By Martha Lasley

Part 1: Support and Challenge

494Too often coaching is predictable, polite, and comfortable. When asked what they want more of, most clients say, “I want you to challenge me…”

How do you ramp up your coaching, find your bold voice and take a stand for your clients? First, stop commiserating. Second, wake them up to the opportunity to live life more fully. And third, call out your own power to move into edgy coaching. Let’s start by looking at why we call out our client’s power.

Isn’t it better to just accept people exactly the way they are? After all, that’s when we are most likely to witness transformation—when people are seen, heard and deeply understood, they shift. But there’s another piece that supports transformation… when we create the space for them to embody their full power and express their authentic voice.

We all have moments of giving our power away—to family, teachers, colleagues, church, government, or doctors. Most of us were encouraged, taught or expected to give our power away. We were told what to think, how to dress, who to hang out with and what to believe. When truth comes from an external source, it robs us of a deep connection with our intuitive guidance.

So how do you help clients shatter this type of traditional thinking? When they accept disempowering beliefs and negative self-talk as the truth, how do you help them rise above their limitations? What are some ways to help them reconnect to their inner power and authentic voice?

If only it was as easy as giving them reminders: You are the author of your life. Only you have the power to transcend anything that keeps you from accessing your brilliance. But they already know this and if they could stop their self-limiting beliefs, internalized oppression or addiction to email, they would have done so already.

Our role as coaches is to help clients transcend their current level of vibration or state of consciousness, raising the collective energy field. Discordant energy can only be transformed when they come into alignment with their powerful God self. Pure authenticity.

To call out the power, the coach has two primary ways to raise the vibrational energy—support and challenge.


Adapted from Challenging Coaching by John Blakely and Ian Day

Support and Challenge

The most powerful supportive moments come from deep empathy and holding silence. Honoring clients, just the way they are. Why? Because internal shifts happen when we slow down, connect deeply and hold space for awareness to emerge.

However, the most challenging moments come from requesting that clients do something to shift their behavior or limiting beliefs. Why? Because awareness without action leads to “feel good” coaching or wallowing; whereas real learning takes place when people combine fresh awareness with new actions.

In the lower left quadrant of the model, flat coaching is completely disengaging because we offer neither support nor challenge.

We move into the cozy quadrant when we support our clients, but don’t challenge them. We’re likely to stay in that quadrant if as coaches we are attached to comfort or we value harmony and peace above all. Many clients find the cozy quadrant healing and revitalizing; others find it mushy or indulgent.

In contrast, pushy coaching comes from offering all challenge, but no support. We don’t spend much time in this quadrant unless we strongly value awareness, authenticity and courage. Many clients enjoy the excitement and rigor of this quadrant; others find it brutal.

However, there is another way… edgy coaching blends both support and challenge so that clients play at the top of their game. We invite clients to remove their masks and become more real and more powerful than ever before. In this quadrant, rigorous, passionate coaching prevails and clients move into the zone – where their inner and outer world are aligned.

How come it is so difficult to develop edgy coaching? Without wavering, Thomas Leonard, often referred to as the father of coaching said, “If you cannot afford financially to lose your clients, you WILL be a mouse. Guaranteed. Again, the simple solution is money. Don’t put yourself in a position where paying your mortgage is more important than you being an honest coach to your clients.”

Let’s take Leonard’s concept a step further. If you care more about being liked than being edgy, you serve no one. Everybody loses. Helping clients reclaim their power requires a whole lot of courage. We have to be willing to risk the loss of the coaching relationship, for the sake of growth and development.

As coaches, we need to step into our own power to help clients step into theirs. If I’m not in the edgy quadrant, I ask myself, “how can I love this client enough to move her toward her growing edge?” I coach as if her life depends on what I say next. Because it does.

How about you?

How do you step into edgy coaching?


441About the author: Martha Lasley is a founder of Coaching for Transformation, an accredited coach training program and ChangeMakers, a year-long facilitation training program. She creates results-oriented programs that inspire, motivate, and transform. “I surround myself with people who take risks and look for new ways of doing things; we explore both the solid ground and the edges of transformation.”

Martha is a certified trainer in Nonviolent Communication and is a professional member of the Indian Society for Applied Behavioral Science. She has written three books: Courageous Visions; Facilitating with Heart; and Coaching for Transformation.

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