Powerful Coaching questions


It seems axiomatic that as Coaches we need to ask powerful questions that really stretch clients and get them to self-reflect and take responsibility for follow through. At a recent Coaching Learning set, Coaches were asking about “really good questions” in their coaching practice as well as the capacity for deep listening and reflection skills. I am a bit ambivalent in a way about the idea of “killer questions” or great questions as so much of coaching work is situational: you need to be able to react in the moment with the client. However, some forward thinking and reflection on how we use questions as a Coach is probably a good thing to do and to think about before a session.

Its also important to reflect on what we do with client’s responses; that is, how we go about really listening to what they have said. I have written an in-depth article on effective listening, that covers things like Scharmer’s 4 types of listening (from downloading through to generative listening) along with the complex skill of reflecting and paraphrasing back to the client at periodic intervals: this offers a synthesis of what they have said to prove understanding and give them the chance to hear back what they have articulated.

My personal favourite questions are ones like scale questions (to test out willingness to change/follow through and often on a scale of 1-10), the “can you tell me more about that?” that opens the clients experience up more, “what was the most helpful thing from today?” and “what would you like me to do differently” questions at the end of a session and “what would a good friend say to you?” about a challenge. The ability to use silence is also important as it gives people the chance to process the discussion, and generate new ideas.

Here are a few different types of questions and approaches:

1.    Coaching with metaphor questions

I’m a big fan of using metaphors in coaching, as long as the client is open to this approach and likes using images and metaphors. The article written by Angela Dunbar on coaching with metaphor is a good read. As a tool for coaching, the client’s metaphors give you an insight into their unique perception of their situation and their goals. When the client tells you that they can “see light at the end of the tunnel”, that is what they are experiencing. There is light for them, and they are in a tunnel.

With practice, the flow of questions can come very naturally. As an example, for the client who sees light at the end of the tunnel, you might ask: “And when you see light at the end of the tunnel, what would you like to have happen?” It might sound obvious to ask this, but we are all unique and some people may be afraid of the light, be happy to stay in the tunnel, or want to turn around and go the other way. Never assume you know what the client may want. The client could answer with: “I want to get out of the tunnel and be in the light” OK, it’s a clear goal. Stay with it and find out more about the outcome. Let the client get a real sense of how it would be to achieve their outcome.

“And when you get out of the tunnel, and you can be in the light, is there anything else about that light? “They may tell you it’s warm, or bright or whatever. They are developing their sense of what it would be like. “And when you can be in the light, what kind of ‘you’ is that ‘you’?” The descriptions they give may highlight other metaphors or feelings, which you can continue to explore.

“I feel relieved, like a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders”. “What kind of lifted is that lifted?” or “When you feel relieved, whereabouts do you feel relieved?” (all feelings have a location somewhere, within or for some, even just outside their bodies) or “What kind of weight is that weight?”

Once the outcome has been really explored, generally you will be able to see/sense/notice that the client is ‘connected’ to a change the metaphor question has helped to prompt.


2.    A useful sequence of questions in coaching

A sequence of questions are typically situation specific, but there are times where it’s useful to think about related questions that help move the client forward, such as:

  • What’s the issue?
    • What makes it important NOW?
    • How important is it on a 1-10 scale?
    • How much energy do you have for a solution on a scale of 1-10?
    • Who owns the issue?
    • What have you tried already?
    • In an ideal world what would be happening around this issue? How would you know that it had been resolved?
    • What’s standing in the way of that ideal outcome?
    • What’s going right here – even if it’s only a bit?
    • Imagine you are at your most resourceful, what do you say to yourself about this issue?
    • What are the options for action here?
    • What criteria will you use to judge the options?
    • Which option seems the best one against those criteria?
    • So, what’s the next step?
    • When will you take it?
    • What will get in the way of you taking it?
    • So, when will you take it?


3.    The good old GROW model!

I know it seems a bit old hat these days to go back to the simplicity of the “GROW” model, but there are still useful sequential elements to working through the different stages of the model and the type of questions in each of them, such as:

Goals –

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What will that enable you to do, that you can’t do today?
  • What are the expectations of others?
  • Who else needs to know about the plan? How will you inform them?

Reality –

  • What is the reality of the current situation?
  • What’s stopped you reaching this goal already?
  • What are the real barriers and what are the assumptions?
  • Do you know anyone who has achieved this goal?
  • What can you learn from them?

Options –

  • What are the options for you in this situation?
  • What could you do as a first step?
  • What else could you do?
  • What would happen if you did nothing?

Will –

  • Where does this goal fit in with your personal priorities at the moment?
  • What obstacles do you expect to meet? How will you overcome them?
  • How committed are you to this goal? 1(not at all) – 10 (100% motivated)?
  • What steps do you need to take to achieve this?


4. Questions for clients with different challenges

I think these sorts of questions come into play when working with clients with specific challenges. One of the approaches I often use when working with clients thinking about career change are around reviewing their career to date, and what learning they have gained about positive and challenging experiences:

  • Have you focussed work in any particular sectors, or in a particular area of work? If so, does this feel like a positive or a negative?
  • How much of the work has been managerial, and/or project focussed without supervision? Have you enjoyed this aspect?
  • Are there any themes that emerge for you in “pressing the rewind button” that you can use as threads for looking forward to your next career move (e.g. autonomy, working in a team)?
  • What is your overriding feeling about your career to date and the direction it has taken?

Another area which is potentially a bit more contentious in the field of coaching might be where you are working with a client who has self-confidence issues. Some of this could potentially relate to their early year development. As a Coach you might use the “autobiography” approach to understand the historical context of the lack of confidence; where it originated. Relationships with authority figures and peers evolve from our relationships with our parents and parent-figures such as Teachers. This is a key aspect of relationships at work-it will have a fundamental effect on approaches to work and a Coach may need to have some glimmering of understanding about this as the client sees it.

You will not need to ask all these questions, but these are some useful ones.There is always the warning in the autobiography approach that coaching isn’t psychotherapy and shouldn’t dwell too long on the past:

  • What was your place in the family; birth order?
  • What effect has your birth order had on you: e.g. the experience of being an only child?
  • How did you feel about school?
  • How do you get on with your siblings?
  • What effect has marriage/partners relationships had on your life?
  • (For clients with children) what has the experience of being a parent done?
  • What did the experiences of higher education do for you?
  • How did you make your career choices? What helped you decide to move on from earlier jobs?
  • What themes and patterns do you see emerging from the story as you have told it? What are the links to Coaching we will be doing? (not all clients see links; if so that’s fine, just move on)

5. Solutions based coaching questions

Solutions focused questions can be a really effective way of moving a client towards a solution rather than dwelling on the issue or the causes of the problem, and sometimes a client can reach a solution in a very short period of time if you take this approach.

Here are some examples comparing problem focused questions with their solutions focused alternatives:

Problem focused: What is the problem?
Solutions focused: What would you like to achieve from this session?

