Dancing with the stance

If coaching is about listening and asking powerful questions, do we simply hold space for our clients and let them do the rest? When do we need more?


For the last five years, I’ve taught a certified coaching course with a slightly different philosophy. It focuses on business agility coaching, and teaches something called the ‘Coaching Stance’. Thinking wider, it seems that the coaching stance could be applied to any coaching conversation.

The coaching stance states that: Effective coaching = Coaching < > Mentoring < > Teaching + Expertise + Knowledge

It’s called the coaching stance because we move around and change positions, choosing the right approach for our clients at the right time. The default stance is always ‘coaching’ – asking powerful questions, pulling out insightful responses and giving the client space to allow their solutions to blossom. But the stance gives us options.

Example conversation

The following is a typical coaching conversation that I’ve come across in training:

  • Client: "I find it difficult to ask my colleagues for feedback."
  • Coach: "What do I need to know?"
  • Client: "I’m scared to ask them, and I don’t know how to move forward."
  • Coach: "What are you afraid of?"
  • Client: "They’ll say that my projects aren’t valued, or that my contribution is weak."
  • Coach: "What would it feel like to approach it from a different perspective?"
  • Client: "From a different perspective, I would know the value of my projects, and how positive my contributions are!"
  • Coach: "Great! So, with that in mind, what will you do next?"
  • Client: "I’ll ask five colleagues for feedback before our next session."

What’s happened here? The client was ‘given permission’ to think positively about their value, which is great, but so what? Perhaps they’re concerned about asking for feedback because they know there’s an underlying issue with their projects or performance. Now, instead of focusing on change, they’ll walk away with self-belief, and if they do find the courage to ask five colleagues, they might be in for a shock.

The coaching stance in action

Using the coaching stance could go something like this:

  • Coaching: “What is it about your projects and your approach that you think would be criticised?", “What reasons could they have to say that your contributions are weak?” and “How can you change this/change their perceptions?"
  • Mentoring/Expertise: ”Can I switch to mentoring and tell you about a time I/my colleague was in a similar situation?”
  • Teaching/Knowledge: “Here’s something/an approach I/they used that helped. If you’re interested, I can show you how to use it?”

In this example, we coach to identify the root cause, connect with them by sharing our experience, and then provide options. We’ve made sure to ask them for permission beforehand and explained that we’re moving away from coaching for a while.

The coaching stance also focuses on ‘expertise’ and ‘business knowledge’. As coaches, we know what we’re good at and what we know best. If you’re an experienced leadership coach, then lean into that. If I go to a physiotherapist, it’s because I have a problem with my body and I’m seeking out an expert. If I go to a coach for career guidance, it’s because I want someone who has experience in career development, and I’m seeking their expertise.

In summary, if you're a coaching professional and want to provide your clients with real value, then major on your experience and lean into your expertise. If you're a client seeking support, seek a coach who has experience in the area you're looking for. Ask questions and read into their background. Together, you can learn to dance with the stance!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Southsea, Hampshire, PO4
Written by Bill Hughes, Certified Coach | Career | Leadership | Transition | Life
Southsea, Hampshire, PO4

Bill has had a successful career as a senior leader, consultant and coach at the IBM Corporation, coaching teams, managers and leaders in business transformation and personal development. In his private practice he specialises in career development, leadership coaching, and transitioning from work to 'the next exciting stage of life'.

Show comments

Find the right business or life coach for you

All coaches are verified professionals

All coaches are verified professionals