Existential Coaching Questions and Addressing the Hidden Potential

Oct 7, 2021

“He whispered,
“My precious child,
I love you and
will never leave you
Never, ever,
during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

-Margaret Fishback Powers

“And I’ll carry you
When you need a friend
You’ll find my footprints in the sand”

-Leona Lewis

While we were discussing ‘Presence’ in coaching and partnering with clients, during a class, one of the learners asked:

“What if the client is unable to define a clear outcome? What if I see a greater hidden potential in my client that the client is unaware of?”

These are ‘existential’ coaching questions that coaches struggle with and bring up in supervision.  But to these, I would add,

“What do I do when I do not know?”

My visualization of coaching is a journey into the unknown, with no maps and milestones, as a pathless land, much like J. Krishnamurti defined Truth—so brilliantly— or perhaps, coaching can be like a walk in the dark, outer space with no lifeline. And yet, there is no struggle, just joy in the interaction, not knowing, merely curious. This is the space when coaching ‘happens’ when ‘presence happens’. Nothing is known, yet everything is clear. One starts with the premise “don’t know, yet I’m comfortable.” In this state, you turn to your client for inspiration, leaving behind your knowledge, skill, and ego.

A Coach’s presence begins when a coach is absent.

Yet, things manifest. Coaching turns spiritual.

Addressing hidden potential and guiding the outcome:

When a client is unable to define a clear outcome or see hidden potential; create a safe space for the client to turn to you. Be the mirror reflecting what you sense, without any suggestion, advice, or solution.

As for helping with an outcome, while you listen to the brown water flow from the client: listen and observe verbally and non-verbally, acknowledge some of what you observe in appreciation, then share what you also sense beneath the verbal and non-verbal expressions, inquiring gently, “what may empower you from this reality of …….” (whatever it is that you sense is the source of their disempowerment).

Most clients would be able to articulate this in some way or another. If they are still in doubt, ask them for their emotions as they visualize their ‘Reality of Disempowerment’, after which, you guide them to realize what would make them feel better. Even if this fails, ask permission and ask about what they sense within their body, since sensations are the first external manifestation of our mind.

I am yet to come across a client who after the LASI exploration is unable to express what they seek. This is how we train our coaches from day 1.

The LASI coaching exploration
The LASI exploration

A coach’s ability to perceive the generative potential of the client, while a gift, is a fragile one that must be treated with care. The coach should, gently, communicate their sense of the client’s generative potential. However, how the client wishes to ‘actualize’ the potential must always be the client’s choice. The coach’s job ends with sharing the “sensing” at one level. If the client wishes to explore, partner with unconditional positive regard, empathy, and congruence; this means the coach can also envision the possible consequences if the client unleashes the hidden potential, the same way they can sense the potential.

This awareness and understanding are what make coaching powerful and spiritual. Understand, be aware, and practice this. Soon, you will be at mastery.

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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