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Coaching Across the Threshold: Coachee Case Study

January 17, 2019

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that for the last year, I’ve been part of Dr. David Drake’s Narrative Coaching Program. While I’m still very much getting my Narrative Coaching legs under me, it’s already brought a sense of ease, spontaneity and play to my work with coachees.

As part of the Narrative Coach Certification Program, we were asked to write up a case study of a session with a coachee in which we employed the Narrative Coach approach. As part of the case study, we were asked to:

1)      Describe the coaching space and the field

2)      Identify the stories and characters in the coachee’s story

3)      Provide session highlights, using Narrative Coaching’s four act structure

4)      Share the outcome of the session

5)      Provide reflections on the session

I’m sharing the case study here because of how rich it was for my learning. My learning about myself as a coach. My learning about my coachee. And my learning of Narrative Coaching and how it can be used to shift coachees’ experiences of themselves and their lives. I’m hopeful that it will stimulate your learning, as well.

First, a bit of background on my coachee in my case study, John, and our work together.


John is the CEO of a 2nd generation family business. John and I have worked together for about 12 years. Our work has covered business, personal, professional, social, philanthropic – pretty much every aspect of life.

Some background on John that’s relevant to this coaching session:

John loves to travel and has traveled with his family all over the world. He’s less able to travel now because of his family’s health challenges.

John’s wife is in the final days of treatment for her 2nd battle with cancer. It’s been an extraordinarily difficult time, for both of them. They have differed on the ideal approach to her treatment, creating some tension in their relationship.

John has had, for many years, a keen fascination with personalized medicine and is quite educated on many aspects of health, science, medicine and wellness.
John’s mother contracted a degenerative disease which ultimately took her life when John was young. His mother and father disagreed as to how to approach her disease, and that impacted their relationship.

Frankly, it wasn’t until I wrote this case study that I recognized how salient this last point was.

The Coaching Space and Field

John showed up for our coaching session worn down and worn out. He’d been traveling and his work had heated up while his duties at home had expanded to include chores his wife usually performed. His wife’s cancer had taken a physical and emotional toll on them both.

John was traveling and our coaching session was via phone. My sense was that he was in a quasi-private space initially and then after about ten minutes, he moved to a more private space. This was reflected in our conversation. Early on, John was tentative and stayed at the surface. Ten minutes into our conversation, he was connecting deeply with himself.

Over the course of the conversation, the field changed dramatically. Initially, the field felt tentative, surface. Then it shifted to heavy, burdened, untethered. Then, as John connected more fully to himself, the field held trust, vulnerability, and courage. Towards the end of the session, the field held discovery, possibility and wisdom. We flowed through an emotional journey, supported by the trust in the field.

In retrospect (and perhaps even in the moment), I sense that I shared too fully in John’s feeling of being simultaneously burdened, untethered and discouraged. (I was feeling that in areas of my own life.) Thus, at times, I feel that there was too much of me in the field. (A strong case for the classic coaching maxim, “You’ve got to do your own work before you can help your coachee with theirs!”)

Stories, Their Characters and My Roles

John told a specific story about taking a trip by himself to recharge his batteries, and coming back feeling empty instead of nourished. Only in hindsight am I recognizing that the main character in the story, besides John or his spouse or family, was Nelson Mandela.

The larger narrative of the session is about John’s questioning his life, his decisions, his priorities, his relationships, his future and himself. He’s concerned about his wife and their relationship. He’s questioning his parenting. And he’s in an unknown space and feeling lost.

I played the roles of empathetic friend, listener, witness, fellow life-traveler, Story Sherpa – the advocate for the whole story.

Session Highlights and Analysis Using Narrative Coaching Four Act Structure

The following is a high-level overview of the essence of the coaching session by Narrative Coaching (NC) Act/Phase. My primary intention with this session was to get more comfortable coaching in the Four Act structure.And in hindsight, I was so focused on working on the structure, I missed some pivotal opportunities to explore story and characters.

Below, I share the key questions I asked in each phase, what was explored, the threshold moment and my hindsight (what I see now that I didn’t see then).

I suspect when you read this, it will feel a bit like a caricature, which I suppose it is. It is the summary of the key lines of the coaching session that gave it shape. A lot more was going on, so this is only to give you the essence.

