Coaching With Values
By Christine Walter
I don’t think it was that the person intended to be rude, or annoying, or disruptive. It was just that that was what was occurring. When they were being themselves, they were pleasant and then there were those instances when, without seemingly a filter to be found, they would just blurt something ridiculously offensive and we were back at square one. This just couldn’t go on.
Utilising the NLP presupposition “people are not their behaviour” I resolved to find a win/win outcome to what was occurring, and I started with values. What did I know about the person that I could search for key values and what were my key values? There was a negotiation point somewhere.
Values are aspects of life that we hold dearly to us, we fight for our highest values. They are key drivers that activate motivation and action. They are intangible and yet integral to who we are. When coaching I am constantly listening for values and exploring to find the highest values possible. Examples of values are respect, love, communication, justice, self-esteem, safety and sense of belonging. In coaching, search for the higher values.
Safety is a key value for everyone. It is important that we feel safe, after all, keeping ourselves alive is the prime directive of our unconscious mind. When we feel threatened we will take some sort of action to enhance safety. It is important to me that people feel safe in my sessions, even when I am challenging them.
Businesses also have values. Some declare their values; others can imply them within their vision and mission statements. Values can become negotiation points in disagreements and in points of union. They will make someone stay in a job even though the person is not fully happy, or they can make a person leave despite seemingly holding the perfect job.
So, I went on a values hunt. I could have just been the dictator and laid down the law (this was an option I was holding in reserve), the more powerful way was to find what was driving the person and appeal to that.
1. As the Coach start from a place where anything is possible. Your energy is important, and you need to set the scene. I hold two presuppositions to create a convivial attitude toward the other person and a safe space. They are
- People are not their behaviour and yet the most important information I have is their behaviour so I calibrate from this.
- All behavior is context driven.
I want respect from people and therefore it was important that I respected the person in front of me. I was therefore respectful throughout the conversation.
2. What do you know about the person that can steer you toward talking about their values? Remember people like to talk about themselves. In my case I knew this person had done some volunteer work, I started there.
3. Find high level values. I always start searching for a values hierarchy by asking “What’s important to you about ….” When that gets answered I ask a question to find a higher one such as “and when that is achieved what is important about that?” High level values are those that are the main drivers. For example, someone may want confidence and when we find the higher values, we find the drivers could be a sense of belonging or being able to do something that gives their life a sense of purpose. These are higher level values.
4. Find values that connect with the ones you are holding. To work with the person being disruptive I found that our need for people to be safe and to be respected was a common value. Once I found that, we had a point of negotiation. Using influential language patterns, I was able to point out that the inappropriate interjections were not displaying respect and I pointed out how that was in conflict to the person’s own values. I also subtly discussed an example or two where the target had displayed their annoyance and, had they watched the impact, in those moments their emotional safety could have been threatened.
5. Negotiate alternative actions/responses for a win/win. Agree on what is affable to all parties that promotes a change of action and the desired outcome for everyone. If required, stipulate any consequences of a relapse.
6. Conclude positively. In the negotiation I had I assured the person that they were important to the group and had a lot to offer. I also appealed to some of the unresourceful beliefs that they held about themselves and made comments as to why they were not true, providing the evidence that I had noticed. Throughout the session I found points to reiterate the value of the person and ensure they were integrated into the group.
These are six simple steps I use with clients and with groups. They are also the basis of negotiations I have done in the past with employees in my team. Change remains the person’s choice and is in their control. Values provide the fuel for our motivational coaching hat and quickly identify for us the drivers of the client.
Everyone has values. Learn to identify them quickly and easily and utilize them in your coaching sessions. Be sure to let the client know too that these are their drivers.
This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.
Christine Walter is a Master NLP Practitioner and NLP Trainer, Hypnotherapist, Life Coach and mBit Coach. She offers training courses via the NZ School of Life Coaching and through her own business Lodestone. She is also a Director of Australia and New Zealand Coaching Alliance.
You can contact Christine at