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Accountability is your client being responsible for following through on their agreements or commitments. It stems from three questions: 

  1. What are you going to do? 
  2. When will you have this done? 
  3. How will you be accountable? 

Accountability does not include blame or judgment. Rather the coach helps clients to hold themselves accountable to their vision or commitment and asks them to account for the results of their intended actions to themselves, to another person or support in their lives, or on occasion, to the coach.  


Acknowledgment addresses the self and who the client had to be in order to accomplish whatever action he or she took, or awareness he or she achieved. It is the articulation of your deep knowing of the other.

“You are courageous. It took courage for you to show up for this session, knowing that you had difficult things to share with me today.”

Agenda: Big agenda

The big agenda is the meta-view, or how clients’ choices and actions relate to their big-picture agendas. This is where clients learn more deeply about how they operate. At its core, the big agenda consists of the three principles of Co-Active coaching: fulfillment, balance, and process. It assumes that clients want these three things: (1) to live fulfilling lives, (2) to be in balance about those lives, and (3) to be present in the process of life. The coach interacts with clients holding this big agenda at all times.

Agenda: Little agenda

The little agenda consists of the small picture, the circumstances in the client’s life, his or her agenda of the moment. This agenda is focused on a particular event, on the client’s choices around that event, or on the actions the client will take related to that specific event.

Articulate What’s Going On

This skill involves telling the client what you see them doing; it may be what you’re hearing with your Level 2 listening, or you may name what has not been said by the client based on your Level 3 listening and awareness. Sometimes, it is powerful to simply repeat the client’s words back to the client so they can really hear themselves.

“Michael, I know how much you want to change your relationship with your dad, yet what I hear is you are interacting with him the way you always have.”

“We’re really stuck here in this coaching session.”

Asking Permission

This skill enables the client to grant the coaching relationship access to unusually intimate or sometimes impolite areas of focus. 

For example, “May I tell you a hard truth?” “Are you willing to be coached on this sensitive issue?” “Although it may be uncomfortable, may I tell you what I’m noticing?”

Authenticity & Range

The coach must come from a place of truth, integrity and personal authenticity. This coaching expresses a deep caring for the client in a personal authentic style. There are Three Attributes to Authenticity & Range:

  1. Connection: The coach and client must be very connected and safety is thus created for the coach to call the client forth.
  2. Aliveness: There must be a feeling of aliveness on the part of the coach and in the relationship. Calling Forth cannot happen successfully in a neutral or dull atmosphere.
  3. Fierce Courage: The coach must be courageous and be willing to take a big risk — including the possibility that the client may feel offended — for the sake of supporting the client to achieve his/her goals.

Be With

The coach’s presence has the client feel held and seen. 


This is the skill of brevity and succinctness on the part of both the coach and the client. Bottom-lining allows clients to get to the essence of their communication rather than engaging in long descriptive stories.


With this skill, the coach and client together generate ideas, alternatives, and possible solutions. Some of the proposed ideas may be outrageous and impractical. This is merely a creative exercise to expand the possibilities available to the client. There is no attachment on the part of either coach or client to any of the ideas suggested.


A structure to help the client locate their starting point, desired end point, and current status in their own growth and development process. Calibration also allows the client to measure their progress toward a dream or a goal.


Challenging involves requesting that a client stretch way beyond his or her self-imposed limits, AND SHAKE UP THE WAY THEY SEE THEMSELVES. Like a request, a challenge includes a specified action, conditions of satisfaction, and a date or time by which it will be done. There are three possible responses to a challenge: yes, no, or a counteroffer. Frequently, in the face of a challenge, clients will respond with a counteroffer that is greater than the commitment they initially intended to make.

Example: A client WANTS a high-level position that has just been posted in another department. He thinks he will be ready for it in about a year. You challenge him: “I challenge you to apply for this position now.” The client counteroffers with “I will meet with my manager and ask her to recommend me to the department head.”


Championing clients means standing up for them when they doubt or question their abilities. Despite the client’s self-doubt, the coach knows clearly who the client is and that they are capable of much more than they think. CHAMPIONING IS OFTEN FUTURE FOCUSED. When the client is in the valley, the coach is on the next hill, waving a flag and saying, “Come on. You can make it.”