Problem focused: What is hindering you?
Solutions Focused: What progress have you made so far?

Problem focused: How long have you been experiencing difficulties?
Solutions focused: When in the past have you achieved a positive outcome?



There are a multitude of questions that can be used in coaching, and these are just a few examples. Ultimately it feels important to stay curious as a Coach, and know that powerful questions do help clients connect to what they are feeling and move them towards resolution.

I’m not sure there are any magic questions (although this Coaching questions suggests there is!), but it always helps to think about what questions you might ask a client before the session, in the session itself, or reflecting after the session thinking about the next one to come.

Effective listening skills

Is there anybody… out there?: the importance of effective listening


I find it amazing in the modern world, where we have developed so far in technology, our understanding of history, and our sophisticated approach to communication and modern approaches to learning, that so many people still appear not to know how to listen well. Think about the last 2 or 3 social engagements you have been to, and whether you felt listened to, or even the last 1-1 with a friend or colleague. Depending on the study being quoted, we remember a dismal 25-50% of what we hear. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers or spouse for 10 minutes, they only really hear 2½-5 minutes of the conversation!

Its interesting to reflect on whether listening is an intuitive skill, or something you can learn. I believe there is an element of both, but even if you aren’t a good natural listener, you can train yourself. The ability to hear is typically innate, but the ability to listen well is a skill that needs to be developed and practiced. Listening means paying attention and making a conscious effort to process what you hear. It is one of our most important skills and it is also one of the most overlooked. We often take our ability to listen for granted, even knowing that it plays a major role in good communication.

Nature has given us one tongue and two ears: the first ear is so we may listen to what the speaker says, and the other ear to listen to how the speaker says it.” Epicatus. 

Road blocks to listening

It’s true that there are several blocks to good listening, that we can all look at and acknowledge we are guilty of at times, perhaps when we are anxious, tired, or even that the person we are “listening” to is well…boring and long winded!

  • Comparing: “when that happened to me”
  • Mind reading: trying to guess what the other person is really thinking or feeling
  • Rehearsing: what you will say next
  • Judging: you don’t really listen because you have already made up your mind
  • Dreaming: only half listening because something that they have said triggers a memory for you
  • Advising: you are the great problem solver, searching for the solution to their problems
  • Derailing: changing the subject and taking the conversation off in another direction
  • Being right: you cannot hear the criticism, if someone is feeding something back to you that you don’t like. If you cannot admit mistakes, you cannot change…

Most people have some aware of the classic communication research carried out by Professor Mehrabian that 55% of communication is non verbal (your body language, gestures, expressions, how you stand or sit), 38% is vocal (tone and pitch of your voice, speed at which you speak), and only 7% verbal (the words you use).

The value of Mehrabian’s theory relates to communications where emotional content is significant, and the need to understand it properly is great. This is often applicable in management and business, where motivation and attitude have a crucial effect on outcomes, but also has wider application for all our approaches to listening, and being able to pick up cues (and “clues”!) from the speaker.

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” Ernest Hemingway


A listening theory

There are some really interesting ideas on listening from Otto Scharmer in his new book “Theory U; leading from the future as it emerges”. He describes 4 types of listening:

Listening 1: Downloading

“Yeah, I know that already.” He calls this type of listening “downloading”—listening by reconfirming habitual judgments. When you are in a situation where everything that happens confirms what you already know, you are listening by downloading.

Listening 2: Factual

“Ooh, look at that!” This type of listening is factual or object-focused: listening by paying attention to facts and to novel or disconfirming data. You focus on what differs from what you already know. Factual listening is the basic mode of good science. You let the data talk to you. You ask questions, and you pay careful attention to the responses you get.

Listening 3: Empathic

“Oh, yes, I know exactly how you feel.” This deeper level of listening is empathic listening. When we are engaged in real dialogue and paying careful attention, we can become aware of a profound shift in the place from which our listening originates. Sometimes, when we say “I know how you feel,” our emphasis is on a kind of mental or abstract knowing. But to really feel how another feels, we have to have an open heart. Only an open heart gives us the empathic capacity to connect directly with another person from within. When that happens, we feel a profound switch as we enter a new territory in the relationship; we forget about our own agenda and begin to see how the world appears through someone else’s eyes.

Listening 4: Generative

“I can’t express what I experience in words. My whole being has slowed down. I feel more quiet and present and more my real self. I am connected to something larger than myself.” This type of listening moves beyond the current field and connects us to an even deeper realm of emergence. He calls this level of listening “generative listening,” or listening from the emerging field of future possibility. This level of listening requires us to access not only our open heart, but also our open will: our capacity to connect to the highest future

Scharmer’s premise is that whilst there is usefulness in all 4 levels, that when you choose to listen from Level 3, empathetic listening, that your perspective is redirected to seeing the situation through the eyes of another, and Level 4 (generative listening) you realise that by the end of the conversation you are no longer the same person you were when it began. This may be an extreme aspiration, but why not? Occasionally, I have felt this both as a talker being listened to and grappling with something close to my heart and as a Coach listening to clients, and in some strange way, conscious of it happening at the time.

The bottom line is that listening is hard work! This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, to try and understand the total message being sent: you make a point of finding out what people think rather than making assumptions.  However, it’s also often true that people who’ve listened first tend to get listened to, when they speak.

 “An essential part of true listening is the discipline of setting aside ones own prejudices, frames of reference and desires, so as to experience the speakers world from the inside” Scott Peck

Following are some keys to listening well:

1. Give 100% Attention

Prove you care by suspending all other activities.

2. Respond

Responses can be both verbal and nonverbal (nods, expressing interest) but must prove you received the message, and more importantly, prove it had an impact on you. Speak at approximately the same energy level as the other person…then they’ll know they really got through and don’t have to keep repeating.

3. Prove understanding

To say “I understand” is not enough. People need some sort of evidence or proof of understanding. Prove your understanding by occasionally restating the gist of their idea or by asking a question which proves you know the main idea. The important point is not to repeat what they’ve said to prove you were listening, but to prove you understand. The difference in these two intentions transmits remarkably different messages when you are communicating.

4. Prove respect

Prove you take other views seriously. It seldom helps to tell people, “I appreciate your position” or “I know how you feel.” You have to prove it by being willing to communicate with others at their level of understanding and attitude. We do this naturally by adjusting our tone of vice, rate of speech and choice of words to show that we are trying to imagine being where they are at the moment.

Listening to and acknowledging other people may seem deceptively simple, but doing it well, particularly when disagreements arise, takes a combination of true talent, discipline and effort. As with any skill, listening well takes plenty of practice. It would be wonderful if more of the message of the usefulness and power of good listening could be spread…

How good a listener are you?

An interesting exercise called PERSONAL LISTENING HABITS ASSESSMENT here that you can complete, and talk through with someone to reflect on your listening skills, what you do well, and what you could improve.

Framing and re-framing

I came across this article at a site called IQ Matrix and thought it provided a good overview of the principles of framing and re-framing.

