Leader as Coach: Designing Actions

designing actionsCoaching is about change.  To change, we need to take action of some kind.  Before we can take action, we need to consider the possibilities, designing actions, and then make a choice about which action(s) to take.

Sometimes, people have come to coaching feeling like they have just two ways of going forward.  But neither of those ideas feels right for them.  Coaching can help them to consider more options, so that they really have proper choice and can experiment with new ideas, rather than going with a “best of the worst” options.

But if we try, as leader as coach, to get the person to action too quickly, without exploring the situation, then it’s difficult to break away from that either/or dilemma.  So don’t move to designing actions too soon.  Spend time on active listening, powerful questioning, direct communication and creating awareness, to really get to the bottom of the issue before moving to action.

Once it feels like they have unpicked the issue and perhaps got down to some root causes of the problem, then you can ask if they are ready to think about designing actions.  This is about options, possibilities, unedited ideas.  Some of them may not be realistic, but the more ideas they come up with, the more choice they have about the way forward, when it comes to planning and goal-setting.

How do you go about generating options with them?  Here’s how the ICF describes the competency:

  1. Brainstorms and assists the client to define actions that will enable the client to demonstrate, practice, and deepen new learning.
  2. Helps the client to focus on and systematically explore specific concerns and opportunities that are central to agreed-upon coaching goals.
  3. Engages the client to explore alternative ideas and solutions, to evaluate options, and to make related decisions.
  4. Promotes active experimentation and self-discovery, where the client applies what has been discussed and learned during sessions immediately afterward in his/her work or life setting.
  5. Celebrates client successes and capabilities for future growth.
  6. Challenges client’s assumptions and perspectives to provoke new ideas and find new possibilities for action.
  7. Advocates or brings forward points of view that are aligned with client goals and, without attachment, engages the client to consider them.
  8. Helps the client “Do It Now” during the coaching session, providing immediate support.
  9. Encourages stretches and challenges but also a comfortable pace of learning.

What do you know now about Designing Actions that you didn’t know before?  What surprises you about this?  Notice that this isn’t about you giving solutions or advice.  How does that feel?  It would be great to hear your thoughts in the comments box.


To read all the previous posts in this series about the Leader as Coach, take a look below:

Meeting ethical guidelines and professional standards

Establishing the coaching agreement

Establishing trust and intimacy

Coaching presence

Active Listening

Powerful Questioning

Direct Communication

Creating Awareness