Shallow VS. Deep Coaching

When you ask your client “What do you want to work on in your session today?”

What do they come up with?

…an audacious and inspiring goal or challenge?

…or a boring, impotent “nothing-burger”?

Most coaches eventually run a few ‘shallow’ sessions.

Remember the movie Shallow Hal?

“Hal” was only interested in how people looked on the surface.

It was limiting his love life.

Luckily, along came a ‘deep coach’, Tony Robbins (my original mentor and employer)…

…who ‘coached’ him to look past the surface of a woman…

…and see something deeper.

That ‘deep coaching’ opened Hal to create connection and growth in his relationships…

…that would’ve been impossible without that ‘deeper view’.

Your job is to plunge beneath the surface of that iceberg…and explore hidden depths with them.

If your ‘shallow Hal’ clients only see the ‘shiny objects’ around them

…they’ll miss out on the real ‘juice’ in their lives.

The same goes for their coaching sessions.

If you only cater to the ‘shiny surface objects’ your clients dangle in front of you…

Glittered box w/ bright light

…your coaching sessions with them will be…






It reminds me of a coach who recently complained that her client used her sessions for “organizational support”.

(like a human ‘to do list’)

I asked “What’s your coaching fee?”

She said “I’m only charging $80 / month.”

I answered, “She ‘s getting just about what she’s paying for.”

“‘Minor help’ isn’t the greatest aspiration you have for coaching your clients, is it?”

If you only do what your client asks for

…you become your client’s ‘waterboy’ (or ‘watergirl’?).

Not very powerful.

Not very valuable.

And not worth a substantial coaching fee.

Go deeper with your clients.

They should get way more value than that.

Imagine your client is this iceberg:


And they will only show you their ‘tip’.

Your job is to plunge beneath the surface of that iceberg…

…and explore hidden depths with them.

What does that ‘deeper value’ REALLY look like?

Here’s an example:

I just ran a coaching session with a consultant that felt a bit ‘stuck’.

She said “I keep getting sucked into consulting work I’m not passionate about.”

“I need help clarifying the kind of work I WANT to do

…versus the ‘low hanging fruit’ gigs that I don’t enjoy.”

At first, I dutifully asked her what those areas were…

…and she quickly proceeded to list them for me.

Job done, right?

She clarified her passion zones.

I delivered everything she had asked for in the coaching session.

And, I gave the client what she wanted.

The problem?

The ‘coaching’ wasn’t very valuable so far…

I only asked her ONE question

…the answer to which she could’ve come up with BY HERSELF

…in five minutes!

This wasn’t valuable enough for my standard of coaching.

So, I continued…

“You gave me your answers so fast.”

“It’s obvious you already knew your ‘passion zones’.”

“Why haven’t you already taken the time for yourself to write down those six passion zones?”

“Why did it take a coaching session with ME…

…for you to make that simple list?”

She said – “I never bothered, because it seemed like it would’ve been a waste of time.”

ME: “Why?”

HER: “Because I couldn’t stop myself from taking all the wrong jobs in the past.”

ME: “Why did you take the ‘wrong jobs’?”

HER: “I guess I just didn’t say ‘no’.”

ME: “Why not?”

HER: “I wasn’t very active in pursuing what I really wanted.”

ME: Is there anything that would stop you from pursuing what you really want NOW?”

HER: “Finances.”

ME: “So, what’s REALLY stopping you from this perfect career…

…is the money??”

HER: “I really don’t know.”

ME: “You already knew what you love doing…

…because you were able to come up with those passion zones in 30 seconds.”

“It sounds like you never drew ‘a line in the sand’ for those passion zones, did you?”

HER: “That’s true. But it feels weird saying “no” to a well-paying gig.”

ME: “What do you mean ‘it feels weird’?”

HER: “It feels weird…

…not doing the easy thing…

…for good money.”

We were starting to dive beneath the surface of her ‘iceberg’.

