The Key to Designing Actions in Coaching
By Lucia Baldelli, MCC
Designing Actions is the ability to generate opportunities for ongoing learning in partnership with the client. It focuses on generating options, considering possibilities, making choices and then designing an action plan that will move our client forward. Designing Actions is the eighth Core Competency Cultivating Learning and Growth of the International Coaching Federation.
ICF Core Competencies: The Key Principles of Coaching
Designing actions is an essential part of ICF Core Competency 8, Cultivating Learning and Growth.
ICF Core Competencies have been developed “to support greater understanding about the skills and approaches used within today’s coaching profession”, as described by the ICF.
ICF defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”. Core Competencies support the definition of coaching and serve as the foundation of the ICF credential process. The ICF knowledge assessment (CKA), part of the process, is based on them. Cultivating Learning and Growth is the last of the Core Competencies and it is about partnering with the client and using the insights that emerged during the session to design meaningful action.
Designing Actions: part of the ICF Core Competency Cultivating Learning and Growth
The ICF describes how the coach facilitates learning and growth by partnering “with the client to transform learning and insight into action” and promoting “client autonomy in the coaching process”. These two elements are essential to bring this Core Competency to life: on one side we are leveraging the new awareness that has emerged during the coaching process and on the other we are helping the client to create self-sustainable change. This Core Competency is about forward movement: they will cross the finish line after the session and we are supporting them to create a plan that is feasible, realistic and based on concrete steps towards their success.
I have noticed that many coaches move to designing actions quite quickly, sometimes right after brainstorming options or when the first insight comes. Checking in during a coaching session is a great way to agree if they have what they need to think about next steps. Maybe they need to go deeper. Maybe they need to sit with the insight that has just emerged before they move on. We need to ask them.
We leverage our skills to help them reflect before they act: active listening, powerful questions, metaphors, direct communication. We help them explore the situation considering different perspectives and explore options. Only when they reach a deeper level of awareness, we can ask what they want to do with it!
Often our clients might get lost in tactical steps. By inviting them to zoom out and see the bigger picture, we can help them understand the connection between basic tasks and long-term goals. This can make their strategy more effective and achievable.
Action is important in coaching because it is through action that individuals can create tangible results and make progress toward their goals. While coaching involves providing guidance, support, and insights, it ultimately aims to facilitate personal growth and development.
Without action, coaching remains purely theoretical and lacks the transformative power needed to bring about meaningful change. If they don’t take action, they will never take that first step towards achieving their goals. Focusing on action in coaching is about finding the courage together, so that they can take that first step that they maybe have been procrastinating because it felt so hard.
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Designing Actions For a Successful Coaching Session
The Updated ICF PCC markers describe how we can learn to create opportunities for ongoing client learning and achieving results.
- “8.1: Coach invites or allows the client to explore progress toward what the client wanted to accomplish in this session.” – checking in gives us feedback about how we are progressing towards achieving the session goal
- “8.2: Coach invites client to state or explore the client’s learning in this session about themself (the who).” – we invite them to reflect on what shifted in their way of thinking about themselves during the session
- “8.3: Coach invites the client to state or explore the client’s learning in this session about their situation (the what).” – we invite them to reflect on the insights emerged about their situation
- “8.4: Coach invites the client to consider how they will use new learning from this coaching session.” – we ask them to reflect how those insights can be leveraged to succeed
- “8.5: Coach partners with the client to design post-session thinking, reflection or action.” – we ecourage the client to design an action plan with meaningful as well as realistic next steps
- “8.6: Coach partners with the client to consider how to move forward, including resources, support or potential barriers.” – we invite them to reflect on what could get in the way of succeeding and what resources or support they need
- “8.7: Coach partners with the client to design the best methods of accountability for themselves.” – we ask them to reflect on how they will keep themselves motivated
- “8.8: Coach celebrates the client’s progress and learning.” – we acknowledge and celebrate who they have become during the coaching process
- “8.9: Coach partners with the client on how they want to complete this session.” – we invite them to share if they feel complete on their topic and if it is a good time to wrap up the session.
When We Do Not Need To Design Actions
Our client might have incredible shifts at times. Their energy boosts. They know exactly what to do. You feel it and, if you ask them, they confirm. When this happens, their motivation is enough to move them forward and talking about actions might be redundant. Maybe we are done. If we are recording for our ICF credential, we still need to demonstrate the competency. Otherwise I just ask if there is anything else we need to discuss in the time we have.
- The Five Components of Coaching, by Lucia Baldelli
- How to end a coaching session, by Lucia Baldelli
- Building trust in a coaching relationship, by Karen Bruns
- Evoking awareness in coaching by Chester Jackson
- Silence in coaching: a powerful tool, by Lucia Baldelli
- Check In in coaching, by Lucia Baldelli
- Curiosity in coaching, by Karen Bruns
- What does partnership mean in coaching, by Lucia Baldelli
- Coaching mindset: definition and how to embody it, by Chester Jackson and Raquel Silva
- The Arc of a Coaching Conversation: Fundamental Steps for a Successful Session, by Chester Jackson
- Establishing the Coaching Agreement, by Lucia Baldelli
- Direct Communication in Coaching: An Essential Core Competency, by Karen Bruns
- Emotional Intelligence and Coaching: the importance for effective practice, by Raquel Silva
- Reflective Inquiry in Coaching, by Karen Bruns
- The 3 Levels of Listening, by Karen Bruns