What are the skills a Coach uses?

Melody Cheal, Coaching Supervision provider and trainer.When you ask, what are the skills a Coach uses, you might want to bear in mind “how long is a piece of string?”

There are some skills that all good Coaches will use for sure and these may seem quite obvious, such as:

  • Being present the client.
  • Creating a safe space.
  • Building a relationship based on trust and respect.
  • Being a good listener.
  • Asking useful questions.

No matter how obvious they may appear there is more to it even with these few skills. Let me unpack them a little for you.

Being present

When I use the term “being present” I am referring to the Coach’s mental and physical state. Being present means you are fully in the present moment with an external focus the client. This involve putting  on one side any issues, concerns and distractions from your life and putting the focus on the client.

For new Coaches this can be challenging. The challenge can be to let go of your internal critic that may be judging your coaching, or getting caught up in trying to remember a model or a technique. You may need to learn some grounding techniques to practice in the few minutes before your client arrives.

Why is it important to be present? Well this is one of the things that helps your client feel truly listened to and valued. Coaching is a client led activity in that the client sets the agenda in terms of topic. If you are not present you may miss important cues from your client and go off in the wrong direction.

Creating a safe place and building a relationship based on trust and respect

Creating a safe place and building the relationship emerges from being present. A big part of this is “contracting effectively” around confidentiality and boundaries. Contracting refers more to agreements than a legally binding contract. Exploring what is okay and what is not okay for your client and for you helps trust develop.

The second part for me is about the relationship attitude that you bring as the Coach. I like to refer to the Counsellor Carl Rogers for this. He said the single biggest factor in success in the counselling dynamic was the relationship. He talked about the importance of the Counsellor holding an “unconditional, positive regard” for the Client. This is equally important in Coaching.

Unconditional positive regard means that you accept your client as they are and think well of them. You refrain from judgement and allow the client to explore their issues while feeling supported and accepted. This can often be challenging particularly if you have a client that pushes your buttons and is often a topic a Coach may bring to one of my Supervision Groups or to an individual Supervision session.

I share with my Coaches an allied idea developed from Rogers approach by Julie Silverthorn and John Overdurf.  This approach involves you, the Coach holding a positive internal representation of their Client.

Let me unpack that bit of jargon. This refers to how we process information internally. You will hold images, sounds, feelings and even smells and taste in internal representations. You could say these are memories. However often they are more than that. If you think of someone you have worked with or coached recently notice how you represent them in your mind.

Do you see them as capable, valuable and full of potential or do you see them as their problems e.g. if coming to coaching for confidence issues is that how you see them? What is the image you see, how do they sound and what are you feeling about them?

If you hold the latter image it may limit how much you can help your client as the internal images we hold do leak into how we relate to people. If instead you hold an internal image of your client as their potential you are creating a space where that is possible for them. In other words you are believing in them. Learning how to do this is part of our Coaching Diploma. By the way, what internal representation are you holding of yourself? Are you see yourself as the best version of you?

Being a good listener and asking useful questions

When I teach Corporate training courses students often insist that they are good listeners however when they try some simple listening exercises they are often surprised at the results. Listening is one of those things everyone thinks they are good at and often sadly they are not!

As a Coach if you are being present you are half way there. Being present helps you stay more open and able to really listen to the words. However as a Coach you will also be developing Advanced listening skills. You will be picking up on trigger words, linguistic patterns, tonality, emotion and mixed messages. You may even have learnt how to recognise micro expressions.

Developing your listening skills will help you to formulate questions that have value and are useful. Knowing how to ask useful questions is often about really listening and  hearing the client (both what is said and what is not said). There are some questions you can learn that can also help you develop well structured questions that get to the centre of things.

Next time I will expand a little more on some of the alternative tools and their associated skills that are used by many Coaches. Quick disclaimer here, what I share will be a sample because in Coaching the number of tools and theories are ever expanding!

What is Coaching?

Melody Cheal, Coaching Supervision provider and trainer.What is Coaching?