Framing is a mental structure that is built upon the beliefs you have about yourself, your roles, your circumstances, and about other people. It is a structure you use to ascribe meaning to given circumstances. In other words, the meaning you ascribe to any event is dependent upon how you frame it in your mind. As such, your frames shape how you see the world, how you see yourself, how you view others, and how you interpret your life.

Frames can be of a positive or of a negative nature; they can also be within your control or out of your control. As such, they are either helpful within the context you are using them, or they are unhelpful. They either expand your opportunities and the possibilities of the situation, or they limit your options moving forward. They are therefore appropriate or inappropriate, good or bad depending on the objectives you have in mind.

When you decide to work on a project you set a scope or frame for that project so that everyone knows what is included and excluded. Everyone understands what is required to get the job done successfully and what they, therefore, need to focus on in order to get their part of the project completed. In the same way, the frames you use on a daily basis provide a context for your thoughts, decisions, attitudes, and actions. They help guide the direction of your thoughts to help you accomplish your desired outcomes. Thus, your actions are guided by how you frame events and circumstances; and how you frame things is dependent upon your preferences, attitudes, and biases.

You will for instance use frames to handle feedback and criticism. You will use them to solve problems, to get a better understanding of the long-term consequences of your decisions and actions, to connect unrelated events and circumstances, and to make more sense of the world you live in. These frames allow you to gather unique understandings of your life experiences. And it is these understandings that shape what you will do and how you will do things moving forward.

The frames of reference you use collaborate with your beliefs and values. You will, therefore, frame things in a certain way that corresponds with what you believe and value most in life — irrelevant of whether your beliefs are helpful or unhelpful. This basically means that every frame you make is linked to an underlying belief and/or assumption that is implied by your thoughts. In this way, your frames provide you with a context in which you can assess your progress. This is helpful, but at the same time can be unhelpful. It is helpful because it allows you to unlock new opportunities and explore other possibilities that might be advantageous. However, it is unhelpful if your frames are built upon your limiting belief systems. In such instances — and without much objective thought — you might unconsciously be setting boundaries and putting limitations on yourself regarding what you can or can’t do; and this, therefore, limits your perspective, opportunities and the possibilities that lay before you.

There is, however, a positive intention behind all your thoughts. Therefore all the frames of reference you use are there to help you in some way, or at least in some specific context. This, of course, doesn’t mean that these thoughts are right or that they are acceptable, however, it does mean that they have some value, and therefore can be used in a positive way. But more about that later.

Given all this, it makes perfect sense that your frames of reference would provide you with a “focus” on your day-to-day activities. These activities will either support your goals, or they will hinder your progress. It will all depend on the belief systems that are influencing your behaviors, thoughts, decisions, perceptions, and emotions. If these beliefs are helpful, then you have nothing to worry about. However, if they are unhelpful then you will struggle to realize your desired outcomes.

What is Re-framing and How Does it Work?

Re-framing is a linguistic tool used to consciously change your limiting frames to help support your desired goals, beliefs and behaviors. Reframing does this by interrupting your old unhelpful thought patterns with new interpretations and perspectives of reality that are more helpful and supportive of your desired objectives. In other words, re-framing helps you put events and circumstances into a different context that is more favorable. It’s as if you’re changing the meaning of an event or experience in order to put yourself into a more positive and resourceful state-of-mind. Therefore instead of sabotaging yourself, you are adopting more useful ways of thinking and doing things that will help you to potentially overcome your personal limitations, boundaries, phobias, fears and even trauma.

Re-framing is very much like changing a picture in a picture frame. The frame hasn’t changed, however, the picture within the frame is no different. In other words, the situation hasn’t changed, however, your view of the situation is now different then what it was before. You are therefore not changing the situation, but rather changing your view of the situation in a more helpful and optimal way.

What all this implies is that events and circumstances do not have inherent meaning. You rather assign meaning to events and circumstances based on your interpretations and perspectives. Therefore, no matter what horrible things might happen to you, they are only horrible because you interpret them that way. Interpreting things another way will assign a different meaning to these events and circumstances. And as you assign a different meaning to something, you perceive the situation in a different light, and as a result, you feel differently about it. Therefore a negative event can be interpreted in a positive way, and instead of feeling bad about it, you end up feeling excited and inspired.

When you change the frame of your experience, this influences how you tend to perceive, interpret and react to events and circumstances. In other words, reframing helps you experience your actions and the impact of your attitudes and beliefs in a different way. It helps you experience things from a different perspective or frame of reference that can be more advantageous and helpful. As such, you become more resourceful and can, therefore, make better and more optimal decisions moving forward.

Re-framing isn’t a new way of thinking, however, it can promote a better way of thinking in various circumstances where you need a different frame of reference to help you overcome your problems in creative ways. As a matter a fact, re-framing is a significant part of life. Whether you unconsciously re-frame things, or you hear other people re-frame things, it is undoubtedly something that affects you on a daily basis. For instance, you might hear a journalist put a negative spin on something positive in order to get the story on the front page of a newspaper. Or you hear a comedian take you from one frame of reference to another frame of reference while telling a joke. Or an inventor takes something ordinary and turns it into something useful. These “re-frames” are all around us; they are all around you.

Even though many re-frames often put a positive spin on things, it’s important to note that re-framing isn’t about pretending that everything is wonderful, perfect and positive. It’s rather about providing you with more varied ways of interpreting your problems to help you expand the possibilities to find better solutions and paths moving forward.

How to Re-frame Your Thoughts

When confronted with a limiting state-of-mind, a behavior, or a problem, use the following process to help you re-frame your circumstances, thereby putting yourself in a more resourceful, empowering and helpful frame-of-mind.

Step 1: Identify the Problem

Your first step is to identify the problem, state or limiting behavior that you are having difficulty with. Ask yourself:

  • What problem am I facing?
  • What unhelpful behavior am I indulging in?
  • What limiting state-of-mind am I experiencing?

As you ask yourself these questions, keep in mind all the negative thoughts that are currently occupying the space between your ears. These thoughts can come in the form of limiting questions you ask yourself, pessimistic self-talk, and might even manifest as uncomfortable feelings.

Your thoughts will provide you with insights as to how you tend to frame your circumstances. These frames are the things that are limiting your perspective of the situation, the behavior, or the state-of-mind. These are the frames that must be successfully “reframed” in more optimal and helpful ways that support the goals and objectives you are wanting to achieve.

Step 2: Challenge Your Assumptions

When you frame things a certain way, you are at that moment making assumptions about things. And as you know, assumptions are only your personal opinions and perspectives. However, they can also most certainly be linked to your limiting beliefs. Either way they have no basis in reality, otherwise, they would be called “facts”.