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It took NINE penetrating questions to get to the ‘gut’ of what was going on.

Those questions helped us explore

…what would make the coaching session WAY more valuable.

And, ultimately, out of all that probing

…I discovered what was missing for her.

So I shared it…

ME: “Don’t you already know that living a life doing easy work that you hate…

…is NOT what you’re up for?”

HER: “Yeah, I know that…

…in my heart.”

ME: “Then you know it.”

“And NOW all you’ve got to do is TELL THE REST OF YOU.”

“Because your heart IS you.”

“There are other parts of you that could argue against it.”

“Your ‘head’.”

“Your ‘fear’.”

“But you’ve got to make sure…

…your heart WINS.”

“You’ve got to tell your ‘lizard brain’ that your spirit is just as important as finances.”

“You’ve got to tell your logical brain that it’s not ‘weird’ to pursue what you love.”

“And, once all those parts of you are aligned with this direction

…you’ll draw a line in the sand

…and you won’t sell out on yourself ever again.”

Can you see why I didn’t just stop coaching once I gave her what she asked for?

Isn’t the upside of digging deeper… obvious?

I kept pushing…

…because catering ONLY to what your client asks for…

…isn’t what coaching is about.

I kept pushing…because catering ONLY to what your client asks for…isn’t what coaching is about.”

I’m NOT my client’s ‘waterboy’.

And, as a coaching professional, I want to be worth my fee.

The questions I asked…

The coaching I gave…

…was way more valuable than just getting a few obvious answers.

That’s what coaching is really there for…

finding the true, deeper, invisible value that your client would NEVER find on their own:

That’s what coaching is really there for…finding the true, deeper, invisible value that your client would NEVER find on their own

  • What’s really important to your client?
  • What’s really stopping your client?
  • What’s really going on for your client?
  • What’s this conversation about for your client?
  • Who is your client… really?
  • What’s your client missing?
  • Where’s your client’s blind spot?
  • What is your client hiding?

…and then…

What is your client going to do about it?

How many of those questions can you answer about your client?

How many of those spaces have you explored with your client?

Your client needs YOU for that kind of value.

Why would coaching clients never find that value on their own?

Because most clients get stuck on surface questions.

They get stuck at the surface because they aren’t employing the courage or fortitude

…to answer the deeper questions.

And some clients don’t even know any deeper questions to ask!

Yes, ‘epic clients’ WILL bring up very powerful spaces, questions, and explorations from the get-go.

But do you expect to ONLY attract those clients?

The clients that mostly ask for surface level ‘help’

The clients that focus on petty issues they should have resolved by themselves…

Clients like that…

…are a dime a dozen.

You will probably find at least a few of those clients in your coaching practice.

In fact, many new coaches attract ONLY those ‘shallow’ clients…

…not the “deep thinkers” most coaches are inspired to work with.

Maybe you already go deep with your clients.

Maybe you always push past the ‘presented problem’ to see something deeper…

…something profound.

…something precious.

…something rare.

But if NOT…

It’s time to take responsibility for more than just ‘carrying your clients’ water’.

It’s time to take responsibility for going deep with your client

…whether or not your client does it by default.

Don’t beat yourself up for ‘not going deep’.

Serving your coaching client, even on the surface level, is truly admirable.

I hope you’re already proud of stepping up and making a difference at WHATEVER LEVEL you have so far.

Now, take your coaching deeper.

It’s not your client’s job to deepen the conversation.

It’s yours.

That’s what your client is counting on you for.

Instead of arguing that your client is uncoachable (like a lot of coaches do)…

…or not ‘ready for coaching’ (the typical excuse of a lazy coach)…



Prepare deeper questions.

Plan to explore deeper spaces with your client.

It’s where all the value is in your coaching.

Jeffrey “Always go Deeper” Sooey

P.S. The second part of this discussion of deep coaching covers a full tutorial on how to approach deep coaching. Go HERE to read it.

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