April 16, 2021

Evokes Awareness: ICF Core Competency 7

Evokes awareness. Understanding the situation that we're going through and gaining a deeper insight or awareness into that is critical for coaching clients. 

One may argue, and I obviously argue, that evoking awareness is one of the most or most important coaching skills or competencies. 

Clients who come to coaching really look for this as well. They want to be able to connect with their coach in such a way that it helps to naturally evoke their awareness about whatever it is that they want to discuss and process so that they can come out the other side feeling successful, confident and like a new day has dawned. Would you agree? 

I'm Jennifer Kumar from Authentic Journeys. In this core competency deep dive, we're going to look at ICF core competency number seven Evokes Awareness. 

Click here to watch on YouTube

Before we get into that, I'd like to show you something from my blog (click here to read the blog). When you're on the blog, the first thing you will notice is a comparison chart, the text version and an image version. First, if we look at the text version, what we obviously see on the left are the new ICF core competencies, and on the right, the former ICF core competencies. Everything with red text you can click on the link and it will take you to more information within our Authentic Journey's website. The topics here that are still in black bolded text don't have a blog yet, but maybe by the time you see this definitely evokes awareness will have a link when you come to this blog and we will be filling in the blanks with content for the remainder of the competencies as well. And obviously we can also see which ones and map to which ones by just looking across to the other side of the page. It probably looks a little bit different on a mobile. Hopefully a similar feel is there. And if we scroll down, we get the chart form, which you can download by just right-clicking if you want to, so you can save the image. You can use it if you want to. Please do keep our logo on it, however. The one difference here, we do see that the ICF competences are broken out by their area of interest, so to speak. So the new competencies have Area A, Foundation, Area B, Cocreating the Relationship, Area C, Communicating Effectively and Area D, Cultivating Learning and Growth. So you can see how all these map to each other here. 

However, going back to this quickly, what you can see here is when we're talking specifically about Evokes Awareness, it maps to the old ICF core competencies of Powerful Questioning, Direct Communication and Creating Awareness, which you're going to see these three as a theme throughout our core competency, deep dive today. 

So let's switch back over to our core competency of Evokes Awareness. 

Competency number seven Evokes Awareness. Take a look at the definition, there is a term and definition that was a former ICF competency word for word. Do you notice it? 

If you extracted Powerful Questioning, that was it, that was previous ICF competency number six. Previous ICF competency seven Direct Communication also maps to this, and previously we would map it using silence, metaphor, and analogies. And the last former ICF competency that this maps to is Creating Awareness. So let's think about this for a second. Creating Awareness versus Evokes Awareness. Is it a matter of terminology or is it is justified to change the terminology? Hmm. Well, in my opinion, when I think about it, Creating Awareness makes me feel like a coach. Like the onus is on me to make that happen, where Evokes Awareness gives kind of takes me off the hook, which it should take me off the hook because I'm the coach and it's not my role or responsibility to make anyone understand or discover or uncover anything. But yes, we are a catalyst to that. We help to to use another metaphor of sorts of "fan the kindling in the fire to make the flames of understanding rise" or in this case, maybe deepen. I don't know. So when we think about that, that we are evoking and not creating, this is kind of a great segway into seven point one.

7.1 Considers client experience when deciding what might be most useful. 

So many times clients may ask this question after telling us about their situation because we are looked upon as the subject matter expert or the person who has a lot of knowledge helping a lot of other individuals in similar circumstances to them.

"Well, what would you do?" 

We've all been asked this question, and how do you handle it? I'd like to hear a lot of other's insight into this, but in interest for time in this video, I'll share my number one response. I just turn the question back on them. That's always what I do first. So in that case, they say, "What would you do?" I would. Turn the question around on them and maybe try to insert something about their experience in the question I turn around, for example, "Well, rather than me tell you what worked for me or other clients, what has worked for you in the past in similar situations?" Or I could extract someone from their experience, their everyday life, and ask them about how that person might be an inspiration to them. For example, "I noticed in your discussion about how your manager and your teammates handle client meetings that they really do a lot of things really well that you wish you could do. What are some of those things that they do?" And then that conversation would unfold naturally. So that's number one, seven point one under Evokes Awareness. Now, let's look at 7.2, 7.3 and 7.4.

7.2 Challenges the client as a way to evoke awareness or insight    

7.3 Asks questions about the client, such as their way of thinking, values, needs, wants and beliefs    

7.4 Asks questions that help the client explore beyond current thinking      

Do you see any theme between these three markers? Well, I put them together because they seem to all fall under the heading of powerful questioning. And for some reason, I can't say powerful questioning. It's a mouthful for me. When we look at powerful questioning. It's not just about the question itself, but let's overlap this with some of our previous competencies, such as Maintains Presence and Listens Actively. Can you guess why I'm overlapping these? Well, there are many reasons, obviously, but the one reason that comes to my mind initially for overlapping these, especially in terms of powerful questioning, is we want our questions to flow with the clients line of thinking at the time. So what does that mean? We don't want our questions to sound disjointed from what they're talking about. We don't want our questions to maybe change the topic completely... bounce back and forth. We don't want the questions to sound like we're interviewing them or giving them an inquisition about something. So 7.3 in that what we kind of have to tread a little bit lightly. We will be asking those questions. But it's not an interview. It's not... they're not all like one after the other. They come naturally in the flow of a conversation. So I think from there we can move to 7.5, 7.6, 7.7. Let's take 7.5 And club it with the previous three markers that I put under the umbrella of powerful questioning.