Also, if you’ve been coaching for any time at all, you might read this and think, “What’s the big deal?” And perhaps there is no big deal, except that the impact on me and my coachee was profound. We traveled an enormous distance together, very quickly. And we did it without goals, or contracts or agreements, and in a manner that was natural and organic.


When the conversation started, John stayed at the surface, so I asked:

Alison:  “How are you really?”

This dropped him into himself and he told the story that became the backbone of the session.

John was wanting to take care of himself so that he could take care of his family. So he took a trip alone that he’d planned to take with them. (Family couldn’t go because of health issues.)

John:  “I came back feeling empty and alone. It surprised me. It wasn’t fulfilling. I realize that I’m more interested in a shared experience.”

(As much as I wanted to ask him what would be fulfilling, which I would have done before NC, instead I used the threshold to stay with his present moment experience.)


Alison: “What’s it like to feel empty?”

John:  “I feel hollowed out. It’s not what I want. I’m not sure if what I’m feeling is the effects of the cancer on our family or something deeper.”

John shared about his fears and doubts and uncertainties. About not knowing when to push and when to let go in his relationships with his wife and his kids. About feeling impatient with himself and his life. (I sensed this conversation was hard for both of us).

(I took the feeling of impatience as a threshold and moved to Shift.)


Alison:   “What do you want?”

John:  “I don’t know. I just feel lost.”

(I made a decision to explore “lost” as a metaphor for this world traveler.)

Alison: “When you are lost, how do you usually find your way?”

John:  “I don’t know. I’m rarely lost.”

Alison:  “Really? How is that?”

John: “I can use nature and landmarks to orient myself and find my way. The sun, power lines, geography, terrain.”

Alison:  “What might you use to orient yourself now?”

John paused for a long time and started a new story about Nelson Mandela and how he’d spent years in prison, much of that time in solitary confinement. And how he came out so wise and thoughtful.

(I COMPLETELY missed an opportunity to explore Nelson Mandela’s role in the story. I could have asked, “How are you like Nelson Mandela?” or “What would Nelson Mandela say to you?” or “What did Nelson Mandela care about?” – UGH!)

John:  “He learned so much about himself.”

Alison:  “What would you like to learn about yourself?”

John:  “I’d like to be less reactive, more empathetic, more balanced.”


Alison:  “How would you learn that?

John:  “I’m not sure what my options are. I could find someone to help, like a therapist. I have trepidation about that. I could spend more time reading and journaling. that resonates. I can see this might be an opening, an opportunity for me to focus on myself.”

(Instead of nailing down the details of what he was going to do, like I normally would, I decided to circle the tree again.)

I’ll spare you the details and hit the high points here.


Alison:  “What are you aware of now?”

John:  “I’m seeing a path forward.”


Alison:  “Where does the path lead?”

John:  “To more time for myself?”


Alison: “How will you use that time?”

John:  “To grow into the person I want to become.”

(We were near the end of the session, so instead of exploring who he wanted to become further, I moved to Sustain.)


Alison:  “Where will you begin?”

John:  “I’m going to start by beginning my exercise routine again. Weights one time a week and running two times a week. I’m going to reflect and journal on what wisdom is and how I might become less reactive.”

Session Outcome

By the end of our session, John had found himself and a path forward and was feeling a greater sense of self-agency. The energetic quality of the field was dramatically lighter and more positive at the end of the session than at the start. He started the session feeling like a prisoner to his situation. He ended it feeling free.

Reflections and Reminders

I tend to focus more on what I could have done better, and I’m sure I must have done something OK to have gotten the outcome we did. These are my reflections:

1)      I could have done a lot more of simply naming what I was observing. His heaviness, the similarity of his current experience with his wife to that of his experience with his mom. How when he moved into a different room physically, he moved into a different part of himself.

2)      Only upon LOTS of reflection on this session has it become clear to me that too much of me was in the field, not only because I was feeling somewhat enmeshed, but also because I feel the same way he does in some of my relationships.

3)      I was so focused on the Four Act Structure, I missed some obvious opportunities to explore stories, metaphors and characters. And once the 4 S’s become more ingrained, I’ll have more freedom to explore what shows up organically.


