This series from Clare Norman uncovers the mindsets preventing us from being the best coach we can be and presents more useful mindsets to move thinkers to discover new thinking that energises them to change.


Part 4: Ten mindsets we learned from our peers that we need to discard to be a more masterful coach


Peer pressure means that we learned to do, say or wear things that would enable us to fit in with our group. It’s normal to want to be part of a tribe – whichever one we pick – so that we feel human connection and belonging (Baumeister & Leary 1995). Those expectations of our peers will have shaped the person we are today.Through my field research, I’ve discovered ten mindsets we learned from our peers that we need to discard as we step into coaching.

I’ll cover three of them here.


  • Old mindset: Do what it takes to fit in
  • New mindset: Just be yourself

The message from peers is that we need to fit in with the norms of the group, adhere to its values, believe what it believes and use language that’s part of its vernacular. This is a message we continue to hear at work: fit through the cardboard cut-out of ‘what good looks like’ if you want to get on around here. It’s no wonder that new coaches want to fit in, adhere to ‘the rules’, live up to the expectations of their training school, to be in with the in-crowd. It’s part of belonging.

Despite our desire to fit in, we each have such a rich tapestry of history behind us that makes us all unique as coaches. Each coach will bring something different to coaching because of who they are. That means that although you will align yourself with a particular coaching body, you won’t become a cookie-cutter coach.

And although each coaching body has its own set of competencies that define best practice, you’ll bring those competencies to life in your own unique way. I do use the International Coaching Federation competencies to guide me and how I show up as a coach, but I know that I’m quite different from the next coach and the next coach and the next, and I don’t hide that uniqueness under a bushel. Be the coach you were shaped to be.


  • Old mindset: Silence is awkward
  • New mindset: Silence is golden thinking time

With our peers we learned to fill the silence. Maybe that’s so another person can’t fill it. I don’t honestly get that, but for some people, silence feels awkward and needs to be filled. You may feel compelled to jump in and take the awkwardness away. But if you don’t have something useful to say, don’t say it – because if you do, that stops the thinker from using that silence to think, to work up something new and possibly insightful. Taking the air out of the room means you take away their thinking space.

In coaching, silence is golden thinking time. We need to get comfortable with it, to allow for thinking space. New thinking doesn’t trip off the tongue like known thinking does. New thinking needs time and space to percolate, form and be brought to the fore.

I’ve noticed there is live silence and dead silence: they’re hugely different. Live silence is when the thinker is obviously thinking. They’ll be looking up, down, away, anywhere but at you. Their pace of talking will have slowed down. It will be more halting. They may be more hesitant with this new thinking, making sense of it as they go. They need the silence.

Dead silence is equally obvious to spot. The thinker will be looking straight at you, willing you to ask another question or make another observation. Usually, this is not a silence to extend, because they’ve stopped thinking at this point and need or want a nudge towards some more thinking. That nudge might be as simple as a re-contracting question: ‘Where do we need to go next to get to new thinking?’

If you’re not a lover of silence, live silence is something to practise. Don’t take the wind out of their thinking by talking over the live silence. Allow the silence to extend, allow them to continue their slower pace and meaning-making.


  • Old mindset: Breaking up is hard to do
  • New mindset: Ending is necessary

Did you ever have any friends who were no good for you, or drained you? Or from whom you just drifted apart, but with a sense of guilt? It’s worth looking at your pattern of endings.

If you find them hard in life, you’ll probably find them hard in coaching. We form attachments to people, so letting go can be hard.

Good, complete endings are necessary, so we need to get used to them. Without a good ending, we can’t make a great new beginning (Bridges, 2004). We’re still attached in some way, which means we don’t have the capacity for a great new beginning. We have baggage taking up space in our mind that we could do without, and jettisoning it will enable us to move forward.

There are two endings you need to think about in coaching:

  • The end of a session
  • The end of a programme of coaching

Looking at the end of a programme of coaching, there are also two kinds:
– Those that end as all the sessions are completed
– Those that come to an end earlier than expected

Either way, it’s important that you end well, with the thinker as your partner co-creating that ending, as this is their ending, too. You may ask them some questions to reflect on what they have learned and who they have become as a result of coaching, and how they will continue to find time to think post-coaching.

It can be useful to get the thinker to pay attention to how they would like the coaching to end, with questions such as:

  • ‘What’s your pattern of endings?’
  • ‘What beginnings are there for you in this ending?’
  • ‘How do you want this coaching to end?’

If a thinker goes AWOL (absent without leave) and doesn’t come back for a final session, you’ll need to think about how you mark the ending without them, how you celebrate what has been achieved, what new beginnings this makes possible for you. Otherwise, you may hold on to the unfinished business and not be able to move on. Whatever happens, treat endings with the attention they deserve. Mark them with a cake, card, gift, acknowledgement or something of your choosing. Celebrate the work and the relationship. Prepare for the next chapter of your life and theirs, and move on to pastures new.


  • R F Baumeister and M R Leary, ‘The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation’, in Psychological Bulletin, 117,
    497-529, 1995
  • W Bridges, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, Da Capo Press, 2004


About the author

  • Sought out as a master mentor coach by expert coaches and successful coach training companies, Clare Norman looks to continually sharpen individuals’ coaching edge and upskill mentor coaches so they deliver high quality feedback to their coaches-in-training: www.clarenormancoachingassociates.com


  • This article is based on an extract from Norman’s book, The Transformational Coach: Free Your Thinking and Break Through to Coaching Mastery (2022). You can order your copy from Right Book Press: https://amzn.to/3zulBch
  • Next issue: Mindsets we learned at work that we need to discard to be a more masterful coach

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