ICF Competency 7: Evokes Awareness

7.5 Invites the client to share more about their experience in the moment         

Now, when we think of powerful questioning, whether it's about a situation that they want to talk about, that happened recently or right now in the moment when we're actually in the session, how the client responds to our question, whether they respond to it as we expect them to or they even challenge us back on that question really talks to how we've provided a safe space with them so they feel comfortable with us to be free and open, even if it's something they disagree with us about. They don't like the questions. So they say, "I don't want to answer that question." Well, hopefully, considering it, it's all done in a respectful environment. We've created a safe space for the client. So this can also map back to the competency number four Cultivates Trust and Safety. So we can start seeing how they overlap and work with each other. These competencies, they they play off of each other. 

So let's look at...

7.6 Notices what is working to enhance client progress    

I've actually talked about this in the previous competency number six video and Listens Actively when we talked about how in a session noticing a client's energy shift or something about how they're talking about a situation, they're using different words that they didn't use before to describe a situation and how that actually can relate to their progress. Or in some cases, it might not relate to progress, it might relate to them kind of falling back to old behaviors. So we should also be able to notice that as well, if that's something the client doesn't really want to do anymore. But now we've noticed -oh based on what they're telling us, although they they've made progress, they're also kind of going back a little bit. So being able to discuss this with the client and see how it falls for them or how it lands for them. And of course..

7.7 Adjusts the coaching approach in response to the client’s needs   

So depending on how they learn, how they process information, how they prefer to interact and communicate. If we're bilingual, that might be the easiest way to use a different language or to speak in their own language. Again, this ties back to the definition using metaphor, analogies, idioms, phrases that they use, their own vocabulary. They will relate to what we're talking about much quicker when we use their terminology. And if we're not sure exactly what their terminology is, it's completely fine to ask them. "So I heard you use this certain word. How how do you define that in your life?" And so we understand how it's actually defined for them. 

It appears we're in the homestretch, right. Only two more PCC  markers left in this category. So when we look at seven point eight, seven point nine, I, I want to look at it from a little bit of a different perspective.

7.8 Helps the client identify factors that influence current and future patterns of behavior, thinking or emotion    

7.9 Invites the client to generate ideas about how they can move forward and what they are willing or able to do  

Of course, we have to implement all these PCC markers during a session itself, but we are also the catalyst to help the clients evoke awareness in between sessions, because as I like to say, that's where the rubber meets the road. That's where they're actually applying the different insights that they've generated from our discussion in everyday life, in real-life situations. So when we get to the part of the session where we only have five or 10 minutes left, I ask a series of two or three questions. 

  • So the first question would be, what are your biggest takeaways for today? What are the most important lessons you learned today or some other version of that question where I'm using a word that they've probably used somewhere in their discussion as a synonym for take aways, a-ha moments, lessons, et cetera, et cetera. So they'll list a couple of things. Most people list two or three things, which is pretty average and most people can handle kind of keeping those in mind for the next week or two until we meet next time. 
  • But in some cases, some people have a lot of a-ha's and they list five, six, seven things. So in that case, I would have an optional question number two here, which is, "Oh, wow, that's a lot of things, you know, that's a lot of things that you really are taking away. I'm glad that this conversation was so insightful and useful for you. If you were to select the top three that you think you have some energy around keeping your awareness up about until our next session, what would those three things be? Two or three things be?" So then they'll prioritize and pick two or three things.
  • And then the last question would be, "Would you be able to share one or two ways that you might be able to keep your awareness up about any one of these topics on your priority list?" 

Though, this seems like it would be a long conversation. It's really not usually only takes me about five, maybe sometimes ten minutes. So I try to wrap up 10 minutes early. I always note those down and I'll keep those. And then when I come into the session next time, that's how I started off the session, I'll say, "So, I remember that the three most important points from the last session were A, B and C, and that you had identified a couple of ways that you wanted to keep your awareness high about these topics. Since the last time we spoke, do you have any updates from me? What what's on your mind as far as trying to keep these in the forefront of your mind over the last two weeks?" And they will they will share with me and in some cases, some of my clients get so used to this procedure that they take it upon themselves to realize, oh, it's 50 minutes into the session or we only have ten minutes left, I'm going to start recapping everything. And then when they come in the next time they're telling me their updates without even me actually doing any work, that's the best coaching ever, in my opinion. And I see great results in those type of scenarios. They're so motivating. I'm sure you can see my my demeanor, my energy level change there. Evoking awareness, right? 

