An Uncomfortable Debate

We met at the beautiful Lyzzick Hall hotel where Andrew lead us in a discussion about “Challenging Coaching” written by John Blakey and Ian Day.

View from Lyzzick CCNet Caroline Pett

View from Lyzzick Hall upon arrival

In the book it is suggested that traditional coaching, which is primarily empathy lead, can be akin to collusion and although offers a high level of support, gives a low level of challenge, is nothing but a cosy club. The optimum place is the “Loving Boot” high support and high challenge.

Traditional coaching, they say, stays in the zone of comfortable debate. If a coach is scared to go into the zone of uncomfortable debate, they will never address the elephant in the room.

Challenging Coaching has 5 pillars which they say are different from traditional coaching – we thought otherwise, the group agreed that these 5 pillars were intrinsic in all coaching.

Passionate curiosity – ask and listen to understand the immediate, short and long term goals of the client, organisation and wider stakeholders with the intention of enhancing performance.
Trusting in the future potential of all – If we didn’t believe that everyone had the potential to perform at a higher level, why would we even be coaches?
Letting go of status, expertise and outcomes – The coach is in service of the client, not their own ego.
Build the contract, honour the contract – a solemn promise to uphold all agreements made.
Speak your truth, face the FACTS – transformation follows from an acceptance of reality, and it is our role as a coach to lead the way.

FACTS is the model that they use to ensure that coaching is challenging, and we explored each section.
Feedback – should be given about anything that is striking, persistent or relevant.
Accountability – Setting accountability in an adult – adult way. Accountability for outcomes lies with the client. It’s the coaches accountability to raise this with the client and to challenge.
Courageous Goals – Goals should be motivating and push beyond comfort zone, whilst being realistic and achievable.
Tension – As a coach we need to comfortable with discomfort, on our own and the clients part. Imagine you are holding an elastic band over a challenge and support axis, letting the tension out of the band would snap you from a place of high challenge/support to low challenge/support.
Systems Thinking – in NLP this would be called an ecology check. Considering the wider impact of intervention or actions and how they could be perceived by other stakeholders.


CCNet members in discussion – all people pictured agreed to have images shared

Overall, Challenging Coaching seems to be worth reading, and is full of great resources – it serves are a great reminder for us all to challenge more boldly, from a place of trust and rapport with our clients. Treating our clients with the compassion of telling the truth in a straightforward way, neither pussyfooting around it nor clobbering them around the head with it.


I wrote this post to share the information from An Uncomfortable Debate session ran by Andrew Scott on 20th April 2018. If you’d like to read any other blog posts I’ve written on other topics, please visit my website and have a look. Caroline


Caroline Pett

About Caroline Pett

Based in the North of Cumbria, I offer personal coaching to anyone feeling stuck with something in their life.

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