Your next step is therefore to challenge the assumptions you are making. You must pose questions that will help disprove these assumptions and beliefs. You can do this by asking yourself:

  • What is valuable and useful about this assumption I am making?
  • What is useful about how I’m currently framing things?
  • What is unhelpful about the assumption I am making?
  • What is unhelpful about the way I’m framing things?
  • Is there any evidence that goes against this assumption?
  • Am I using any rules that could be challenged?
  • How else could I interpret this experience?
  • What else could this possibly mean? How could that be helpful?

At the conclusion of this questioning process, you should have built up enough of a case against the assumptions and frames you are making. As such, you are now ready to begin re-framing things in ways that will help you to overcome this problem successfully.

Step 3: Re-frame Your Circumstances

Your objective here is to focus on different methods of thinking about the problem. And this basically comes down to your ability to re-frame things in certain ways that will help you achieve your desired outcomes.

Here are some re-framing questions you might like to ask yourself:

  • Is this really a problem, or is it a problem because of the way I feel about this situation?
  • How would I deal with this situation if I were a scientist? Lawyer? Child? Man? Woman? Harry Potter?
  • What would someone I admire do in this situation?
  • What if this problem was part of a cartoon? How would the cartoon characters solve this problem?
  • How would I approach this situation if I only had a day to solve it? How about an hour? How about a minute?
  • What is the opposite to this problem? How is this of value?
  • What would other people do in my situation to help resolve this problem?
  • What advice would I give someone else who is experiencing this problem?
  • What would I do right now if I knew I couldn’t fail?
  • What is funny about this problem that I hadn’t noticed before?
  • What if I knew what to do right now? What would I do? What’s the best way to accomplish this?

These are all typical questions you can ask yourself that will help you to re-frame the situation you are working through. Some of these questions will be more applicable to some situations and may not be relevant in other situations. You must, therefore, pick and choose which questions are most helpful to help you shift your perspective about the problem you are facing.

Step 4: Test the Reframe

Now, have a think about your new behavior/approach/perspective and complete the following statements:

  • [new perspective] allows me to…
  • [new perspective] provides me…
  • [new perspective] helps me to…

If the re-framing process worked, then you shouldn’t have any trouble completing these statements. Moreover, these statements should provide you with the impetus you need to make positive changes in your life and circumstances.

This process can work well if you make it a part of your life. It might, of course, take some practice and a little effort at first, but eventually re-framing will hopefully become a habit that you use unconsciously throughout the day. However, if at any time you do end up struggling with this process, then try and remind yourself that…

It’s not what happens to me that matters, it’s rather how I interpret things and how I decide to act on those interpretations that makes all the difference in the end.


Coaching Exercise

I have put the main 4 steps into a COACHING RE-FRAMING EXERCISE where you go through each step, ask the questions and make notes

Character Strengths

I am indebted for this article to Peter Kershaw, one of my Coaching friends and colleagues on our Coaching network who ran a brilliant session on using character strengths, and has allowed me to reproduce the background information:

Background to character strengths

Historically, most psychology research has been about studying what is wrong with us; what makes us ‘abnormal’. Positive Psychology focuses on what makes people be more than just free of ‘abnormalities’ but to actually thrive. This is an exciting area of psychology.

The founder is Martin Seligman. His research was based on many different, religions, cultures and philosophies throughout history and around the world. He discovered many commonalities. From this he found six core Virtues and from these we find twenty four character strengths that have been shown to help us thrive and be the best people we can.

Core Virtues

Courage : Character Strengths Bravery, Perseverance, Honesty, Zest

Humanity : Character StrengthsLove, Kindness, Social Intelligence

Transcendence : Character Strengths Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence, Gratitude, Hope, Humour, Spirituality

Temperance : Character Strengths Self Regulation, Prudence, Humility, Forgiveness

Justice: Character Strengths  – Leadership, Fairness, Teamwork,

Wisdom & Knowledge : Character Strengths  Perspective, Love of Learning, Judgement, Curiosity, Creativity

When we use our strengths, we can achieve more and enjoy a greater sense of wellbeing. Rather than taking a Pollyanna view of life, Positive Psychology acknowledges that individuals and teams may have very serious difficulties. To overcome these difficulties utilising our character strengths can be a way of bringing about sustained and workable change as quickly as possible. Working with character strengths can help both individuals and teams both overcome difficulties and achieve aspirations.

Using the character strengths

The VIA questionnaire is a good place to start. There is both an adult and child version. You will need to register on the site to access the questionnaire by clicking here.

It takes around 20-25 minutes to complete and get your summary report, but well worth the investment of time.

If an individual has completed the VIA, it is tempting to then go straight to how those character strengths can be applied to what the client would like to achieve from coaching.

The recommended protocol is as follows:-

AWARE –  The individual needs to first of all be aware of what his or her top character strengths are. One would initially work with the top three to five strengths. How does they feel about the top strengths listed as a result of the survey? Sometimes a client will be pleased.  Other times, they might feel that other strengths should be up there. Sometimes, there will be a sense of ‘Strengths blindness’

One might suggest to the client that colleagues or friends pick from the 24 character strengths ones that they notice most. This might form part of a 360 feedback within a team.

EXPLORE – At this stage, one can see where the client or team is currently using the strengths. If the client thinks of examples, then one might ask them to think of a time that they were at their best. From there, one can see how the strengths are currently being used.

APPLY –  How can one or more of the top character strengths be used to either address an issue or move the person closer to their goal? How can a character strength be used in a new way?

Character strengths can be overused as well as under used. For example Curiosity can turn into nosiness.

Gratitude is one of the most powerful strengths to work with.

Character strengths most associated with CEOs are love of learning and curiosity.

Mindfulness of Character Strengths

When working with an individual or team, one can blend mindfulness with Character Strengths. You might already encouraging clients to be mindful in their actions and speech. in addition, one can encourage a client to be mindful of which strengths are being used in a given situation.

A client may ask him or herself ‘which strengths am I using now?  Alternatively, ‘which character strength could I use in this situation?’

It might be helpful for a client to set their ‘phone to ping say every hour. This serves as a reminder to the client to notice which strength they are using in that particular moment. Over a period of time a pattern will be seen.

In addition, it can be really helpful to encourage individuals to spot and appreciate character strengths in others. This might help with conflict resolution or team building.

If everybody on a team completed the VIA, then one might discover enough commonalities to establish team strengths.  This could be used a tool to develop purpose, meaning and direction for the whole team. This approach might lead to more intrinsic motivation than simply imposing the organisation’s own prescribed set of values. At the same time, the team’s values and strengths can (hopefully) sit comfortably with the company values.

Example of using character strengths to achieve a goal:-

  • Envision one goal you would like to attain. Use your hope strength to envision something that links with your interests and values. (Intrinsic motivation)
  • Make the goal SMART. Use your prudence strength to plan it out thoroughly across these five elements.
  • Weave in character strengths seamlessly. How will your signature strengths serve as a means to help you achieve your goal? Might other character strengths support you as pathways to your goal as well?
  • Begin to take action towards your goal. How will perseverance support you in overcoming obstacles and staying focused on your goal ahead?
  •  Enlist support. Might you include family, friends, colleagues to maintain your goal progress? This could involve deploying your strengths of teamwork, curiosity and love.








