The Simple Coaching Circle

We all know coaching is a great way to help people get unstuck and closer to their potential. But when you’re time poor and rushed off your feet, it seems much easier to tell people what to do.
Well it is, until you realise they are coming to you for everything and now that’s taking up too much time!
The thing is, the hardest thing about coaching  is saying nothing at all and holding the silence.
Yes, I said holding the silence.
I developed the Simple Coaching Circle for you.
Even if you only use one element in your conversations you’ve moved towards coaching. So let’s dive in and I’ll tell  you how it works (yes I see the irony here).


All coaching starts with the quality of your attention.
Giving all your attention looks like this:
No distractions
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  • If you’re short on time, tell the person up front how much time you do have and stick to it
  • If you’re distracted in the moment, ask to have the conversation at a better time for you
Listen to ignite rather than to reply
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  • Look directly at the person speaking
  • Ignore your own thoughts, keep you attention on the person speaking
  • Leave note taking to the end, you’re there to listen, not fix
Do not interrupt
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  • You can’t think well if you expect interruption
  • Even if you think you know what they’re going to say, still don’t interrupt, they need to say it
  • Do interrupt if it is an emergency or if you need to signal you are coming to the time available
When the person has run out of things to say try one of these options to stay in coaching:

Tell me more…

These three words put you straight into a coaching conversation. It’s a curious question with no expectations attached to it.
It’s also a useful phrase if you zoned out for a moment and are not sure what to say next.  ?



As much as possible try to use the persons words, even if they aren;t grammactially correct. Something changes when you hear your own words said back.
No one cares if you get it wrong, it has the same effect as saying, “tell me more.”
If the person doesn’t continue talking after your summary ask them to, “tell me more.”

Everything leads back to ATTENTION

People want to feel listened too and understood, they don’t want you to fix their problem for them. So unless they ask you to, don’t. The quality of your attention is all the value they need.

Trust the Circle

You’ll be itching to say something helpful. Instead hold back and go through the circle twice before offering your thoughts or questions.
And have fun with it, I went through the circle 7 times in 5 minutes in this demo. How many times can you get to before you add your input?
Drop me a line and let me know and even better sign up for the next free Coaching Made Simple workshop.

My thinking for this piece was inspired by a Lunch ‘n Learn session I ran for Sysdoc on coaching skills and draws on the thinking of Nancy Kline and the Thinking Environment and this article from Ozan Varol for the Next Big Idea Club. This is a revised version of the letter originally published as Three Simple Coaching Techniques You Can Use Right Now.

Get in touch if you’d like me to run a workshop for your organisation or network.

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