Co-Active Coaching

by Henry Kimsey-House et al

Four Cornerstones:


The four cornerstones form a container that holds the Co-Active conversation.

People Are Naturally Creative, Resourceful, and Whole We start with this assertion: people are, by their very nature, creative, resourceful and whole. They are capable: capable of finding answers; capable of choosing; capable of taking action; capable of recovering when things don’t go as planned; and, especially, capable of learning. This capacity is wired into all human beings no matter their circumstances. In the Co-Active model it is more than a belief—it is a stand we take. The alternative is a belief that people are fragile and dependent. With that belief, the coach’s job would be to guide the coachee to the safest possible outcome. You can feel the difference. When we take a stand for other people’s natural creativity and resourcefulness, we become champions on their behalf, not worried hand-holders. As coaches, when we assume resourcefulness and creativity, we become curious, open to possibilities, discovering with the coachee, not dictating. We expect to be amazed.

Focus on the Whole Person For most people who want to be helpful, and for most new coaches or people in a coaching role, the question that’s often foremost on their minds is this: “What’s the problem to solve?” It’s a question that comes from the best of intentions: a desire to understand and provide valuable assistance so that a problem can be solved. But when a coach is sitting across from a coachee (even by telephone), the coach is not sitting across from a problem to be solved; the coach is sitting across from a person. This person does have a problem to solve—a change to make, a dream to fulfill, a task to accomplish, a goal to reach. All of that is true. But this person is more than the problem at hand—or the goal, the dream, the task. This is a whole person: heart, mind, body, and spirit. And the issue, whatever it is, is not neatly isolated. It is inexorably entwined in the coachee’s whole life.

Dance in This Moment - A conversation is a powerful and dynamic interchange between people. It’s natural to pay attention to the content of the conversation—the words, the positions, the ideas. The content is often what is most “visible” and easiest to respond to. And yet, as important as the words and content are, there is much more going on in every moment. Every conversation creates tone, mood, and nuance. There is as much information, sometimes more, in how the words are said versus the words chosen; sometimes there is more information in what is not said than what is said. For the coach, a conversation becomes an exercise in listening intently at many levels and, of course, choosing to respond, to intervene. The information about what to say or ask does not come from a script. It comes in the moment, in this moment, and then the next moment. To “dance in this moment” is to be very present to what is happening right now and to respond to that stimulus rather than to a master plan.

Evoke Transformation Coach and coachee meet in this Co-Active conversation for a common purpose: the coachee’s full life. The topic of the coaching will likely be something quite specific—a fraction of the coachee’s life that the coachee is focused on. But if we follow that leaf to the branch and then travel from the branch to the trunk and the roots—there is always a deeper connection possible. The goal of the coaching in one session might be clarity and action around a project. The motivation for the coaching could be a new job or promotion, improved fitness, or the execution of a business plan. In fact, the coachee may only have her attention on the specific goal for that specific topic. The coach, on the other hand, sees the tree and the larger, fully connected life. Coaches in this model hold a vision that sees the topic as an expression of something even more valuable to the coachee. This action at hand is the means to a higher end, life fully lived in whatever area the coachee finds important.