My Coaching journey

My Coaching journey

The idea of this article came from talking to a good Coaching friend Annie Kimblin about the idea of writing a coaching book. We have got to a place where the book idea is in gestation and may or may not happen in the future. In the meantime, one of the areas we both had a particular interest in was reflecting on our Coaching journeys, how and why we have ended up as Coaches and how we can be the best we can possibly be in our work.

Professional background; a roundabout journey…

I talked to someone recently who had spent 35 years of their working life at Sainsbury’s and took me back to the early 1980s when I started out in my career. I started at Sainsbury’s as a raw and green Graduate Trainee after University not really having much of a clue as to what I wanted to do. Whilst its wasn’t for me as a company, I learnt about organisation skills, managing people, not to mention sheer hard work and a long hour’s culture. So much so that the next 2 years I spent traveling around the world, working in USA, New Zealand and Australia! I came back and did project management and marketing roles for British Telecom and Allied Dunbar, and then towards the end of my twenties, went into working in the voluntary sector, and a spell teaching in Further and Higher Education. Reflecting back, it’s what I would call an emergent approach, knowing that I liked working with and supporting people, but unsure where best these skills could be utilised.

After the hopping around in my twenties, my thirties brought some more focus, working in health promotion in the NHS at national and local level for a few years, until I joined a “Training and Enterprise Council” (TECs as they were known) to support all sorts of organisations through a national standard of good practice in developing people. I did this for the best part of 7 years as an Executive, Manager and ultimately Operations Director. On reflection it’s when things started to click for me, and I found at least the ball park area of work I wanted to work in; supporting people to become the best they can be but probably supporting people from outside an organisation on a freelance basis rather than internally.

Myself and my Co-Director set up in business in 2001: I have now been running Crowe Associates with Sally for nearly 19 years, and truly love what I do, a mixture of 1-1 and Team coaching and coaching training, along with some group facilitation. It’s not been a smooth planned journey and absolutely not incremental and linear, but I value the fact that I didn’t get stuck doing something that passed the time and paid the bills; work has always been a vocation for me, something I need to be passionate about. I also have a sense that with growing self-awareness, you find the career journey you need to be on; the changes come when you are ready for them, and not beforehand.

Becoming a Coach

Whilst I was a line Manager and Director I managed a lot of people and started to understand at least implicitly that I was involved in coaching them; learning that I wasn’t doing the actual work myself anymore and my role as a senior Manager was about enabling others to deliver.

Three years down the line from becoming freelance I signed up to do the Oxford Brookes post graduate Coaching and Mentoring course. This was a solid and well organised course heavy on coaching theory (with some underlying therapeutic theory) and a lot of reflective practice. We also had to find coaching clients to work with and have regular supervision practice as we found our feet as Coaches.

Since 2004, I think I have worked with well over 350 coaching clients and trained in excess of 200 Coaches to become in house Coaches supporting others in their organisations. There has been a wide range of challenges that people have come into coaching to work on; career change, building confidence in their leadership, work on resilience in ever changing organisational dynamics to name a few. I have also found that some clients have worked through a coaching programme over several months and developed but have needed a bit of “coaching top up” a year or two down the line.

My own philosophy of coaching practice is a holistic approach to coaching to enable clients to make desirable and beneficial changes in both their professional and personal lives that help them develop and grow. I believe that for any human endeavour to grow and flourish, there are a complex mix of psychological and practical factors that help sustain real change.

“Sharpening the saw”

Its fascinating looking at both the training and regulation of the coaching and psychotherapy sectors to see what a wide spectrum of accreditation approaches there are. It seems that a lot of people are able to call themselves professional Coaches, some without much in the way of training and qualifications, or through a very short coaching course. There is no explicit requirement of people to have formal accreditation to become a Coach. At the other end of the spectrum is psychotherapy, where people often spend 5 years going through rigorous training, supervision, their own therapy and building up 150 of hours of client contact before they can call themselves a therapist.

For me, a middle way has worked well by completing a post graduate Coaching and Mentoring course. I supplemented this a few years ago by gaining Executive Coach accreditation with the Association for Coaching and am a member of the Association, which requires ongoing continuous professional development. Around two years ago, I set up a local Coaching network with a focus on development and supervision which is working really well. We meet every 6 weeks and have a theory input on some aspect of coaching from one of the group, followed by a supervision session on our work with clients, and a general catch up on our work.

I have long had an interest in the underlying aspects and motivations of people’s behaviour. Several years ago, I completed a foundation course in counselling skills, and also a foundation course in group analytic psychotherapy. I took this one set further a couple of years ago and started training as a psychotherapist. I did this for 18 months and started seeing clients but struggled with level of work involved and keeping the day to day business going; I also felt that I was “good enough” as a Coach that can when the situation requires it, work deeply with people, as well as supporting self awareness and responsibility for action. I do feel that a sound psychological understanding of the areas of counselling and psychological therapies are an important foundation that enhance my coaching practice.

The next few years

Its illuminating to reflect that I have inhabited a structured work life over many years, helping organisations plan for the future, putting in place strategic and human resources plans and performance management systems, but in the last few years I have moved into much more fluid ways of working focussing on personal development, coaching, and working with groups looking at group dynamics and how best people work with one another.

I’m reminded of the Papua New Guinea saying: “knowledge is only rumour until it becomes part of the muscles”. I have moved away from more rigid planning approaches and embrace much more the interlinking of intuition and reflection with a modicum of planning, rather than using planning to be in the driving seat. I have always liked Peter Drucker’s thought that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. I know from my approach to fitness that you can have all the plans in the world, but they can fail without the intuition to understand and self reflect, and deal with inbuilt “recidivism” of having several goes at making changes.

The future for me in terms of work will be about 1-1 and team coaching and continuing to support the in-house Coaching programmes I have work on with several organisations. I am currently working towards formal accreditation as a Coach Supervisor.

Final reflections; why do I coach?

It’s an important question to ask of ourselves in the so called helping professions; why do we do what we do? There are several answers to that question for me. I get a huge kick out of people self actualising and overcoming barriers in their lives. Coaching is a privilege; a unique window into someone else’s life and their professional and personal journey.

I trust that I have enough self-awareness and humility to understand that I also get a huge amount out of doing the work. There is something about Jung’s archetype of the wounded healer in the work; I help people with the things I need to work on myself. I also believe that whilst we are doing our utmost to help clients, we get the clients we ourselves need.

I hope the article has prompted some thoughts for you as a Coach or thinking about becoming a Coach. A few questions you might ask yourself are:

  • Where has your professional journey taken you to date? What themes are emerging as you reflect back on it, if you “press the rewind button”?
  • What was it that took you into coaching? Why do you coach? Or if someone considering coaching, why do want to become a Coach?
  • How do you “sharpen the saw” and keep yourself continuously developing?
  • What do the next few years of coaching practice look like for you?


