How Can Coaches Create Awareness For Coaching Clients?
By Chester Jackson
Without new awareness, we can get stuck due to our own constrained thinking of our beliefs about ourselves, others, or circumstances. The constraint often results in frustration, lack of meaningful growth, or getting suboptimal results. To help others reach their true potential, coaches can help their clients think differently about their obstacles or how they may be approaching those obstacles that are hindering their success.
Updated ICF Core Competency 7: Evokes Awareness
In the Updated ICF Core Competencies, Competency 7: Evokes awareness was updated by combining Powerful Questioning, Direct Communication, and Creating Awareness. Evoking awareness is about using your coaching skills to help facilitate your clients insights and learning to discover how they see themselves, their challenge, and how they explore beyond their current thinking. To evoke awareness, a coach helps the coachee explore what is possible if they challenge their own assumptions, feelings, beliefs, etc… ICF Core Competency: Evokes awareness is a client-focused competency and can spark a pivotal moment in their growth.
What is Awareness
Humans have a basic psychological need to belong in groups. To be connected to others. Susan Fowler refers to it as Relatedness. “…our need to care about and be cared about by others.”
We measure relatedness by using belonging cues. “Belonging cues are behaviors that create safe connection in groups” – Daniel Coyle. Awareness helps us tune into those belonging cues to know how we are connecting with others. When that connection is made, we benefit by viewing situations or circumstances rationally and use our connection to interact with others on a deeper level. Our awareness can often be clouded by our limiting beliefs and false assumptions that are created as we navigate through our crazy lives.
What Does it Mean, Evoking Awareness in Coaching?
For some, exploring the inner workings of their own mind takes courage. Challenging their own thoughts is hard enough and it can be even harder if someone else is with them. To help them reach that new awareness, coaches need to build connections with their clients. A connection that will foster trust between each other and engage in partnership to begin the hard work of creating new awarenesses.
Evoking Awareness means:
- Uncovering how they currently view themselves. This includes how they may feel about themselves, their values that drive their actions, and their purpose or vision they have for themselves
- Exploring beyond their current thinking about themselves. Expanding how they think or feel about themselves into something new.
- Exploring beyond their current thinking about their situation or challenge. Helping them see something new or a new way of thinking or feeling about their current situation.
- Exploring beyond their current thinking of the outcomes they have. Exploring how these new ways of thinking or feeling about themselves or their challenge may impact these outcomes. Helping them articulate what goals or outcomes may need to change.
Curious to get more coaching tips and insights?
How to Create Awareness in Coaching
“Until people can start to see their habitual ways of interpreting a situation, they can’t really step into a new awareness.” – Peter Senge.
Evoking awareness is relating what we desire to the obstacles to achieve those desires and then to the actions needed to move towards those desires. Actions can include changing how we think about ourselves, others or our situation or circumstance.
“Our view of the world becomes polarized into “good” and “bad”; to the first belonging those things that support the image of the self, to the second those that threaten it.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
We are good at lying to ourselves and we want to ignore any information that is counter to our current beliefs. Our ego, no matter how small or large it may be, wants to distort reality. It causes us to see the world through the lens of the ego. Our goal as coaches is to help the client temporarily remove the lens of the ego to see possible options with a new perspective.
“The Fact that people have stopped speaking does not mean they have stopped thinking” – Nancy Kline.
When we take a journey through our mind and attempt to evoke a new awareness, we need enough time to think. It is important that coaches know how to hold the space so that the hard work of thinking and discovery can take place. Silence is the coach’s best friend and as coaches, we must continually practice how to remain silent while they are thinking.
Let’s step through how coaches can help others move into a new awareness and incorporate that new awareness in pursuit of their outcomes.
Adjusts the coaching approach in response to the client’s needs
Our minds get enjoyment when we complete activities or accomplish goals. For example, completing assignments at work or remodeling a room in your house. Coaches sometimes push to complete a coaching conversation to experience this enjoyment but may miss opportunities to help their clients grow. As you are coaching others, have the courage to step away from your normal approach to coaching and respond in the moment to move with your client to that uncomfortable place of learning. No need to force the coaching conversation. Be with the client and act in the moment.
Helps the client identify factors that influence current and future patterns of behavior, thinking or emotion
Learning something new about yourself can be difficult for many and it can be even harder for us to integrate that learning back into how we think and act. When we coach others, it is important for our clients to be aware of the factors that are influencing their current thoughts about their challenge. Their identity, beliefs, values, capabilities, behaviors, or environment. Knowing these factors will help them generate ideas about what should change in order for them to move forward. A few questions you can ask; “What is motivating you to seek out a new career?”, “What will be the impact to you if you don’t get the job?”, or “How are you contributing to the dysfunction with your partner?”.
Invites the client to generate ideas about how they can move forward and what they are willing or able to do
Now that our clients are aware of what is influencing their thinking, feelings, and behaviors, we can use this new awareness and help them integrate back into the self. Asking questions around the factors that are influencing their current thought is a great way to help them link the old belief, the new awareness and the new action. If they identified their own behavior as a factor influencing their current thinking, asking “How does this new awareness impact what you are willing to do differently?”. We can help them to think about what they are willing to do to move closer to their goal.
Supports the client in reframing perspectives
When someone can genuinely step back and look at something from another perspective, an infinite number of possibilities can emerge. These perspectives can evoke new awareness for your client if they can embody the other person. Embody their emotions or their mannerisms. See if they can become the other person to truly see it from the other perspective. Questions you might ask are; “How would your manager describe you?” or “What does your partner need from you?”.
Shares observations, insights and feelings, without attachment, that have the potential to create new learning for the client
Observations are another powerful way to evoke awareness in our clients. We might notice patterns of thinking or behaviors. We might notice something they are not aware of. An example of an observation would be, “I notice when you talk about your team members, you become very rigid and your tone changes. What is happening for you when I share that?”. Offer it lightly and see what happens. This may create some insights for them.
Evoking a new awareness can help our clients make great leaps towards the reality they want for themselves. Taking a new perspective, identifying and removing limiting beliefs, and then using that new awareness to take a step forward in a direction that was previously thought to be impossible. Practice asking transformational questions and embracing the silence to create the space needed for others to think.
- Susan Fowler, Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…, 2014
- Daniel Coyle, The Culture Code, 2018
- Peter Senge, Presence, 2008
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, The Evolving Self
- Nancy Kline, Time To Think
- Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence. Why It Can Matter More Than IQ
- Adel Lynn and Janele Lynn, The Emotional Intelligence Activity Kit
- 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