We’ve learned in Learning in Action’s EQ Certification training that objectively mirroring a coachee’s experience without the expectation of response is an incredibly powerful awareness practice. In light of that, I sent John the case study I wrote up on our session. This was John’s response, in italics:

“Your description of “The Field” was spot on:”

“Initially, the field felt tentative, surface. Then it shifted to heavy, burdened, untethered. Then, as John connected more fully to himself, the field held trust, vulnerability, and courage. Towards the end of the session, the field held discovery, possibility and wisdom. And I sense that I shared too fully in John’s sense of feeling simultaneously burdened, untethered and discouraged.”

“I might argue the last, though… your empathy helped me connect disconnected thoughts and synthesize a new path forward. Without that, I’m not sure it would’ve been as effective.

“Your idea about my Mom was interesting… it’s certainly possible, but I haven’t been consciously aware of that. I have been consciously thinking about walking a mile in my father’s footsteps, though. He had a very difficult road to travel – with decisions and feelings I could only guess at before (and didn’t very well). As always and especially as to this session, which I found deeply helpful, I’m appreciative of you.”

John and I had a coaching session this week and he was a different man! He was energized, engaged and joyful. When I asked him what shifted about his experience, he said he went from “being steered” to “steering.” And he attributed the shift to this session.

Of all of the second-guessing I do and the wondering if I make a difference with my coachees, it was nice to hear that the many hours I’ve spent in the last year learning a new approach to coaching, made a difference. Even if I’m still on my Narrative Coaching Bambi legs.


If you’d like to learn more about Narrative Coaching, join us for this month’s free podinar (interactive webinar), sponsored by Learning in Action. Our guest is the founder of the field of Narrative Coaching, Dr. David Drake. Register here. 


Join the conversation.

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~ Alison
Alison Whitmire
President | Learning in Action


P.S. Want to receive our blogs in your inbox? Subscribe to our Friday Conversations Blog.


P.S. As a coach, you know there’s value in your coachees’ stories. But do you realize how transformative those stories could be with your specialized guidance? Find out at our January podinar. Our guest is executive coach, speaker, author, and founder of the field of Narrative Coaching, Dr. David Drake. Interactive webinar Jan. 25, 11:00-12:00 PT / 2:00-3:00 ET.  Register – free!


Not an EQ Profile practitioner? 
Click here for information on the EQ Profile. Too much to chew on? Click here for a Taste of the EQ Profile.

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Posted in: Coaching|Emotional Intelligence|Narrative Coaching

Coaching to the Soul

December 14, 2018

This week, while Alison Whitmire takes time away from her blog, we welcome guest blogger Terrie Lupberger, MCC.


We live in a fast-paced, increasingly complex world. We have immediate, 24/7 access to events as they unfold around the globe. Adding to the confusion, a multitude of competing opinions about what really did happen, why they happened, what they mean, and what should be done about them.  We feel overwhelmed with uncertainty and fear.

In response we, as a collective, have become short-sighted. We look to sound bites to help us navigate complexity. We put band aids on our problems. We want quick fixes. We look to the formulaic and familiar for solutions. We overly rely on the so-called experts, or at least those with the loudest opinions. We live in a mood of impatience. We want answers NOW.

End of an Era

But the view of many contemporary philosophers and great thinkers is that we human beings are experiencing the end of an era – philosophically, ecologically, politically, psychologically, cosmologically, scientifically, etc. They conclude that we are witnessing a time on the planet when there are no simple problems left to address, and that our worldviews, and ways of thinking about them, are outdated and inadequate for the task.

To more successfully navigate the world we find ourselves in requires the ability to be okay with not knowing, with taking action with no guarantee of success. It requires us to be comfortable with chaos and uncertainty; to hold paradox; to be able to, metaphorically, walk across the bridge even as it’s being built.

It requires us to “be with” what is happening in the moment, while simultaneously holding the vision of a different future. It requires us to manage our own doubts and fears, and not project them on to those we work with or lead. It requires the ability to be equipped, cognitively, emotionally, spiritually to face the complex issues of our times. It requires us to develop the ability to self-author our lives instead of being overly dependent on experts’ rules and values.

Quoting author Ralph Peters, “The great paradox of the 21st century is that, in this age of powerful technology, the biggest problems we face internationally are problems of the human soul.”

Perhaps this is one of the major reasons coaching emerged – to address the challenges that the human soul is encountering when all of our traditional knowing and understanding of the world is insufficient to navigate its complexity and volatility.

