Traditional wisdom in coaching suggests that advice giving is poor practice. The rationale is that by giving advice to a client you are leading or telling the client what to do.
This directive action introduces a form of judgement and potentially takes away the clients’ ability to create their own solutions. In its purest sense this can have a consequence in terms of the coaching relationship and even limit the impact of the coaching.
However, it’s often raised as a debating point in coaching circles, even by experienced practitioners. Is advice giving really poor practice?
I believe that no matter how you practice as a coach, it is always to serve the interests of the client not yourself. If this care is absent then you are not coaching.
There are a broad range of coaches, coaching practices & client needs out there. I think the question of advice in coaching is more an issue of how can advice help or hinder a client during a coaching session.
From this perspective, in terms of advice giving, I think it’s helpful as a coach to be conscious of two simple calibrating questions first:
What form could the “advice” take?
Be clear about what form the “advice” could take and how it might be received – feedback, observation, information, recommendation, obligation, expectation, judgement, critique, criticism.
Who would giving advice truly serve?
Connected to how it might be received, assess who does this input really serve? What are your motivations? What could the consequences be? Will it help shift thinking or action? Do you have an obligation to provide this input? Do you need to do it now? Are you the best person to provide this input? What will happen if you don’t do it now?
Using these two calibrating questions I find that I don’t have to worry about the word “advice”. I can focus my attention on how can I best care for the client at that moment in time.
As it happens I almost never find myself feeling the need to give advice whilst coaching. When it does happen, I’m able to recognise it and if appropriate, offer it the client as it is meant, even “pausing” the coaching session if necessary. Above all, this process ensures that the client can retain autonomy & self-determination in the coaching process.
What do you think about advice in coaching? How do you deal with it in your practice?