Why is Contracting important in Coaching Cultures?

The importance of Contracting in Coaching Cultures was a topic in this week’s Supervision Group so I thought it might be worth sharing a few thoughts with you today.

Contracting is the foundation of good Coaching, it sets boundaries and agreements about how the Coaching Relationship will progress. For Inhouse Coaches there are added complexities and challenges.

There are two major challenges that need addressing in order to keep Coaching in organisations effective, ethical and positive.

The first challenge is for the Coaches themselves. How many different “hats” do you wear within the organisation. For example, for the Coach who is also an HR Professional and a Manager you could be faced with dilemmas while coaching. What if a “client” reveals an issue that legally cannot be ignored from an HR perspective?

If the potential for such dilemmas are included in Contracting and a process to handle such clashes then the solution is simple. The “client” will already understand the process and why it is there. If the Coach has an understanding of what to do at the point a dilemma is uncovered there is no damage to the Coaching Relationship or the Coaching Culture.

Where this problem has not been included in the Contract the fall out can include loss of trust and respect for individual Coaches and perhaps the whole Coaching Culture. It can create a major sabotage on the whole process.

The second challenge is the nature of what is known as Three (or more) Cornered Contracts. This refers to all the stake holders in a Coaching Relationship. In addition to the Coach and Client there may also be Managers and Coaching Sponsors. Sometimes Managers and Coaching Sponsors can create pressure on Coaches to break confidentiality or to perhaps address issues with the client covertly.

For example, the Coach may be told to fix a behavioural issue in the client by the Manager or Sponsor. The Coaches among you will already have noticed the word “fix” which of course is not appropriate to Coaching anyway. Often the client has no idea the Coach has been given an agenda by a Sponsor or Manager.

 This dynamic can go in a number of directions. If the Coach complies and the client works it out trust and respect are broken. If the Coach tries to insist on boundaries they may experience even more pressure and even criticism particularly if there is lack of back up from the organisation.

The introduction of a bigger picture Contract as part of the Coaching Culture can remove this challenge. Those responsible for setting up the Coaching Culture create rules and boundaries for how Coaching is conducted. You will need to ensure there is top level buy-in to these rules and boundaries if the Coaching Culture is to succeed.

These are just two of the challenges faced when introducing a Coaching Culture and something we often help with when consulting in Organisations.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Do Executive Coaches need to know all about their client’s business?

If you are an Executive Coach or want to become a Coach it is worth considering whether you need to know about your client’s business in order to work with them.

There are various opinions about this and I will share mine with you. You may agree or disagree, either way it is worth thinking about.

Some business clients will have the opinion that you do need to know about their business in order to understand their issues but I do not think that is true. You do need to be well informed about their business but you are bringing them a different type of expertise.

If they need technical advice about their business the client would be served more effectively by talking with either a specialist Consultant in the field or a mentor. As a Coach you may help them find the right fit alongside any Executive Coaching you are providing.

As an Executive Coach (or Business Coach) you are being hired for your expertise as a Coach not your knowledge of a specific business. To my mind you are offering the following services:

  • A sounding board – this is where the client’s business will most often be talked about in detail during a coaching session. Your job as Coach is to provide the space for the client to explore their ideas out loud. You will also ask questions that help the client clarify their thinking and identify resources. You do not need to be an expert in their business to ask good questions.
  • Most common topics presented in Executive Coaching are people issues. This should be your expertise. Coaching your client on how to have difficult conversations, manage different personality types and motivate others will often be part of this discussion. People issues are pretty much the same in all industries with maybe some cultural differences.
  • You may also be helping your client deal with confidence issues and maybe Imposter Syndrome.
  • Coaching your client to find strategies to get or maintain a good work life balance is also a key area. This may include well-being techniques and resources.
  • More skills based Coaching may be another part of the contract including developing a powerful presentation style, preparing for interviews or preparing for meetings.
  • One of my favourite topics is helping your client navigate Organisational Politics.

