3 Key Principles I’ve learned being a Coach

3 Key Principles I’ve learned being a Coach

A friend recently asked what I’ve learned from being a coach. A simple question, but my answer deserved reflection, soul searching, and elaboration. My experiences and lessons from the last 10 years of coaching could not be reduced to a pithy Tweet or even a Facebook post. My feelings on the subject run big and they run deep. Living in Kansas City has helped shape my experience but the principles apply no matter where you live.

1) Clients know what’s right for them. Coaching is not about telling someone else how to live his or her life. Helping someone find his or her own answers is what coaching is truly about.

2) Facing fears is always easier in the light. When we share what we’re afraid of with others we cast it out of the shadows and into the light. Thus giving you the ability to see more options. Most people tend to hide and avoid what we fear actually giving it more power than it deserves. Talking about it, stating it out loud,  takes that power back from the specific event or challenge and regains that power in your core being where it belongs.  It gives you the ability to discuss the problem with people that maybe have gone through something similar or exactly the same thing which in return allows you to be better equipped to make decisions around whatever the fear is.

Part of my coaching is helping my clients see how to be honest with them selves so that the obstacles that they’re facing can become clearer. Once you can see an obstacle for what it is you can start to formulate strategic plans about how you’re going to tackle that obstacle.  Taking a very clear and honest assessment of exactly where you are allows you to set clearer goals about where you want to go. Thus allowing a direction or path to become clearer.

3) What you focus on expands.

If you focus on problem that problem is going to get bigger. By focusing on the solution then it will become bigger thus crowding out the problem.

This is not to say that you don’t recognize the problems or obstacles that lay between you and the solution. It is however to say that your focus and your attention once you identify the obstacles or problem needs to be on the end result, the solution, NOT the problem. This is where most people go wrong. It’s where most of the work of coaching happens. Focusing on what you’re trying to create helps to keep you from getting lost in obstacles. Little obstacles in the span of our lifetime are miniscule unless you give each one of them so much power they become overwhelming and thus able to stop you from moving toward your goal.

Helping clients to recognize that they have choices every day all day long allows them to see their actions as choices, not just reactions.

I choose to focus on the positive things that I see in life. With all things though that’s a skill it’s a skill that I consciously and constantly tried to hone and improve. It’s a skill I help my clients work on. I believe it brings joy even to negative situations to be able to appreciate beauty.

Optimist or Pessimist glass

Which are you?

A well-known proverb states: an optimistic would say a glass is half full, while a pessimist would say it is half empty. What would people of different professions and walks of life say?

The government would say that the glass is fuller than if the opposition party were in power.

The opposition would say that it is irrelevant because the present administration has changed the way such volume statistics are collected.

The philosopher would say that, if the glass was in the forest and no one was there to see it, would it be half anything?

The economist would say that, in real terms, the glass is 25% fuller than at the same time last year.

The banker would say that the glass has just under 50% of its net worth in liquid assets.

The psychiatrist would ask, “What did your mother say about the glass?”

The seasoned drinker would say that the glass doesn”t have enough ice in it.

The Coach would say lets fill the glass up together.

There is the argument from the pessimists that if you only focus on the fact that the glass is half-full you’re not solving the problems. That is a very easy place to be. There is a greater sense of being in control when you focus on a specific problems and how to solve them. That doesn’t mean that that’s the quickest or the healthiest or the most productive way to be. It also just means you have a list of problems to solve and as soon as you finish the list there will be more to add.

Let’s look at the analogy of the glass half-full or half-empty. If you’re thirsty and you want a drink of water do you drink a half empty glass of the water or do you in fact drink the half-full? If you want to fill the glass up it’s more productive to focus on where the water came from how good it tastes, how it quenches your thirst rather than focusing on the fact that it’s only half full. Coaching allows me to help clients practice this in their lives in the way they look at business, relationships it’s about helping them stay focused on the glass half-full with the goal of filling the glass up. By focusing on that aspect you’re focusing on what works, what you like, what you want to attract. You’re focusing on your strengths rather than your weaknesses you’re focusing on moving forward rather than staying stuck. The majority of coaching and one’s focus should be where you want to go. Where do you want to move? What direction do you want to go?

From a business or behavioral standpoint there is a difference between the traditional change management theory and appreciative inquiry. The typical approach from change management theory is to look for the problem diagnosis and find a solution. So the focus stays on what’s broken or what’s wrong and when you look for what’s wrong that’s for your energies are with the problem. The underlying beliefs are that we can fix that problem, that we can change an organization when we can find a solution to a challenge. From appreciative inquiry standpoint, which is the basis of my coaching practice, is the belief that in every piece of art there is beauty so every individual client or organization/small business is a piece of art that there is beauty in. Choosing to focus on the beauty is what I’m talking about when I say the glass is half-full. From an appreciative inquiry standpoint, assumptions play huge roles in our behavior and choices. Consequently assumptions play a huge role in change. We assume a great many things in life and after a while they just sort of become factual. We look at assumptions as if they have become factual; we actually think that it’s true because that’s been our experience so it’s true for us. So assumptions are statements or rules that explain what a group or individual generally believe.

Assumptions explain the context of the group’s choices and behaviors.

Assumptions are usually not visible to or verbalized by the participants or members rather they develop and exist.

Assumptions must be made visible and discussed before anyone can be sure of what the group believes.

When working with an individual their life their family their relationships are the key that is the organization to them who they surround themselves who they have a relationship with is their organization it’s fluid it moves with them continually is reinforced or sometimes challenged. But having a discussion again bringing something into light makes it easier to face the fear or challenge an assumption, which in turn allows you to choose your own path in this life.


There are 8 assumptions of appreciative inquiry. (Taken from the “Thin book of Appreciative Inquiry”)


  1. In every society organization or group, something works.
  2. What we focus on becomes our reality.
  3. Reality is created in the moment and there are multiple realities.
  4. The act of asking questions of an organization or group influences the group in some way.
  5. People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future the unknown when they carry forward parts of the past the known.
  6. If we carry parts of the past forward, they should be what is best about the past.
  7. It is important to value differences.
  8. The language we use creates our reality.


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