Executive coaching
17 August 2020
Posted in by Karen Foy

How can I stop giving advice to my coaching clients?

It has been suggested that coaching is fundamentally about unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance (Whitmore, 1995); it is about helping them to learn, rather than teaching them. Yet one of the biggest struggles for a coach is to resist the temptation to give advice. How do we manage this boundary between supporting people to learn and teaching them from our experience?

The boundary between support and advice

Many coaches come to coaching with a desire to help others. We feel we want to ‘give back’; we feel we have something to offer. Perhaps we have had a successful career and we want our legacy to be supporting the next generation to succeed. Or maybe, in life we have navigated some rough seas and we want to share what we have learnt to prevent others facing those same storms. Left unexamined, this drive to ‘help others’, well-meaning as it may be, can create pitfalls for us as coaches. These can retard our development to become a transformational force in someone else’s life. Elizabeth Gilbert (2016) urges those who write with the motivation of ‘helping someone’ to save themselves the bother – most people don’t want that. This seems sage advice for coaches, not just budding writers.

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Gilbert, E (2016) Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear. London: Bloomsbury
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Harris, T A (1995) I’m OK You’re OK. London: Arrow Books. (Originally published 1967)
Heron, J (1989) Six Intervention Categories. Guildford: University of Surrey Keegan, R (2014) Presentation to BT Global Leaders, BT Headquarters, London
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Karen Foy

Karen is a coach with fifteen years' experience and holds an MSc in Coaching Psychology through University of East London and a degree in Psychology from the University of Sheffield. Karen is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with ICF and a she is certified coach mentor. As a UK ICF Board Director she has led the professional development for UK Coaches and supported the local coaching groups around the country. She has worked with aspiring coaches from global organisations to support their development and learning towards becoming accredited coaches, providing training, mentoring and supervision.

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