There are other topics that may form part of the Executive Coaches remit however it mainly boils down to people skills, self-confidence and well-being.

So how much do you need to know about your client’s business. Well, it is a good idea to do a little research about the business. Know how big the company is, what it does (eg industry sector) and other general details. This kind of information is usually easy to track down online. Be aware of any news stories that may be relevant but beyond that make sure your Coaching Skills are sharp and fit for purpose.

What do you think? Should you be an expert on your client’s business? I’d love to know what you think.

What is Coaching Supervision?

I was asked the other day “What does a Coaching Supervisor do?” and realised that the answer is not obvious to everyone.

In order to answer this question I must first create some frames to start from. The field of personal development and business Coaching has evolved over several decades now.  Typically Coaches were lone workers and had little in the way of support or development.

As professional bodies  (such as Association for Coaching and International Coaching Federation) developed to represent Coaches it became apparent that Coaches do need ongoing support and a sense of belonging.

Supervision and training for Coaching Supervisors grew out of this need.

A number of years ago I conducted a survey and one of the questions I asked was about the definition of Supervision and what it is. Here are some of the responses:

  • A process where either on a group or individual basis, my practice is discussed and reviewed with experienced Coaches/Supervisors.  The aim of the process is to ensure that practice is safe, reflexive, and therefore improves with the aim of ensuring the client’s needs are central to the work.

  • Having someone with knowledge and experience to go to on a regular basis to discuss issues related to the coaching work done by the individual. Helping with further development and confidence building, as well as providing personal support to prevent burnout

  • Someone who has the responsibility and competence to monitor performance.

  • 1:1 meeting between an individual and (usually) their line manager or another respected individual.  Used to review cases, for reflective practice; to identify areas for improvement and celebrate successes.

  • A tiered support system for coachs.

  • In the strictest term – someone monitoring another individual, but also being there as a guide, coach, tutor, support, overseer.

  • My definition would be – allowing someone the freedom to be, do or make choices but questioning those choices should the “supervisor” feel that the outcome could be detrimental in any way, to their (or indeed others) health or well being.  Ideally the supervisor would share their knowledge or experience, usually backed up with examples and allow the person being supervised to think of more appropriate options or revise any decision before making it.

  • Monitoring your work to ensure that your practice is safe and ethical; supporting and encouraging your ongoing development as a practitioner; progressing your work with clients.

  • I feel that supervision means that someone is there with you. With regard to coach training should be of a high standard and that there should be back up with contact and not necessarily have to be there in person.

  • I guess it is a mentor of sorts, someone for a practitioner to refer to for advice and support.

How does it match up with your definition and understanding?

What is Supervision?

Here is my brief definition.

Supervision is a key element of good coaching practice providing the coach with support and development. It also signals a professional approach to your client. Supervision is essentially the process of going “meta” to your coaching practice, it helps you to metaphorically take a step back and look at your work from a new perspective.

The term “supervision” as used here is very different to the managerial usage of the term. The supervisor may or may not line manage the coach, the role is intended more for development and providing the coach with a coach. Supervision as a process works best when separated from day to day line management. This means that clear contracting is just as important in this relationship as it is in primary coaching mentoring relationships. This is more clear cut for independent Coaches and Supervisors. In-house programmes need a little more thought and contracting to keep the process “clean”.

Brigid Proctor (1986) described three elements useful in counselling supervision; normative, formative and restorative. These elements have value in coaching supervision too. Julie Hay (2007) re-labelled restorative as supportive when applied to coaching to reflect the less traumatic nature of the coaching process when compared to counselling.

The normative aspects of supervision relate to ensuring that the coach is practicing in a competent and ethical way. This includes working in accordance with the law and within whatever professional or organisational boundaries apply.

The formative aspect is aimed at encouraging development and growth in the coach by the use of feedback, direct guidance, challenge or role modelling. The aim is to engage the coach in active self awareness, development of skills and increased knowledge of theoretical models.

