Black and White Thinking — A Common Problem With New Coaches

Often when I talk to new coaches they get caught in black and white thinking about what good coaches should and shouldn’t do. 

– You should never ask a client why? 
– You should only ever ask questions. 
– You should never teach a client.
– You should never give advice. 

These guidelines are helpful when you’re starting as a coach.

– It’s easier to talk at a client than explore with them. 
– It’s easier to give advice than be curious. 
– It’s easy to ask why when you can’t think of something better to say. 

But these guidelines are simply guidelines and too often they become a religion for new coaches. Soon enough they are zealots preaching the gospel of pure coaching and the ICF standards. 

The best coaches I know push the boundaries of coaching while acting with a high level of integrity. Sometimes from habit but more often with conscious choice. Generally, they abide by the principles of what makes coaching work, but they aren’t bound to them. 

They see all the gray in between the lines. So if you’re new to coaching YES listen to the guidelines, try them on, if they feel hard to implement GOOD! That means you’re getting better as a coach. 

But don’t fall into black and white thinking. There are no rules to coaching and that’s the best and worst part about it. Your clients need you to be flexible enough to help them while maintaining enough integrity not to get lost. And learning how to make your way through the gray is essential is you’re going to truly become a masterful coach. 

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