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Context Coaching: Shift Your Coaching With This 1 Thing

By Toku

The single piece of advice I’m about to give you completely shifted one of my client’s coaching. 

The tip was so simple I was surprised when he told me how much better his coaching had become, how much more he understood what was happening with his clients, and how he felt like for the first time he could show up on every call with something to talk about. 

The reason this advice is so important is that it’s something great coaches do CONSTANTLY but that you rarely notice. It’s like the music in a movie. It sets the tone but you don’t notice it unless someone removes it. And yet many coaches don’t do this and it’s why their coaching isn’t as good as it could be. 

OK, enough build-up here it is. . . 

  • Your client is and always in some sort of context. 
  • Most of the time this context is completely invisible to your client. 
  • And yet this context almost entirely dictates what your clients think is possible, the options they see to take, and the way they feel about the world and themselves. 

Your job as the coach is to

1) Reveal what your client wants
2) See the context they are in 
3) Work with them and the context to help them get what they want

The first mistake most coaches make is that they don’t find out what people want. 

Someone comes and says something like, “I feel like my boss is being unfair to me.”

And the coach rushes off to start asking questions about their relationship or worse just starts giving them tips on boundaries and managing up. 

You don’t know what the client wants. 

So ask. 

And keep asking until you and they are both clear. 

(BTW a session all about what a client wants is an AMAZING session) 

The second mistake coaches make is that they find out what the client wants but they don’t see or identify the context the client is in. 

This in and of itself isn’t a problem. 

The real problem is that when you coach someone who is inside an undistinguished context it is VERY likely you’ll end up inside of it as well. 

The analogy that’s often used is a hole. But for today I’m going to use a living room fort. 

YOUR CLIENT IS IN A LIVING ROOM FORT

You know the kind of fort people build as kids with couch cushions and sheets. 

So I want you to imagine your client is inside a living room fort. 

And you’re trying to understand them. 

You’re talking to them, asking them questions. And they are answering but you don’t get them. 

So you start walking closer to the fort because you’re trying to understand where they’re coming from and what they see. 

And before you know it you’re inside the fort. 

You see what you see. Which is great!

But you no longer see the fort. 

Which is a problem. 

Because the fort (the context) is dictating what’s possible and what actions are available. 

You only see what they see from here. And so you can only coach them to do things inside the fort. 

DON’T DO THIS!!!!

Because you’re not really changing people’s lives. You’re simply moving things around inside a fort. You are rearranging deck chairs on a personal titanic. 

Your client has probably already done 90% of what’s possible inside the fort. 
It’s very likely they’ve been in there a while. 

And it’s VERY unlikely what they want is inside that fort. 

If you want to truly serve them you have to help them see they are inside the fort. You have to help them get what’s possible from stepping outside it. You have to work with them to leave the fort while distinguishing what it’s like to be inside it so that when they find themselves inside it again (which they will) they can find their way out. 

Which is why . . .
As you’re coaching . . . 

Be asking . . . 

What’s the context my client is inside of? 
What do they see? 
What do they believe? 
What do they want? 
Do I see the context? 
Do they see the context? 
How can I help them see where they are so they can go where they want? 

Keep their context in view AT ALL TIMES

If you lose it (and you will) step back and figure it out. 
Let there be silence. 
Let there be space. 

CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT

It’s so important. So get fierce about it. 

And your coaching will never be the same. 


Curious about the role of context in enrollment?  Watch this video about creating a powerful context.

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