Futures map

The Idea

I have been working with several clients in the last few months looking at possible new futures and changes in their work; some through organisation re-structures and downsizing, others through the desire to move on and find new challenges.It also came up at one of our recent Coaches network sessions.

What has struck me is that like a sailing ship, there are links and interdependencies across lots of sails and rigging, and one change in our lives in the arena of work, will impact hugely on our relationships, our family lives, and where we live. This is a hard nut to crack thinking about what we put first. Do we say that living by the sea for example (a big future factor for me despite still living in the middle of Oxfordshire!) is more important than the job we are doing? We went down to Poole a couple of years ago to look around with a view to thinking about a move, but ended up reflecting on the stages the kids were in their lives and all the networks we have locally were too much to give up. However, it may not be right now, but in the medium term/longer term future.

The tool

The idea of the Futures map is to create the opportunity to do a brain dump to help structure that confusion in our minds about all the different elements around making such a big change decision.

  • The map has 4 areas; work, home/location, partner/family/friends considerations, and a personal/growth section. The idea is to go through each of these and think through what the implications of change might be, but also look at the whole map for the connection between these 4 strands
  • There are also a few questions that might help unlock thinking: what is the first step you might take? Who do you need to talk to you about it? What might the obstacles be?
  • As ever with a tool like this, its really helpful to talk through with a Coach/trusted friend after the initial “splurge” of creative thinking


You can access the futures map here:  FUTURES MAP

Coaching skills for Managers

Coaching skills for Managers


Line managers are increasingly expected to coach staff and can have a powerful influence on their teams and the organisation as a whole when they adopt a coaching style of management.
As a way of managing people, coaching differs from the traditional corporate ‘command and control’ approach in the following ways:

  • Collaborating instead of controlling
  • Delegating more responsibility
  • Talking less, listening more
  • Giving fewer orders, asking more questions
  • Giving specific feedback instead of making judgements

This is not simply a case of ‘being nicer’ to people – delegated responsibility brings pressure to perform and coaching Managers maintain a rigorous focus on goals and results.

Simply put, coaching means asking questions, not simply to gather facts but to elicit solutions, feelings, ideas and new thoughts from the person being coached. If the objective is to develop employees, asking them questions challenges them to think harder and more broadly about issues, thereby enlarging their perspective and improving their reasoning skills. When the need is to make decisions, the same coaching skills can generate better solutions. The skill of coaching is in being able to ask questions that help people open up, and bring into play a wider circle of ideas and expertise.

Some people argue that it is impossible for a Manager to act as a coach, given her position of authority over her team. While authority is an important issue, it need not be an insurmountable obstacle – as long as there is genuine trust and respect in the working relationship. It is also a fact that coaching frequently takes place between peers and even upwards on occasion, with some enlightened bosses happy to be coached by their team members.

In his book Coaching for Performance John Whitmore raises the issue of managerial responsibility and authority, and asks ‘Can the Manager, therefore, be a coach at all?’:The answer is yes, but it demands the highest qualities of that Manager: empathy, integrity and detachment, as well as a willingness, in most cases, to adopt a fundamentally different approach to his staff: he may even have to cope with initial resistance from some of his staff, suspicious of the motives or perhaps having got used to a “dependency” authoritarian style.

CIPD Research

Coaching has consistently come in Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) surveys as a key way to motivating and helping individuals and teams to solve issues, improve performance and develop skills and confidence in the workplace.

In a recent survey of over 600 HR specialists and line Managers, people were asked what skills they need to be coaching Managers and what influences coaching management approach.

Two related features of a coaching style of management were identified: primary coaching characteristics, which focus on performance, and mature coaching characteristics, which focus on empowerment. Primary coachingcharacteristics comprise: a development orientation, a performance orientation, effective feedback processes and successful planning and goal-setting activities. Mature coaching characteristics, which are also associated with a participative management style, include: using ideas from team members, powerful questioning, team-based problem solving and shared decision-making.

Mature coaching characteristics are more likely to be achieved by those in more senior positions, who often have more “discretionary time” and are less caught up in the operational challenges that dominate life for line managers.

Coaching by line Managers is associated with levels of manager self-confidence and good Manager/team relationships. At the same time, these factors may encourage Managers to engage more often in coaching behaviours.

Time constraints are the most significant barrier to achieving a coaching style of management, but organisational culture and a lack of confidence to deal with difficult people are also inhibitors.

Clarity in coaching roles and expectations, senior management ownership of coaching as a business issue and top management role-modelling of coaching characteristics are all important ingredients of a coaching culture.

What Coaching Managers do

Managers have many responsibilities; coaching is among the most important. Coaching does not simply correct today’s problem; it helps keep the problem from resurfacing. The employee not only understands the goal, but can teach it to others. Coaching may take longer than correcting, which is a “quick fix,” but it is longer-lasting. It builds a body of understanding, and, if done well, helps build a workplace culture.

How does a Manager shift from a directive approach to Manager as Coach? 

1. Managers know their staff. They pay attention to their work and to them as human beings. They never make assumptions about the motives that drive the individuals’s words or actions. They take time to learn the person’s hopes, fears, and history.

2. Managers check their egos at the door. They resist trying to impress staff with their knowledge. Their satisfaction comes not from hearing someone say “how do you know so much?” but in seeing the individual grow his or her skills. When coaching is done well, learners believe they personally have discovered ideas and answers, hence, they may never acknowledge the Managers’s contribution. And that should be just fine with the Manager.

3. Managers ask questions. What did you see out there? What did you like most about the assignment? What’s causing you concern? How would you like to approach the problem? Who else might we want to include? Is there another way to look at this? What would happen if we turned things upside down?

4. Managers listen completely. They resist the temptation to give instant advice or answers, even if they have them at the tip of their tongue. They give the individual time to get a point out fully, and only then work to develop a coaching conversation. They resist phone calls, door knocks, and the errant material lying on top of their desks. When coaching is underway, the most important gift a Manager gives is complete attention.

5. Managers are overall, positive. They emphasize growth and goodness. They catch people doing things right and reward them with praise. Managers are not insincere or flattering; they are genuine and specific in their praise. They give the individual details about what is being praised and why. They do not shy away from honest feedback about things that need strengthening, but even critical feedback is framed in a non-threatening manner.

6. Managers look for “teaching moments.” They are always on the alert for opportunities to reinforce values and skills. These are teaching moments. They may happen in formal meetings or casual conversations; in bringing people together, in calling upon a person to share the “how I did it” of a success story with others, through department-wide memos or personal notes. But when it comes to teaching moments, Managers are careful: they praise in public, and criticise in private.

7. Managers inspireYou may not think of yourself as an inspirational figure, and your humility is laudable. But even the most humble leaders are known for their values. People around them know what they stood for. What do you stand for? It can take courage to be inspirational, to overcome your own fears.People will watch what you do, more than what you say.