Finally the supportive aspect is aimed at providing the coach/ mentor with a safety valve to ensure that they are avoiding unhealthy transference or counter transference issues. This may involve challenging the coach/mentors perceptions about emotions, issues or approaches. It may even include recommending that the coach/ mentor seek more in-depth personal support if their own personal issues have begun to intrude into their professional practice. In addition this aspect provides the encouragement and support to help the coach/ mentor if they experience feelings of self doubt or insecurity.

In-house coaching and mentoring programmes should include a formally set up supervision process. This can involve experiences coaches or mentors within the organisation or may involve using and external provider.

If you are a practicing Coach do you have a Supervisor? If not do contact me to find out about my groups and one to one support.

If you are an experienced Coach maybe it is time to consider training as a Supervisor yourself. My next Accredited Diploma starts in September and there is still time to join the Cohort. Contact me direct or click the link for more details.


What is the importance of recognising emotions in Coaching?

Recognising Emotions!

Have you considered the importance of recognising emotions in Coaching? Let me expand, how good are you at recognising your own emotions? How about emotions in your clients?

Recognising or Perceiving Emotions is one of the Branches of the MSCEIT (Mayer, Salovey and Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test). Some people are naturally good at recognising their own emotions and some are less perceptive. This is also true when it comes to recognising emotions in other people.

I want to start by exploring why this is important for you as a Coach first. There are two main reasons for you to be able to recognise emotions in yourself.

The first is self-awareness, being able to understand your own process is essential for your well-being and self-care. For example, if you don’t recognise when something is distressing you there could be stress responses triggered that will have a negative impact on your well-being and resilience. The same applies to your clients.

As a Coach your level of self-awareness is a model for your client. If you are unaware of your own emotions you are unlikely to be equipped to fully help your client understand theirs.

The second reason is linked to the first, clients sometimes share stories that are triggering for you, the Coach. You need to be able to recognise when you are having a reaction that could be connected to Transference/ Counter transference. Recognising you have been triggered allows you to recognise that you may need some supervision to help you process.

Recognising emotions in others is the other side of this branch of Emotional Intelligence. Again, some are naturally gifted in this area while others are not. Clients will sometimes be expressing emotions or supressing emotions in the Coaching session.

Do you always notice at an early stage or do you need extreme signals to notice (eg tears)?

 Acknowledging when a client is experiencing emotions is an important part of the supportive element of the Coaching Relationship. This includes knowing how and when to acknowledge the emotion. Jumping in too quickly can be harsh, leaving it too long can feel unsupportive. How you acknowledge may interrupt the emotion, there are times when this is helpful and times when it is not.

Clients sometimes unconsciously or consciously suppress emotions. As a Coach there is a skill in noticing the signals of suppressed emotions. At times it is appropriate for the Coach to gently challenge possible suppressed emotions to check if there is awareness. When such emotions are out of the clients awareness they may gain valuable insight into their own process.

Even if the client is consciously suppressing emotions a gentle challenge may still be appropriate. As a Coach understanding that many people have been taught to suppress emotions in an unhealthy, think “stiff upper lip” culture. Deciding when or when not to challenge suppressed in emotions can be tricky and again may be a useful topic for supervision.

With both recognising emotions in self and others there is a scale that can be measured by tools such as MSCEIT.

The big question must be can you improve your ability to recognise emotions in self and others? I believe you can. As a Coach you can also help others to improve their ability.

When I studied for the MSCEIT whether it was possible to improve your ability to recognise emotions was a topic of discussion. The two tutors differed in their opinions. One said all aspects of Emotional Intelligence are fixed. The other that we can change it.

However they both agreed that you can learn strategies to compensate and boost your ability to recognise emotions.

Personally, I agree with the tutor who believed you can improve your Emotional Intelligence. This is good news because as Coach emotions are often part of the equation. Later in this series I will share some ideas about managing emotions.

We explore aspects of how to improve your recognition of emotions including reading micro expressions as part of the Positive Psychology Coaching module this month. Click the link for more details.

More to follow in my next article.

