Coaching and the People Side of Person-Centered Change – Part I

29 October 2017 | By Mary Beth Lepkowsky

Mary Beth's blog this week is about coaching staff to embed person-centered practices in daily work, helping team members turn newly learned skills to habit. To do this well, it helps to understand a bit about coaching and a bit about change! Today I’ll focus on coaching and in an upcoming blog post, I’ll share more about managing change.


Simply defined, coaching is a form of development in which a person called a coach supports another person in achieving a personal or professional goal. Coaching goes beyond traditional training to focus on an individual’s accomplishments, to empower the individual to determine their preferred way forward, and to offer a safe place to practice with observation and impartial and non-judgmental feedback on performance.

Where coaching can help

Here are a few examples of questions that you can answer with the benefit of coaching:

  • How can I manage my time better to Incorporate person-centered practices in my daily work?
  • What should I do next as I implement person-centered thinking skills?
  • How can I reduce the tension in some of the meetings I have?
  • How can I achieve a better balance between work life and home life?
  • What person-centered skills do I need to grow and develop further?
  • How can I use person-centered approaches to improve my relationship with a specific colleague?

Getting started with coaching

The process of coaching assumes the person is the expert in his/her own life, and is grounded in inquiry, using insightful questions to explore possibilities and next steps.  This COACH framework outlines five key steps in the coaching process:

C – Connect and commit.  Connect with the person to establish rapport and commit to a coaching partnership by clarifying expectations, goals, and agreements for working together.

O – Open with objectives.  From the start, invite the person you are coaching to share what they wish to accomplish through coaching and get clear on the desired outcome and what success will look like in the coaching engagement.  Listen for what’s important to the person and how they want to be supported.

A – Assess, Affirm, and Appreciate. Assess where the person is starting in relation to their goal. This can be done through a simple question like “on a scale of 1 to 10, where would you place yourself today, in relation to …?” Use a strengths-based approach to affirm the capabilities the person can draw upon as they work toward their goal. And “Appreciate” in this context, means to explore together and consider possible strategies that add will add value, and allow the person to discard suggested next steps they believe will not add value.

C – Create a plan.  Have the person determine which of the possibilities they will pursue, and have them come up with their plan of next steps. Ask them to write it down, and include what support is needed to help them stay focused on the goal. This is also a great place to ask about potential roadblocks and how they might overcome them if they arise.

H – Honor the how.  This is an accountability and recognition step that honors the process, progress, and accomplishment.  Ask the person how they will know when they’ve been successful.  How will they let you know as their coach?  And how will they acknowledge their accomplishment once achieved?

Coach Approach

Next steps

Give it a try! And let us know how you get on. As you’re getting started, you might find these coaching cards useful, they introduce some additional coaching techniques that can be helpful when supporting people to implement person-centered practices in daily work. You might also keep a learning log as you start to experiment with different coaching questions and approaches.

If you would like to talk to me in more detail about coaching, then get in touch. You can email me at

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