The growth of professional coaching worldwide generates a diverse understanding among coaching clients about what coaching is and what it isn’t. We believe that in order for clients to receive the full impact of coaching as defined by ICF, Coaches are required to take a stronger stance for the power of “pure” coaching.

When coaches steadfastly commit to deliver the coaching process to our clients without blending it with other modalities such as consulting or counseling, we too more deeply experience and appreciate “pure” coaching’s power. As we draw out the client’s wisdom and provide access to as-yet-unknown approaches to the situations and topics being explored within the coaching relationship, client awareness unleashes latent potential and innate creativity better than any other human development modality.
In this article, we will be sharing with you four key elements that make the “pure” coaching process powerful in its own right. These three elements are: (1) Trust in the Process, (2) Copious Curiosity, and (3) Risk Taking.

Invitation to Exploration:

  • During your upcoming coaching sessions, notice at which point(s) you find yourself not trusting the “pure” coaching process.
  • As you notice it, what do you find yourself thinking?
  • What beliefs, attitudes or experiences underlie those thoughts, prompting you to insert your own knowledge, expertise or viewpoint?
  • Experiment with the “pure” coaching process and notice the degree of commitment and follow-through you witness with your client.


Trust in Progress

The ICF defines coaching as:
“Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

One dictionary definition of ‘process’ is, “a systematic series of actions directed to some end.” The ICF coaching competencies represent the systematic series of actions of the “though-provoking and creative process that inspires…” and the ‘end’ to which these actions are directed is, “…to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Within the “pure” coaching process defined by the coaching competencies, a professional Coach:

  1. Is in integrity with the coaching ethics and standards,
  2. Co-creates clear agreements with clients (including individual session agreements),
  3. Provides an environment of trust and intimacy,
  4. Stays fully present in each moment,
  5. Actively listens,
  6. Asks powerful questions, and
  7. Uses direct communication, all of which contributes to
  8. Creating awareness, from which actions are designed,
  9. Plans and goals for those actions are set, and
  10. Progress and accountability are measured.

Throughout the entire coaching process the client is capable and resourceful and that the Coach fully believes that to be true and interact with the client accordingly. Most importantly, the client is not being pushed. Instead there is complete trust in the client to choose wisely. The Coach is consistently available for what is and what shows up in each moment, confident to perceive what is most important and respond to it authentically. The Coach surrenders to the flow and momentum created in the reciprocal field between client and coach that occurs through the process of “pure” coaching. 

Copius Curiosity

One of the more common statements we hear from coaches is, “My clients expect me to know and to tell them what I know.” When you enter into a relationship with a client with this premise as an expectation, you enter into a consulting relationship, a relationship based on you as expert rather than equal peer, not a coaching one. Remember, the definition of coaching describes a “thought-provoking and creative process.” What is thought-provoking or creative about telling someone what is already known?

Referring again to the core coaching competencies, it states that “the coach is comfortable not knowing as one of the best states to expand awareness in.” “The coach evidences a complete curiosity that is undiluted by a need to perform.” and, “the coach’s questions are fully based in curiosity and the coach does not ask questions to which the coach knows the answer.”

Cultivating a state of copious curiosity means a willingness to TRULY not know; to set aside everything you think you know and to ask questions that can elicit what the client knows or solutions that are completely unique to the client and the client’s situation. This precludes asking leading questions, those to which you are attached to or know the answer; in other words, there are no conditions on the questions you pose nor a preconceived outcome expected.

This state of curiosity asks you, as coach, to be spontaneous, to be bold and to revere not knowing for both you and your client. By doing so, you can effortlessly invite, solicit and draw out from the client new awareness, clarity, and solutions which emerge from the exchange between you rather than from history.

Copious curiosity is a space in which you and your client can celebrate mystery and wonder about everything without needing to know why. It’s a space of innovation, creativity and unlimited exploration that can yield surprising and impactful insights.

Invitation to Exploration:

  • During upcoming coaching sessions, notice at which point(s) you find yourself allowing your own experience, beliefs, attitudes or knowledge to block your ability to be copiously curious.
  • As you notice it, what do you find yourself thinking and doing?
  • Having identified those thoughts, how can you choose to return to copious curiosity?
Risk Taking

Risk taking here refers to the client’s ability to express their greatness. It also serves to create awareness that has not yet been explored. A Coach should not be afraid of asking questions that will make either him/ her or the client or both uncomfortable.

When a coach consistently trusts the process of “pure” coaching and explores with a client from copious curiosity, the opportunities for risk taking become obvious. Coach and client attune more easily, and openly access and name what is seen, heard, sensed and felt in the space between you and the client. In other words, the Coach and the client take comfort in the discomfort of the unknown and facilitate fresh breakthroughs.

The synergy of multiple ways of perceiving generates permission to see, hear, sense, feel, relate to and share everything being experienced in the exchange; the wholeness of the situation in which everything matters is clearly evident. Within this space, client assumptions, perspectives and beliefs can be challenged; you can both dive deeply into any incongruity, inconsistency, incoherency or paradox inherent in the situation or conversation.

By being willing to tell the truth as it emerges, freedom from self-protection is available because it’s no longer required. When you, as coach, model risk taking with and for the client they gain full permission to reciprocate and do the same, opening richer and deeper avenues of exploration. New awareness is a natural by-product of risk taking.

Invitation to Exploration:

  • During upcoming coaching sessions, notice at which point(s) you hesitate to be bold or take a risk in service to your client.
  • As you notice it, what do you find yourself thinking and doing?
  • What will support you to develop ease and comfort with taking risks in service to client awareness?