Presenting, Deeper and Transformational Agendas
Richard Michaels & Sharon Brown
Coaching for Transformation
Our role is to support our client’s agenda. How do we do that? What is the client’s agenda?
Asking what our clients want coaching on puts the ball in their court and allows them to reflect on and speak about what they want. Their answer is often the tip of the iceberg.
For example, a client wanted to know how to proceed with an important meeting. She wanted more clarity about what she wanted to say, how she wanted to prepare and what she wanted to have happen in the meeting. That’s her “presenting agenda” and a goal for the coaching session.
Looking deeper, it becomes clear that she wants to be more authentic and relaxed, rather than put on a show during the meeting. This is her “deeper agenda.”
Both the presenting agenda and the deeper agenda are valid. As coaches, we pay attention to both what the client wants to do and who she wants to be. This allows her flexibility if the meeting moves in an unexpected direction. She will have thought about her viewpoint, what she wants to do about the situation and how she wants to show up.
Clients often come with something to work on and discover there is something underneath that is more important.
By clarifying the deeper agenda, the coaching includes both the doing and being aspects of the preparation. The client is more self-aware and can draw from her intuition, imagination and excitement.
Another dimension of the client’s agenda is listening for who the client is becoming and what else is possible. Transformational listening leads to the transformational agenda—the core need or the soul need of the client.
The transformational agenda may show up as something that not only connects with the issue, but is imperative for growth, a calling or a life lesson that cuts across many issues in the moment. Sometimes we point it out or we may choose to track it silently. We continuously look for the transformational agenda, holding the space for opportunities to emerge.
In any coaching session, we hold all three agendas. We know the client wants to have a successful meeting (presenting agenda), and when we explore deeper, we help her to increase her skillfulness and her ability to access her inner power (deeper agenda). What emerges is the transformational agenda (to serve humanity). Simultaneously, we hold our client’s transformational agenda, which supports awareness of the body, mind, soul and spirit. Tuning into the client’s transformational agenda is like tapping into a bountiful underground spring that feeds life, even if we are not always aware of its existence.
Questions for finding the presenting agenda:
What do you want coaching on today?
What is most alive right now?
What would you like to focus on today?
How would you like to see this session unfold?
What would you like to explore?
What do you want from today?
What are you curious about?
How would you like to begin?
What are you feeling in this moment?
What’s your agenda for today?
What would you like to get out of this session?
Some questions that help unearth the deeper and transformational agenda are:
What’s most important to you now?
What is underneath that?
What is deeper than this?
What do you have to access in yourself in order to be successful here?
What matters most about this?
What are your feelings about this?
What do you really want?
As coaches, we can also ask questions of ourselves to help us get in touch with our clients’ transformational agendas:
What matters most here?
What are the untapped resources?
What is the deepest expression of wonder and greatness?
How is this client already whole and moving toward a greater expression of wholeness?
How am I holding back or forgetting the client’s resourcefulness?
What is the difference this client wants to make?
In paying attention to the transformational agenda and asking ourselves these questions, we open to what wants to be born. What is emerging? Who are they becoming? This comes more from our combined intuition, than from logic. As in painting or any act of creation, we go with our intuition and see where it leads. At this level, heart talks to heart. Identifying the transformational agenda is not about being right; it is about connecting with the aliveness and picking up on the energetic cues of growth in motion.
The presenting agenda and the deeper agenda are in service to the transformational agenda. By being in the moment and opening to our intuition as our clients explore the deeper agendas, we get a sense for the greater opportunity that their presenting agendas and deeper agendas are in service to. We also get clues to the transformational agenda in the discovery session, or the very first session. Much of the purpose of the discovery session is to get a deeper sense of the client. So we celebrate the aliveness, without holding back, and become the midwife for what wants to be birthed.
Questions to Consider
What three coaching skills would you like to develop?
Make a list of 100 empowering questions you could ask.
How do your body and your feelings inform your awareness right now?
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.
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