7.10 Supports the client and reframing perspectives. 

So there will be times when maybe a client is stuck in a situation, maybe maybe they don't really know how to describe something or they feel that they need a new way to describe something so that they can see it in a new way. So we're there as a catalyst to help them through that process as well. And the last one here...

7.11 Shares observations, insights, and feelings without attachment that have the potential to create new learning for the client. 

We we can't attach meaning to anything that someone else tells us, regardless if they are client, a friend or family member or sometimes even ourself, we might have to think through it before we attach the meaning to it so we can share things. And sometimes we need to ask for permission to do that, too, because we should always ensure that we are talking way less than the client is.

So we might only be talking 10% of the time during the session where they're talking 90% of the time. So even if we shared observation, even if we asked for permission, "Do you mind if I share a related experience I've had around that?" And they say, yes, we want to keep it minimum, maybe two minutes at the most. We aren't there to share about ourselves. We're there to get them to share about themself. So we really want to ensure that we talk less, which will naturally in one way make us not so attached to what we're saying because we're really not talking that much, but at the same time, even not being attached to the type of questions or observations or insights we share because, of course, we don't want to name things for others. We want them to be able to name things for themselves. So even if we ask a question that we feel that we're tied to and the client is stuck, maybe even maybe asking them, "So what do you think about that question? How would you word that for yourself?" That's always an interesting exercise. 

So, yeah, we've went through this competency. number 7 Evokes Awareness. It was one with a lot of PCC markers. Like to hear some of your insights about this competency. Thanks so much for listening. Keep in touch with us at Authentic Journeys dot info and hope to see in the next one. OK, thank you. Bye.

Do get in touch with me: 

  1. Email address: Jennifer at Authentic Journeys dot Info
  2. U.S. phone number. I am in Salt Lake City, Utah. +1 385 218 0947 
  3. I have a WhatsApp number, so this is only for WhatsApp and it's an Indian number +91 95 393 47529

I'm looking forward to being in touch. Thanks so much for listening and being present...maintaining your presence during this video is a long one. See you soon. Bye.

Take a moment to listen to our insights into other ICF Core Competencies (2021):

  1. Demonstrates Ethical Practice 
  2. Embodies a Coaching Mindset 
  3. Establishes and Maintains Agreements  
  4. Cultivates Trust and Safety (part 1) (part 2
  5. Maintains Presence 
  6. Listens Actively
  7. Evokes Awareness
  8. Facilitates Client Growth

April 2, 2021

New ICF Core Competencies vs. the Old Core Competencies

Back in 2019, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) updated the core competencies one needs to master to pass the credentialing exam (Coach Knowledge Assessment- CKA). Though that happened in 2019, the “new” competencies will not go into effect on the CKA until sometime in the third or fourth quarter of 2021. 


As I have had the unique opportunity to facilitate a Core Competency Mastermind through the ICF High Country Chapter since January 2021, I would like to share in this post how the new competencies match up against the “old” ones and some insights I have into these competencies from a cross-cultural perspective.


As you review the chart below, click on the links to read our insights into the competencies.


Comparison Chart: New vs. Old ICF Core Competencies

The competencies left justified in bold are the NEW 2021 competencies. Those which are left justified and in italics are the older competencies (relevant for the CKA until later in 2021).

NEW 2021 ICF Core Competencies

Former ICF Core Competencies

1. Demonstrates Ethical Practice (relates to old 1)

1. Meeting Ethical Guidelines and Professional Standards

2. Embodies a Coaching Mindset (no related competency)

3. Establishes and Maintains Agreements (relates to old 2)

2. Establishing the Coaching Agreement

4. Cultivates Trust and Safety (relates to old 3) (part 1) (part 2

3. Establishing Trust and Intimacy with the Client


5. Maintains Presence (relates to old 4)

4. Coaching Presence

6. Listens Actively (relates to old 5) 

5. Active Listening

7. Evokes Awareness (relates to old 6, 7, 8)

6. Powerful Questioning

7. Direct Communication

8. Creating Awareness

8. Facilitates Client Growth (relates to old 9, 10, 11)

9. Designing Actions

10. Planning and Goal Setting

11. Managing Progress and Accountability


Take a look at the same information in a chart form: 

Comparing the old and new ICF Core Comptencies

PCC Mentor Coach - Helping Coaches Excel in English
Author of this post, Jennifer Kumar, a PCC certified ICF coach, provides mentor coaching and coaching to those learning to coach in English (as their second, third, fourth or other language), to help you master the content as you continue your studies, how to analyze the content, apply the content while improving your confidence and fluency in English. Our coaching helps you focus on the content-  not your English skills. Contact us at +1 385 218-0947 (SMS/Voice in the USA), +91 95 393 47 529 (India, WhatsApp only). We can work with you regardless of where you live!

April 1, 2021

US Culture for Remote Work: Coaching for Corporate Success

It's likely that you've been looking all over the Internet for tips and strategies to more effectively build that relationship with your U.S. clients. 

Well, guess what? You have come to the right place. I'm Jennifer Kumar from Authentic Journeys. We have worked with over 4,000 global professionals, just like you.

