How to master the 7th ICF Core Competency “Evokes Awareness“
This is the 7th ICF competency out of 8. It is part of the “Communicating Effectively” category of competencies.
Here is a guide to this competency and some recommended skills and methods that will not only support this competency, but many of the others.
What’s in this guide (Across 9 articles):
- The 5 Guiding principles used to assess your coaching
- ICF Core Competency 1 Demonstrates Ethical Practice
- ICF Core Competency 2 Embodies a Coaching Mindset
- ICF Core Competency 3 Establishes and Maintains Agreements
- ICF Core Competency 4 Cultivates Trust and Safety
- ICF Core Competency 5 Maintains Presence
- ICF Core Competency 6 Listens Actively
- ICF Core Competency 7 Evokes Awareness
- ICF Core Competency 8 Facilitates Client Growth
What’s the definition of “Evokes Awareness?”
“Facilitates client insight and learning by using tools and techniques such as powerful questioning, silence, metaphor or analogy.” ICF International Coaching Federation
- Considers client experience when deciding what might be most useful.
- Challenges the client as a way to evoke awareness or insight.
- Asks questions about the client, such as their way of thinking, values, needs, wants and beliefs.
- Asks questions that help the client explore beyond current thinking.
- Invites the client to share more about their experience in the moment.
- Notices what is working to enhance client progress.
- Adjusts the coaching approach in response to the client’s needs.
- Helps the client identify factors that influence current and future patterns of behaviour, thinking or emotion.
- Invites the client to generate ideas about how they can move forward and what they are willing or able to do.
- Supports the client in reframing perspectives.
- Shares observations, insights and feelings without attachment that have the potential to create new learning for the client.
Evoking awareness is about creating space for our clients to shift from their traditional way of thinking, and their surface level of understanding to discover new awareness, insights, aha moments, growth and understanding.
So when we look at this further, we see that it considers client experience when deciding what might be most useful in the session. We are considering the client’s experience, not our perspective.
We can also challenge and stretch our clients within reason. Metaphorically we want to stretch our clients and even bring a bit of discomfort as they are pushed to think a bit deeper, to look a little deeper than they’re used to. But of course, we do this in the context of having strong rapport, trust and a safe space.
In the point: “Asks questions about the client, such as their way of thinking, values, needs, wants and beliefs.” Notice the echo here across several competencies. We are always making space for our client’s perspectives and honouring them.
“Asks questions that help the client to explore,” And this is key “beyond current thinking.”
The coach’s role at the highest level should be to bring more than someone can get from an app. There are lots of productivity apps out there. Many to-do-list-making, goal-setting guides.
You are incubating a thinking space so that when somebody leaves the space, they’ve gone beyond their current thinking. I call it walking around the mountain from the “I can’t see the river” to the “I can see the river” space. That’s a movement of mind; that’s a stretch. And a perceptual shift invites the client to share more about their experience in the moment. Endlessly.
This invitational tone is what we’re looking for.
Inviting someone to unpack, not forcing them to, by asking, “Would you like to share more?”
If in doubt, always ask your clients if they want to go down a path.
Skills, methods and techniques that support this competency.
Firstly, the open question.
Use open rather than closed questions.
- A closed question with “yes and no” answers tends to shut down a conversation. It closes the door. They are like scalpels that can be used intentionally and be helpful in a coaching session. However, many coaches use closed questions without intention as a habit, even as rhetorical questions.
- Open questions will often serve you and your clients at a much higher level. So try to open up your questions, especially to evoke awareness.
Use spiral-up questions.
Which is an InnerLifeSkills way of asking questions that point attention towards the future, possibilities, insights, and solutions instead of the story, the past, and the problem.
Take out that picnic basket every now and then, which means hang out when some insight is worth unpacking.
Shift into exploration and discovery when something meaningful has shown up in a session.
Remember not to stack questions.
This is a common habit that ideally should be ironed out in the professional and master coaching stages. Stacking questions happens when we are trying to figure out the question while we are asking it, throwing in two or three questions or explaining a question because we didn’t give the client a chance to answer yet, and we assumed we needed to clarify the question. Rather ask succinct, short, clear, relevant questions.
Any somatic exploration that includes a felt sense of the body can help deepen new awareness and insights.
Partner to achieve the contract.
Part of this competency is also about guiding and facilitating your client to achieve the contract set out at the beginning of the session and to do your best to partner with your client to achieve something helpful in the session.
A lot of coaching can be planning to plan, making a to-do list to go and make a to-do list instead of facilitating a tangible outcome for the client, which means your client’s going to be far more satisfied because you accomplished something in a session instead of just planning to plan. Coaching can be far more than to-do lists.
Check-in with measures of success.
You also want to check in with the measures of success (which checks progress in the session). The measures of success, often on a scale out of 10, can be checked near the mid to end of the session.
It is helpful to check where we are at.
Sometimes the client might have started the session by saying that they wanted clarity. You ask them how clear they are and where they want to be. Sometimes that’s scaled, where 10 represents “I’ve got my clarity.” Zero represents no clarity.
If the client wanted to get to a 7, why not check in with them? Maybe halfway to near the end of the session, you ask, “You said you wanted to get to a 7. Where are you now in terms of clarity?”
If they tell you they’re at a 7, you can invite them to decide what else they want to do in the session. If they’re low, a 3 or 4, you can find out what else they need from the session to reach that 7.
If you finish a session and they haven’t gotten to where they wanted to be, you can discuss what future or next steps they want to take to reach the clarity they were looking for.
Explore their ideal future as a visualization.
It’s also helpful in evoking awareness to bring in some kind of “What does that look like as a future?” style of exploration.
Unpacking your clients’ aspirational, inspirational desires, where they want to go, and what changes they want to see in their lives is helpful. There is neurolinguistic programming, a simple technique called an As If Frame, where you invite clients to imagine as if they are there.
Start with feelings and a sense of what is different. You can even unpack that future and use it to plan backwards from that moment. Ask, “what did you do just before you arrived there? So any visualization, plugging into an aspirational future, can also support the evoking of awareness.
Somewhere in the session, it is helpful to explore the progress and the change that has occurred for the clients, especially with reference to the what and the who.
The what, being the goals, the to-do list, the task, and the who being the client’s, self-awareness, the way they’re dialoguing with themselves, the way they see their role in life, their inner obstacles.
InnerLifeSkills toolboxes are designed to help you to unpack Evoking Awareness at great depth.
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