This briefly sums up the context in which we coaches also find ourselves in, as well. We’re swimming in the same turbulent waters, and are subject to our own blind spots, fears, shortsightedness, and uncertainties, threatening our opportunities to make an impact.

What We Change

Helping people expand their perspectives, move beyond their limiting beliefs, and grow their awareness for the sake of outcomes more aligned with what they care about is what we coaches do.

And, after 20+ years in this profession in various roles, my conclusion is that we are at risk of wasting a tremendous amount of effort, time and money. We may be helping others create change that isn’t getting to the real issues, or developing the abilities needed, to face the world in which we find ourselves.

After 20+ years of study, research and practice in what I call ‘the change business,’ I still see change agents doing much of the same old thing – wrapped in new models and words – and leaving a lot of potential impact and change on the proverbial table.

I see us overly rely on, and overly prescribe, information and theories. I see us rush to the actions – the “doing” – while skimping or skipping over the exploration of our clients’ inner worlds – their beliefs, assumptions, emotions, level of awareness, and worldviews that are driving ineffective thinking and behaviors, including what they say they want.

It isn’t for lack of great intentions. Most of the coaches I know care deeply about their clients and making a positive difference. However, we are in danger of limiting the impact we care deeply about making because we, ourselves, have our own blindnesses, limiting beliefs and lack of development and awareness as human beings.  We are, after all, products of the same systems as our clients are.

Old Beliefs

Going as far back in history as the Greek philosopher Socrates, the western world (especially but not exclusively), has held the belief that there’s an objective world out there that is understandable through logic and reason. We have held the belief that human beings are fundamentally rational, reason-able beings who, by gathering as much information as they can about that objective world, can use it to understand and navigate in it.

We are living in a collective worldview that believes that the world can be perceived transparently and objectively; that through rational, logical analysis we can all see the same world and problem-solve the issues presented. We largely believe that more knowledge is the missing link to success, and that once we have the knowledge, we’ll be able to take new actions toward our goals.

This is a belief that has been running in the background of our collective thinking for a long time. It’s like an old version of a computer operating system that is limiting what’s possible and is in desperate need of an upgrade. It’s not that objectivity and rationalism are bad. Indeed, they have contributed to great advances in science, medicine, construction, technology, and many other fields.

But our over-reliance on the old computer operating system and our inattention to the human being – the soul that is operating the system – is where the next edges of our profession lie.

Our coaching must consider and reflect the deeper and broader contexts in which we find ourselves. It must help our clients embody deep awareness that includes, and transcends, our clinginess to rationality, the known and the observable.

We, as coaches, need to move beyond overly simplistic models of what it means to be a human being at this time in the world. We need to challenge ourselves to work with the human being – their consciousness, their way of being, their energies, their states, their stages of development, their worldviews and embedded / embodied beliefs. In short, all the forces unseen and less knowable, objectively and rationally, that might be shaping and impacting how they navigate their world.

This is the territory ripe for disruption in our work and in our profession.

Developing Two Capacities

This learning and development edge we are called to walk is a precarious one. There is no roadmap, the way is not clearly marked. We are entering the territory of the human being. It will require our own developed capacity to walk in the not-knowing – to experiment – to suspend our own beliefs that have gotten us to this point, but might likely be in the way of our next evolutionary leap.

In short, to have the impact that we all believe that coaching is capable of, we will need to develop two important capacities.

First, we will need to move determinedly beyond our own comfort zones of what we think we know and how we come to know.

For example, if our beliefs create our reality as many scientists and sages say, then what beliefs do you have that might be in your way? If everything is energy, as scientists and sages say, then how do you work with your own and your clients’ energy fields to better support them?

If everything is in relationship to everything else, as scientists and sages also say, then how do we think about and alter our way of relating for the sake of better outcomes for all? Where are we limited in our own level or stage of awareness / consciousness? These are but a few questions we need to wrestle with, or better said, to delight in, to move beyond our own comfort zones.

Secondly, we will need to welcome and embrace paradox.

As a coach, your ability to hold paradox – to simultaneously hold opposing beliefs or tensions – is one of your most powerful abilities and gifts. If you don’t have this ability, you won’t  notice them when they are presented. You’ll insist on your client choosing between their opposing truths instead of helping them learn from them; you will push them for clarity and certainty way too soon.

