MBA, BCC, MCC, is the Founder of Innovation Coaching, LLC and Innovation Coaching Canada, Inc. With over 8,000 hours of professional coaching as her background, she coaches high performance executives, outcome driven project managers, and professional coaches. From 2003-2010 she coached 300+ NASA leaders. Christine's contributions to the coaching profession include chairing the ICF global credentialing initiative and serving as an ICF Vice President. She has been an active ICF credentialing assessor since 2003. A graduate of the University of Southern California and Pepperdine University. Christine was a grad school professor from 1994 to 2005 when she moved from California to North Carolina and subsequently to Canada.

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