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Top tags: balance  contentment  life  wellbeing  wheel of life  work 

Can we know too much as coaches?

Posted By Alison Dixon (Griffiths), Success Coaching & Development Ltd, 10 September 2017
Updated: 21 August 2017

I’ve been holding this question for some time and explored it with other coaches. At its heart, is whether we do our best coaching when we are less informed?

Considering how we are as coaches with expanding knowledge is important.

When I began as a qualified professional I understood the process, principles and ethics of coaching. With continued CPD, practice and supervision I coached in more complex organisational situations and better managed, lead myself as a coach. I readily applied or created psychological models and principles. However, I did not always relate the session to scientific theory or relevant research in the way I can do now. Coaching simply worked and I was absolutely present, congruent (and raw!)

CPD is essential in reaching a level of mastery and as a champion of life-long learning I’m not suggesting stopping. However, in observing other coaches and from my own experience, I wonder, can we know too much? Does our style, skill or indeed attitude automatically change for the better with increased knowledge? There are three common situations that have fuelled my curiosity:-

1. Client consultations - We may be clear on a solution. However, does our motivation remain as high when new techniques are disregarded for the tried and tested?

2. One-to-one coaching sessions – others tell me that their energy can be expended on “trying to remember” or selecting the best model from an expanding knowledge bank.

3. Group Coaching – can we so easily suspend judgement when coachees are not ready for proven methods?

It’s difficult to ‘unknow’ what we know. In all three examples, knowledge has the capacity to challenge neutrality, attention and unbiased expectations of our self and others – some of the basic skills of coaching.

Knowledge therefore creates an interesting paradox. Is what I’ve learnt informing a session, supporting the client or taking something away from it, them or me?

OK – a little self-coaching would help:-

• How can I be in meetings with this knowledge whilst holding onto the qualities of a novice?

• How can I demonstrate the art and science of coaching and be a coach not a mentor, a consultant not a guru, a facilitator not a trainer?

• In what way will mastery best serve the client, community and me in the meaning of coaching? My responses come from a meta-awareness of knowledge. By • establishing more consciously the driver and purpose behind each development activity before embarking on it

• remaining present, accepting and suspending my knowing at a given moment

• contracting with my inner coach as novice and expert so that I can sit in enquiry whilst each receives what I have learnt at the right time I can better balance professional and social expectations and personal desire whilst staying in service of clients, the coaching community and myself.

Ultimately, we can lead ourselves from a more mindful position of knowledge with wisdom and hold onto Socrate’s wise words regardless of how much we know:

“I cannot teach anybody anything; I can only make them think.”


Alison is a Master Accredited Executive Coach and a founder member of the AC who has been professionally coaching individuals and teams for almost 15 years. She is the creator of walnut™ - leading wisely - the self-coaching resource designed for the executive. Website: LinkedIn: Email: or

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Achieving Work Life Balance - 6 ideas to consider

Posted By Margaret Walsh, Margaret Walsh Consulting Ltd, 25 July 2017

Achieving Work Life Balance (WLB) – six ideas to improve your WLB Who doesn’t want to achieve better balance in their life? Yet, this requires conscious thought and effort on our part so that we place our attention on those aspects of our lives that matter most to us. I know that the ‘Wheel of Life’, is a helpful tool to use in coaching as it provides clients with useful feedback points and can jolt them into action to focus on those parts of our lives where they want to spend more time.

Wheel of Life As a short reminder, to complete the wheel of life you simply allocate a score (from 0-10) to the different headings and see your distribution and where there are low scores. I particularly like the fact that this tool also allows a client to place a focus on the future and consider the changes he/she might make to the different areas and thus set goals to make those changes.

I have set out below six ideas to consider for achieving balance. These ideas emerge both my studies and my work with coaching clients and from good practice in this field:

1. Be consciously aware of where you spend your time and judge whether you are happy with this allocation. Using the Wheel of Life may be a useful starting point in this respect, and enables you to look at where you are and where you would like to be with your WLB and allows you to keep both under review.

2. Consider the ‘doing’ nature of balance, and the need to adjust to stay in balance. One useful visual of constant readjustment, that can appear effortless, is a red kite (or similar large bird), in flight. To soar in this way, a red kite needs to ‘read’ the thermals and adjust.

3. Know your patterns and where you spend your time automatically. It may be that you have a message from childhood that you constantly try to live up to of ‘work harder and provide for others’. This is important, but so is finding joy in family times and having space to think and reflect, as well as simply relaxing.