Resonant choice is the second step in the Balance coaching formula. Once a client has discovered and explored different perspectives on their situation, they are not stuck in one “truth,” and they may then choose the perspective that will most serve them. When a client is at choice, they are no longer victimized by the circumstances facing them. Instead, they can powerfully choose how to view a situation. For example, a preliminary perspective on being fired from a job could be that the person fired is a failure. Upon viewing other perspectives, the client could determine that being fired presents opportunities to pursue a true passion. Being fully at resonant choice in this perspective allows the client to confidently begin to explore new opportunities.


When a client is unable to articulate clearly what he or she wants or where he or she is going, the coach offers clarification. Clarifying may be used in response to the client’s vague sense of what they want, confusion, or uncertainty. This skill represents a synergistic application of questioning, reframing, and articulating what is going on. It is particularly useful during the discovery process.


Clearing is a skill that can benefit either the client or the coach. When the client is preoccupied with a situation or a mental state that interferes with their ability to be present or take action, the coach assists by being an active listener while the client vents or complains. Both client and coach hold the intention of clearing the emotionality from the situation. This active listening allows the client to temporarily clear the situation and focus on taking the next step. When a coach gets hooked by a client interaction or is preoccupied with issues that do not pertain to the client, the coach can clear. The coach clears by sharing his or her experience or preoccupation with a colleague or a friend in order to show up and fully be present with the client. Clearing is time-limited and is intended to clear the space so that client and coach can be present to the coaching.


  1. A person who engages the professional advice or services of another (a lawyer’s clients).
  2. A customer, or someone who receives services.

Co-Active® Coaching

A powerful alliance designed to forward and enhance the lifelong process of human learning, effectiveness and fulfillment.


There is a fundamental difference between goals and commitments. The goal is the outward, visible outcome; the commitment is the inner drive that produced the goal to begin with. Asking a client “What are you committed to?” causes the client to look deeper inside than asking “What is your goal?” In some cases, understanding the commitment is necessary before goals can be set. In some cases, clarifying the commitment changes the goals.


In Co-Active® Coaching we start with the belief that everyone is naturally creative, resourceful and whole, and they have the answers. That means that the coach’s job is to be curious and ask questions. The questions coaches ask are provocative, open-ended, inviting. The questions invite clients to look in a certain direction but the invitation has no preconceived conclusion. These are not leading questions. And coaches are not at all attached to the answers they receive. If it is not a fruitful place to look, clients will know and say so, or the coach will see that it was a dead-end tunnel, and ask a different question. 

Curiosity is a playful state, full of wonder. As in, “I wonder what you want?” “I wonder what your life would be like if you could design it any way you like?” “I wonder what you are deeply committed to?” “I wonder what’s holding you back?” The spaciousness of curiosity is miles wide and open for exploration. Coach and client enter this space together to look around.
Curious is somehow less dangerous. Curiosity tends to lower the risk and eliminate the stifling quality of potential judgment. It is no big deal to look in a curious way. We’re just being curious. And yet, curiosity is enormously powerful because it is so open to the client being surprised and finding the unexpected truth. It is child-like: look what I found! And it is exciting to look in a curious way.

Dance in This Moment

It is most creative to work with what arises in the moment rather than from a fixed and rigid plan. Relationship is fluid give and take. Everything that happens is an opportunity for learning and movement. Coaches are dancing in this moment when they are being completely present with the client, holding the client’s agenda, accessing their intuition, letting the client lead them. When coaches dance in this moment, they are actively partnering with the client and coaching in alignment with the client’s direction and flow.

Designed Alliance

The design of the alliance begins during the first meeting or discovery session. Each coaching relationship is custom-designed to meet the particular needs of the individuals involved. Both client and coach are intimately involved in designing the coaching relationship that will be most beneficial to the client. Designed alliances are meant to be revisited regularly as they tend to shift over time.


Embodiment is a key element of geography — it is the visceral or felt experience of being in a geography — being in the emotional, energetic field.


Enrollment is both a life skill and a coaching skill. Authentically engaging with people and generating excitement, enthusiasm and aliveness is part of communicating effectively whether you are talking to your children, a client, an employee, or your manager. Coaches enroll their clients into the possibilities of the client’s biggest, most magnificent self, and also into different aspects of coaching. For example, throughout the life of the coaching relationship, the coach may enroll the client into trying on different perspectives, entering deeply into emotion, accepting a challenge, and/or choosing to set the Saboteur aside. All of these are areas where enrolling the client to participate fully will empower the coaching.