In this category of training programs entitled U.S. Culture for Remote Work,we have four different programs. In this category we really strive to provide a foundation to help you in everyday communication interactions and meanwhile building your cultural context to American, specifically U.S. American culture, especially for those who are expats in the U.S. or anyone living especially outside the US, with zero to very little cultural context of the American work environment. 

So let's dive into the four different programs: 

  • This is a two-hour seminar 
  • We talk about the dos and don'ts of small talk 
  • Topics you can talk about 
  • Topics you should avoid 
  • How to handle delicate situations 
  • The three types of small talk that really will elevate your game when talking with U.S. counterparts 

US Culture for Remote Work Professional Coaching Programs

The next two are somewhat similar, but different. They're usually for communication events around two to 10 minutes long: Delivering Impressive Status Updates as well as Getting Ready for the Demo

In these two programs, we really want to focus on helping you and or your team to communicate not only to different audiences; some may be technical, some might not be technical, but really being able to communicate what you need to in such a way that it demonstrates to your clients or colleagues, counterparts, stakeholders that you really understand the domain, their business, their end-users, their motivation for doing what they want to get done.

And in the last section or the last program in this section, we have Facilitating Impactful Virtual Presentations or Meetings. These are communication events that are between 15 [minutes] and up to two hours, but typically around 30 minutes to 60 minutes. The focus of this program is really to help you to more effectively organize and structure your content to really "pack a punch" as we say. This really will help you to build that trust and rapport much quicker if you have it in the right format. We facilitate this program through consultation and coaching, which means either you come to the session doing a mock of a typical meeting and I provide feedback and we do a continual improvement process around that. Or,  you share some recordings with me that I consult with offline, or you will allow me to be part of your meetings where I actually see it in action. If you'd like more information about these programs or you want to get started right now, you can definitely get in touch with us through our website here or the contact information on or around this video. Thank you so much for listening and hope to be in touch soon.

We work with individuals and corporates. Contact us at: US Phone/SMS: +1 385 218 0947 India WhatsApp: +91 95 393 47529

March 26, 2021

Maintains Presence: ICF Core Competency 5

Written by: Jennifer Kumar (Managing Director, head Coach of Authentic Journeys) 

Have you ever been in a conversation with somebody and just thought: 

"Hmm, they're not really here, they're not here with me right now and right here. They're someplace else." 

And, we decide that on a variety of different factors based on our personal and cultural context. They're not making eye contact with me. They are making eye contact with me. Or maybe they seem like they're a little bit distracted. They're off in another world. They look like they're staring into oblivion. Or that they seem like, OK, it's too hot in here, it's too cold in here, they're hungry or thirsty. My avocado smoothie, yum yum. Right? 

All of these things or... and many others distract us from being present in conversations with whomever we're talking with, regardless if it's a professional coaching conversation or any other conversation.

I'm Jennifer Kumar from Authentic Journeys, and I want to talk about the core competency Maintains Presence in this series of core competencies to be rolled out in late 2021 by the International Coaching Federation.

Watch the video on YouTube by clicking here.

Core Competency Deep Dive: Maintains Presence

When we look at the definition here on the screen, which you've probably already read by now, I'm going to just say it simply. It's just being able to pay attention to somebody. You're really paying attention. You're in the moment with that person. You're not thinking about other things. You're not doing other things. You're not looking at other things. You're not reading a book while talking to that person. You're not writing stuff down unless you're taking notes. And sometimes we do that as coaches or others.

We might take some notes, but we try to do that in such a way it's not distracting the person we're speaking with from understanding we're still paying attention to them. So we need to be able to maintain that attention and that interest and also in the coaching world and maybe generally personal world, too, curiosity.... that we're interested in the other person, that we really want to be there and speak with them and, you know, help them out with whatever they want to talk about. Of course, as we go through the core competencies and as they have been updated, the ICF does want to look at these from a cross-cultural or diverse perspective. Even some of the aspects of maintaining presence that I mentioned in the introduction could be considered culturally biased to some extent. Why? Well, making eye contact..... completely fine in the U.S., in fact, you should make eye contact, build rapport. But in some cultures, making eye contact is considered highly offensive. In fact, it could cause you to get into dangerous situations. So we really want to be aware that how we are understanding what "paying attention" means could mean different things to different people in different cultures and also different individuals in general, because we can't say everyone from X culture prefers X, they might have a tendency toward that, but they may or may not, depending on, you know, if they've grown up in their home culture for their entire life, lived in different countries and adapted to other cultures, etc.

So when we look at maintaining presence, at least from the ICF perspective, obviously, to be awarded our ACC, PCC or MCC certifications, we have to follow these core competency markers. But in everyday coaching, we have to really be very flexible to that individual sitting in front of us and try to really understand where they're coming from, from their cultural, personal and world view.

5.1 here is remains focused, observant, empathetic and responsive to the client. 

