by Kirsten Dierolf (Germany)

“What I would really like from this coaching session is a plan on how to talk to my boss about a pay raise”, is what you hear from your coaching client. Now, there might be several things going through your head: “How do I help her plan this meeting?”, “What’s important to her about it?”, “What will be different if she has this plan?” How do you then decide what to invite your client to explore?

As a coach trainer, mentor coach and member of the ICF assessor team for professional certified coaches and master certified coaches I have had the opportunity to observe these kinds of coaching situations in many variations. Candidates, mentees and participants in my coach training programs have described two difficulties:

  1. If you run with the first goal that a client mentions (in this case asking about measures of success for the plan to get a pay and creating the plan), the coaching is in danger of being very flat. The coaching might only be about what the client needs to do rather than encompassing more about who the client is, what is important to the client, thereby enabling the client to reflect deeper and make more significant progress.
  2. If, as a coach, you ask client to explore more (in this case, maybe, by asking ‘so what difference would it make if you had a plan?’ or ‘how is this important to you?’) you run the risk of getting lost in the exploration and never ending up actually discussing what the client came for (in this case, discussing the plan for the pay raise).

The double diamond of coaching:

Using the metaphor of a double diamond can be useful to loosely structure a coaching conversation for the benefit of clarity and partnership between coach and client. The widening and narrowing of the diagram represent the widening and narrowing of the focus of the coaching conversation and the numbers as turning points represent possibilities for the coach and the client to partner around the change of direction.

Source: iCN Issue 23  (Coaching Tools, Tips & Techniques); pages 80-83

About Kirsten Dierolf, M.A., MSFP, MCC

Kirsten has been coaching executives, middle managers and teams for global corporations since 1996. She also designed and delivered large leadership development programs all over the globe. In 2016, she was certified as Master Certified Coach. She has coached over 3000 hours as a professional. Kirsten is member of the ICF assessor team for PCC and MCC. She is a prolific writer with over 30 articles and two books: “The solution tango” with Louis Cauffman and “Solution Focused Team Coaching“.

Kirsten has been running programs to develop professional Solution Focused Coaches since 2008. Her first ICF Accredited Program (ACTP) ran in 2015. ICF accredited Coach Training and Mentoring offerings can be found here: Publications are here: