FAQ: The Coaching Engagement

Once I’ve decided to move forward with a coaching engagement with you how does the actual engagement work?

Each engagement includes the following:

  • 1) An Intake Conversation (Topic, Why it is important to you, Integral AQAL Assessment).

  • 2) 3-way conversation with your sponsoring executive (if applicable) to establish expectations, gather input, and define boundaries.

  • 3) An Offer Conversation (Integral Coaching Method™, including metaphors, developmental objectives, coaching program, and practice write-up).

  • 4) A pre-engagement Lectical Assessment called the Leadership Decision Making Assessment (LDMA).

  • 5) Meeting every 2-3 weeks for a 60 minute “Cycle of Development” coaching meeting.

  • 6) A post-engagement Lectical Assessment (LDMA) and debrief.

  • 7) One-on-one 90 minute completion conversation at the end of our engagement.

  • 8) 3-way completion conversation with your sponsoring executive (if applicable).

What is an Intake Conversation?

Every coaching engagement using the Integral Coaching Method™ begins with an Intake Conversation. The Intake is where I learn about your topic and why it is important to you. It is also where I start the rigorous work of building your AQAL Constellation™. To do this, I will have lots of questions, some of which will be quite conventional and some of which will be a little unconventional. We will always discuss boundaries when it comes to different questions, and you will not be asked to answer anything that you feel crosses a boundary for you.

The intention during the Intake Conversation is to build enough information to do two things: 1) to understand as clearly as possible the way you have currently approached your topic, and 2) to see the world from your eyes so that I can build a coaching program that is uniquely tailored to leverage your strengths, and targeted for your potential strengths.

What is an AQAL Constellation™?

An AQAL Constellation™ refers to the rigorous methodology taught by Integral Coaching Canada® that I use to guide our coaching engagement. It is based on Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory and it stands for All Quadrants, All Levels, All Lines, All States, and All Types, or AQAL for short. You are not required to know anything about Integral Theory at all, but just know that this is a map of human development that I find quite useful. The questions I ask during an Intake Conversation are designed to build as robust a picture as possible about you and how you relate to your topic, and they help me tune-in very efficiently to the most effective areas to focus on for our coaching engagement.

AQAL Constellation™ is a trademarked term belonging to Integral Coaching Canada ® and licensed to me for professional use.

What is the purpose of a three-way conversation with my sponsoring executive?

Oftentimes but not always, a coaching engagement is sponsored by your immediate boss or supervisor. When this is the case, I include them in a 3-way conversation between the three of us in the days just before we begin. The intention for this is to gather their input and involvement in our work, and to establish boundaries and expectations. I explain to them that our coaching engagement requires you (not them) to choose a topic to focus on for the duration of our time together.

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While this topic needs to be generated from you, we would be missing an important perspective if we did not include their input as you formulate your topic. I will tell your sponsoring executive that this does not mean that they get to “dictate” the contents of your topic. As we all know, when somebody forces you to do something you are much less likely to actually do it, and the same goes for your coaching topic. However at the same time your sponsoring executive probably has a unique perspective and holds an important voice in your success, and we want to include this from the outset.

I will also establish some boundaries with your sponsoring executive. It must be made clear to them that the topic you formulate belongs to you, and you alone, and that you will be taking responsibility for your growth and development here. As such, while it is important that we include their voice in helping guide the topic that you choose, it is up to you to choose exactly what you focus on and there will be an understanding of confidentiality between you and I. Your sponsoring executive will not be privileged to anything we discuss, and it is important they understand this from the beginning.

In most cases this conversation comes as a relief to the sponsoring executive. They leave our 3-way conversation feeling that their voice has been heard, and that you will be taking responsibility for a topic that is important to everybody in the weeks/months ahead. This is one less thing they have to worry about it! The field gets set correctly in terms of expectations and boundaries, and this conversation provides you and I the space to do the work of making progress in your topic together.

What is the Offer Conversation?

The Offer Conversation is where I “offer” you your coaching program.

This conversation comes in our second official meeting as coach and client. It typically lasts 90 minutes and it has three parts.

  • 1) Topic and Importance confirmation.
  • 2) Offer of the Coaching Program.
  • 3) Next steps.

