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This first guest blog is written by Jacqueline Ann Surin
Who’s in charge?
Clean coaching sessions start when the coach asks their client,
“And where would you like to be?”
After they have placed themselves, they are asked:
“And where would you like me to be?”
If there are co-coaches or observers, the client is asked:
“And where would you like …… to be?”
Once everyone has been placed, clean coaches ask the classically clean question:
“And what would you like to have happen?”
questions set up a particular kind of coaching relationship right from
the start: the coaching session will be client-led; they are in charge
of the space; and they are in charge of what they want to have happen.
from the invitations above, there are other things a coach can do to
encourage a client to begin taking charge of their own development, even
before the session starts:
What if a client doesn’t want to?
the furniture beforehand so that it’s not expected the client
should sit in a chair conveniently located across from another chair.
Keep the space as signal-free as possible about where the coaching needs
to take place.
leave your writing materials on a table, or your coat or scarf draped
on a chair, or your bag visible anywhere. Doing so could signal to the
client that a particular space belongs to the coach, and is not
available to them.
a client has come to your home or office for a session, it’s
fine to offer them a drink before moving into the coaching space. Let
them go in first and stand to one side when you ask them, “And
where would you like to be?”
you are already in the room when they arrive, stand up, move out of the
way, and gesture to the entire space that is available when asking,
“And where would you like to be?”
inviting the client to find a place that is right for them and for you,
if it seems like it is needed, you can add: “We can move
things around if you would like.”
what happens if a client won’t make a decision about where
they would like to be, or where they would like you to be? The first
scenario happened to me while I was coaching a client and being
supervised live by James Lawley and Penny Tompkins. The second was
something that happened when James and Penny were facilitating a client
at this year’s Adventures in Clean. Scenario #1
Client: Oh, it doesn’t matter where I sit.
Client: It’s your place, why don’t you decide?
If the client says anything like the above, here’s what you could do:
Coach: Well, if it doesn’t matter, find any space that seems right to you. [Keep still and wait.]
Coach: It’s part of the process that you decide where we should be and how things should be arranged.
If you wait long enough, and show the client you’re not moving, they will eventually place themselves somewhere.Scenario #2
Coach: [After the client has sat down] And where would you like me to be?What does this do?
Client: Oh, just sit wherever.
Coach: Well, put me somewhere. [And wait till the client decides where they want you to be.]
from letting the client know from the start that the coaching will be
client-led, setting up the session this way can help to do the
How do people answer?
gives the coach information about the client. For example, a client who
struggles to decide might be demonstrating a larger pattern of not
wanting to take charge. That may not always be the case, but it is
information that you could track.
gives the client information they didn’t know they had. For
example, a client who feels trapped in a situation might choose to sit
where she can look out to the horizon, and in that position, feel the
physical sensation of relief. Having a wide horizon in front of her
might then allow her to clarify what she wants.
lets the client know from the start that they are responsible for
themselves, the choices they make during the coaching and even in their
most cases, the client will not realise that there may be a
correspondence between the spatial arrangement of their inner landscape
and how they place themselves and the coach. Even so, it can still be
significant to the session.
most people choose to sit in the room, be prepared for the client to
suggest unexpected places to work. On the Adventures in Clean retreat
this year, clients chose to start their sessions: standing up, in the
garden; walking in the countryside; on a beach; even in the sea.
fascinating response to the opening question, “And where
would you like to be?”, was “I’d like to
be in the middle of the alphabet”. Without missing a beat, the
facilitator asked, “And when you would like to be in the
middle of the alphabet, where is the middle of the alphabet?”
The session got off to a flying start!
For further reading see:
Metaphors in Mind by James Lawley & Penny Tompkins.
Clean Approaches for Coaches by Marian Way.
Jacqueline Ann Surin
is a certified Level 1 Clean Facilitator, and the first certified Level
1 Systemic Modeller in Asia. She is Specialist Trainer and Coach for
Leadership Development at People Potential in Singapore and Malaysia,
and is leading the development of Clean Language in Southeast Asia. She
is also an associate of Training Attention in the UK.
well as James Lawley and Penny Tompkins, Jacqueline is grateful to
Caitlin Walker for conversations that led to the writing of this blog.