Coaching Through the Lens of Diversity

Recently, I was talking with a new coaching client.  It was a usual intake meeting where we were getting to know each other and exploring ways in which coaching may enhance their life. We were about 40 minutes into the conversation when I realized the new client had not used any traditional pronouns while speaking about themselves or others.

A moment of decision; a time when a coach needs to determine the next step or the next question.  What do you do in that moment? Wait for the next session and determine the right approach? Or, remain curious and courageous and ask a difficult and direct question in that moment?

It is imperative that a coach identifies these moments and respond appropriately. It requires an understanding of people of course, and of diversity, as well as their own unconscious bias. We know that establishing a safe space is imperative while building a foundation of trust.  An essential component of mindfulness is to create an environment in which people feel safe to reveal who they are. Coaches need to be S.H.U.R. in their coach approach. The client wants to be SEEN, be HEARD, be UNDERSTOOD, and be RESPECTED.  Together, these enable the coach to meet the client where they are and explore the path forward.

This means the coach needs to build safe spaces ensuring they have the right intent to asking deeper questions. A coach should be curious about who their client is, really is, and how they show up. Asking the different and more difficult questions takes significant courage. Being S.H.U.R embraces the diversity of the client and diminishes their fear of being different. 

Hence, a coach also needs to carefully reframe their questions. It is also essential that coaches are equipped with the ability to turn a good question into a great question. A question that enables the coach to assist the client in uncovering deeper truths about themselves – both information that the client may be willing to share and information the client may be covering. 

In the example I shared earlier, a good coaching question is, “So tell me more about yourself.” A great coaching question is: “My pronouns are she/her/hers. What about you? What pronouns do you use?”

The client wants their whole self included in the coaching process. If people cannot find a coach that SEEs them, HEARs them, UNDERSTANDs them, and RESPECTs their beliefs, their culture, or other facets of their life, it may delay or prevent them from taking up an opportunity to be coached.

A lack of diversity understanding among coaches means there is a real risk that clients may unconsciously edit parts of their self within the coaching relationship, and therefore unknowingly limit their overall experience.  We need to embrace diversity in coaching so that collectively we can see the world from a wider lens and have the tools to empathize and empower our clients.

Join me in learning more and developing a deeper understanding of diversity through training, discussion, reflection, and practice. The program Embracing Diversity in Coaching starts on November 2.  Register today!

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