Co-Active Coaching

Top Ten-100 free sessions#3Number 3 from my “Top Ten things I learned while giving 100 FREE sessions!” series.

Co-Active coaching is the method I use when I work with a client.  Co-active is better defined from the founders of the Coaches Training Institute (CTI), Henry Kimsey-House and Karen Kimsey-House.  “The term Co-Active refers to the fundamental nature of a coaching relationship in which the coach and coachee (client) are active collaborators.  In Co-Active coaching, this is a relationship – in fact an alliance- between two equals for the purpose of meeting the coachee’s needs.”*

Some people might call this co-creating. It’s not quite the whole picture.  Co-Active is two parts:  Being and Action.  The coach supports you in what you create but really, isn’t a part of what you create.  This is why co-create doesn’t work as a definition.  We are a team of a different sort. We can see this dynamic in movies.  Think Yoda to Luke Skywalker.  Yoda didn’t do anything for Luke but support him in finding his own way and helping him unlock his gift of using the Force. One is working and the other is guiding.

As a guide, the coach stands back while asking powerful questions to help the client find their OWN way. It’s tricky.  Here’s why.  While a conversation is unfolding, a listener (in any normal circumstance not necessarily the coach dynamic), jumps to conclusions or assumptions.  For instance,

Sally:  “I had a really rough night last night.”

Barb:   “Did your little one keep you up all night?”

Sally:  “No.” She looks annoyed. “The faucet was dripping all night.  I got out of bed to fix it but nothing worked.  My husband is on a business trip or normally he would have done it.  I got very little sleep because I never got it fixed.”

Barb: “When does your husband get back?  Maybe you can call a plumber today?”

Sally:  “He comes home today. I’ve already called the plumber.”

This is a pretty normal conversation.  There isn’t anything really “wrong” per se.  But Barb, didn’t really listen to Sally.  Rather she offered advice that Sally already knows.  We live in a world that solving problems means helping.  Telling instead of listening.  It’s as if we can’t be engaged in any other way unless we tell each other how to live.  Sally has the answers of what to do within her.  She knows to call the plumber.   What could have gone been better in this situation?  Ask questions from a place of curiosity to start.

Sally: “I had a really rough night last night.”

Barb:  “Oh, what happened?”

Sally:  “It started with Johnny not eating his dinner.  Then we struggled through the bath time.  Finally I got him to bed.  I got some house work done that was left from earlier in the day.  When all was finally done and cleaned I got to bed by midnight. My husband isn’t at home because he’s off on a business trip so I have a hard time getting to sleep when he is away.  I read for an hour and then just as I started to drift off to sleep I heard the faucet drip.  That incessant noise: drip, drip, drip.  I got out of bed to fix it but I couldn’t find the tools.  After an hour search, I found where they were and struggled to get the pipe tighten. I tried for a while but then gave up so I could try to get some sleep.  This morning I put in a call to the plumber.”

Already Sally is more open to telling her story here.  Of course, this is a fictional example.  Sally is a bit more open when telling this story then maybe other people.  Also the topic is pretty harmless.  But when you make assumptions about what is happening in someone’s life you are saying a lot without knowing it.  You are forcing yourself into their story instead of observing them.  When you ask a question out of curiosity it’s a neutral place.  It doesn’t come out of your experience and what you have done.  Let’s use a real life example.

While at an event a few weeks ago I had this conversation.

Me: “My daughter has recently been using the toilet and is now wearing underwear.  We are thrilled!  The one thing that is still an issue is that she still needs a diaper to poop.  We are letting this go for now.”

Mother: “Oh no! You should let her poop in her pants and she will never do it again.  Trust me it worked with my child.”

Can you see where this went all wrong?  She heard a problem and wanted to fix it.  Negating the fact that I’m pretty familiar with my child AND, more importantly, like Barb did in the first scenario, I didn’t ask for her advice on the subject.  In fact, I said, “We are letting it go for now.”  There are good reasons for this of course.  But she wasn’t listening to me, she was just fixing me. And with that comes a lot of implications.  This can make for an unpleasant playground for first time Moms.  No two Moms are alike just as no two kids are.  We do our best and that is all we can do.  It would have been better had the conversation gone this way.

Me: “My daughter has recently been using the toilet and is now wearing underwear.  We are thrilled!  The one thing that is still an issue is that she still needs a diaper to poop.  We are letting this go for now.”

Mother: “What things have you tried to help her with this?”

Me: “We’ve talked to her about using the toilet.  And immediately she just throws a fit.  We think something happened when she first started trying.  We can’t be sure since she won’t tell us.”

Mother: “It sounds like something a friend I know went through.  Could I offer a suggestion or refer you to a book I read that helped me?”

She has already shown that she is listening to my specific problem.  It’s amazing what a question coming from a place of curiosity will do for another person.  They feel heard.  This is a form of caring.  You, the questioner, are interested in their life.  It opens a door to trust, creating a space of safety and that allows the person to see new possibilities.