Your discomfort will become their discomfort. As Niels Bohr, Danish physicist and Nobel Prize winner for physics, so eloquently said, “How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.”

The big issues we are facing in our organizations, in our businesses, communities, our world and in our own personal lives require more than new information or a better change model.

We are dealing with something no less complex and profound as the human soul.

Changing the Whole Self

The kind of change we want to aim for as coaches is the kind that requires a change to the whole self, not a piece of it. To the whole actor who is taking the actions. To the whole inhabitant of the awareness or consciousness that is trying to navigate this world.

To be successful, we need to move beyond our own fears and proven formulas of success. We need to stop playing at the surface, move beyond the transactional and enter the uncharted and real territories of human consciousness, soul, spirit – whatever word chooses you.

It’s time for we of the coaching profession to take the road less traveled (to quote an oldie but goodie).

That road less taken is where evolutionary leaps can happen for our clients and for ourselves.

Will you – with the rest of us – take that road less traveled?

Join the conversation.


ABOUT  OUR GUEST BLOGGER, TERRIE LUPBERGER: A Master Certified Coach and former CEO of Newfield, Terrie works at the intersections of leadership and coaching to elicit her clients’ greatest potentials. Together with Pamela Richarde, MCC, she also trains advanced coaches to challenge the myths, assumptions and beliefs that we coach and live by. The next online program begins in March 2019. For more information visit,  Contact Terrie here..

We hope you enjoyed hearing from our guest blogger. We’re grateful to Terrie for sharing her invaluable insights! Thanks, Terrie!


If you have an idea for a blog topic or would like to be considered as a guest blogger, please email us. While we might not be able to accommodate all guest blogs, we certainly entertain all ideas!


– Alison


Alison Whitmire

President | Learning in Action


P.S. Receive our blogs in your inboxSubscribe to our Friday Conversations Blog.


P.P.S.As a coach, you know there’s value in your coachees’ stories. But do you realize how transformative those stories could be with your specialized guidance? Find out at our January podinar. Our guest is executive coach, speaker, author, and founder of the field of Narrative Coaching, Dr. David Drake. Interactive webinar Jan. 25, 11:00-12:00 PT. Register – free!

Not an EQ Profile practitioner?

Click here for information on the EQ Profile. Too much to chew on? Click here for a Taste of the EQ Profile.

Read More  |  No Comments
Posted in: Coaching|Emotional Intelligence

Special FREE Podinar: Conscious Leadership for Coaching

November 30, 2018



Learning in Action’s Live Monthly Podinar for Executive Coaches
FRI. DEC. 14, 2018. 11:30-1:00 pm PT / 2:30-4:00 pm ET
CONSCIOUS LEADERSHIP FOR COACHING: Align Your Thinking, Caring and Doing for Meaningful Results
with guest Eric Kaufmann, coach, author, speaker, IOC Thought LeaderJoin Eric Kaufman and Alison Whitmire, president of Learning in Action, for discussion and Q&A around conscious leadership for coaches.This podinar (interactive webinar) will cover topics like these:
– What conscious leadership is and why the world is hungry for it
– How to organize and influence people to achieve meaningful results
– The significance of aligning wisdom, love and courageAttendees will gain new ideas of how to coach for meaningful results.

*** Ask your questions when you register or during the live event. We’ll get to as many as we can! ***

Eric Kaufmann coaches leaders to become conscious leaders who make better decisions, think more creatively, and form deep relationships that uplevel their teams. He is the founder and president of Sagatica, and author of “The Four Virtues of a Leader: Navigating the Hero’s Journey Through Risk to Results.” Eric’s work is an unrelenting commitment to results fused with an unyielding regard for the human spirit.

Learning in Action’s monthly podinars are moderated by Alison Whitmire, president of Learning in Action.

The intent of our podinars is to support executive coaches:
• To provide the best coaching possible for their clients
• To make a thriving, successful living as professional coaches

We offer individuals, teams, and organizations effective tools and methods for enhancing Emotional Intelligence in relationship, in conflict, in real-time. Serving leadership development professionals and executive coaches worldwide.

– THIS PODINAR WILL BE RECORDED. REGISTRANTS RECEIVE RECORDING and notice of future podinars. You can unsubscribe at any time.