Evoke Transformation

The nature of life is to transform and evolve. The coach’s job is to call forth the greatest possibility for the client. When evoking transformation, the coach fiercely and courageously takes a stand for the client to step more boldly into his or her most powerful self. This can occur when the coach asks the client either to take a courageous, possibly scary step towards something the client wants in his or her life, or challenges the client to move beyond resistance or fear to face something fully. 

Focus on the Whole Person

People are a complex and unique system and each part impacts the other aspects. It is important to include all aspects of being human: mind, body, spirit, and emotion.

Forward Action & Deepen Learning

This context utilizes all other coaching skills, with an added emphasis on moving the client forward. Clients come to coaching for results and the specifics vary from person to person.  Action could be about achieving a goal, developing a new habit, or a myriad of other behaviors that matter to the client. The most powerful forwarding action occurs when a coach has the client DO IT NOW during the coaching session. This provides immediate support and immediate celebration once the action is taken.

In co-active coaching, action and learning are always interwoven. Clients learn from the action they take, and they also learn from the action they don’t take. Taking action is inherently connected to new learning or discovery. Similarly, new learning or discovery leads to resonant action. The cycle of action and learning over time leads to sustained and effective change.


The relationship between coach and client exists in space and time. Whether coaching is done in person or over the telephone, an environment is created in which the coaching occurs. The feeling, posture, and climate… this environment has many qualities that we call the geography. Often the concept of geography can be confused solely with the position of one’s body without considering the position of one’s body in space, in the environment. Exploring emotions, body positioning, voice tone, and pace can allow for deeper insight and understanding for the client. As coach and client, we actually create geography even when we are unconscious of what we create. Being conscious of geography makes coaching enormously more effective. The goal is to be aware of the geography you are creating as coach to notice what happens when you or your client changes geography.

The body is an excellent indicator of one’s geography. If the client is, for example, in a state of confusion, the coach may ask the client to change their body posture, their location in the room, or simply get them to move their body. The coach will then help the client to realize that, by changing their body position, their mood may shift, their thinking may clear, a new perspective may be revealed, and the client’s energy may shift. This is, in fact, a change in the client’s geography.

Goal Setting

Clients live into their big agendas, their greatest possibilities, by setting goals and following through. Goals keep clients focused and on track toward who they are becoming. Goals are not the same as action; they are the desired result of action. In co-active coaching, a SMART goal is specific, measurable, accountable, resonant, and thrilling.

Grant Relationship Power

The coaching relationship is separate from the client and the coach. The power of coaching resides in the relationship between coach and client, rather than with one or the other. By granting power to the relationship, both coach and client take responsibility for creating the coaching relationship that will most fully serve the client.

Hold the Client’s Agenda

Holding the client’s agenda lies at the heart of Co-Active® Coaching. When a coach holds the client’s agenda, the coach lets go of their own opinions, judgments and answers in support of facilitating the client’s fulfillment, balance and process. The coach follows the client’s lead without knowing the RIGHT answer, without giving solutions or telling the client what to do. Holding the client’s agenda requires the coach to put their whole attention on the client and the client’s agenda, not the coach’s agenda for the client.

Hold the Focus

Once the client has determined a direction or course of action, the coach’s job is to keep the client on track and true to that course. Frequently, clients become distracted by events in their lives, strong feelings elicited by the saboteur, or the wealth of other possibilities available. The coach consistently reminds the client of their focus and helps redirect their energy back to their desired vision, outcomes and life choices.

Identify the Topic

  1. Balance coaching begins with a clear topic that matters to the client. It is important to identify the topic itself, without embedded perspectives. If the client begins the coaching with a statement such as “I am stuck about my relationship with my customer,” then the topic is “relationship with my customer,” and the first perspective is “stuck.” If the balance work begins with “stuck” embedded in the topic, the coachng will soon bog down. Always distinguish and separate the embedded perspectives from the topic.
  2. In fulfillment or process coaching sessions, this may look like getting clear with the client about their agenda for the coaching session.


