Coaching Tip: How to avoid giving advice


Coaches do not give advice. What do I mean?

Coaching = Asking, NOT Telling

When a coach is actually in the role of a coach, when they are coaching, they do not give advice. Ever.

However, coaches are also often asked to fill four other roles at times, those of mentor, trainer, facilitator, consultant.

Consulting = Telling, NOT Asking.

When you do give a client your advice, you are not coaching, you are consulting (or somtimes mentoring).

So, if you are in the role of a coach and your client asks you “tell me what do to”, what, in fact, should you do?

Today I am happy to have found an old note from a coaching session I had with my mentor, the late Ed Percival. It represents a coaching tip from a true master I wish to share with you today.

“Tell me what to do”

When a coaching client asks you to tell you what to do, you basically have two options. Either you can tell them what to do, or you can help them work it out for themselves.

Sometimes if you are as direct as to ask them something like: “would you like me to do that, or would like me to work it out for yourself?”, they’ll simply say once more, “tell me what to do”, as that is a natural response, even if underneath that they’d prefer the coaching option.

Given that your primary role is as a coach, I encourage you to find an elegant way to help them work it out for themselves, only perhaps actually “telling them what to do” after you’ve coached them and they couldn’t reach an answer, and if they still wanted you to tell them.

Pass on what was learned

In the very first of the “Movies with Meaning” series I wrote for some time on this site, I wrote this, finishing with a quote from the movie LUCY:

Let me start with a movie that Ed and I both loved a lot, and as I watched this clip and heard Morgan Freeman share these words, tears came to my eyes at the knowledge Ed passed on to me (and so many others):

“The whole purpose of life has been to pass on what was learned. There is no higher purpose”

So, today humbled to share knowledge from Ed.

Coaching tip from a Master

Back in early 2015, I had a coaching session with Ed Percival and I recently found my notes from it, where he shared with me a tip that felt truly elegant around the “tell me what to do” situation.

Sorting energetic responses from ordinary responses

When a client is asking you “tell me what to do”, you CAN do that for them without knowing the answer… get them to tell YOU the answer.

How? by sorting energetic responses from ordinary responses

Ask them “what options are you considering to resolve this ?”

Listen, as they tell you their options, for energetic context

As you listen, feel which one is the one with SMOOTH energy, that FLOWS.

For that one, dig deeper, “say more about” about that option.

At this point, if you’ve hit the one with the smooth, flowing energy, that is the answer… just work with them around it, going up and down in context.

Ed Percival

Thank you Ed.

Also published on Medium.