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Posted in: Coaching|Podinars

Once Upon A Time: The Power of Story in Coaching

October 18, 2018


Last Friday, I was delighted to be joined by some amazing coaches for an impromptu meetup to discuss the power of story in coaching. (I was reminded of how very much I love this work we do, as well as this community we get to be a part of. 🙂 )

In this blog, I share with you some of what I’m coming to believe about the role of my coachees’ stories in our coaching. I’m no authority, and though I’m in the Narrative Coaching certification program, I’m a novice. So what I share here is what I’m coming to believe and integrate into my own work. And I offer it as an invitation for you to consider what’s possible and what might be available if you were to look at your own coachees’ stories in a new light.


How We Can Minimize the Value of Coachee Stories

When I was first trained to be a coach, I was taught the technique of “bottom lining.”  Bottom lining was a way of encouraging coachees to “get to the point” when their stories went too long. When a coachee showed up to coaching with a big, long, detailed story, we were to interject with a question like “What’s the bottom line to your story?” or “What’s the CNN version of your story?”  

At the time, bottom lining made sense to me. We coaches didn’t need all that detail. After all, we only have so much time. And long stories can take up a lot of it. We needed to achieve the coachee’s stated desired outcome by the end of the session to be successful. Right? So, helping the coachee “get to the point” in any way we could, was in the service of the coachee, in the service of the coaching.

But what if the story WAS the point?


The Hero’s Journey

In 2013, I organized a TEDx conference. In the formative stages of conference planning, I was struggling to articulate a theme that conveyed the message I hoped for the conference to share.  I wanted it to be about reaching our full human potential and becoming fully expressed. But it all sounded so “woowoo” and trite. 

Then, my husband sent me a link to the trailer for the film, Finding Joe, based upon the work of Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey. (Somehow, Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey had escaped my attention for 50+ years.) And, when I watched the trailer and later the movie, I knew I had my theme. (If you aren’t familiar with The Hero’s Journey, watch the two-minute film clip linked above. It’ll do a better job of explaining it in a shorter period of time and more interestingly than I will.)

So what does the Hero’s Journey have to do with coaching?

I’ve come to believe that The Hero’s Journey reflects the life journey we all are on. We are on the transformational journey of becoming – becoming a full expression of ourself, our potential.  And the integrational story of our return to our core essence – of overcoming our patterns of adaptation (like those captured in the EQ Profile). A journey of discovery of self and a returning home to self. A journey of transformation.

If the findings of Joseph Campbell, based upon his extensive research into the world’s legends, myths and folklore, are true, (and I believe they are), then perhaps our stories are more than just stories. Perhaps our stories are a vehicle to our transformation. 

Storytelling is Organic

My coachees show up telling stories in our coaching sessions. I don’t ask them to bring their stories, they just do. I used to ask them to bottom line it or I’d get frustrated because their stories were getting in the way of the goals they said they wanted to achieve. Recently, I’ve begun to believe that my coachees’ stories are their conscious and/or unconscious way of revealing their true desires.

Also, I’ve noticed how frequently my coachees show up with stories that possess all of the pieces of the solution they are seeking. And when I listen long enough and closely enough to their stories, and simply mirror back what they are saying, they often experience a kind of “Eureka” moment. They see how the dots of their stories connect to form the picture they were searching for.  

So, if storytelling itself is a process of becoming, of self expression, of return to core essence, and if coachees naturally show up to coaching with stories that possess the seeds of their solutions, perhaps our role (or one of them) as coaches is to facilitate the organic transformation and integration that has already begun in the form of the story. To assist the story in doing its work. 

How do we do that?


The Power of Story in Coaching

Within the story itself and within the coachee’s experience of telling the story are the clues to what the story is wanting to do. And by attending to the experience of the coachee as they are telling the story, and to the characters, metaphors, and language in the story, and to each stage of the journey of the story, we can guide the coachee to the resolution their story is seeking. 


Coachee Experience

Noticing and exploring the coachee’s experience as they are telling the story can sometimes reveal more than any questions we might ask. We are all taught this in coaching school and it’s easy to forget – how much a sigh, a change in posture, a glistening in the eye can clue us to shifts in the coachee’s internal experience.  

