Evokes Awareness: ICF Core Competency 7

Posted On: April 16, 2021

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 competencies 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.


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
Please excuse grammatical errors in the transcript of the spoken video script. 
Jennifer Kumar, author, is an ICF PCC credentialed coach. Take a look through a range of Coaching for Coaches programs she offers. 


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