How to Use Coaching Tools in Collaboration with Your Client
Adapt Tools to Ensure the Ideal Solution for Your Clients
What tools do you have in your coaching toolkit? There might be more than you thought.
As a coach, I have many tactics to help my coaching clients achieve their goals. These tactics, in essence, are the tools of my coaching practice. They might be physical tools, or they might be tools that help co-create a great coaching space.
Everything we do as coaches before, during and after the session is a tool, or tactic, chosen or unconsciously practised with the intent of helping the client.
One of the key tools all coaches use to co-create a relationship of trust is the coaching contract. This sets the scene for how we will work together and the degree of collaboration. And, it creates permission to apply tools of the coaching profession.
Offer + Acceptance = Contract
So, let’s explore how you might introduce coaching tools within the session. You might have seen a tool and think it would be fantastic to use with your client and wonder how to do this in the spirit of collaboration.
How might you introduce a coaching tool into a conversation given that you’re aiming for collaboration?
Coaching is a process of discovery for both you and your client. You could offer to work through a tool with your client by saying, "Having heard what you said, I have a tool that might help. This is what it is … How would you feel about exploring that?"
In this way, you are demonstrating direct communication with your client and partnering with them.
Insights, Reflections & Observations
These are also tools for you to use in your coaching sessions. The same approach can work for these as well. So long as you offer without attachment and remain curious about your client’s experience you can offer tools at any stage in the coaching conversation.
Be present with their energy, tone, and pace to understand whether they are experimenting with the tool because you’ve suggested it rather than because they’re curious. Allow the conversation to include a reflection space so your client can share their experience of the tools offered:
- How was it for them?
- What was their experience?
- What’s different/the same after using the tool?
- Has it helped? If so, how?
Everything we do as coaches is a tool to help the client. So long as we contract up front how we’ll work together, remain curious and offer without attachment, we are collaborating in service of the client.
How to Adapt Tools for Your Own Use
Coaching tools are a vehicle to enable clients to find their own solutions through exploration, self-awareness, and insight. Each client is different and a tool that helps one client might not help another and need tweaking to be helpful to different clients.
As coaches, we need to retain a curiosity around what helps the client and be resourceful and emergent with the way we adapt so that we can help.
Keep It Simple
One way of working in an adaptive way is to build on metaphors the client is using. For example, one client I worked with was developing a leadership coaching practice that used horses. During a session, we metaphorically brought the horse into the room and had a conversation. Allowing the horse to 'speak' brought humour to the session and provided an insight into the conversation that needed to place outside of the session with their client.
An alternative strategy is to use simple diagrams to categorise topics, e.g. the classic 4x4 box model where the client assigns the X and Y labels.
If in Doubt, Ask the Client
There's no harm in asking the client outright, "how might we adapt that tool to help you?" It could be that your client has had experience of tools that have worked well in the past, so ask them to bring these resources into the session.
Your ability to stay free from content and focus on process - how you will help your client today - will give you the greatest chance to help your client.
Often coaches feel naked in the coaching session. Supporting your client in giving themselves permission to sit with this state of 'not knowing' is a tool in itself. This helps to create a deeper level of the coaching session.
Seeing the picture from a different perspective changes the view and shifts the thinking.
Embrace a Beginner's Mind
How you co-create your coaching relationship sets the tone for creativity in how you work together. Contrast around experimentation and exploration as well as outcomes.
By working together in the spirit of curiosity, space to think and deep presence, there are no right or wrong tools. Only tools that help your client.