Blog Post: Observations Can 10x Client Awareness



A good observation can create more awareness than the best question. Too many questions can create a monologue from the client. When you begin making observations as you coach, you truly enter the dialogue. Great coaching is a conversation where both the coach and the client bring something to the table.

While I still ask a lot of powerful questions, the amount of observations I make has steadily increased. These observations never solve the problem but instead give the client a fuller view of the issue and a better understanding of how the issue might be solved. A well-crafted observation can move the client forward with lots of new awareness.

Let me give you three recent examples of observations in my coaching:

Example # 1: One of my clients is a key leader in a fast-growing startup. He plays a visionary role to help the organization stay true to their vision while they are experiencing incredible growth. As I listened, I did not hear him describe any circumstance where he was playing a visionary role, such as creating culture or clarifying the vision. Instead, he was describing his activity more as a peacemaker between various factions. 

My observation: “You are not playing your role.”

When I make an observation, my intention is to spark curiosity and facilitate discovery, not to shame the client or put them into a mode ready to download an action list. While this observation may sound brusk, my client needed an interruption in his thought process. The client stopped talking and started thinking. We continued our conversation around ways he could effectively play his given role.

Example # 2: Another client directs an organization where the staff are highly creative. The staff always leans toward innovation, and they naturally have lots of input about every issue. Lately, my client has had difficulty galvanizing the staff behind his decisions. As he described the structure of their meetings, it dawned on me that there was a missing agreement.

My observation: “Your team does not understand how decisions are being made.”

When I make an observation, rather than share my own expertise, I try to point the client to a model or best practice where they might glean more information. What appeared to be missing in my client’s relationship with his staff was an agreement on how their input would be used in making decisions. While he may have thought the agreement was obvious, his staff was reading his actions as dismissive. My observation led to a conversation about the various ways decisions can be made within a team.

Example # 3: A third client leads an organization that is experiencing steady decline. As I listened to my client talk about what needs to happen for the organization to reverse this trend, I began to notice that the staff roles were not set up to directly impact a revitalization of the organization.

My observation: “Your organization is not properly aligned.”

When I make an observation, my hope is that the client will respond by catalyzing change either in themself, their actions, or the structure of their organization. The comment sparked a thought in my client about how to restructure roles around the delivery system of this organization. He immediately became the expert of the situation and began the process of evaluating current roles and responsibilities and how they would need to shift to reverse this decline.


The intent of a great observation is to invite your client onto the balcony, a place where one has a clearer view of the situation at hand. In all of my examples, the client needs to see the situation from every perspective all at the same time. Good observations give the client just such an opportunity. The first client can see his role in relation to all leaders. The second client can see decision-making from all perspectives. The third client can see all roles in the context of achieving goals.

I want to give you a challenge: in every coaching conversation, attempt to make at least one observation. Hold it lightly. Maybe even admit you might be wrong. Then, take note of how much awareness you create. From my experience, you will multiply client awareness by a factor of ten.

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