As emotional intelligence coaches, the “work harder” mantra undermines our coaching — here’s how to use ‘lazy coaching’ as an antidote

EQ Coaching Insights: Are Lazy Coaches Better? 🌱

by Joshua Freedman, MCC


T/F quiz: “Hard work is the key to success.”

I’ve often found it to be true – but also a dangerous trap. “Just put your head down and keep on going” has a dangerous downside: It requires us to ignore some feelings, which cuts off a feedback loop that could be important. Plus, it trains us into a problematic pattern; as Brené Brown says: When you numb one feeling, you numb them all.

Let’s dive in to see how this “work harder” mantra undermines our coaching — and how to use ‘lazy coaching’ as an antidote.

What is ‘Efforting’ as an Emotional Intelligence Coach?

A coach-colleague named Margaret and I were recently talking about a business team we’re coaching together. Discussing one of the team members, Margaret said, “She’s doing a lot of efforting.” I immediately got it. This client has been over-exerting, trying to appear positive in an attempt to cover up for others.

That word has been coming back to me over and over. “Efforting.” It reminds me of a joke I sometimes make with aspiring coaches in the EQ Coach Certification. 

The Power of Lazy Coaching

Early in the process of becoming a coach, we spend a lot of time talking about the kinds of questions to ask as coaches. As a new coach, I remember I had post-it notes around my office – which led to the creation of our marvelous EQ Coach Cards.

Later in the becoming-coach journey, however, my joke is: “I ask Super Simple questions because I’m a lazy coach.” I’m a very focused, very hard working coach – but I have found that the most powerful questions are, often, super-simple ones such as:

Would you like to tell me more?

Why do you suppose that is?

What are some of your feelings about it?

What does that mean to you?

Or even simpler: “Ok.” “Interesting.” “Ahhh.”

Or even simpler (but much harder): Silence.


It comes back to efforting.

Who’s Doing the Work in Coaching?

There are times in my coaching where I notice myself efforting. I can sense my throat or jaw a little tight, and my mind going faster. My focus shifts to my own agenda. Then I notice, and return to “lazy coach mode.” Less efforting. More flowing.

To me, it’s a reminder: The client is here to do their work

Which means I have to do mine, and only mine.

My work is to support and reflect.

My work is to be fully present.

My work is to listen beyond the words.

But it is not my problem to solve. It is not my decision to make. It is not even my issue to understand.

The Competence Trap

Recognizing Patterns is one of the competencies in the Six Seconds Model of Emotional Intelligence – go deeper with this fantastic video about patterns in the brain (the one with broccoli.) As EQ Coaches, we start with self, tuning into our own reactions, options and purpose. One of my patterns is:

When I think there’s a problem, I fix it.

In the EQ Practitioner Certification, we do an awesome exercise called Masks. One reason it’s profound is that it helps us see underneath some patterns. I found that under the “fix it pattern” is a mask of competence. I want to be seen as someone reliable, and that reliability is rooted in appearing competent.

Which leads me to fix. Which leads me to take on problems that are not my work. Efforting.

Do you relate? What pattern leads you into efforting?

By recognizing these patterns, it will become easier to step out of efforting without a lot of effort 🙂and smoothly step back into lazy-coach-mode, leaving space for the client to do their important work.

How does this land for you as a coach? Please share a comment below!

Whether you’re a professional coach, or contemplating earning certification as a professional emotional intelligence coach*, or you’re someone who uses coaching techniques to support others: Six Seconds’ approach starts on the inside.

* Did you know? In addition to top-level accreditation from the International Coaching Federation, the EQ Coach Certification is one of a handful of coaching certifications in North America that also provides master’s level credit? You’ll earn almost ⅓ of your MBA or MA in this program.


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For more on EQ and Coaching 🌱, I recommend:

How does emotional intelligence strengthen professional coaching?

Effective Coaching with Emotional Intelligence

How can everyone use EQ coach techniques to help others?

Coaching through Challenge Online Course

Joshua Freedman
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