Ivan Košalko is an Executive Coach and owner of Košalko Consulting LLC. His target customers are the companies and organizations in which the owners, leaders, and senior managers believe that their people are their most important assets. His focus is the growth of first-time managers, particularly in fast growing companies. He typically starts with strengths coaching, which is backed by certification from Gallup—he is a Gallup® Certified Strengths Coach.
This article is part of the High AQ Interview Series where executives, academics, and thought leaders discuss elevated answers. The following interview is edited for clarity.
The Tools of Executive Coaching
Dr G: “You are a Gallup® Certified Strengths Coach. You also use other frameworks with clients. What is your perspective on the use of frameworks by executive coaches in the marketplace?”
Ivan Košalko: “Many coaches focus upon one methodology as the holy grail of coaching. I use several different frameworks with clients depending on their developmental needs.”
Dr G: “How do you decide which frameworks to use with clients?”
Ivan Košalko: “Each tool offers something different that meets different client needs. As we know, CliftonStrengths is a framework of 34 strengths which allow a coach to work with the clients to further develop their potential. This contrasts with a focus upon shoring up weakness, which predominates in most consulting and coaching. The CliftonStrengths framework is necessary because most individuals are very poor at identifying their strengths. If you ask a client to identify their biggest weakness, that is much easier than wrestling to the ground their strengths. Working with a framework like CliftonStrengths gives the coach and client a common language to discuss strengths and come to agreement regarding the areas of biggest growth potential.”
Dr G: “Can you tell me more about the value of frameworks in Executive Coaching?”
Ivan Košalko: “Each framework simplifies and organizes the work. CliftonStrengths helps us understand strengths. Answer Intelligence (AQ)™ is a framework that provides a lot of value to communication. Listening is central to executive coaching. Often, listening can be difficult for an executive coach because clients don’t always give the best answer. A coach may ask a question, and the other person starts to talk about something else, not the answer we are looking for. Or they don’t answer the question at all. You ask why, and they provide a how-answer. The AQ framework helps to navigate the conversation correctly.
I have a meeting with a client upcoming that is very long winded. It takes a lot of stamina for me to remain focused on the conversation at a very attuned level I need to be effective. AQ provides a structure that allows me to navigate the conversation. For example, if the client provides a story, I can see if the story is in line with a concept they claim they are using.”
Note: this is consistent with High AQ Practice 3: Provide Complements; the strong form of complimentary answers is that all six answer types are complementary and reinforce each other.
“Or If I ask a why-question, I can listen for two answer types, a story and theory.”
Note: this is consistent with High AQ Practice 2: Answer Twice; important why-, what-, and how-questions can be answered twice for maximum impact and clarity.
“Therefore, I use AQ as a proof tool. As the expression goes, the clients often do not know themselves very well. By looking at the consistency between answers I can identify their authentic answers. AQ gives me a framework that allows me to be a better listener.”
Dr G: “You did a good job describing the value of AQ to you as a coach. Can you discuss the value of AQ to your clients that are using CliftonStrengths?”
Ivan Košalko: “Let me give you an example related to myself. In CliftonStrengths terms, I have a strong ‘Focus’ Theme.” [note: The Focus theme is oriented toward staying on track, prioritizing, and then taking action.] “For a Focus thinker, AQ is an approach to identify and navigate questions and answers in a systematic and structured way that a focus-themed person values.”
Dr G: “Is it fair to say that all 34 CliftonStrengths themes can be combined with AQ as an approach to communicate related to each client’s respective strengths?”
Ivan Košalko: “Yes, that is correct. I have a client meeting coming up on Friday where I will be finalizing the scope of work. As part of the work, I will have her develop a list of daily and weekly questions she is to ask of herself to create new strengths-based habits. One recommendation I will make is for her to use AQ to identify the answers to those questions.
Paradoxically, it is the individuals that have strong Communication talent that benefit most from AQ. When you are an effective communicator, you often use intuition. When people do things intuitively, there is a significant growth potential for clients that are exposed to the right tools. When clients are not aware of tools, they make mistakes that could otherwise be avoided. I had several clients that in a sense communicate with ease – they are expressive, articulate, have a strong stage presence, and can deliver a compelling story or other type of answer. Their blind spot might be that they are not involved in a conversation with others and they tend to monopolize the debate. For example, they say, “I don’t mean to interrupt… then of course they do and they discuss whatever they are interested in or they force their opinion on others. With AQ these kind of clients could benefit from understanding how question-types are mapped to answer-types. They can recognize the question [why, what, or how] and using AQ to provide the appropriate answer in the context of the conversation.”
Dr G: “This makes a lot of sense to me. In many respects, I’ve always been an effective communicator my entire adult life. For example, I have always been strong at metaphors and stories, but I was often overly analytical (focusing upon theory and concept). This analytical fixation would often drown out the other answers I could provide. When I was a junior professional out of college, my boss valued my contributions, but others could not understand me. In AQ terms (which would not yet be invented for another 15 years), I would talk about models and system (associated with analytical communication) and my peers wanted a story or perhaps a procedure to get work done. It was a real problem and communication disconnect. We even explored the company hiring a personal communication coach for me. It was not until I developed the AQ framework that I finally had a tool to improve my conversations with others. Your discussion of strengths has given me an insight into myself as an effective, but flawed communicator, that could benefit from a framework (AQ in this example). Thank you for making that connection for me between strengths and the importance of frameworks.”
This article suggests at least two High AQ Takeaways.
High AQ Takeaway 1: Effective coaches need to be effective listeners, as they seek to read between the lines to understand their clients. AQ is a framework that organizes questions and answers allowing an executive coach to be a more systematic and effective listener.
High AQ Takeaway 2: Executive coaches should provide their clients with multiple frameworks, that are often used in combination. CliftonStrengths identifies among 34 strengths a client may have. AQ provides a framework by which any of the strengths can be more effectively communicated by a client.
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Dr. Brian Glibkowski is the author of Answer Intelligence: Raise your AQ.