What is Emotionally Intelligent Coaching?

Melody Cheal MSc

I wonder if you see the ambiguity in the title, what is Emotionally Intelligent Coaching? Today I am introducing a topic that is important for you both as a Coach and a Client. In order to help others with Emotional Intelligence you need to be self-aware yourself. I will be discussing both how to be an Emotionally Intelligent Coach and how to do Emotionally Intelligent Coaching.

Do you get the ambiguity now?

Most people these days have heard the term Emotionally Intelligent or Emotional Intelligence but I wonder if you have a good understanding of what it means?

When I studied for my MSc in Applied Positive Psychology one of the topics I took a particular interest in was Emotional Intelligence. I decided to expand my learning by adding the MSCEIT psychometric to my offering.

This is the Emotional Intelligence psychometric designed by Mayer, Salovey and Caruso. I was fortunate enough to train with David Caruso himself (not the one from Miami CSI).

Their model in my opinion is the most useful available to help understand the many aspects of Emotional Intelligence. As a Coach you need to understand Emotional Intelligence on two levels, the first is as a self-awareness tool and the second is in relation to helping your clients develop their own awareness.

Over the next couple of weeks I will share with you some tips and ideas drawn from the four branches of Emotional Intelligence as laid out by Mayer et al:

  • Perceiving or recognising emotions in self and others.
  • Using emotions to facilitate thinking (knowing how emotions influence our thinking and being able to use them more effectively).
  • Understanding emotions including being able to predict emotional reactions in self and others.
  • Managing emotions is self and others. This is probably the aspect of emotional intelligence clients most often ask me to help them with.

I will also share a little about how the MSCEIT works and how it can be used to help you or your clients understand themselves more.


This is all covered in more detail in the next module of my Accredited Coaching Diploma, Positive Psychology Coaching Module Two. You can attend just this module or sign up for the whole Diploma. Contact me for more details.

Positive Psychology Coaching with Strengths

When you use Positive Psychology Coaching with Strengths you are doubling up on the positive benefits.

Many people will have experienced coaching, management feedback or criticism about their “weaknesses”. At one time this was the most common way of working with development particularly in the workplace. How was it for you when the focus was on weakness?

Gradual shifts away from this approach have included reframing weaknesses to development areas but still focused on what was wrong rather than what was right. While it is important to acknowledge that sometimes there is a benefit in using this approach it may not be particularly motivational.

If you think about this from another perspective this focus could very easily result in feelings of low self-worth and maybe even hopelessness if making changes feels too difficult. It certainly does not promote well-being.

This is where developments in Positive Psychology come in with the idea of focusing on Strengths instead. There are several aspects to this approach that are helpful from a well-being point of view.

Firstly, focusing on your Strengths will probably make you feel good. Identifying how you already make a difference in a positive way is uplifting.

Secondly, you can look at ways of using your Strengths even more. This will be easy because your Strengths come naturally to you. As a result your sense of subjective well-being will be increased and you may even have a boost in self-efficacy. All of this helps you access the best version of you!

Thirdly, you can explore how applying your Strengths in new contexts can be helpful. This will include contexts that have been a problem and where you may have perceived weakness. Applying your Strengths may mean you find ways of resolving issues that you had not considered before.

This is where a good Coach can help you first identify your Strengths and then explore them. You can be Coached to identify new ways of applying your Strengths. And of course many of you reading this will be Coaches or would like to become a Coach, are you using your Strengths in Coaching others?

There are two main ways to identify your Strengths. The first is to take a psychometric, there are several available including two we look at as part of my Positive Psychology Coaching modules. The second is to uncover them for yourself with the guidance of a Coach.

There are benefits to both approaches and which you use may depend on the client. Some clients get a lot of value from completing a questionnaire, others prefer to find out for themselves. You can easily combine the two approaches to deepen the learning.

Are you already using Strengths approaches? What has been the most useful aspect for you?

Where does Wisdom fit in Positive Psychology Coaching?

