In a coaching context, encouragement plays an important part, but it must be done authentically in a way that the person can both receive it and use it for further growth. Insincere or “canned” encouragement does little good and can, in fact, harm the client’s progress. There are several ways that a coach can do this.
First, affirm who they are. In the coaching relationship, the coach will often pick up something that is an innate part of the client’s personhood. This may well be a reflection of the person’s core values whether he or she recognizes it as a core value. When the coach has such an insight, there is the opportunity to affirm the client’s “human being” rather than “human doing.” The coach is affirming the personhood of the individual rather than something they have done. An example might be, “Bill, you have a wonderful ability to identify with people going through times of loss.”
Second, affirm their capabilities. Rather than dwelling on where the client has failed to reach his or her goals, the coach recognizes and acknowledges the emerging skills the client is developing. Positive steps bring out capabilities that can be named and reinforced. For example, “Beth, your ability to use your time more effectively is really growing. Look how much you accomplished this week.”
Third, affirm their successes. When the client reaches one of his or her goals, the achievement should not only recognized but celebrated. Tony Stoltzfus writes, “Celebrating progress involves changing perspective: away from looking toward the top of the mountain we are climbing, and instead looking back and seeing how far up the hill we have come.” This gives not only perspective but encouragement for the next leg of the journey.
The way that the coach provides encouragement can be either a stepping stone or a stumbling block for the person being coached.