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In the first part I will confirm your topic and why it is important to you. Because 1-2 weeks typically pass between our Intake Conversation and this one, we start by confirming these two things to give you the space to add any nuances to the language and make any necessary changes.

Once your topic is confirmed and we feel solid that this is the thing that we are going to be working on together for our coaching engagement, we move to the second part of the conversation. This part is where I offer you your Coaching Program. I will be offering you a coaching program that is uniquely tailored to you. I make my offer to you literally as an “offer”, since we will discuss it together to agree upon using it. It represents my best professional work, but it is not something that we have to hold strongly to if there is something in it that you cannot live with. My introduction of the Coaching Program to you is an “offer” not a dictation.

I have heard that the Integral Coaching Method™ uses metaphors. Can you tell me more about this?

Yes one of the tools I use are metaphors and these are introduced during the Offer Conversation. The Integral Coaching Method™ leverages the potent ability that metaphor holds in catalyzing development, and I will have constructed two unique metaphors for you based on my assessment of your AQAL Constellation™ and your topic.

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The first metaphor I will have created for you will be intended to name your “current way of being” in relation to your topic. Based on the Intake Conversation, I will have learned about how you have approached your topic up to this point and I will use this information to create a metaphor that describes how you have currently approached your topic. This first metaphor is designed to help you see things about your approach that you weren’t able to see without the help of a coach, and it gives you a tool for recognizing more easily your current pattern. A well-constructed metaphor will both honor what is really working well about your current way of being, as well as pointing out what is not working well.

The second metaphor I will have created is intended to describe a potential “new way of being” in relation to your topic. While your first metaphor is able to name your current way, this second metaphor is used to describe where you would like to be by the end of our work together. This metaphor is oftentimes quite different from the first, and it allows you to see more clearly the end-point of where we are going with your coaching program. Again, I will “offer” these metaphors to you, and we will have a chance to discuss them and make any adjustments you feel are necessary for them to work for you.

How do we get from my “current way of being” to my “new way of being” that are described by my metaphors?

Once we are happy with your two metaphors, I will offer you 2-3 Developmental Objectives that I have identified that you will need to grow to achieve in order to move from your “current way of being” in relation to your topic, to your “new way of being.” Making progress in these Developmental Objectives represents what I believe will give you the biggest “bang for your buck” if you were to grow in these areas.

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Developmental Objectives can be thought of as skills, or capacities, that we are going to target over the course of a coaching program, and achieving these objectives will allow you to make significant progress in your topic. Just as with your metaphors, I “offer” you these Developmental Objectives as my best professional assessment of what will help you make movement in your topic, and they are intended to catalyze our dialogue together. At the end of our conversation our intention is to arrive at a mutual agreement of what skills and capacities we are going to work on growing so as to make significant movement in your topic.

Ok, so once I agree to my metaphors and the Developmental Objectives, what comes next?

The final component of the Offer Conversation is to discuss Next Steps. I will have prepared 1-2 practices as next steps that you can begin right away with building the new skills and capacities you want to build. The practices I will offer you are always designed for you to begin working toward achieving your Developmental Objectives. I will give you a practice called a Self-Observation Practice first. Self-Observation Practices are to be engaged in daily for the two weeks following our conversation, and you can begin using it as soon as we end our conversation.

What is the role of practice in a coaching engagement?

The role of practice is important in our coaching engagement. By “practice” we are referring to it both as a verb, and a noun. This means that you will be asked to practice new skills and capacities each day that will build toward you achieving your Developmental Objectives. And you will also have a practice, much in the same way a doctor or a lawyer has a practice. In your case, your practice will be things you are working on to make progress in your topic.

Adults learn best when we engage in practices that disrupt our current way of doing things, and are then given a chance to reflect. Therefore, the practices I will construct for you are designed to disrupt your current way of approaching your topic in order to build a new way of approaching it. And you will always be required to reflect upon what you have experienced.

You mentioned that there are three types of practices that you use in your coaching engagements. What are they?

The three types of practices I use are called:

  • 1) Self-Observation Practices.
  • 2) Foundational Practices.
  • 3) Focus Practices.

