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Expanding the Power

By Martha Lasley, Virginia Kellogg,
Richard Michaels & Sharon Brown

Coaching for Transformation
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Calling out the client’s power is not a one-size-fits-all approach. What is powerful in one culture can be offensive in another. We begin calling out the power when we consciously create the relationship. We continue to design the coaching partnership as we discover what empowers or undermines the relationship. Bringing curiosity and humility, we create a strong relationship that honors both the client and the coach, and gives the relationship a solid foundation. We bring our full energy, passion and commitment and as a result, the client experiences being fully understood, honored and empowered.

What will you consider when calling out the power in a cross-cultural coaching relationship?

Opening to our own power

When we open to our own power, we open to calling out the power of the client. One of the beauties of coaching is that even when we are not fully in our power, our intention to move toward full empowerment provides a boost to both coach and client.

Our coach’s stand is one resource to reconnect us with our personal power. Our vulnerability also calls out the power by shifting clients from complacency to fierce courage, heart connection, aliveness and authenticity. Instead of being careful and comfortable, we can set an intention to step out of our comfort zone in each coaching session. As we take risks, we gain access to a whole spectrum of playful, irreverent, outrageous interventions that serve life.

What are some ways you can step more fully into your own power?

What will help you remember your personal power?

Support vs. empowerment

Whether we’re coaching individuals or groups, we support people to move along the continuum toward full empowerment. As people evolve and build their self-connection, instead of “doing the work for people,” we can contribute even more by continually moving them toward “doing their own work.” In addition to creating spaciousness for inner work, another way to empower people is by shifting the coaching skill to the client. The following table shows the difference between supportive and empowering coaching.

CFT Supportive - Empowering

Although the right side of the chart offers more empowering interventions, the left side can be equally fruitful. The more the coach models each skill, the easier it is for people to do it themselves. Early in the work with new clients, we spend more time in the left column, but as people evolve and take responsibility for their inner and outer work, we acknowledge their increased capacity by shifting to the right column.

We draw this distinction between supportive and empowering coaching because in our desire to contribute, we often stay in the supportive zone far longer than is productive. The other possibility is that coaches move too quickly to empowerment before the client has the self-connection, comfort or skill level. Ultimately we want people to make their own meaning when we off er observations.

Instead of asking suggestive questions, or questions we think we know the answer to, sharing observations can help people explore their inner world and determine where to look next. But how do we determine which observations to offer? At any moment we have access to multiple observations (I notice your voice just got softer; you closed your eyes; when you spoke about Mira, you sat up taller). We can tap our intuition, ask clients for permission to experiment wildly, and get feedback about what’s working or not working.

When we model self-connection and empathy, it helps others develop these skills themselves. Because we live in a culture that operates under a huge empathy deficit, most of us need to fill the well, especially when we’re triggered or in a charged situation. For instance, if the client says she wants to make a living playing poker and the coach is triggered because a dear friend is addicted to gambling, there are several choices. If the coach is not self-connected and can’t stop thinking, “You idiot. How will you ever be able to support your family?” that’s a signal the coach needs to get empathy from someone else. But if the coach is more aware, he can self-empathize right then and there—notice he is alarmed because he wants to contribute to his client’s well being and support her in creating a meaningful life. From this nonjudgmental, self-connected place, he can get curious about her values, what needs she’s hoping to meet by becoming a professional poker player, and support her in developing her own self-awareness.

When clients are in a curious state rather than a judgmental state, or if they are highly aware of their needs, or at least have access to them, that’s a great time to ask them to identify their feelings, needs and requests for themselves. Frequently, people need a lot of help with self-empathy because they habitually think about strategy before getting clear about what they really need. When people are disconnected or unaware of their needs, we can help them reconnect before asking them to explore their creativity.


Excerpt from the book Coaching for Transformation: Pathways to Ignite Personal & Social Change by Martha Lasley, Virginia Kellogg, Richard Michaels and Sharon Brown. As faculty at Leadership that Works, they certify coaches who offer personal, organization and community transformation. Check out the free Power of Coaching teleclass.

Coaching is life-changing, world-changing work. The coaching programs at Leadership that Works go beyond theories and models and work with clients on a deeper level. You learn how to coach the whole person: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Whole person Transformation.

Leadership that Works

Transforming the world.
One heart at a time.

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