So I think I've already talked about that, so I'm not going to go too much deeper into that. However, I'd like to take a quote from another coach online that I've listened to Jedi from Coaching for Life (sorry, it is Jedi from Coaching CHANGES LIVES). I hope I got that right, he says, "Your best present to the client is your presence." I really liked that because I think our best present to anyone we're talking with and having a conversation with is our presence. Just being there and showing the other person in the way that they understand it, that we are there. We're really listening to them, paying attention to them.... is the best gift that anyone can get. 

5.2 Demonstrates curiosity during the coaching process. 

So one thing I do want to kind of dive into this a little bit, because I've been generally doing cross-cultural coaching for the last 10 years. Of the almost thousand hours of coaching I've amassed in that time, plus my 3,000 plus hours of training, 95 percent of that has been done with individuals outside of my home culture, my home country. I lived in India for seven years and I continue to work with people and professionals from India even after moving back to the U.S.. So majority of the interactions I have are with people who didn't grow up in the same culture as me, and they have a completely different cultural context. That being said, I would say it's it's good to be curious, but in some cases, as they say, curiosity killed the cat, right? So that phrase has a really good meaning to it because too many questions showing too much curiosity about something could make another person feel that the spotlight is on them, that they're different for some reason, that maybe depending on how the question is either by us or interpreted by them, too many questions mean, oh, wow, they really are trying to highlight this certain thing about me just because I'm different than them or I'm from a different culture or I'm perceived a different. So we have to be careful about that. And to coin another idiom, it can be a rabbit hole to go down. So we really have to be careful about that when working across cultures. Again, we are the student of our client said by other coaches out there. So let them lead the conversation and maybe we sprinkle it in with some clarifying questions or some questions to really probe down deep, but don't really probe down too much into similar topics over over the whole span of the coaching engagement that might also cause some challenges and difficulties as well.

So we want to ensure that how we are interacting and communicating feels like we really appreciate our client from their own diverse perspective, not some pigeon-holed perspective that we might have because they are from a different culture than us. Sometimes easier said than done. 

ICF Core Competency #5: Maintains Presence

5.3 Manages one’s emotions to stay present with the client    

5.4 Demonstrates confidence in working with strong client emotions during the coaching process  

All right. You know, it was coming. It's all about feelings, right? Emotions. Some people really cringe and want to move away from this topic, but we have actually earlier talked about the competency cultivates trust and safety. It's a testament to us as coaches or helping professionals when we've created that environment of trust and safety to such a degree that our clients feel comfortable and open to share their emotions with us. Now to the word emotions, I want to broaden that using a bunch of different synonyms. So, of course, we can use the word emotions, but thoughts, feelings, impressions and opinions. Opinions can be very strong, right? Strong, positive opinion and strong and negative opinion. So regardless of where these emotions, thoughts, feelings, impressions or opinions fall on the continuum to the positive end or the negative end as defined by our clients, we shouldn't identify with those. Once we identify with those and show that we identify with those with our client, it can cause them to be influenced in a way that.... it might not be a good thing. Just put it that way. We should be honored that they're vulnerable enough to share this with us and we should not take that vulnerability for granted by overidentifying or even identifying with these emotions, thoughts, feelings, impressions and opinions. Now, when we look at this from a cross-cultural standpoint. How I interpret a certain emotion, feeling, thought, impression or opinion is completely different than someone from a different culture or it's perceived to be completely different. Based on our worldviews, our cultural views, our family views are our regional views, our linguistic views, all of these plus many other identifiers help us to build our identity and how we perceive the world and how we actually would identify if an emotion, thought, feeling impression, or opinion is negative or positive, so to speak. So we want to be...we want to be sensitive to that.  Regardless if the person is from an identified different culture than us, even if they're from the same exact culture than us, we shouldn't think that they think exactly like us. We all know, even with our own within our own family, there are so many different emotions, feelings, thoughts, impressions and opinions about any given situation. And this is something we should keep in mind as we move into both 5.5 and five point six. I'm going to club them together. 

5.5 Is comfortable working in a space of not knowing.

5.6 Creates or allows for space, silence, pause or reflection.

Somehow I feel in a majority of the cases, a majority of my clients, this comes somewhat easy to me because says I know that they identify with a different culture than me and come also from a different native language than I do I tend to come in to most of the situations thinking already because of that, that I don't know. I don't know what they're going to tell me. I don't know what their situation is. How could I really possibly know when I haven't grown up in that culture where I really don't know what the real true norms are in that culture or expectations are in that culture? And when it comes to five point six, because of the language difference, I would say 70 to 90 percent of the individuals I work with actually speak English as a second, third, fourth or fifth language. So depending on their comfort with English and their fluency in English, many are often translating in their mind between their native language or other languages that they're more comfortable in and English before answering in English. So that naturally was a way for me to give space to them to think and process. So in some ways, these two things came a little more naturally to me. I won't say I'm perfect at it. I make mistakes. I know it. I know when I make a mistake. However, when we kind of remember back to the introduction I had mentioned about interruptions or multitasking, something around that. So with some of the individuals I work with based on their culture I've noticed that in some cases, if I'm not interrupting, they think I'm not listening. I might have talked about that in the competency video listens actively.