8. Managers are responsible risk-takers. They know the rules of the road so well that they don’t fear an occasional detour. They celebrate creativity that respects values but tries things a different way. They reward innovation. They aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves or look foolish to help get an important point across. While helping others grow, they are always challenging themselves to do the same. They do not fear change or challenge. They do not hesitate to say “I’m sorry” when they make mistakes. And even the best do.

What’s in it for Managers?

It’s probably fairly obvious that coaching benefits the people being coached – but what about the Manager? If you are a busy Manager, can you afford the time and effort required, when you already have plenty of other demands to cope with?

Coaching is not a case of ‘giving up’ your time and energy to helping others achieve their goals and solve their problems – it will also benefit you in the following ways:

A more committed team: empowerment is a powerful motivator. When you make a genuine effort to include people in setting their own goals, making decisions and implement their own ideas, they are likely to become more committed and focused at work.

Better team performance: because of its dual functions of managing performance and developing people, coaching leads to better individual and collective performance. The ongoing learning process means that the upward curve can get steeper over time.

Better working relationships: good coaching promotes trust and collaboration, and leads to better working relationships. It doesn’t mean you become everyone’s best friend, but it does mean working relationships can get easier and more enjoyable (or in some cases at least less stressful) for all concerned.

Better ideas: when you get into the habit of asking questions to draw out people’s creativity, you may be pleasantly surprised at the quality of ideas your people start generating. After a while, you may not even need to ask every time – they will get into the habit of bringing you suggestions.

Better information: if you are genuinely coaching people in a collaborative, open spirit, people will feel more confident in coming to you with vital information – including telling you the ‘bad news’ while there is still time to do something about it.

Investing time to gain time: there is no doubt that in the short term it’s often quicker to ‘take charge’ and give orders instead of coaching. That’s fine for ‘fire fighting’, but in the long term, the more you direct, the more people will rely on you for directions, and the more of your time will be swallowed up by it. If you invest time in coaching however, over time your people will require less and less direction, and you will be confident in delegating more and more to them – freeing up your time for the tasks only you can accomplish.

What might it look like in practice?

Suppose someone comes to you with a story of something that’s gone wrong. As a good Manager/coach, there are three useful things to do at this point:

LISTEN to the story – get the details, express concern, show how important it is by giving excellent attention.

AFFIRM the bringer of the bad news – let them know how important it is that they raised this issue, what you’re impressed by about them, their speed of action, concern for customers, etc.

TURN THE CORNER from focusing on what’s wrong to focusing on what’s wanted.

Some good questions that can help here include:

• “So, instead of that, what you want is…..?” (let them finish the sentence)

• “What do you want to have happen next time?”

• “What would be better than that, for everyone?”

The individual may not have thought about this, being focused on what’s wrong. They may fall silent for a moment. Let them. Give them plenty of time to think about it. As always, a period of silence here is a good sign for the Manager Coach; there is thinking going on.

Expand the answer by asking, “What else?” to get more detail. Then ask about others’ perspectives on what would be preferable.

Reflections and practical Tools

Managing in a coaching style is ultimately about benefits to the team, the individual team, members and the Manager, and could even be seen as enlightened self interest as an approach.

Its important to say that this style of management isn’t the only one, and the principle of “situational leadership” an important caveat; there will be times as a Manager to be directive.There is good evidence though, that using a predominantly coaching style brings medium-long term benefits to all concerned.

As always, the approach sits best in an enlightened organisational context, where Senior Managers fundamentally believe in the approach, and where there is a learning culture of training for Managers, along with a recognition of the importance of the key HR practices of supervision, appraisal and regular team communication.

Leadership Styles Questionnaire 2013 looks at your leadership style in the context of 4 different styles, and reflect on what situations you might need to flex that style dependent on the person and the context.

If you want to go one step further and gain feedback on what your Team thinks of your leadership style, plus a simple feedback “start,stop,continue” exercise download the Leaderships Styles Informal 360 review exercise.

Values and beliefs Tools

Values and Beliefs Tools

Values represent your core beliefs. What is important to you? What drives you? These create the building blocks for everything you do. These create your base. Everything grows from here. At their heart, they are fundamental “policies” that define who we are. Continue reading

Why we need introverts

Why the world needs introverts

I came across this article in the online Guardian based on a book by Susan Cain, and think it makes some really interesting points. For me, there is some difference between how I am at work and at home (much more extroverted at work), but probably most naturally what I would define as a “gregarious introvert”. Continue reading

Self confidence in Coaching work

Working on Self confidence in Coaching

Self-confidence  refers to a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgement. Confidence” comes from the Latin fidere, “to trust.” To be self-confident is to trust in oneself, and, in particular, in one’s ability or aptitude to engage successfully or at least adequately with the world. A self-confident person is ready to rise to new challenges, seize opportunities, deal with difficult situations, and take responsibility if and when things go awry. Another way of putting is about individuals having a deep conviction and feeling in their own importance and value as a person, irrespective of their performance and behaviour. I understand none of us are immune from others opinions, but generally self confidence is like a well rooted tree of self awareness and a positive view of self.

A few overall thoughts on self confidence in relation to coaching;

  1. The first thought building on the definition of self confidence is that the highest form of self confidence is from the inside out, rather than the outside in. If a person needs validation from outside all the time they look to others too frequently for affirmation, recognition and approval. They gain their confidence through a sense that others are approving of them, their choices and behaviour. One of the the main issues with needing external validation is just how tiring it can be to have to perform for others all the time. This isn’t to say that we don’t need an awareness of others, but a sense that we are filling our own reservoir, with a bit of top up from others, not the other way round. In coaching work this may be looking at how much internal reflection and self compassion the individual gives themselves.

2. I am struck in coaching work in self confidence around the idea of authenticity and values. Having authenticity is about having a good degree of self awareness and making choices that align with knowing who you are, your strengths, your challenges, and ultimately, your values. Values represent your core beliefs: what is important to you? What drives you? These create the building blocks for everything you do (there is more around values and coaching tools for these here). These create your base. Everything grows from here. At their heart, values are fundamental “policies” that define who we are, and when we wander too far from them, we can lose a sense of our core. Sometimes people haven’t ever had the opportunity to look at what their underlying values and purpose are , particularly professionally.

3. The next thought is being able to embrace our vulnerability. I sometimes reflect when I see behind individuals intricately built and outwardly effective screens/masks, how much they are struggling with feelings of low self esteem and “imposter syndrome”. One of the key principles of vulnerability expressed in Brene Brown’s work is to understand that we are not alone; there is a universality to feelings of periodic anxiety and vulnerability that others feel too, and it can help to be able to share these feelings with trusted others that somehow help us to overcome and defeat them over time.