This is just the tip of the iceberg on Co-Active Coaching.  There is so much more.  But in my 100 free session journey, I discovered how just simply listening to someone’s problem, created so much for the person in front of me.  It was interesting at times because some clients wanted me to give them the answers, or some structure, or a “plan” but they can already do that for themselves.   I’m a place to check in with, a person to collaborate with you.  Someone to inspect the problem with you and confirm your solutions on it. And definitely, someone to celebrate with you!  YOU DID IT! WAY TO GO!! (my favorite part).


*Excerpt from Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business Transforming lives” by Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl and Laura Whitworth.



International Family Fair!

Digiflyer_IFF15Raising children in a foreign country is not easy, especially if the language is unfamiliar. Finding confidence, building a support network and feeling comfortable in family lives abroad are top priorities for international families. The International Family Fair is here to help internationals navigate the Dutch parenting waters!

This fun and informative event on November 8th promises to be a great day for the whole family. Parents can roam the information market with 45+ exhibitors showcasing their services for the family or join one of the workshops on parenting, raising international children or understanding the Netherlands. At the same time, children can enjoy a fun kids’ program with workshops and ongoing activities. For the youngest children, free professional daycare services are available.

I will have a booth at this fair!  Come meet me, have a mini-session, and see what I can offer.  I hope to see you there.

Date: Sunday, November 8th
Location: Het Koorenhuis (Prinsegracht 27, The Hague)
Info & pre-registration:

Congratulations! You almost lost.

youalmostlostThis summer we went to the US for a visit with my family.  My sister and father created and implemented a Euchre tournament of epic proportions!  I realized that my audience may not know what the heck Euchre is so I’m linking the word for the definition.  In simple terms, it’s a card game that if played well can be very cut-throat (bringing out the competitive beast!). ha!

Putting this card game into a format of a tournament is especially thrilling!  On Father’s day, we assembled, full family and extended ones too, and played an afternoon away.  The smack talk was HIGH and the competition, fierce.  I was actually nervous in round one as my elders who taught me this beloved game were at my table. I didn’t want to disappoint them nor my partner.  I found my stride after a few games.  “Going alone” became my tribal yell.  It also taught me that the more I did “go it alone” the closer I came to winning the whole sha-bang.  The tournament was devised in such a way to encourage you to play solo.  Other wise folk caught on to this strategy, as well.  In the end, as evidenced by the card pictured above, I almost lost. It’s just a game.  But hey, I came in fourth place with a nice cash reward.  But I almost lost.  So what would have happened if I did risk it more?  I might have won.

The beauty in this simple phrase is profound.  Take a look at it.

Congratulations! You almost lost.  

Well, most of that is positive.  I was closer to winning than most.  But in the top 4 I was at the bottom.  At any rate, I’m being congratulated for doing my best.  I think we should have more messages like this one.  It’s kinda funny but also encouraging.  It spoke to me enough to save the card.  I hope you see something in it too.

Where have you “almost lost” recently?

The IMPACT of Coaching

This is #2 on the Top Ten things I learned by giving 100 free sessions.

photo credit:

I discovered that this can also be a topic that is held solely by the client’s perception.  While that is true, there are all kinds of impacts that maybe can’t always be measured but definitely can be seen. I saw when someone went from “gloom and doom” talking to “HIGH-energy -yeah! I’m excited about this” talking.  That energy lifts the client UP and sometimes out of their chair.  I love being a part of this kind of immediate impact.  It’s the place where magic can happen and possibility is available.  If we are talking about problems, well, we will only find problems.  But once you have a conversation with a smile or energy shift that is when things can move forward.

In a session, I look for these opportunities to show the client the difference and how this is readily available to them.  Once in the possibility mindset, we as a team can brainstorm new ideas and find a way to work towards their goal/dream.  The impact can be magnifying in one session, but a whole six months can be life altering.  Especially if you have a goal of leaving your current job to find the work of your dreams.  As did one client of mine have.  I’m happy to say that is the life she is living, doing what she loves.  Other clients in my journey of 100 found excitement by building new things, rearranging and cleaning out an office space, some rid themselves of toxic relationships and got really clear what was important to them by living by their values.  Most of these all happened in one single session.

How does this happen?  Well, it’s pretty simple.  In coaching, we open the doors to people’s dreams.  We actually have conversations about those dreams.  Let’s face it most people don’t get to talk about their dreams on a day-to-day basis.  When there is someone so focused on YOU and your dreams, listening to what you believe and value, there is something that happens that brings about change and makes an impact for life.  If we all paid attention to each other this way, well, I’d be out of a job, but the world would change.

When we were children we talked this way:

“What do you wanna be when you grow up?” says one child to the other.

The other answers, “I want to be a firewoman with a tutu on because I think fighting fires should be magical.”  The first child simply nods.  There are no judgments because everything is possible to them.

