Here at the-Coaching Blog-run by Gerard O’Donovan, our aim is to constantly bring value to those seeking to improve their lives. Therefore we have a policy of publishing articles and materials by guest authors whom we value and appreciate. Today’s guest author is Catherine Stothart (UK)

At the heart of good coaching is the ability to ask the right questions at the right time and listen attentively to the answers. You can’t coach effectively without this ability.  But sometimes an additional tool or technique can help the client crystallize an insight that might otherwise be lost in the coaching conversation.

One tool I particularly like is Rapid Impact Coaching[i].  It helps the client get to the heart of the matter quickly and work out how they can deal with it, and they usually leave the coaching session with actionable plans and feeling positive.

The diagram below illustrates the process.  It’s important to do the steps in the order listed.

This tool has several benefits which make it work:

  • It has a clear structure – some clients like to know where you are going in a conversation.
  • It is signposted – the client knows what is expected at each stage and if they jump ahead to later steps, you can park their comments and take them back.
  • The desired outcome (Step 2) is placed on the right-hand side, so there is a sense of movement from left to right, which in NLP terms links to the future.
  • You can do this standing at a flip chart which is visual and builds physical engagement – it’s a more active experience for the client.
  • Writing their thoughts and feelings down makes it real for them.
  • Exploring the barriers in themselves and others leads to deeper insights which the coach can explore or build on in subsequent sessions (eg by working with their values and beliefs).
  • It helps the client understand at a deeper level what is driving their behaviour – most clients don’t think about what in themselves is stopping them doing something.
  • It increases appreciation of the perspectives of others – clients often forget to think about what is important to other people in a situation.
  • It is a practical tool that leads to realistic and achievable actions.
  • They can keep the flip chart, or a photo of it, as a reminder for the future.
  • Once they have experienced it, they can use it themselves as a problem-solving approach.

Below is a work-based fictional example to illustrate how it works. I use “they” and “them” to avoid gender stereotypes.

I ask the client to stand with me at a flipchart and I start by writing up the headings.

Step 1

Ask the client to describe the issue and write down what they say.  In this fictional example, the client says that they are reluctant to speak up with their own opinions when in meetings with more senior people.  They want to speak up, but don’t know how to do it effectively.

Step 2

Ask the client to describe what they want on this issue.  In this case, the client might articulate that they want to be able to give their opinions freely without feeling worried by the consequences. The result that the client says they want usually has deeper desired outcomes and it is worth giving the client the opportunity to surface these as they will lead to self-insight.  A useful question to ask at this point is ‘if you were able to speak up at meetings, what would that give you?’.  You can pursue this line further ‘and if you had that, what would that give you…’, ‘what difference would it make to you if you had that…’.  These questions, help them understand what it is they really want.  In this example, the client might say they want to earn the respect of more senior people or that they would feel competent and valued.

Step 2 is an important stage because this is when you help the client to articulate the vision of what they want and this will motivate them to take action.

Step 3

This stage is where you help the client explore what is stopping them doing what they say they want in Step 2.  What are the barriers between them that stops them doing what they say they want?  In this case, the barriers could be fear of looking stupid, fear of getting it wrong, fear of conflict, fear of the consequences of speaking up if others don’t agree, fear that it might impact their career prospects.

Next, ask the client what are the barriers connected with other people that stop them getting what they want.  Here they might list other people dominating the discussion or not being prepared to listen.

Finally, ask them what are the barriers in the wider system that stop them from speaking up.  In this case barriers could include where and when the meetings are held and how the agenda is structured.

Step 4

At this stage, help the client brainstorm possible solutions for dealing with the barriers in themselves, in others and in the wider system. Write down everything they say and don’t evaluate – help them to be creative.

Step 5

Finally, from the brainstormed solutions, help the client, which ones they want to do, and work with them on an actionable plan.



  • Do the steps in the order listed
  • Resist jumping to action too soon (though if something useful is mentioned, make a note of it)
  • Ask good questions to explore at each stage
  • Steer clients away from explaining the behavior – why they or others do something doesn’t help deal with it (in any case, they don’t know for sure)
  • Focus on what they and others do and say, not why
  • The tool is a snapshot now to help the client move in the future – don’t dwell on what has happened in the past

I have used this tool many times and clients always get something positive out of it.  It helps them understand at a deep level what is driving their behaviour and helps them appreciate the perspectives of others.  And it gives them some practical actions to implement to achieve the change they want.

About Catherine Stothart

Catherine is a Leadership Coach and Team Facilitator. Clients include Airbus, Audi, the EEF, KCOM, and United Utilities. She previously held posts in Ford Motor Company, Mercury Communications and ICL.

Catherine is the author of How to Get On with Anyone: Gain the Confidence and Charisma to Communicate with any Personality Type, published by Pearson.  The book is the result of 25 years’ experience of working with individuals and teams in business and education – it’s a practical guide to building better relationships, at work or at home.

Catherine’s qualifications include BA(Oxon), MSc, CFCIPD, and qualifications in coaching and psychometrics.




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