Cloud gazing by the pond

Knowing where Wisdom fits in Positive Psychology Coaching may be Wisdom in itself!

I wanted to talk to you about Wisdom for many reasons:

  1. Wisdom is not always recognised and valued. I’d like to change that.
  2. Wisdom is often associated with aging yet we don’t always value people as they age. I’d like to change that.
  3. I am curious about how you can develop Wisdom.
  4. I am also curious about how some people seem to be born with Wisdom.

How about you, have you ever wondered about Wisdom?

Maybe it would help to start by sharing some definitions on Wisdom. And here we run into a problem. The literature on this subject varies and the only thing agreed upon is that Wisdom is hard to define and there are also Cultural aspects to how we view it. The definitions fall under three broad categories:

  1. As a stage of human development.
  2. As an example of advanced thinking abilities.
  3. As an expanded form of intelligence.

None of these definition categories really hit the mark for me, what do you think?

Have you ever met someone and thought them “wise beyond their years”? What does that mean to you?

Understanding and recognising wisdom may need to be something more personal. It is certainly more than knowledge, thinking and logic. Wisdom may be the ability to apply learning, knowledge and experience to life by making “good” choices and decisions but is that all?

One form of wisdom that many people report is a change in how you relate to others as you get older. You may notice that you make changes in the people you spend time with. It has been suggested that many people start to prioritise who they spend time with and let go of fears of upsetting others. You are more likely to want to spend time with people that enrich your life and let go of people who drain you. Has that happened to you?

You may also become more accepting of yourself as your wisdom grows and extend this acceptance to others. You may give up the need for anyone to change.


Bringing Wisdom into your Coaching Practice

I love the fact that one of the best definitions of Wisdom I have found is ancient and comes from Confucius:

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

As a Coach you will encourage your clients to reflect on experiences in order to learn. As a professional Coach you will probably keep a reflective diary to help you learn and gain more wisdom. You will spend time reflecting with your Supervisor deepening this reflection.

If you do not already keep a reflective diary start one today. The easiest way to do this is to reflect on three questions directly after each coaching session.

  1. What went well?
  2. What could I have done differently?
  3. What did I learn?

Remember the reflective diary is about you rather than the client, the diary allows you to focus on your own development and is a form of self-supervision.

Imitation is also present in Coaching. You will model or imitate the Coaching practice of others to keep your coaching skills fresh and developing. This may happen as a result of attending a training course, watching a demonstration or even reading a book. As you reflect on your imitation you will internalise it and by an innate process of wisdom adapt what you imitate to your own style.

You may encourage your clients to identify role models for their development. Thus you bring imitation to your Coaching practice too.

For those who find the concept of imitating uncomfortable remember as a child you will have imitated those around you in order to learn to speak, walk and know how to be part of a family or community. This is one of the most natural ways to learn.

The bitterest learning according to Confucius comes from experience. As a Coach you will expand your knowledge and skill by experience and yet the most wisdom often comes from sessions that didn’t go well. This I think is what Confucius meant when he said it was the bitterest. When we reflect on an experience that was challenging we have the opportunity to understand how we could have done things differently. Wisdom involves allowing yourself permission to accept what happened and learn from it.


As you work with your Clients you will often be helping them reflect and learn from their experiences too.


Studying Wisdom with Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology explores the concept of Wisdom in many ways and perhaps the most structured comes from the Strengths work of Peterson and Seligman.

Wisdom is one of the “Virtues” of the VIA model and includes the Character Strengths of Creativity, Curiosity, Judgement, Love of Learning and Perspective. This is something we actively explore during the Association for Coaching Diploma modules I teach on Positive Psychology.

According to this model Wisdom is something we all have to varying degrees. This is based on the Character Strengths listed above and how easily you can access or express them.

It could be argued that if Wisdom is really a stage in development we would all access the Character Strengths of Wisdom as we develop. This does not really play out in the model.