That is not something I would advise anyone to do when they're submitting their coach recording to the ICF or the ACC, MCC or PCC certification, however. Don't interrupt the the client (how to politely interrupt in American English and culture). Even if that's your natural..natural tendency to do because of your cultural conditioning, it won't be accepted in an ICF recording. So just keep that in mind. So I hope you have gathered some really interesting insights about this core competency "Maintains Presence" from cross-cultural perspective as well in this video.

Again, I'm Jennifer Kumar from Authentic Journeys. I can work with you on mentor coaching. I can also work with you if you're a second, third, fourth or fifth English language speaker attending a coaching program and you want to be able to process all of your learnings in English and become more comfortable, confident and fluent in English in a coaching environment, I'm here to help. 

Do get in touch with me: 

  1. Email address: Jennifer at Authentic Journeys dot Info
  2. U.S. phone number. I am in Salt Lake City, Utah. +1 385 218 0947 
  3. I have a WhatsApp number, so this is only for WhatsApp and it's an Indian number +91 95 393 47529

I'm looking forward to being in touch. Thanks so much for listening and being present...maintaining your presence during this video is a long one. See you soon. Bye.

Take a moment to listen to our insights into other ICF Core Competencies (2021):

  1. Demonstrates Ethical Practice 
  2. Embodies a Coaching Mindset 
  3. Establishes and Maintains Agreements  
  4. Cultivates Trust and Safety (part 1) (part 2
  5. Maintains Presence 
  6. Listens Actively
  7. Evokes Awareness
  8. Facilitates Client Growth

March 15, 2021

Listens Actively: ICF Core Competency 6

Written by: Jennifer Kumar (Managing Director, head Coach of Authentic Journeys) 

What would you consider to be the most important communication skill, which leads to more productive, interactive and memorable conversations? Of course, by the title of this video, you know, my answer is listening. 

I would like to share some strategies in this video, how you can up-level your listening skills, as well as examples from my own personal and professional experience of how I implemented some of these skills to up-level my own listening skills. These strategies are derived from the International Coaching Federation or ICF's updated core competencies in 2021. 

Regardless if you are already a coach, thinking of becoming a coach, or have absolutely zero interest in becoming a coach  these strategies are helpful for anyone who wants to have memorable, interactive and/or productive human conversations. I'm Jennifer Kumar from Authentic Journeys. Thanks for listening to this video today.

Obviously, in this video I'll be [doing] talking and not listening. Before I get into the strategies, I just wanted to preamble it with a few things. I will be looking at these strategies through the lens of cross-cultural coaching since I have done cross-cultural coaching with those in the software industry in India for the last 10 years. Additionally, the updated strategies from the ICF were updated through the lens of working with people in cross-cultural and diverse scenarios. Also, when I bring up some of these strategies, you see the terms coach and client. "Coach" can refer to you and "client" refers to anyone you are speaking with or having a conversation with.

Core Competency Markers for Listens Actively

So let's look at six point one and six point two. I'm not going to read it. You can obviously pause it and read it and then listen to my examples. 

6.1: Coach’s questions and observations are customized by using what the coach has learned about who the client is or the client’s situation.    

6.2: Coach inquires about or explores the words the client uses.  

When we look at this, there are a few things to keep in mind. You may have heard my video on cultivating trust and safety (part 1 - part 2) where also I talked about adapting to the style of the client and avoiding assigning meaning. This directly relates to this.

We adapt to the style of -a client -of our clients or whoever we're talking with by talking in their language, which could mean we learn a new language or we learn how to use our language differently so that it resonates with them. Not all words and phrases that are used in a language are used in the same way by everybody. So it might be prudent in some cases in conversations when we hear certain phrases, words, metaphors being used by whoever we're speaking with, to actually extract those and say, "Oh, I hear a theme here, I hear the word X or I hear the metaphor. ABC. Could you share a little bit about what this word or phrase means to you?" 

And, then when we use it back with whoever we're speaking with, we're now using it with their meaning and their definition, their own assigned meaning not are assigned or assumed meaning. I would say also that if we just globalize this the most - one of the most- important lessons I ever learned was around ten plus years ago when I got my first coaching and training assignment in a multinational company in India. In our retrospective, which I'll tell you about just a second, of the of the first set of sessions, the manager had said to me, 

"Your session was perfect. I really like how you delivered the session. However, I highly advise that you learn how to speak in our language. I'm not saying that you have to learn our local Indian language, but what I am suggesting is that you learn some of the jargon and terminology not only used in the software industry, but used in our company specifically as well, is in agile software development." 

How to Give "Negative Feedback" in a Positive Way

"Retrospective" being one of those words. And I can say that was one of the most important lessons that I've learned, because as I have started learning and using that - those - terminologies not only within that company, but some of the terminologies with other clients I work with in the software industry, it helped me to build rapport real quick and build trust real quick. So especially if you have a specific now I'm talking as if you're a coach, if you have a specific target market. It's really important to talk in their language to build that rapport even quicker than you could otherwise do that. So you might not - you might not - build that rapport as quickly using coaching terminology as the terminology of some of those who you want to work with.