You may wonder why I am writing such a basic post about “what is coaching?

Well, recently I have noticed that in some of our Corporate contracts there is some confusion. The people offered coaching have not really understood what it is. Some have even thought they were being punished.

In some cases the “client” has been defensive in sessions and appears to try to prove to the Coach that they are good at everything and don’t need help. In other cases the client goes into full blown download mode treating the session as a sort of therapy session. Finally in other cases  the client has expected the coach to provide instructions about how to deal with work place situations.

So with that in mind I am going to share some definitions and practical guides that will clarify:

  • What is Coaching?
  • What are the skills a Coach uses?
  • How does Coaching work?
  • What are the benefits of Coaching?
  • How do you choose a Coach?

What is Coaching?

Here is my definition of Coaching, I wonder if you will agree or have your own version.

Coaching consists of a relationship between the Coach and Client. The Coach uses approaches and techniques that help the Client move forward in some way, This may include helping the client to:

  • Clarify their own thinking.
  • Set clear goals or aims.
  • Gain new perspective.
  • Create an action plan.
  • Gain greater self-awareness.
  • Deepen knowledge and understanding of others behaviour and motivations.
  • Learn or develop strategies to help the client be more effective in a chosen environment.
  • Unpack challenging situations or conflicts in a safe space.
  • Receive feedback and challenge.
  • Have space to think.
  • To feel supported and valued.

It is also worth identifying what Coaching is not. Coaching is not counselling or therapy. Coaching tends to be future focused and counselling is not usually appropriate in Coaching. A Coach will not tell you what you should do or give you advice. A Coach may teach you a model to help you deepen self-awareness or develop strategies. They will not become your manager. Your Coach will hold a positive space for you and will refrain from judgement. Your Coach will help you to develop options, gain perspective and may provide a frame-work for action plans that you devise yourself.

Coaching provided within Organisations will normally have an agreed confidentiality agreement. This means the Coach will be open with you about what if any information will be shared with your employer. In th most effective agreements all discussions remain confidential so that trust can build between you and your Coach. The Coach will need to feed back to the Organisation if appointments are missed (particularly if your Coach is an external one). If the Organisation requires more feedback from sessions (and this is rare) a good Coach will be transparent with you about what will be shared.

Next time I will talk more about the type of tools a good Coach may use. Do let me know your thoughts and if you have any questions.

Understanding Drama in the Coaching Room, the theory

So you can have an understanding of Drama in the Coaching Room this week I will lay out the theory in a little more detail.

As already mentioned Transactional Analysis has a great model called the “Drama Triangle” (Karpman 1968) as one way of exploring what Berne described as games.

In Transactional terms, the interaction between people can be viewed almost as a theatrical performance. There are three main roles;

  • Persecutor – when in this role you may have several behaviours such as criticising or even bullying. You may believe you are just giving constructive feedback however the unhealthy nature of the triangle invites the other party or parties to react either defensively or provoke a counterattack.
  • Rescuer – in this role, you may find yourself trying to solve problems for the other person with solutions or suggestions. You may take over and disempower the other person without meaning to. Although motivated by a desire to help this role usually backfires.
  • Victim – when in this role you may feel hard done by and helpless. There can be a sense of other people disrespecting you. You may find it hard to express yourself or set boundaries. You may be just as likely to have a tantrum!


‘Players’ tend to circulate the roles until everyone has had a go at all three. There is always a negative payoff and as with all games the Drama Triangle tends to be out of awareness.


So how do you recognise a game of Drama In The Coaching Room?

We often talk about people playing psychological games with each other and wonder what is going on. A game is described as a repetitive but unsatisfactory interaction with another person or group of people. There are several elements to a game that can alert you to its presence:

  • Repetition – here you go again.
  • Predictability – we may not predict our games but when we see others playing we can predict how it will go.
  • Ulterior transaction – what is on the surface masks what is going on underneath.
  • Switch – where the roles change dramatically.
  • Negative payoff – everyone is left feeling worse even if you think you won to game.
  • Out of awareness – you are not aware of the pattern playing out.