When we notice these subtle shifts and explore them with our coachees, they can notice aspects of their experience that were previously missing – feelings or sensations that might be suppressed or outside of their awareness. (If you are interested in reading an example of how this plays out in a coaching session, read more here


Characters, Metaphors, Language

Our coachees’ stories provide a rich cache of resources to help them “slay their dragons.” The characters in the stories have wisdom and perspective for them. The metaphors in their stories suggest the tools that will help them navigate challenging terrain. The language they use reveals the lens through which they are seeing their challenge/opportunity.

Playing with characters, metaphors and language can be really fun and invigorating for both coach and coachee. And these approaches to coaching are simple to apply and can create surprisingly fast and robust outcomes. Here are links for examples for playing with charactersmetaphors and language.


Stage of the Journey

Just like in the Hero’s Journey, our coachees’ stories have stages. And helping our coachee experience and identify each state in the journey provides its own form of wayfinding for the coachee.  

Questions the coach can be asking themselves as they work with their coachees’ stories include:

  1. What is the coachee’s experience as they are telling the story? (What is the unfulfilled desire?)
  2. What is the purpose of the story? (What is the unexpressed intention?)
  3. What is the challenge in the story? (What is the unexamined identity?)
  4. What is the invitation in the story? (What is the undemonstrated behavior?)
  5. What is the resolution to the story? (What is the unapologetic outcome?)

Note: These questions are taken from Dr. David Drake’s Narrative Coaching.

When we as coaches are curious about these questions, we will allow for deeper and deeper levels of awareness of the unconscious role of the story for the coachee.


I hope you try out some of these techniques with your coachees. Our coaching can sometimes be so linear and/or so cerebral that it can be fun and healthy and energizing to try something new and see what happens.  

Sure, it takes courage. But hey, you’re a coach. We already know you have courage!

What are your thoughts and experiences in trying these techniques? I’d love to know!  

Be one of the first seven people to comment on this blog and we’ll send you a DVD of the Finding Joe film.

Join the conversation.

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– Alison
Alison Whitmire
President | Learning in Action


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Posted in: Coaching|Narrative Coaching

How to Fill Your Unused Coaching Capacity

October 11, 2018

Last week, we at Learning in Action, turned our attention to what we could do to help you fill your unused coaching capacity. (That time when you could be and would want to be coaching, if you had the coachees to fill it.) We are passionate about helping coaches thrive in their chosen profession.  

And we believe that both coachees and coaches can languish because of the challenges in finding each other. Marketing, sales and promotion are not necessarily a strong suit for many coaches. And most coachees don’t know the first thing about coaching, coaches, what they are looking for or where to find them.

That’s why we hosted our monthly podinar, Coaching At Capacity: How to Fill Your Calendar with Paid Coaching Time. We invited Chip Carter, Senior Advisor with LeaderJam and the Institute of Coaching, to talk with us about platforms that match coaches to coachees. If you’d like to watch and/or listen to our 90 minute conversation, you can tune in here.

Note: We’re grateful to Chip Carter for providing all the platform information in our podinar, and for verifying the information. This blog is based on that information.


Coach Platforms

Some of you reading this blog may have no idea what we mean when we talk about Coach Platforms. So here is a brief description that I’ve made up (because this space is so new I haven’t seen it referenced anywhere):

A coach platform is a platform that matches potential coachees (people who want coaching) with coaches.   

For purposes of this blog, we’ll focus on three primary types of platforms:

  • B2B (business to business)
  • B2C (business to consumer)
  • Coach companies

We’ll describe each of these types of platforms below and give examples.


B2B Coach Platform

B2B coach platforms match companies who want to offer coaching to their employees with coaches who they’ve invited onto their platform. Examples of B2B platforms include BetterUpCoaching Right NowProfitable Leadership, and LeaderJam, which is soon to be launched.

Platforms like these approach companies who want to create a consistent coaching program throughout their company but don’t have or want to invest in the expertise to do it themselves. Or companies who want to democratize coaching as part of their culture, and make it available to a broader cross-section of their employees.

Also, these platforms find coaches with excess coaching capacity who want to be part of their network of coaches. Many of these platforms are looking for coaches at all experience levels who have more coaching time than they can sell themselves. And because the prospective coachees in companies on the platform are at all levels of the organization, these platforms need coaches at all different price points (and therefore levels of experience).   

Each platform’s vetting of coaches is unique. For the most part, coaches submit information to these companies about their background, experience, education, certifications, credentials and areas of expertise. The platforms will perform some kind of interview and background check.