Our signature program Managing Client Expectations works with your teams to get in the minds of your clients to build better rapport, secure and expand your business. 

For example, let's look at six point three and six point four.

6.3: Coach inquires about or explores the client’s emotions.    

6.4: Coach explores the client’s energy shifts, nonverbal cues or other behaviors.  

When we talk about strong emotions, people often think about things like crying or getting really emotional, upset, maybe angry, maybe irritated, frustrated. Since I tend to do coaching mostly in corporate environments, I don't tend to see crying. I don't think I've seen crying with any of my clients in a corporate scenario. But, I have seen anger. I've seen frustration. I've seen irritation, confusion on the other side. I've also seen extreme happiness. I've seen joy and excitement. Yes, people feel that at work, too, especially when they do a great job.

So, while I have noticed these these different feelings in individuals, I've also noticed them shifting their energy through maybe their body language, non-verbal cues and other other.

Other in other ways as well. Let me give you an example that will be easier. So one of my most common scenarios of coaching involves preparing the client for their client demo. So preparing my client for doing a software demo with their client. When my client comes into the session, they come in ready to give a mock demo to me as though I'm their actual client. So they start the demo actually, before they start the demo, they give me the the background, the context of the project, their relationship with the client up until this point and how it's been going.. well, things that have not been going so well, maybe some of the team dynamics on their team when they're talking about this part, they're very confident, talking in a normal pace, not too fast, not too slow. They are so nervous. They're nonverbal... body language is all seems very natural and spontaneous and not rehearsed or nervous or anything like that. But then once they switch over, when some people, many people switch over into the mock demo, where now they're putting themselves in an actual scenario in their mind, where I'm their actual client, and then they're in the scenario as a service provider, things suddenly take a big shift.

That confident person who was just speaking with me a minute ago, depending on their personality now, either they're speaking really fast and losing their words or stumbling or talking really very slow or freezing. Sometimes some a few people actually just freeze up and they don't say anything. All of a sudden, in addition to how they actually sound, their nonverbal body language also changes. Before they started, they might have been sitting up straight, just like what I'm doing right now. Then after they start the demo, they're kind of intently looking into the screen and looking very intense or they're leaning way back. And now I can't really hear them that well or they're leaning in way too close and it sounds like an echo or they just they slump down or a lot of different... different reactions nonverbally, depending on the person and how they are reacting to the situation. Some people notice this on their own. I don't even have to ask them if they've noticed it. But then in some cases, when there's a pause or after they actually finish their entire demo, my first question usually is, "What did you think about this?" Some people are able to bring it up and then in some other cases they're not.

Or as we progress through the conversation, I will ...I will address it by saying, 

"Do you mind if I share what I noticed? What I noticed is when you were giving me the context to your project in your demo, everything sounded fantastic. But then once you switched over to the demo, it was like you were a different person." 

And then I kind of describe what I just said earlier to them, based on their scenario. And it's amazing that the type of shift that happens in those I coach in this scenario and many of them from the next time they have to go do a demo, it there's a big change, a big positive change in how they're delivering that demo just because now they have this awareness about the scenario that they didn't have before. It's not only that we look at the different energy shifts, but why does it happen? What is the story in that person's mind that creates that energy shift that person almost a personality shift that seems like such a different person that that actually they don't want to be perceived as as well.

So all of that in-depth discussion actually helps them to overcome a lot of those barriers that keep them from delivering confident and impactful software demos to their clients. And we see amazing results. It's just incredible, actually. It's really incredible.

Get in touch with us for 1:1 coaching for you or team coaching for your team to deliver "knock your socks off" demos to your clients. 

I can go on about that forever. And you might have just noticed my energy shift as well.

The last three here.. coach inquires about or explores how the client currently perceives themself or the world. Actually, this is a continuation from the previous two because. I already kind of mentioned that how do they why did they change?

6.5: Coach inquiries about or explores how the client currently perceives themself or their world.  

Why did their energy suddenly change from confidence to not being confident in the demo?

So they will talk about how they perceive the client perceiving them, which may or may not always be true, but just based on certain ways of upbringing, culture, different things, people might perceive the client to be this overbearing over foreboding, intimidating personality, which when we really dive deep, deeper into the conversation, we realize that may be a misperception, that may not be the case and how to overcome that.

ICF Core Competency 6: Listens Actively

And there are a lot of ways... there are a lot of ways, a lot of success stories and then a six point six and six point seven.

6.6: Coach allows the client to complete speaking without interrupting unless there is a stated coaching purpose to do so.   

6.7: Coach succinctly reflects or summarizes what the client communicated to ensure the client’s clarity and understanding.  

When we talk about interrupting, there is a cultural difference. This is where still I feel some of these competencies still are really Western-centric, because definitely when I lived in India, interrupting was par for the course in conversations. In fact, in some cases, I'll give you two examples in one in some cases where I was coaching with a client or just having a normal conversation with a person, for example, if of course, I would be nodding and trying to show my interest in the conversation to continue nonverbally. But in many cases where I didn't say yes, yes, or tried to say something in between, the person I was speaking with would actually suddenly stop in the middle of what they were saying and say,

"You know, I've been talking for three or four minutes and you have said zero words to me. Are you really listening to me?"

