Situational Family-Centered Coaching Skills

parents and son outside the carousel

Key situational coaching skills maintain mutual accountability and foster progress within Family-Centered Coaching.

Situational Coaching Skill: Acknowledging

Coaches use the skill of Acknowledging to reflect back the values, strengths, and progress they notice in participants. It shines the light on who someone is in that moment. Acknowledgement is especially powerful for families experiencing poverty, who are rarely acknowledged for who they are. 

Coaches can acknowledge without waiting for a participant to reach a milestone. They  for and notice the effort that participants and their families are exerting. They share acknowledgement of these efforts with other staff and partners is also powerful, helping everyone serve families well.

Coaches acknowledge effort by keeping comments:

  • Simple and specific. Vague acknowledgement is not very powerful.
  • Focussed on observable qualities, values, and strengths.  
  • Honest, sincere, and appropriate.

For example,

  • John, I appreciate how honest you are with yourself. That’s a real strength.
  • Helen, what I know about you is that you are very courageous.
  • Lisa, I see you really value and take care of your family.

Situational Coaching Skill: Celebrating

Celebration honors success, learning, and failure because it centers on the efforts that we make while working towards goals. It highlights that we are still on their way. For participants, it reinforces that setbacks are normal and can help them gain momentum to try again. 

It is vital and important that coaches give families a real high five and celebrate their willingness to try. When we look at failures with a growth mindset, we can see them as opportunities to learn from. 

Here are some ways coaches celebrate a participant’s effort:

  • Pointing out the strengths a participant used to make progress on their goal. Really acknowledging this is a great way to help people feel celebrated and seen. 
  • Turning celebration into a physical action. This may include a happy dance! 
  • Giving a high five. 
  • Making and giving a card. 
  • Sharing the celebration with other staff or partners. This is powerful and helps everyone serve families. 

Situational Coaching Skill: Visioning

Visioning helps people get a clear picture of where they are going, and the underlying values, hopes, and dreams. A vision inspires us to reach our goals. 

By asking participants to see themselves through the eyes of someone they admire or from the perspective of the future, coaches help them create strong mental images of their future life.  

Someone You Admire

Powerful questions like these can help a participant tap into internal wisdom:

  • Who do you admire? It can be anyone: living, historical, or from a book or movie.
  • What do you admire about that person?
  • What would _____ do in your situation?
  • What kind of advice would _____ have for you in your situation?
  • What do you want to do now?
  • How does that inspire you?
  • What does that change for you?

Advice from the Future

Powerful questions like see can help a participant see circumstances from new angles.

  • It’s [time in future] from now and you have [describe goal accomplished]. (For example, It’s two months from now and you have completed your certificate in accounting.”) Can you see yourself?
  • What’s it like to have achieved [the goal]?
  • How do you feel?
  • Now that you have connected to what it feels like to have accomplished this goal, what advice does that future self have for you now?
  • Is there any other wisdom your future self wants to share with you?
  • What would your future self say about [current circumstances]?

Situational Coaching Skill: Checking-In

Checking in is a way for coaches to make sure everyone is on the same path and a participant stays in the driver’s seat. If a participant is seeking only to please or displease a coach, it might not lead to lasting success. 

For example, a participant might suggest taking an action because they feel they should, for a variety of reasons. Actions that aren’t self-motivated generally won’t lead to lasting success.

For example, coaches might ask questions like these to check in:

  • Are we going in the right direction? 
  • Is this good for you?
  • Are we missing anything?

Situational Coaching Skill: Clearing

Sometimes participants are preoccupied with a situation that interferes with their ability to be present. Clearing allows the participant to vent or talk out the situation so they can focus. 

Clearing can be helpful in a variety of situations. For example, a participant may have just had a fight with their partner, their boss may have yelled at them, or perhaps they received a higher than expected bill. After clearing is complete, coach and participant can be more fully present. 

Coaches use the skill of clearing by:

  • Inviting the participant to really vent, complain, or get the story out.
  • Listening and not commenting or counseling.
  • Holding the focus to a short time limit, around 2 or 3 minutes.
  • At pauses, asking, Anything else? or Ready for coaching?

For example, a conversation may sound like:

  • Coach: You seem really upset about that parking ticket. I wonder if we can coach when you’re feeling that way. Would it help to clear for a few minutes and then coach after?
  • Participant: What would that look like?
  • Coach: Well, you just say anything you need to and vent and I will listen for a few minutes. I am not going to say anything. I will let you know when a few minutes are up. It might help you really be here and leave that stress behind.

Situational Coaching Skill: Bottom-lining

It can be difficult for some people to express themselves briefly. Some participants like to go deeply into a story, or even hop from story to story. But  time is often limited. Bottom-lining is a way to get to the essence of what a participant is trying to say, rather than engaging in long, descriptions.

If a participant is focused on a story, the conversation is no longer coaching. To refocus the conversation, use bottom-lining. 

Coaches use the skill of bottom-lining by:

  • Introducing the idea so that participants are prepared for it.
  • Asking the participant to pause their story and asking for the short version. 
  • If participants are venting or are upset about something, suggesting that they clear for few minutes and then re-focus on coaching. 

For example, coaches might say:

  • I hear that this is an important story, but I am worried about our time. Can you give me the short version? 
  • What is the most important thing you want me to know from this story? 
  • Can you give me the text message version?

The Prosperity Agenda provides these resources as the designated national administrator of Family-Centered Coaching.