3 Aspects to Consider When Empowering Coachees

What coaches can do to help their coachees achieve ideal outcomes.

Posted May 20, 2020

 Wix Free Images, used with permission
Source: Wix Free Images, used with permission

One of the many things l love about coaching is seeing people grow and realize their strength, options, resources, and capabilities. A coachee may come to me stuck, confused, overwhelmed, or fed-up. But, when we have completed the coaching process, the coachee seems reborn into this fierce, determined force. Gives me goosebumps. I recognize my view, approach, and personal projections can impact the coaching relationship, and ultimately my coachee’s outcome (Correia, dos Santos & Passmore, 2016). For instance, if I believe my coachees are able to have an ideal outcome, then my coachee will more likely believe in him/her/their selves to achieve ideal outcomes. However, I cannot want a coachee’s success more than the coachee. Also, it is my responsibility to help the coachee realize his/he/their own potential. As such, I theorize there are three aspects to the coaching process that are especially important. It is your unique coaching superpower that allows the below aspects to become tools to help your coachee make a mental turning point to act:

  1. Your view about your coachee and how you engage the coaching process
  2. Purposefully using the coachee’s past successes to help the coachee “savor” the positive
  3. Wanting growth or transformation less than or equal to the coachee

Below, I dive into these three aspects a little further. I also provide one of my cases at the end of this article to help you understand the main message of this article: what we do as coaches can empower or under-power our coachees. Please note my case study does not reveal my client’s real name to protect the coachee’s privacy.

How you view and engage with your client

Coaching is a coachee-centered process. It focuses attention and action within the context of the coachee’s feelings, resources, motivation, and determination around life experiences and choices (Bonniwell & Osin, 2015). Additionally, coaching sees the coachee as healthy and capable (Jarosz, 2016). From my experience, if you do not see your coachee’s potential, you cannot fully maximize the coaching opportunity to help your coachee make mental shifts that lead to the coachee executing action seeing desired results.

Likewise, coaches must assume their coachees are the authorities in their respective lives, having power, a voice, and the ability to create wholeness (Jarosz, 2016). When you view your coachee in this way, you confidently and encouragingly engage with the coachee to facilitate the coaching process. This perspective subconsciously gives coachees permission to see themselves in the same way. In summary, your view and engagement can empower your coachees. 

Purposefully using the coachee’s past success

As a coach, using our coachee’s past positive experiences and successes is a motivator and objective reminder of his/her/their greatness and self-efficacy (Passmore & Oades, 2014). A coachee’s past wins support how capable and powerful our coachee is and can be. It's like we are saying “OK, you have done this before, so you can do it again. You have a frame of reference. You survived. You got this.

Wanting growth and transformation equal to the coachee

Our coachees are responsible for their happiness and wholeness. They do the heavy lifting to achieve success. If you want the outcome more than you coachee, you are assuming you know what is best, and you are no longer providing a coachee-centered approach. Furthermore, you might find yourself disappointed because the coachee is not taking your “advice” or doing what you feel is in his/he/their best interest. Note: Giving advice is not coaching. For example, in the case study below, if I felt it was better for him to quit his job, I could have created a bigger problem for him and his career. Furthermore, I would have made the coaching process about what I wanted, told the client what to do, and hijacked his growth opportunity. He would have likely walked away from the coaching experience still stuck, unsatisfied, and unempowered—and unemployed.

The coaching agenda is not about you, it's about your coachee. It is your job to work with the coachee to identify where and how the coachee can maximize and optimize his/he/their full potential. But you can only show your coachee the path; you cannot make him/her/them walk the path. As such, you must bring the same level of energy about what to do and how to take the next actions as the coachee while removing yourself from the decision-making equation (Sammut, 2014). Your role as coach is to select appropriate interventions that support the coachee’s learning pace and final choices (Sammut, 2014), not want more than the coachee wants for him/her/their self.

In conclusion, your role as coach is instrumental towards your coachee’s overall outcome. This discussion is a small example of how your views and approach can impact your coachee's decisions, actions, and success. Your engagement can motivate action or under-power your coachee. As I close this discussion, I wanted to leave you with a case study to demonstrate some of the key points I addressed. As you read the case study, I invite you to ask yourself the following: How are you holding space for your coachees to become empowered? How do you view your coachee's capabilities—positive or negative? Are you maintaining an environment of coachee-centeredness? Do you want the goal or agenda more than your coachee or at the same energy level?

Case study: “Paul” came to me seeking coaching around making a career change. He was unsure about his options and felt stuck. He was not confident in his abilities and how he was making contributions in his current role. His initial goal was to seek another role within another profession. He was not sure if he wanted to stay with his current company.

I first wanted to clarify Paul’s true agenda as I sensed it was not changing jobs. Next, I was curious round his lack of confidence. As I facilitated the coaching process, I discovered Paul was only in his current position for about four months. The underlying issue was the role was new. He was feeling overwhelmed and unsure about his place. Paul was at his last job for more than eight years. He used to be the ‘guru” and “go-to” person. Now, he was learning an entirely new company and role.

I tapped into Paul’s prior experience by focusing on how long it took him to develop “guru” status. I also asked questions around what evidence does he see that shows he is capable and is doing a good job. He was unsure. I asked him questions that led to him wanting to find out objectively how he was doing at work. We brainstormed a few actions and Paul decided to do a check-in with his managers and colleagues. At first, he was skeptical about talking to others at work and became hesitant. I felt that hesitancy was a coachable moment and I got his permission to dive deeper into what is in the way. Paul did not want to jeopardize his current position or budding reputation within the company. I helped Paul look at his situation from different angles and how he wanted to approach dialogue with his managers and colleagues around feedback. I focused on his strengths and his potential. I held space for Paul to realize what made sense to him and empowered him to choose (or not) moving forward with a dialogue and from whom he wanted to obtain feedback. I validated for Paul that I knew he would make the best decision for himself, either way.

Paul decided it was more important for him to know more than not know how he was doing at work. He setup three meetings with two key managers and one colleague. He was able to provide five scenarios of positive feedback between these three individuals. He shared with me his managers and colleagues were excited to give him feedback and felt he was doing a great job. Likewise, I reminded him that the role he is in is new and it can take six or more months to become fully acclimated. I shared with him it was important to give himself time to learn and hold compassion for himself as he grew into his new role. Again, we tapped into his past experiences of success. I reminded him he must be doing great since he passed the 90-day probation period and he has received positive feedback from managers and a colleague. What he was feeling is just the adjustment of growing pains and he can become a guru in his new role.

By the end of our sessions, Paul no longer wanted to move out of his role. He was able to identify his capabilities and found the courage to ask for feedback. He identified his place on his team. In my three-month follow up with Paul, he was feeling more confident and satisfied in his career and shared with me how he is becoming a “guru” in his current role.


Bonniwell, I., & Osin, E. (2015). Time Perspective Coaching. In M. Stolarski, N. Fieulaine, W. van Beek, (Eds), Time Perspective Theory: Review, Research and Application (pp. 451-469). Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.

Correia, M. C., dos Santos, N. R., & Passmore, J. (2016). Understanding the coach-coachee-client relationship: A conceptual framework for executive coaching. International Coaching Psychology Review 11(1), 6-23.

Jarosz, J. (2016). What is life coaching? An integrative review of the evidence-based literature. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 14(1), 34-56.

Passmore, J., & Oades, L. G. (2014). Positive Psychology Coaching – a model for coaching practice. The Coaching Psychologist, 10(2), 68-70.

Sammut, K. (2014). Transformative learning theory and coaching: Application in practice. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, Special Issue (8), 39-53.