Collecting learnings during a coaching session

Section D of the updated ICF core competencies is titled: “Cultivating Learning and Growth” and the related competency is named “8. Facilitates Learning and Growth”. The fact that this is the last section of the core competencies sometimes makes people think that “Learning and Growth” only happens at the end of a coaching session when coach and client are talking about what the client has learnt in the session and what he or she wants to carry forward, experiment with, take on as action points.

This view, however, is really limiting! In the best case, learning and growth happens all the time: before a session, in the beginning of a session, during the session, at the end of a session and after the session. If the coach is aware that learning and growth happen throughout the coaching relationship, he or she can help the client pay attention to his or her own development and thereby strengthen it: Notice useful change and amplify it (a quote attributed to Gregory Bateson). Here is what you can do to help the client collect their learnings and changes — and not forget them like the squirrel.

Before a session

Ask the client whether they want to spend some time talking about what has been better since the last time you spoke:

  • What’s been better (if anything)?
  • What did you contribute to that?
  • What did you learn from this experiment?
  • Even if it went wrong: what are you taking from this?

In the beginning of a session

Don’t run with the first thing the client says they want — explore a bit and harvest those insights:

  • Suppose you have what you want — what difference will it make to your life?
  • What is important to you about this?
  • What do you already know?
  • What is the difference you are looking to make today?

During a session

Whenever you observe the client have an “AHA-moment”, an insight, an idea, anything forward moving — notice it and let the client know that you noticed (obviously not interpreting but asking the client):

  • Wow, that seems like something new, is it?
  • I see a big smile on your face — is that a new thought emerging?
  • I just heard you say you want to try …. how would you like to remember this? Write it down? …

At the end of a session

Ask the client for their learnings at the who, what and how level:

  • How will you notice that you are making progress? What will others notice…?
  • What would you like to experiment with?
  • Is there anything you learnt about yourself in today’s session? If yes, what?
  • Is there anything in how you were thinking about this topic today that was so useful that you want to make note of it for future situations that are similar to this one?

After a session

Help the client to build a useful system to hold themselves accountable:

  • What do you know about yourself, are you someone who simply goes and does what he or she planned or would you like us to think a bit about accountability?
  • How confident are you that you….? What would make you even more confident?
  • How will you remind yourself?
  • If you forget, have a glitch… how will you get yourself back on track.

I hope this little piece helped you be even more aware of the changes that we can notice and amplify throughout the whole coaching process. If you would like to discuss things like this or experiment, why not join one of our free coaching meetup and exchange sessions here:

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