And with some people, I would dive into this since we were also kind of talking about cross-cultural interactions and many would tell me that at least how they were brought up in their Indian context was if someone who they're talking to didn't kind of interrupt with the words in the middle of whatever they were saying, they.... they did not feel listened to. They felt like the other person was actually ignoring them because they were so quiet. So that was actually a context shift for me. That was like incredible learning. And I had to change my behavior.

And it is what they call that ...style..."style switch," I forget the exact term in the cross-cultural across world, but there's, oh, code-switching, it's called code-switching or style switching when you have to switch in between cultures and do something in that other culture that you're not really used to doing in your birth culture or your most comfortable culture.

Is interrupting always rude (in a cross-cultural viewpoint)?

And another example of interrupting is... so in many of the client interactions I would have sometimes clients would take calls with their colleagues or other clients that they had, and we would just have to come back into the conversation. Normally, I would never answer my phone or I would turn my phone ringer off if I have my mobile phone with me. But there were a few occasions where I forgot to do that and I would just pick up the phone and say, excuse me, I'll just turn off my ringer. And in some cases people would actually say, "No, no, no, it's completely fine. I don't feel bad if you need to take that call. In fact, I will feel bad if you don't take that call because that person might not be able to call you back later. Maybe they really need to talk to you right now."

So it was almost like they were completely fine with being interrupted because they didn't want the person who's trying to call me to be inconvenienced by either me not answering the phone or they having to try to call me back later and maybe not getting that opportunity to do so. So these are two totally different approaches that I mean, that's a different approach I would have never have grown up with, in fact. So it's amazing that in some cultures, interrupting is considered appropriate, in some cases respectful to someone. And the other person you're actually talking with will give you the benefit of the doubt to interrupt that conversation. In fact, they might look forward to it on some level, which was really interesting insight for me. 

And the last point, six point seven. Yeah, summarizing. Summarizing is another skill that I often coach individuals in, especially in India, to to be able to do while they're communicating with U.S. clients. And it's often not considered very comfortable. In fact, some people have come to me and said, "Well, if I just summarize back, doesn't that just sound like I'm just repeating back what the other person said?" 

Now, although we're not supposed to do that, obviously, we can summarize it back in our own words, maybe using, you know, obviously keywords or phrases to mirror whoever we're talking with. But in some cases, the summarizing is making some people from other cultures who aren't used to summarizing feel like, well, nothing new is being added here. So are they really listening to me? Are there are they mocking me? Are they actually, you know, not taking me seriously because they're just kind of repeating what I just said and repeating is use like generally, even if it's a summary that's not just repeating their own words, but summarizing using a somewhat different approach or terminology.

The other case we're summarizing could become an issue. And maybe this isn't cross-cultural, is this when it's overdone. So we have to balance it. We don't want to do it after everything the client or the person we're talking to is saying, because then, yes, it can kind of sound a little odd, almost like we have nothing new to add to the conversation or no questions, even though usually a summary is followed up with some kind of question like, "Did I get that right?" or "Have I understood you correctly"? Or something along those lines? But still, we need to add in new content as a conversational partner. Just summarizing what someone says over and over again really can be... it can be a little off-putting in some cultures and with some individuals.

So as the coach or as the person kind of having a conversation, we just need to be observant and aware of our conversational partners kind of impressions of what makes a good conversation as well. And maybe also what they're listening... preferred listening behaviors are that make them feel that they're listened to. Maybe that can go back to the setting agreements with the client as well, or as we go through the process, actually even asking a client, 

"What makes you feel really listened to? How can I demonstrate that I'm really listening to you during our conversations?"

Because especially for working across cultures, we don't always have that context as to what are their normal expectations and certain communication interactions. So I hope this has helped build some context to listening skills and different strategies and examples that help can help you up-level your listening skills as well. I know this video also has gone long. I just have to share examples. I love to hear your input and insights on this or if you apply any of these strategies after listening to this video, I'd like to hear that from you as well.

Please contact me at. Plus nine one nine five three nine three four seven five two nine, and that's only on WhatsApp or Jennifer at authentic journeys dot info. Thanks again and hope to see you again. OK, bye.

Take a moment to listen to our insights into other ICF Core Competencies (2021):

  1. Demonstrates Ethical Practice 
  2. Embodies a Coaching Mindset 
  3. Establishes and Maintains Agreements  
  4. Cultivates Trust and Safety (part 1) (part 2
  5. Maintains Presence 
  6. Listens Actively
  7. Evokes Awareness
  8. Facilitates Client Growth

If you are interested to know more about this competency from the perspective of the 'old competency': Active Listening, where we discuss myths of listening, listening as a percentage of a total communication activity, body language and listening, what gets in the way of good listening, and types of listening, take a read of this post: ICF Core Competency: Active Listening

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.