4. Take control of how you allocate your time. Put structure into your calendar that allocates balance for you.

5. Review and reflect regularly on whether you are happy with your life and the balance within it. This requires insight and self-awareness into what is important for you both now and into the future. We are constantly changing (through ageing and hopefully growing in wisdom) and it makes sense that we reflect that in the way we live our lives.

6. Not wanting to sound too fatalistic, but for each of us life will come to an end. How we spend our time shapes who we are and it pays for us to consider whether we are content with who we are now in the world and where we spend our time.

Margaret Walsh is a registered member of the British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy, a Member of the Association of Coaching and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development. She works with individuals and groups using a mixture of coaching and psychotherapy to help deepen self-awareness from which to bring about change. She works face-to-face as well as by Skype and telephone and can be contacted on Margaret also maintain a regular blog:

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Tags:  balance  contentment  life  wellbeing  wheel of life  work 

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Where could that have come from?

Posted By Jacqueline Ann Surin, 01 July 2017

Last year, I was commissioned to provide four coaching sessions to employees of a Kuala Lumpur-based company. Before the first session, one of the employees was rather anxious. He was early for his appointment and he asked me rather nervously what to expect. This was when I inadvertently discovered the power of asking about the source of a client’s emotional state. 

I’d learnt a specific, ‘Clean’ question to help me with that and this was my opportunity to put it to good use. Clean questions are simple, neutral and follow an exact word sequence. This particular question is:

“And where could that [coachee’s words] have come from?”

Developed by the late psychologist David Grove, Clean questions reflect back only the coachee’s words, inviting them to notice their inner experience more deeply. Often the coachee is then able to generate new insights and perspectives about their own stuff, resulting in clearer outcomes and solutions.

I joked that coaching wasn’t like sitting for a Malaysian public exam where there were right and wrong answers. Then I reassured him that with Clean coaching, he would determine what direction to go in. And okay, this was his first time being coached. So, his anxiety was perhaps understandable.

But when we met for the second coaching session, the client was still nervous. I was a bit surprised. And so before we began, by way of making conversation and just to acknowledge his anxiety, I asked, “And where could that anxiety have come from?” I don’t remember if he actually gave me an answer and I didn’t think very much of it. I was only making conversation, not yet coaching.

So I was pleasantly surprised when at our final session, the client said he wasn’t nervous anymore. He said, “I thought about the question you asked me the last time: ‘Where could that anxiety have come from?’ And I realised, I went through therapy when I was growing up, and I hated it. And there’s nothing I hate about what we’re doing. It’s completely different. So...” He smiled and said

“I could let the anxiety go”

You just never know how a Clean question might land, even if it’s asked casually. And you just never know what a client will do with a question when she or he is ready to process it. 

This is my first blog for the Association for Coaching. Going forward, I’ll keep blogging about Clean questions and how they can be applied in both one-on-one coaching work and in group facilitation.


Jacqueline Ann Surin

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The Old Typewriter and Co Coaching

Posted By Simon Hague, 01 July 2017

If you are as old as I am, you may remember the old typewriters. I can remember sitting with my grandparents playing on this heavy cast iron mechanical thing that magically put letters onto a piece of paper. As time developed, multiple coloured ribbons offered different coloured print and electric typewriters removed the need for a workout every time you wanted to write. They seem a distant memory from today's technology but I still remember them fondly. The idiosyncrasies of the carriage return, the ink ribbon and the travel of the letters towards the paper all led to the experiences.

What then, has this to do with co coaching? Our professional development is a bit like the development of the typewriter. When we started on our coaching journey, we were clunky. We became aware of our in adequacies in practice and like the ribbon on the typewriter, we delivered a 'letter' but perhaps not as sharp as a more experienced coach - or so we thought. Time moved us forward and we saw the release of word processing and the luxurious quality of the laser printer. Just as in coaching, over time we found that our techniques improved, we found that we became more adventurous adding different scenarios and graphics into our portfolio that makes our client’s journey even richer.


Co coaching gives us permission to check our print and practice. It allows us the luxury of testing a new method and to receive immediate feedback from a fellow author (coach). It allows us to move from 1 fingered typing to 2 and onwards to complete touch typing. Even when you could be considered an expert, a new learning can be taken from the feedback given, and let's face it, any feedback is a learning opportunity.


For the purist, co coaching is typically an observed intervention between coaches. Just as in 'real life' interventions, it is unlikely that the coach is aware of the topic and so needs to engage with all skill to draw out what is really going on. At the end of the session, the observer and the Coachee feedback on what works and what may have worked better. Nuances of body language, verbal signals, and reactions to methods tried can be explored. 


It is both a celebration and a learning point for us all in our journey to become even better at what we do.


Simon Hague

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