Finding the right formula for a coaching conversation

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The quality of language is central to successful coaching. A coach can only do so much planning when it comes to the language that they intend to employ. Most of the dialogue is going to be spontaneous within the coaching model.

The NCN formula helps a coach to keep their language tailored to the best possible outcomes. NCN stands for non-directive, collaborative and non-judgemental.

Non-directive language ensures that the ownership of actions resides with the coachee and not the coach. This can be a frustrating experience for new coaches especially and it is mentally demanding on all coaches because they need to keep the coachee focused on the intended outcomes from that session. Non-directive language needs to express a thoughtful understanding of the needs of the coachee, employing open questions and developmental prompts, while facilitating the coachee in achieving their own insights and rising to their own challenges.

Collaborative language invites the coachee to perceive the coach as their partner in the session. As such it must encourage the coachee to think outside of the box, and feel safe to explore unconventional solutions.

Avoiding judgemental language is an obvious necessity for all coaches but some forget that language is more than words. Pauses, non-verbal noises and posture all communicate judgement just as effectively!

A successful coach is mental dexterous, empathetic and aspirational. These are demanding but necessary attributes that can leave the coach feeling fatigued at the end of a session – so think carefully about the timing of coaching sessions and the frequency of them, as every coachee deserves a coach at the top of their game.

If you are in education and are interested in establishing a success coaching culture check out our website at, or if you are seeking high quality performance coaching go to

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