I am curious to know what you think about Wisdom and how it develops. Is it something that naturally develops? Do some people have it (like a Strength/Virtue) and some people don’t? Is Wisdom really about age and life experience?

For me there are more questions than answers, what about you?

Positive Psychology Coaching: Savouring the moment

In this first full blog on Positive Psychology Coaching I want to focus on Savouring the moment.

How often do you truly stay present and savour the moment?

As a Coach being “present” with our clients is a key skill but is this the same as savouring the moment?

I would argue that although similar these two experiences are not the same. As a Coach giving yourself the gift of savouring will help you to build and maintain your resilience. It will do the same for your clients when you encourage them to take time to savour.

In preparing to write this piece I decided to consciously take twenty minutes to savour. I wanted to have a fresh experience to share with you.

I took myself and my five dogs into the garden. I sat on a bench and allowed the dogs to do what they wanted.

I started by watching my dogs play noticing how they naturally savour life. Playing and running and jumping. When the mood took them they stopped to sniff or lay in the sunshine. I was savouring this experience using my eyes and ears. When I let go of “noticing” I truly savoured the experience of being with my dogs.

My awareness expanded and I listened to the wind in the trees, the birds singing and the distant hum of traffic. I looked at the trees, I closed my eyes and felt the interplay of the chill breeze and the warm sun on my face.

My internal dialogue was quiet, my mind didn’t wander to other topics. It was still because I was experiencing my senses.

All too often we can be in an experience but thinking of other things, sometimes life’s worries or just want to have for dinner. Our way of living creates the busy mind, distraction and a sense of preparing constantly for the future.

Using your senses to savour an experience helps you to stay present without any need to achieve anything. It allows your neurology to settle, stress levels to drop, you remember to breathe fully. All of this is good for your well-being.

Although you may not feel it is realistic to live every moment savouring making sure you give yourself the gift of regular savouring moments will boost your well-being and health.

As a Coach you need to walk your talk. If you want to help your clients learn to savour make sure you are able to offer real examples of how you take time out to savour life. With that in mind I have a challenge for you.

When was the last time you savoured a meal?

My challenge for you this week is to eat a meal and savour it. You may need to eat alone or if you have someone who would like to join you in savouring eat together. Notice what happens when you let go of conversation and savour each bite. You may be surprised how much flavour you experience and how much slower you eat.

Let me know your experiences. What happened for you?

What is Positive Psychology Coaching?

People often ask what is Positive Psychology Coaching and how is it different to other approaches?

The answer is both simple and complicated. In one sense all Coaching is to some extent Positive Psychology. Most Coaches agree that Coaching is future focused and about outcomes rather than delving into causes from emotional and psychological baggage. Positive Psychology in many cases (but not all) also focuses on the future and outcomes.

The more complicated answer is that Positive Psychology is a growing field and the number of topics, branches and approaches is also growing. I studied on the first Positive Psychology Masters Degree in Europe back in 2007. In two years we covered a lot of topics!

Here are some examples:

  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Strengths
  • Growth Mindsets
  • Optimism
  • Wisdom
  • Gratitude
  • Resilience
  • Well-being
  • Mindfulness
  • Hope
  • Relationships
  • Self-efficacy
  • Flourishing

    Finding your inner sure of well being
  • Happiness
  • Meaning and meaningful life

Over the next few months I will share some specific elements of Positive Psychology with you and how you can use it in Coaching. If you have any favourite topics do let me know and I will do my best to include them in this series.

If you want to read more today here is an old blog I wrote looking at Positive Psychology for self-care

Become a Coaching Supervisor

If you are an experienced Coach you may be ready to consider becoming a Coaching Supervisor.

Each year I take a small select group of people through my Accredited Supervisor Diploma. This will allow you to step up to the next level.


You will get so much from this Certification including

  • a new way to make a difference, enlarging your personal ripple effect.
  • learn new skills that will help your clients develop.
  • grow your business and bring in a new income stream.
  • and experience personal transformation and challenge.

To find out if you are eligible contact me direct for a chat to find out more. Click here to connect