Why you shouldn’t be giving advice when coaching
Clearly, I don’t know if you want to be purely a coach. You might want to offer services as a consultant as well, or maybe as a mentor? If you do want to also be a consultant or mentor, there will be times when you get asked for advice, or to give your perspective.
In those circumstances, the person you’re being paid to help is actively looking for your guidance and advice. So feel free to give it.
But, during a coaching relationship, you’re job is to help your client reach their own conclusions about what’s best for them. Not give them your perspective on what’s right for them.
Why? Because you don’t know them. I’m sure you know what you would do in the same situation, but that’s YOU! You’ve known you for a long time. You know how much better you’d feel if you did this miraculous solution. But you’re not them. And just because it works for you, doesn’t mean it’ll work for them as well.
So, if it’s not part of a coaching relationship, then it’s fine to give advice using your expertise. But if you’re coaching, you’re not there to give advice. Your job is to support and ask questions that help your client to find their own solutions.
Now, I’ve no doubt there’ll be times when a client says to you something like…
“I’m so stressed out all the time and I’ve no idea what might help. What would you suggest?”
In situations like this, you could say something like…
“Everyone deals with things like stress differently. But, have you thought about maybe trying meditation, or maybe some structured breathing exercises, for example?”
By leading them to a solution, rather than giving them a solution, they still have control. The final decision is still theirs to take.
The other thing that can sometimes result in giving advice, is when there’s a period of unexpected silence from the client. Just because the client is quiet, doesn’t mean they’re looking for you to help them with an answer. In fact, that’s almost certainly not the case.
Silence could be for any number of different reasons.
- Maybe, the question you asked was deep and meaningful and they’re processing an answer?
- Possibly they’re a kinesthetic1 style of thinker, who has to process the auditory question, to decide how they feel about it? Kinesthetic thinkers can often take longer to process important questions.
- Maybe there’s more than one possible answer and they’re making a decision?
- Perhaps they’ve thought about an answer, but they’re thinking about whether it’s appropriate in this circumstance?
There could be a multitude of different reasons for their silence. I know it’s difficult, but please don’t assume they need your help to find the answer. When a client is quiet, it’s very rarely a bad thing.
If the silence goes on for a long while, it might be okay to ask…
“What are you thinking about?”
Sometimes, as they’re describing their thoughts to you, they’ll have an ‘a-ha’ moment and everything will become clear.
Every time they think of something new. Or, whenever they do something they’ve never done before, your client’s confidence in themselves will grow. And so, by the way, will their confidence in you as a coach.
Trust them to find their own answers, and they will.
- If you’re consulting or mentoring it’s perfectly okay to give advice and offer solutions.
- If you’re coaching, don’t give advice, or offer possible solutions unless specifically asked. Try to do it in the way described above and always try to give more than one option.
- Silence from the client is very rarely a bad thing. Just be patient.
- The more you trust them to make their own discoveries, the better at it they’ll become.
- As they become more confident in themselves, they become more confident in you as well.
Do you have any thoughts, ideas, or comments about this article? If so, tell me about them in the comments below.