This is why I set this topic as number two on the top ten.  I experienced it over and over in every session with each and every client.  Some impacts were bigger than others, but there was always the presence of one.  It makes this work so worthwhile and fulfilling.  I get to see how the impact has opened up this person in a way that I know they will never forget.


The Value of Coaching

Top 10 things I learned by giving 100 free coaching sessions

What I learned is pretty straightforward: No one really knows the value of it UNLESS they’ve experienced it.  Value is a perception.  Perceptions are based on your point of view, background, experience, bias, etc…  But, you might be saying, what about the value in reference to money.  I’m going to tell you a similar answer by saying: No one has an exact idea how to price point coaching either.   How can this be?

I exhausted a lot of hours reading coaching journals and publications as well as asking other coaches how they priced their services. I’ve received this advice:

I’d ask, “How do you set your hourly rate for coaching?”

They’d respond, “What number do you feel comfortable with?  Go with that!”

My response,  “Is it that simple?  What if you have a client who challenges it?”

They’d say, “Then ask: What value do you put on the coaching you received today?”

Now we are back to the beginning.  Here’s the thing, and this is really important, there is no structure because it’s all about what the client values and wants.  I have used that question, “how much do you think it should be?”, to a client and I was met with awkward silence.  To cut the silence, I talked my way out of it and that resulted in not gaining a client.  So the lesson here became, what value do I give my coaching.  This is equally challenging for a new coach especially when considering your niche and experience level.  So when asked, what is your rate?  I always felt a little out of balance since I can’t give a standard measurement of that from some reputable institution.

But let’s talk about the value more in the sense of what coaching can bring and save the money part for the bankers and accountants. 😉 Coaching as a profession is only about 20 years old. What is most important about coaching is what happens for each individual client.  If you are reaching for the stars, you know, for something you longed for, for years and years, wouldn’t you say that is nearly priceless to you?  Think about that for a moment…

Yeah! That’s pretty valuable!!  The reason you hire a coach is because you recognize that you can’t do it on your own.  Something keeps getting in front of that vision. Coaching isn’t about telling you NO to your dreams.  It’s about saying YES to them.  From here, the relationship is created and the work begins.  You see, we live in a society that we always have someone or something measuring the quality and value of things and saying what is what, how to do this and no you can’t that.  In the coaching space, well, it’s up to YOU.  So how do you value coaching?  If you have never had the experience I would say it’s hard to measure.  If you have had a session with me, or someone else, then you know there might be some structure but often it’s up to you in the conversation.  You know what works for you.  No one else does.  The power is in your hands. As is defining if it’s of value to you or not.  This dynamic runs through all aspects in coaching*.  This is why I put VALUE as number one on my top 10 list.  I saw many times how this is a hard concept to convey and accept. I’m not the expert.  YOU ARE. Giving the power and permission to the client is different and mind-blowing all at once. That means YOU say when, what, how and how much (in some cases).  We live in a structured, rule-oriented, “this is how you do it” kind of world. And I’m saying “What do you want from coaching?  How much do you want to pay?”

The other side of my lessons learned on this point was the word FREE.  It brought people in from near and far, but they didn’t stay.  I have ONE shot.  ONE chance to make a powerful impact in someone’s life.  It’s a huge thing for a coach.  We coaches know the responsibility placed on us.

[inlinetweet prefix=”The Value of coaching” tweeter=”” suffix=””] It’s not just a conversation, it’s an opportunity to change someone’s life! [/inlinetweet]

But, FREE…that word can take the value away. That perception is harder to squash.  We aren’t working on that in a coaching session we are working on other things.  When it came to the discussion of how to continue forward, well, it went stale, or often a soft promise was made to get back to me on continuing with me for coaching.  I take responsibility here.  I wasn’t great at that discussion for a number of reasons some of which are here in this article. I suspect also that the word FREE might have proceeded the working together conversation before we even met.  That I can never really know unless someone says it to me directly.  Later I read this article on my way to Amsterdam to meet a client.  It jolted me a bit.  The article was over NOT giving it away for free specifically directed to us new coaches. The reason, it devalues the profession of coaching and your time and money spent learning the skills.  I respect this profession and I certainly did not, do not, want to add to its demise.  I believe in its power to really help people who are ready for it.  But also I know it’s important to find out if a coach is right for you.  Taking these two ideas into consideration, free vs. test driving the service, I chose to give an “intake”, a get to know me session.  It’s important to get a taste of what is possible since I’m offering a service.  I see how other coaches are doing it with personal invitations and referrals only.  I may adopt some of those ideas later on in my practice. I’m still learning a lot about coaching even after these 100 sessions.  What was the most valuable lesson I learned? That it starts with me valuing what I offer to people.  The rest will fall into place as I grow.


The article I spoke about can be found here: New Coaches…you do not need to give away your coaching!

*The specific coaching I practice is called Co-Active coaching taught at CTI (Coaches Training Institute).  I will discuss this more in a later post.