As a condition of bringing a coach into their network, the platform might require the coach to follow certain processes or procedures around coaching engagements and/or get some additional education in certain assessments they use frequently (e.g. MBTI, DISC, StrengthsFinder).


Side Note/Soap Box: Do yourself and everyone who would benefit enormously from working with you a favor! Discover, create, develop YOUR unique expertise in the coaching space. Determine a compelling way to articulate it. (Read my blog about it here.) You can focus on a specific target market (e.g. I focus on CEO/business owners); you can specialize in a type of coaching (e.g. wellness, Narrative, mindfulness, neuroleadership); you can develop an expertise that cuts across all coaching (e.g. Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Conversational Intelligence (CiQ), Neuroscience, Somatics). There are unlimited options. Use one of them!


Many of us got the impression from coaching school that we shouldn’t or need not specialize – which is the quickest way to commoditization of our industry, as far as I can tell. (You can even get your unique expertise from us at Learning in Action. We frame, teach, measure EQ like no one else on the planet. Learn more.)

B2C Coach Platform

B2C platforms create a marketplace for people who want coaches to find coaching. Examples of B2C platforms include LiveCoachAce-UpCoachMarket (focuses on career coaching).  

These platforms provide you with a place to list yourself and your work to be reviewed by potential coachees (either within companies or the public) for matching.  

The difference between B2C and B2B is that with B2C, you have to promote and differentiate yourself and you are effectively competing with many other similar coaches in the marketplace. A B2B platform will likely have fewer coaches than a B2C platform. It is in the best interest of those who run a B2B coach platform to curate the expertise and experience level of the coaches for diversity (and less overlap). 

While these platforms aren’t exactly TinderForCoaches, for coaches to be successful in gaining clients on these sites, they are going to need to either 1) stand out in some way – particularly in their unique experience, education, or expertise or 2) charge below what similarly experienced coaches charge. (Refer to SoapBox, above.)

Coaching Companies

These organizations are less of a coach platform and more of a company that hires coaches to be part of their team, full or part time. Examples include Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) and LHH/Knightsbridge (which I believe has a strong focus on career transition). These are excellent organizations, IMO, and working with them would likely feel more like working for a company than working for yourself.  

Pros and Cons

The overview of these services provided by Chip Carter with LeaderJam lists the pros and cons of each type of platform and you can see them on this grid. In short, the more freedom you want, the more responsibility you have for promoting yourself. And the more money you want to make, the less freedom you are likely to have. And the better you are at articulating who you work with, what they get from your work and the reason to believe it’s true (because of your deep expertise and experience doing that), the more money you’ll make and the more freedom you’ll have. (Are you detecting a theme? 🙂 )

How to Pick a Platform

We asked Chip the question, “How does a coach pick one of these platforms? What are the factors they should consider?”, and he created this document for us. Thank you, Chip.  

I encourage you to read through the options, consider the pros and cons and determine the best answer for yourself. And I’m going to do something we coaches don’t usually do: give you some advice. (I’m cringing even as I write the word advice.) Here goes:

Choose the platform (or no platform) that will allow you to do the most coaching. 

The more coaching you do, the better you’ll get and the more likely you’ll be able to create a specialty and/or articulate an expertise. The more able you are to articulate exactly 1) what it is you do 2) who you do it for and 3) what they get from it, the more coachees you’ll attract. When you can articulate what you do, who you do it for and what they get from it in a compelling and unique way, you won’t need any of these platforms. You’ll need an assistant to keep all of your coachees and calendar organized!

Good luck!  And let us know how it goes.

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– Alison
Alison Whitmire
President | Learning in Action


P.S. Want to receive our blogs in your inbox? Subscribe to our Friday Conversations Blog.


P.P.S. Do you coach teams? Do you want to?? It brings its own challenges. You asked for help to unpack teams – and now it’s available! The same EQ Profile that you rely on for individual coaching, can also be used for teams. We’ll answer your questions and clarify any confusion. Join us Wed. Oct 24th  live to ask whatever is on your mind about using the EQ Profile with Teams! Click for details and to register – FREE.


Not an EQ Profile practitioner? 
Click here for information on the EQ Profile. Too much to chew on? Click here for a Taste of the EQ Profile.

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Posted in: Business of Coaching|Growing Client Base|Industry|Learning in Action