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Self-Observation Practices do not have you change anything new about your behavior, but instead bring a new sense of self-awareness to your current behavior. These types of practices have you notice something new on a daily basis about the way you relate to your topic, and then reflect on what you have noticed using 1-2 reflection questions that I have created for you. You will usually receive your first Self-Observation Practice after the “Offer” conversation when you receive your two metaphors, and occassionally throughout a coaching engagement you will work with 1-2 more Self-Observation Practices.

Foundational Practices are practices that are designed to get you doing something different than you normally do, and as a result begin to build the “muscles” toward achieving your Developmental Objectives. Foundational Practices are called “Foundational” because they build the foundation of your new way of being in relation to your topic. Because they are designed to be engaged with over a longer period of time they are not quite as intense as Focus Practices. Typical Foundation Practices last at least 6-12 weeks, but some clients enjoy them so much they keep practicing them for the duration of our work together (and beyond).

Focus Practices are designed to target a specific “muscle” in a focused way for a short period of time. They are disruptive in nature, and are intended to be more intense than Foundational Practices. Like Foundation Practices, Focus Practices build a “muscle” toward achieving your Developmental Objectives, but because of their more intense nature Focus Practices tend to be engaged in for 3-6 weeks at the most. Focus Practices build capacities in you rather quickly and as they ease in their intensity, they can become Foundational Practices. Other times the intended learning is achieved and the practice is concluded after a matter of weeks.

In all cases, there is a built-in component of reflection in each practice. This component has you reflecting on your experience by keeping notes in a journal each time you practice, and reporting back to me in our conversations about what you have learned.

Do I have to keep a journal?

Yes, and no. It commonly believed that adults learn best when there is a component of reflection built into a growth activity. Journaling is the most common way to capture reflections, and each practice I write up for my clients has a reflection component. Most practices I write-up are shared with you via google docs and you can journal directly into it online so that I can follow your reflections throughout the week.

However, if you have another way that you prefer to capture your reflections I am open to whatever is going to work for you. All that I care about is that you to reflect throughout the week in whatever way works for you, and bring those reflections to our conversation each time we meet.

What are Cycle of Development Conversations?

Cycle of Development Conversations are what the majority of our conversations will be called during our coaching engagement. They will have three main parts to them:

  • 1) Reconnecting and reflecting on the learning that has happened between our last conversation and this one.

  • 2) Targeting which “muscle” and Developmental Objective we will focus upon next.

  • 3) Deciding on next steps, including the design of your next practice.

These conversations are called “Cycle of Development” conversations because your development through this coaching program is expected to occur in a cycle. As with most of us, there will be moments where you take several steps forward. And there will also be moments when you take a couple of steps back. This is a normal and natural thing, and a sign that we are doing things correctly!

It looks like there are two different kinds of “Completion Conversations”, one with me and one with my boss. How are these different?

That’s right. There are two different completion conversations when it is time to complete our engagement. The first one occurs just between the two of us, and it is a chance for us both to reflect on the gains that you have made. There is a specific way that I hold Completion Conversations, and I will guide us through the process of naming the Developmental Objectives that you have achieved, and point out some of the new edges on your horizon that I see you may want to be aware of now that you have made movement in your topic. This conversation typically lasts between 60-90 minutes.

The second completion conversation is a 3-way conversation between the two of us and your sponsoring executive. This conversation is a way to bring your sponsor back into the conversation to speak about the progress that has been made. At this meeting we will invite them to speak to any shifts or changes they have noticed over the time we have worked together, and we will invite a dialogue regarding what they see as your next edge in terms of leadership development.

At this meeting we will also have the opportunity to discuss your LDMA results and show the empirical data of how you grew in your leadership decision making skills as a result of our work.

What if we complete our engagement and I want to continue working with you?

I am always open to working more with clients, however…

I require that we honor the integrity of our intended duration of time and take a break after our completion conversation. The reason for this is that we need to see what sticks, and what doesn’t. A coaching program is a catalytic event in your personal/professional life, and oftentimes clients really love the work we have engaged in and want it to continue. I want to make sure that we continue our work for the right reasons, and so after every coaching engagement I require a minimum of a 6-12 week break. This gives you the chance to allow things to settle-in, and decide for yourself whether (and in what form) you would like to continue working with me. If you do, we can discuss at that time.