When a powerful question is given as homework to the client, it is intended to deepen the client’s learning and provoke further reflection. The intention is for the client to consider the inquiry between sessions or over a longer period of time, and to see what occurs for them. The inquiry is usually based upon a particular situation that the client is currently addressing. An inquiry has multiple answers, none of which are “right.”

“What are you tolerating?”

“What is it to be undaunted?”

“What is challenge?”


Any agenda can be coached from any one or a combination of the three principles — fulfillment, balance, and process. Some coaching interactions will stay in one principle the entire time; others will shift between principles. Integration is the ability to choose a starting place and know that you can change course if needed, using everything you know about Co-Active® Coaching.


On occasion, the coach may need to intrude, to interrupt or wake up a client who is caught in an old or repetitive narrative. When the coach intrudes, it is for the sake of the client’s agenda, often pointing the client in a specific direction, “Stop a moment. What’s at the heart of this?” Intrusion is considered rude in some cultures. In co-active coaching, intrusion is viewed as being direct with the client, allowing the client to honestly assess and immediately deal with the situation. Sometimes the intrusion is a hard truth such as “You are kidding yourself.” Sometimes the intrusion is simply stating what is going on, such as “You are skirting the issue.” 


Intuiting is the process of accessing and trusting one’s inner knowing. Intuition is direct knowing, unencumbered by the thinking mind. The process of intuiting is non-linear and non-rational. Sometimes, the information received through intuiting does not make logical sense to the coach. However, this information is usually quite valuable to the client. Intuiting involves taking risks and trusting your gut. The coach remains unattached to the accuracy of their intuition and must be willing to let it go if the client doesn’t connect to it.

“I have a hunch that...”

“I wonder if...”


The coach listens for the client’s vision, values, commitment, and purpose in their words and demeanor. To listen for is to listen in search of something. The coach listens with a consciousness, with a purpose and focus that comes from the alliance that was designed with the client. The coach is listening for the client’s agenda, not the coach’s agenda for the client. In co-active coaching, when the coach is listening to their own thoughts, judgments and opinions about the client’s story, they’re listening at Level 1, while listening with a hard focus on the client is Level 2 and global listening is Level 3. Co-active coaches listen at level 2 and level 3 when they’re coaching.

Everything in coaching hinges on listening — especially listening with the client’s agenda in mind. The coach is listening for signs of life, the choices clients are making, and how those choices move them toward balance or away. Listening is the gate through which all coaching passes.

There are two aspects of listening in coaching:

  1. 1) Attention — awareness of what we receive through our senses (hearing, seeing and intuition). We are attentive to all the information we are receiving. We notice the breathing on the phone, the pace of delivery, the modulation of the voice. We sense the pressure behind the words — the voice may be soft- or hard-edged, tentative or enraged.
  2. 2) Impact — what we do with our listening. What impact is the coach having on the client? How the coach listens and what they do with that listening impacts the client.

There are three levels of listening:

Level 1: Internal Listening

  • Attention is on ourselves — on the sound of our own inner voice.
  • Listening to our own thoughts, opinions, judgments, feelings, and conclusions.
  • Appropriate level for the client’s listening.
  • When the coach is in Level 1, they are unaware of the client and unaware of their impact on the client.

Level 2: Focused Listening

  • Attention is a sharp focus on the other person — listening is directed at the client.
  • Listening for words, expression, emotion, what they don’t say, values, vision, and what makes them energetic.
  • Impact on the client — are they coming alive (resonance) or are they becoming withdrawn (dissonance)?

Level 3: Global Listening

  • Attention is soft focus; listening at 360 degrees.
  • Awareness includes everything: What you see, hear, smell, and feel.
  • Gives greater access to your intuition.
  • Coach is aware of their impact on the client and can dance with it.

Making Distinctions

One way to help clients see a situation from a fresh perspective is to help them distinguish between two or more concepts, facts or ideas. In this case, two facts have been blended together into one disempowering belief. The belief appears to be a fact of life and it is not.

The separate facts need to be distinguished in order for the client to become more resourceful. Examples of where it is useful to make distinctions are:

  • Failing & failure (“Since I failed, I am a failure.”)
  • Money & success (“If I make money that means I’m successful.”)


Metaphors are used to illustrate a point and paint a verbal picture for the client.

“Your mind is like a ping pong ball bouncing between one choice and another.”

