Lessons from the Certifiers


From the Archives: Am I being too directive with my client?
by Natalie Tucker Miller, MMC

Several years ago the following question was posed by a coach who was looking for a distinction between driving the conversation vs. facilitating the direction.

Coaching has grown and expanded in understanding since 2010, and this distinction seems more important than ever. When is it appropriate to be directive?

As you continue your professional development as a coach, these are the kinds of scenarios that are useful to play around with in your training and practice. If you're not currently taking advantage of the Path to Mastery program whereby you are matched with other coaches who are also interested in developing coaching via the Masteries in a triad setting, contact Ed Britton at ed.britton@certifiedcoach.org to take advantage of this great IAC member benefit.

Enjoy the following Q&A from our archives!

Q. I received feedback that I was too directive with my client. Is being directive always viewed as negative?

A. Collaborate with your client. Brainstorm. Share what you’re noticing. Make statements to increase understanding. Suggest relevant resources. But don’t be directive? Sounds like a little bit of double talk, doesn’t it?

However, when you look at how being directive affects the coaching, the definition comes into focus.

  • What is the impact on the specific client?
  • In what context is the approach applied?
  • What is the most appropriate action for the given situation and/or how reliant is the coach on that action?
  • Does the coach demonstrate an understanding of the difference between being direct and being directive?

These are just a few indicators to be aware of when pursuing the most effective approach.

In this article, we’ll delve into some of the specifics of those examples for better understanding of when and how being directive might serve your client. The Masteries e-book has several examples that can help demystify this concept. Members can download the e-book for free, and non-members can purchase it for a nominal fee. Please visit the website for details.

Almost every mastery addresses the manner in which a coach can influence the conversation and avoid the pitfall of "telling" the client vs. "inviting" or "engaging" the client.

For instance, in Mastery #1, Establishing and Maintaining a Relationship of Trust, a common mistake coaches make is thinking they need to be the expert. This can show up as being inappropriately directive when the coach indicates to the client that they know what’s best for them. If you find yourself thinking or saying, "What you need to do is…," there is a possibility that you are missing the opportunity for the client to discover the most suitable direction for themselves.

An approach that is more useful is to offer your ideas as a catalyst to a solution or action most befitting the client and the situation. By enlisting the help of Mastery #3, Engaged Listening, and Mastery #4, Processing in the Present, you’ll have no trouble navigating that path.

Another example, as highlighted in Mastery #8, Inviting Possibility, is when the coach is making suggestions to the exclusion of the client. If you notice the client is not offering any input, it’s a good indication that the ideas from the coach are not addressing the client’s unique situation. A client’s silence and/or passive agreement can be a signal that the coach has taken over the conversation.

On the other hand, if you find you and your client sharing ideas, the excitement of momentum growing, it can be a clue that a client-targeted direction will be the outcome. You’ll co-create ideas beyond what either one of you thought was possible!

There are times your client will request your opinion or specifically request a direction. The idea isn’t to withhold assistance from the client; offering your expertise at times like this can be useful. When the request is generated from the client in the spirit of collaboration, this is a sign that the client simply needs a little boost in imagination. By all means, boost away! Just notice when you find yourself doing most of the talking, idea generating or suggesting, as that can indicate you are veering away from an authentic coaching interaction.

The Masteries e-book will provide you several more examples and ways to provide direction while allowing the client to demonstrate and elicit their own brilliance. Please make use of this great resource to enhance your understanding and coaching relationships in profound ways!

Do you have a question that you’d like to ask the certifiers? Submit your questions here: http://certifiedcoachblog.typepad.com/blog/ask-the-certifiers.html.


Natalie Tucker Miller, MMC, is the Lead Certifier and a certifying examiner at the IAC, as well as Past-President. Natalie is founder of Ageless-Sages.com Publishing (www.ageless-sages.com), and creator of the literary genre, Picture Books for Elders™.



Please send your questions on the IAC Coaching Masteries® and the certification process to certification@certifiedcoach.org.

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