Designing Actions & Changing Lives

Designing Actions for clients can create tangible changes in their lives. In this article we explore the ninth Core Coaching Competency based on our Decoding the Coaching Genome Course, worth 21 CCEU credits from the ICF. Find out more and enrol here

Coaching is a holistic exercise in that it involves both the left and right sides of your client’s and your brains. Thinking without doing is insufficient for change, and doing without thinking is also not a sustainable course of action. Your entire brain must be involved in order to most creatively evoke and effectively maintain your client’s desired changes.

Failure is Never Purely Failure

The one part of your mind that is not necessary is your ego. It must be strong enough to stay unattached to your client’s actions and their outcomes. You must maintain support while at the same time adopting a curious frame of mind as to the outcome of these action experiments. A client’s “failure” in performing an action, is never purely failure. It is powerful information gotten through live research. It is essential to be able to separate the client’s feelings from the data received.

In effect, each action that your client and you co-design represents a hypothesis. For example, suppose your client has a fear of speaking to a group of people. She was just informed by her manager that she will have deliver two sales presentations at her company’s product launch in two months. Immediately, she feels herself drenched in sweat and fear. Her first hypothesis is that she will die if she does this.

As her coach, you have a different hypothesis. If she starts out giving her talk to two other people at once in a non-threatening situation (of your collaborative design), she can start to get in touch with her body sensations and regulate her breath in order to learn how to be with her panic and ultimately befriend it. As she feels more comfortable, she can gradually increase the number of people to whom she speaks until the launch.

Take One

After her first try at doing her assigned action, she reports back to you that it was an awful experience. She kept on shaking and forgetting everything. You have a choice to make here. Do you remain present and non-judgmental or do you collude with her negative self-talk? Collusion could look like agreeing with her that it is hopeless. Collusion also could look like helping her beat up on herself for her supposedly negative results.

Or, you could remain curious and have her notice what did work. She invited her two closest friends who were very positive about the whole experience. She showed grit by not immediately giving up. She is willing to try it again.

Her deepest desire is to be able to talk to groups of people. But, she had a deeply embarrassing experience as a child and still feels a great deal of shame about it. You believe in her desire and her capability to honor this dream and make it real.

This time, you suggest that she repeat the same action and deliberately allow herself to tremble and forget what she wants to say. Her only job is to be present to what is happening inside of her. What voices is she hearing? Are they true? What is she physically feeling? While this action might even be harder than the first one, it is also more freeing.


Take Two

She does the new action and comes back beaming. Just being present was really good! She noticed that her panic abated and even though she still shook, her voice trembled and she had tears in her eyes, it was not as bad as before. She did not die and nothing worse was going to happen.

Designing actions such as these two, and your willingness to test your own hypotheses about your client can absolutely create powerful life-altering change. This particular client realized that she enjoyed public speaking after all and has since done many successful sales talks and trainings.


About the Author:

Judith has been following her calling for the past 33 years, originally as a licensed psychotherapist and then for the past 20 years as Co-Active Coach. After training her, CTI (The Coaches Training Institute) invited Judith to become a faculty member in 1996. She received her Master Certified Coach certificate through the International Coach Federation in 1999. Judith currently is a Senior Faculty member at CTI as well the principal of her own international coaching practice.

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