“You’re almost at the finish line. Go for it! You can win the race!”


Meta-view is the big picture or expanded perspective. The coach pulls back (or asks the client to pull back) from the client’s immediate issues, and from the clarity of that expanded perspective reflects back to the client what they see.

“If your life were like a road, and we were to take a helicopter ride up above it, what would we see?”

People are Naturally Creative, Resourceful and Whole

One of the cornerstones of the Co-Active ® Model and a key element of Co-Active® Coaching. The client is naturally creative, resourceful and whole.

  • Nothing is broken or needs fixing.
  • People have a natural ability to resolve the challenges they face.
  • The coach has the questions; the client has the answers.


Perspective is one of the gifts that the coach brings to the coaching relationship — not the “right” perspective, simply other points of view. Creating perspective expands the aperture through which clients look at their life circumstances. Part of coaching is inviting clients to see their life or certain issues from different angles. When they see things from only one perspective, the old way of looking, they are less resourceful and victimized by the circumstances. When they are able to reexamine their viewpoint, they are able to see possibility and change.


The coach helps the client articulate the direction that they wish to go and actively monitors the progress made by the client. Clients can frequently benefit from support in planning and time management as coaches help them develop their skills in these areas.

Powerful Questions

A powerful question evokes clarity, action, discovery, insight, or commitment. It creates greater possibility, new learning or clearer vision. Powerful questions are open-ended questions that do not elicit a yes or no response. Powerful questions are derived from holding the client’s agenda. and either forward the client’s action or deepen their learning.

“What do you want?”

“What’s next?”

“How will you start?”

“What does that cost you?”

“What’s important for you to remember?”


Reframing involves providing a client with another perspective. When a coach reframes a situation, he or she takes the original data and interprets it in a different way. For example, a client has just been informed that she was selected as second choice for a high-powered position in a very competitive market. She is disappointed and is questioning her professional competence. A reframe of the situation is: To be selected as second choice in such a competitive market indicates the high quality of your expertise and experience.


One of the most potent coaching skills is that of making a request of the client. The request, based upon the client’s agenda, is designed to forward the client’s action. The request includes a specified action, conditions of satisfaction and a date or time by which it will be done. There are three possible responses to a request:

  1. Yes,
  2. No,
  3. A counteroffer.

The coach is not attached to the client’s response. Any one of these three responses creates an opportunity for the client’s learning.


When resonance is present, the client is honoring his or her values, the coach can sense the client’s true self, there is a feeling of aliveness coming from the client. Dissonance signals the presence of the Saboteur. 


The saboteur concept embodies a group of thought processes and feelings that maintain the status quo in our lives. Often operating as a structure that seems to protect us, it in fact keeps us from moving forward and getting what we truly want. The saboteur will always be with us. It is neither good nor bad; it just is. The saboteur loses its power over us when we can identify it for what it is, notice our options in the situation, and then consciously choose what we truly want at that time.


The ability of the coach to get out of the way in service of holding the client’s agenda. This means that the coach puts aside their own biases, opinions, preferences, judgments, and beliefs in order to fully hold the client’s agenda.


Structures are devices that remind clients of their vision, goals, purpose, or actions that they need to take immediately. Some examples of structures are collages, calendars, messages on voice mail, alarm clocks, and so on.

Take Charge

The coach chooses and directs the path of the coaching in service of the client’s agenda. Sometimes clients lose their way in their circumstances, and forget what matters most to them. That’s when the coach needs to take charge and direct the coaching back to what is most meaningful to the client.


Values represent who you are right now. They are principles that you hold to be of worth in your life. People often confuse values with morals. Values are not chosen. They are intrinsic to you. Your individual values are as distinctly yours as your thumbprint.


This is a multi-faceted mental image, which personally defines and inspires the client to take action and create that picture in their actual life. A powerful vision is sensuous, exciting and magnetic; constantly attracting the client’s desire to bring the image to fruition. Vision provides the client with a direction and can provide meaning in the client’s life.


To witness a client in their experience is both simple and profound. Witnessing means that the coach is fully engaged with the client in the moment and fully present with them in their experience. Witnessing is a powerful connection, one that goes beyond thinking or understanding. When a coach witnesses the client, the coach creates an inviting and spacious place for the client to be in the full experience of his or her life.