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Reflections on Competency 8: Transform Their Learning Into Action

by Paulette Rao MCC BCC

Competency 8 is defined by ICF as partnering with our client to transform their learning into action, while promoting their autonomy in the process.

The coaching session is incomplete if the client does not commit to acting upon what was learned, no matter how transformational the insights may have been during that session. It is not coaching if we do not help the client set and take relevant actions to embed their learning. Coaching is a form of action learning; therefore, clients should be asked and supported to commit to self-determined actions.

Taking action is an opportunity for the client to practice new behaviors that, when reflected upon later, can lead to expanded awareness. This forwards the client’s thinking and progress towards their goals. Whether the action was completed thoroughly, partially, or not at all, debriefing an action leads always leads to learning.

Designing actions starts with the coach's ability to partner to help the client create fieldwork to be done in between sessions. Ideas for possible action always come from the client, with the coach providing their experience and expertise, if and when needed. We facilitate the creation of these actions by asking open-ended questions which promote thinking, allow for autonomy, strengthen motivation, and generate focus and forward movement.

Marker 8.5 says that we "partner with a client to design post-session thinking, reflection, or action." We might ask them what the next step might look like, what resources, support, and accountability they might need or desire, what might get in the way, and help them think through a plan to break through.

We ask when they will take their action and if they are willing to carve out a specific time in their calendar to increase the action's likelihood. Asking the client to write down what they have committed to allows for ownership, and commitment grows. It also puts more attention on the action. We know from neuroscience that what we focus on grows, so recording or calendaring the action(s) further increases the likelihood of that action taking place

Finally, we use inquiry to check if the actions set feel achievable yet challenging as well as how ready and willing they are to take them on. Here are a few of my favorite questions that will prompt the client to set a strong action that is likely to facilitate change

· What feels like the next right step to take here?

· What resources might you need to support you in the taking of this action?

· What type of support, if any, do you need to make this happen?

· What might get in the way of this action being taken?

· What is plan B, should that happen?

· When, exactly, will you take this action?

· How much time do you need to carve out?

· What type of accountability, if any, do you want or need?

· How will you hold yourself accountable?

· How committed, on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest, do you feel to taking this action?


Partnering to create client actions is integral to coaching and attaining the client's goals. Actions might be more deeply reflecting on any emerging awareness or taking specific actions steps. Regardless of which, the coach's role is to partner with the client using skills such as asking open-ended questions, reflectively listening, challenging, reframing, noticing, sharing, and planning to allow for the autonomous setting of fieldwork.


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