Just like children, adults need support. Growth is solidified for all of us when we are genuinely championed. You may be familiar with the World Health Organisation (WHO) definition of health promotion:‘It is the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health’. The desired outcome in health coaching is your clients ultimate self-efficacy in sustaining their own health goals and behaviours. Thus, supporting your clients to draw out their own champion, so that it becomes naturally internally referenced, is a key piece in the craft of health coaching.
“You have to be your own biggest champion, it’s a learned skill. If you can’t back yourself how can you expect other people to do so.” — Kent Johns, PREKURE Certified Health Coach
Cheerleading is reeving someone up, jumping up and down when their energy is low. Conversely, championing is where a coach acknowledges their clients true qualities and shining attributes. These are character strengths that you recognise in your client, that can be played back to them to become the scaffolding of their aspirations. In order to be a genuine champion for your client, you must truly believe what you are saying and feeling. Being sure not to make up acknowledgements in an attempt to convince them that they should be proud.
Championing is a natural part of the coaching process. You can champion actions, progress, dreams, traits, commitments, talent, gifts and qualities. When you are championing someone, you are championing something that has already occurred. The client will give you direct cues to what they are most excited about or proud of. Listen for the richness in their tone, the energy in their voice and the words they use.
Acknowledge who the client had to be in order to accomplish whatever action he or she took, or awareness he or she achieved. It is through your articulation of the deep knowing of the other, that connection and momentum is realised. E.g. ‘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.’ By connecting your client to the strength inside of them you facilitate momentum towards where they want to be.
Championing is drawn from that third level of listening to what you hear, see and feel from the client’s conversation. For example: ‘I hear in your voice how much you have overcome to get to this point, you are strong’ There is no “I think you are”, to champion a client is not a judgment, it is a genuine observation.
Approaches to championing your client:
- Look for and dive deep on their emotion – uncover their true values and self.
- Be curious and show wonder – when you do this genuinely the client gets it and feels supported.
- Be Responsive: Follow the client’s lead and relevance in the moment, versus your formulaic observation or question.
- Stand up for clients when they are hesitant about their abilities – Despite their self-doubt the coach knows clearly who the client is and that they are capable of much more than they think.
- Match their emotion, tone, feeling – the client can trust they are driving the conversation.
- Look for the greater truth – The client will give you clues to what they are most excited about/ proud of.
- Point out shifts they have made -Help them to make the connection to how it has evolved them ‘what strength have you drawn on to get to this point?’
- Ask them – What are you proud of? What resources do you already have here? The coach is the catalyst that helps the person internally reference for themselves what they have accomplished.
- Ask questions that draw out your clients’ own championing opportunities. These will stick longer and draw out their strengths and beliefs . e.g. ‘What can you celebrate about yourself?’, ‘Who are you now?’, ‘what is your empowering belief’.
- Be comfortable with silence – This is where the real truth comes out, the ‘who’ of your client.
- Strengthen the habit of supporting and walking towards their true self – through values exercises, mindfulness, Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) and the like.
Why champion? Championing causes a shift from doubting, and feeling disconnected, to feeling energised, integrated and confident. You create a greater awareness in the client of their own strengths, talents and capabilities. This leads to better clarity and choices. Coaching as a whole, always has an eye toward personal evolution. One of the true magical moments in coaching is when you can see a client connect to their self belief ‘I can really do this’ and move forward positively towards their health goals with confidence.
“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!” — Whitworth et al, 1998
— Sonya English | ICF Qualified Coach, PREKURE Lead Health Coach & Registered Nurse
Covey, S.R., (2018), Co-Active Coaching: Fourth Edition. The Proven Framework for Transformative Conversations at Work & in Life. Henry Kimsey-House, Boston.
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