4. Finally, holding onto our resilience. The whole area of resilience is an important constituent of self confidence. None of us sails through life without tough stuff happening. Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from setbacks and adversity: to stay committed and increase our efforts when the going gets tough, and have a well developed “bounce back facility”.This coping may result in the individual “bouncing back” to a previous state of normal functioning, or even using the experience of exposure to adversity to produce a “steeling effect” and function better than expected. For me its linked closely to self confidence, as it provides us with the faith that we will steady the ship, that even in the midst of tough times, we will emerge out the other side intact and have gained a lot of learning from the experience. The encouraging thing about resilience is that if we know what to work on to build our self resilience reservoir, we cal learn to do this.

Working with clients with low self confidence issues isn’t uncommon in Coaching. If I reflect on client work over the last few years, I can hardly think of a instance where self confidence hasn’t been part of the coaching work in some form or other. There are a number of possible tools that may help identify the causes of low self esteem, and some that help “find” or bolster self confidence that has temporarily been lost.

Diagnostic Tools

These are tools that help the Coach identify in more depth the issues and challenges the client is facing with self confidence, before moving onto possible ways of working with them to understand where things go wrong, and how they can react differently (click on the blue highlighted words to go to links/downloads of the tools) :


  •  Asking someone starting work in Coaching about the whole of themselves is a useful and probably essential part of the initial session. The “whole” person has evolved from life experience, so for both the client and the Coach, telling and hearing the life story is one way to begin to understand the client’s world.
  • It’s important to take care with this tool, and not to stray too far into interpretative aspects, but it can unearth important aspects of where aspects of low self esteem originate from, whether recent or longer standing
  • It’s also important to stress the Coaching approach here, rather than more of a therapeutic approach. In the latter, it may be enough to bring issues around low self esteem to the persons awareness to be able to “work through”, but in a Coaching context its more about an action orientation; e.g. using CBT techniques in troubling situations the client faces
  • For more information on how to use the AUTOBIOGRAPHY tool click on the highlighted word

Self confidence assessment

  • A series of questions to help the client (which could be done at a session or independent of a session and brought to talk through)
  • Covers areas such as: what is self confidence; where do you struggle with it? What are your coping mechanisms?
  • To view an example template of the Self Confidence Review, click on the highlighted words
  • Or alternatively, complete the Mind Tools self confidence questionnaire

Practical Working exercises

Psychoach : the ABDCE way of thinking

A CBT technique that helps clients challenge difficult situations they encounter by taking them through a 5 step process of challenging negative thoughts and feelings, and thinking about difficult situations in a more balanced and realistic way

The Confidence Wall

  • To convince yourself that you’re a successful person who can continue to achieve great things, it may be helpful to take some time and reflect on all your achievements and what matters to you. This exercise commits people to acknowledging their achievements through looking at their values, their skills and attributes, and tangible and intangible achievements
  • Part of the sustaining part of the work is for the client to keep the exercise close at hand to refer back to over time

NLP Anchoring Techniques

The Anchoring technique works on the basis of using an “anchor feeling” of positivity, especially when faced with a difficult situation. It requires the client to select a feeling they would like to have in a particular situation and create a physical “anchor” of that feeling that they can go back to when they need to



Drivers Working Styles

  • A driver is a part of us that believes if we behave in a certain way then we will do well, avoid problems and earn the respect of others (e.g. hurry up, be perfect, please people). There are five characteristic working styles, called “Drivers”, and each of us tends to have a preference for one or two particular styles, taken from Transactional Analysis theory
  • Whilst our driver can sometimes be strength, under stress it can severely limit our capacity to be effective. The more stressed we get, the more we get locked into compulsive driver behaviour. This exercise requires people to find their key and secondary driver, and work out some improvement strategies


The Co-Active Coaching model

The Co-Active Coaching Model


The Co-Active approach comes from  “Co-Active Coaching – New skills for coaching people toward success”, by Laura Whitworth, Karen & Henry Kimsey-House and Phillip Sandahl, and offers a different approach to the “GROW” model we know and love…! Continue reading




Asking someone starting work in Coaching to take you through their background is an important part of an initial session. It establishes rapport and interest in the whole person, not just the work person. The “whole” person has evolved from life experience, so for both the client and the Coach, telling and hearing the life story is one way to begin to understand the client’s world Continue reading

What Jung would have made of the world today

What Carl Jung would have made of the world today

I came across this article on the BBC web site, and was intrigued, so have reproduced it in its entirety:

“The afternoon of life must have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage of life’s morning,”

Carl Gustav Jung died 50 years ago today. Alongside Sigmund Freud, he is arguably one of the two people of the 20th century who most shaped the way we think about who we are. But what would he make of the 21st century so far, asks Mark Vernon. Continue reading

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a controversial approach to psychotherapy and organisational change based on “a model of interpersonal communication chiefly concerned with the relationship between successful patterns of behaviour and the subjective experiences (esp. patterns of thought) underlying them”. Its also referred to as “a system of alternative therapy based on this which seeks to educate people in self-awareness and effective communication, and to change their patterns of mental and emotional behaviour”. Continue reading

Transactional Analysis overview

Transactional Analysis


“The eternal problem of the human being is how to structure his/her waking hours” 
 Eric BerneGames People Play

Transactional analysis, commonly known as “TA” to its adherents, is an integrative approach to the theory of psychology and psychotherapy. It is described as integrative because it has elements of psychoanalytic, humanist and cognitive approaches.

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Coaching skills overview

Coaching Skills

This overview offers a definition of Coaching with a detailed fact sheet, as well as additional pages you can look at which offer an overview of other frameworks of support, such as Transactional Analysis and NLP.

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Coaching and Mentoring Skills

Coaching and Mentoring Skills

“Coaching is a conversation with a purpose, also a space where someone can think through what is going on for them/an opportunity to do ‘great thinking’’ (Starr 2008)

The work I have done with various clients in 1-1 and Team Coaching projects over the last few years, has been the most satisfying and enjoyable part of my work. Its when I feel “in the flow” and doing what I was born to do. My practice has been helped by completing a post Graduate Coaching and Mentoring qualification at Oxford Brookes University, gaining membership and Executive Coach accreditation of the Association for Coaching, along with various Therapeutic trainings in psychotherapy, counselling and constellations theory.

The work I do with people varies from individuals looking to change career, building confidence, helping people get hold and become comfortable with a new role, and other areas such as helping developing their businesses.

This section pulls together articles on areas like coaching skills, coaching models, approaches and models on things like self esteem, and is aimed at both people working as Coaches, and clients interested in the models used in the work. It’s worth saying that whilst tools and models can be helpful in Coaching practice, they need to be “lightly held” and the awareness and mindfulness of the Coach is paramount: I have worked with many clients without using any formal tools.

Please select the resources you are interested in from the menu on the right hand side.

Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching and Mentoring

David is a certified Executive, Career and Personal Development Coach. He works 1-1 with a range of people in the public and private sector in coaching projects in areas like business improvement, career change, personal development and building confidence. Coaching projects seek to enable clients to make desirable and beneficial changes in both their professional and personal lives, to support them to develop and grow.

He works with Teams using an integrated combination of interventions to improve team cohesion and performance.
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