A game may last just a few minutes or go on for much longer. A game can only continue if both parties are willing to “play”. This willingness occurs at an unconscious level.


As a Coach learning to recognise what is going on is key in creating a more positive dynamic with your client and ultimately helping the client to become self-aware too.

Next time I will use an example from the Coaching room to explain what is going on and how you the Coach can step out of the Drama.

If Transactional Analysis is something you would like to explore further do contact me to find out about Transactional Analysis for Coaches (on Zoom) next month, 28th to 29th November.

If you are a Coach and think you might need Supervision contact me directly for details of one-to-one sessions and Supervision Groups.

How Coaches are invited into the Drama and what happens next!

This week I will start by exploring how Coaches are invited into the Drama. So let me clarify what I am talking about.

The models and ideas for this series are drawn from Transactional Analysis.

Following on from last week, Coaches can often find themselves being sucked into their client’s Drama and this is unhelpful. Let me give you a couple of examples.

Case study one:

The Client brings a conflict situation to the Coaching session. On the surface, this is to understand and develop strategies to deal with the problem. In reality, the Client shares their story in such a way that instead of staying neutral the Coach gets sucked in.

Perhaps the story involves a manager bullying the Client and the Coach feels sorry for the Client. The Coach now starts offering solutions to the problem but the Client is reluctant to engage either rejecting the ideas or saying they won’t work. Often the “yes but…” refrain is heard.

Case study two:

In this scenario, the beginning is the same but instead of feeling sorry for the Client the Coach becomes irritated and “sides” with other ‘players’ in the Drama. Perhaps the Coach offers “feedback” or “challenge to the Client that provokes a response of either tears or anger.

Case study three:

Again the beginning is the same but somehow the story twists around and the Client blames the Coach for not helping enough in previous sessions. The Coach feels blamed and shamed.

In all three examples, there is some form of Transference and Counter-transference going on.

In Transference the Client is unconsciously projecting qualities, behaviours, attitudes and feelings onto the Coach that belong to someone from the Client’s past.

Counter-transference is where the Coach is unconsciously projecting their past onto the Client.

The key to transforming this situation is self-awareness and boundaries. For the Coach experiencing this kind of issue, the advice is to seek Supervision to bring the patterns into awareness.

In my next article, I will explain in more detail the model used to explore the type of Case study above, the Drama Triangle. Later next month we will also look at the Winner’s Triangle as a model for self-awareness both for Coach and Client.



If Transactional Analysis is something you would like to explore further do contact me to find out about Transactional Analysis for Coaches (on Zoom) next month, 28th to 29th October 2023. This course is available every year.


If you are a Coach and think you might need Supervision contact me directly for details of one-to-one sessions and Supervision Groups.

Coaches getting sucked into their client’s drama

Why are Coaches getting sucked into their client’s drama? Great question, right?

As a coach, do you get sucked into your client’s drama?

I think I need to start by clarifying what I mean by coaches getting sucked into their client’s drama before we go any further.

Whenever you start having strong feelings about the story the client shares in coaching you need to stop and question yourself. In order to be an effective Coach it can be argued that you need to maintain a certain psychological distance while at the same time having empathy and compassion.

When you start feeling strong feelings there is a good chance some of your own “stuff” has been triggered. In Supervision terms, this could be an example of transference and/or countertransference in play.

There is an excellent model in Transactional Analysis that can be used to understand this dynamic.

Over the next few weeks, I will share with you some background theory on this model plus some case studies followed by how you can step back out of the drama. I will also expand to how you can use this same model to help your clients.

Are you interested in knowing more?

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?

Does an Executive Coach 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 an Executive 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.
  • The 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.

Executive Coach, Melody Cheal

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.

Melody Cheal, Coaching Supervision provider and trainer.

What is Coaching Supervision? 10 answers and why it’s vital!

I was asked the other day “What is coaching supervision and 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 the 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.

Coaching 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 of coaching supervision 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. Coaching 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.