Awareness in Coach and Client

Apr 7, 2018

No problem can be solved at the same level of consciousness that created it.

Albert Einstein

If we look at coaching as a learning journey, it would go through these stages:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence
  2. Conscious Incompetence
  3. Conscious Competence
  4. Unconscious Competence

The shift from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence is the awareness a coach explores in partnering a client. Client experiences insights about limiting beliefs and unconscious barriers that have been blind spots.

This awareness brings the unconscious into the conscious domain, allowing the coach to help the client reframe the mental barriers into actionable possibilities. Awareness provides for the shift from conscious incompetence into conscious competence through action.

Old habits don’t die; they are rewired. Our neural networks have plasticity that allows new behaviors to be learnt and adopted. This rewiring can only happen when there is a conscious awareness of the harm that the old behavior causes, and the benefits arising by shifting from the old to a more acceptable new behavior.

New behaviors need to be anchored through repeated action for them to become rewired as new habits that get embedded as unconscious competences. This anchored state is often referred to as being the flow or the zone.

This movement from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence, through the stages of awareness, action and anchoring is the essence of coaching. This is the Coacharya 3A model.

Myths to explode and misconceptions to explore

  • Awareness is not about providing solutions.
    • Client needs to create solutions that are owned and acted upon by the client.
    • Awareness co-creates responsibility to act.
  • Awareness is not about what is known.
    • It is about what neither the client nor coach know.
    • It is a curious journey in discovery.
  • Awareness need not be organic and evolutionary.
    • Often it is spontaneous and instantaneous following a query that triggers deep reflection.
  • Awareness is about the client
    • Unless the coach is aware client cannot co-create awareness.
    • Unaware coaches try to force awareness on the client. It is no longer a partnered dance.
  • Awareness is about unconscious memories of the past
    • Awareness may be about limiting beliefs arising from the past but blocking the client in the present in achieving desired outcomes in future.
    • Awareness needs to not only reflect the present but also look into the future.
  • Awareness is focused and linear
    • Awareness is often a result of

Evidencing Awareness

Awareness is the first outcome of a coaching interaction. It is the foundation on which the client moves into action and anchoring.

Coach needs to create awareness at these levels:

  1. About the client within the mind on what is blocking and what needs to shift (WHO)
  2. About the client situation on how the blocks are affecting others and why they need to be overcome (WHAT)
  3. Through intuitive observation and sharing of the client and situation to create new insights helping the client to reframe and act.

Philosophical Reflections

Eastern spiritual practices work with four states of awareness

  1. Waking state of unconscious incompetence
  2. Dream State of subconscious learning
  3. Deep Sleep state of unconscious learning
  4. Fourth State of disengagement of unconscious competence. We call this the state of mindlessness.

Questions for the Coach

  • How to you move from not knowing to knowing?
  • How can you understand a similar learning process for the client?
  • What would appear to be the 4 key criteria you need to adopt?
  • What would you do once clients become aware?
Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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