The Rough Guide To Clean

There are multiple references to ‘Clean’ on my website, and I’m sure some people are wondering what ‘Clean’ coaching implies.

“Clean” is essentially a set of questions that allow a coach (or counsellor or therapist or anyone else for that matter) to help somebody explore their own thoughts, beliefs, patterns entirely within that person’s frame of reference, without imposing anything of the coach’s own thoughts or perceptions on things. It’s not about the coach , it’s about the client. Using clean questions and techniques, the coach can keep out of the way of their client and give them the fullest opportunity to find their own insights, options, resources. Interactions become ‘clean’ of interventions based on how the coach sees things. That’s not to say the coach isn’t doing anything, far from it. They are listening carefully and noticing things. And then they feed back or ask another clean question to help their client to notice too. As they work together the coach is helping the client to understand their own path to a desired goal.

Let's take an example...

Me
So, John, for this session today to be everything you’d like, it will be like what?
Client
Umm, it will be like a torch shining into a cluttered cupboard. I’ve got so much clutter in my life now and I just want to find the important things and then maybe ditch the rest. I think then I will feel more satisfied with life.
Me
Ah, it will be like a torch shining into a cluttered cupboard, and so much clutter in your life. And when it’s a cluttered cupboard and so much clutter in your life, is there anything else about that clutter?
Client
Well, maybe clutter is too judgemental. I suppose. Well. I have a lot of things I have to do in my life and they aren’t valuable to me, I just want to pare things down to what’s valuable for me, things that make me feel satisfied.
Me
And clutter and things that aren’t valuable to me. And pare things down and things that make feel satisfied. What kind of valuable is that valuable?
Client
Things that make me feel I’m achieving something of value. Of value to me. Not what other people value.
Me
Of value to me. Not what other people value. What kind of things?
Client
Things that are about me making progress in my career but also things that give me a sense of wellbeing.
Me
And when there’s a torch shining in the cupboard, and it’s cluttered, whereabouts are things of value to me?
Client
Well, they are shoved right to the back, and the clutter is at the front. So, it needs to be a bloody good torch to find them!

This is just a made-up example, and just a snippet at the start of a conversation. But you can see what’s happening, can’t you? The client has an idea of what they want to achieve, and they’ve expressed it as a metaphor. The coach is being clean, because they are reflecting the client’s own terms back to them and asking them to develop detail and meaning. And at some point, maybe not in the first session, the client is going to get an insight as to how that cupboard can be organised in a way that makes life more satisfying. And then you’ll probably start noting down some actions that they could do to start organising. In coaching you summarise and agree tasks at the end of a session and review progress next time, setting off new clean-based conversations.

At no point is the coach pulling the client’s attention away from what they are thinking about or experiencing, and at no point are they offering their own opinions. The solution lies in the client’s world, not the coach’s!

Our perceptions of the world are filtered through many layers of ‘stuff’: local cultures, family values, beliefs born of experience both mental and physical, the way we think about things and so on. This is so complicated that every individual is pretty much unique. ‘Clean’ coaching is about honouring the client’s ‘stuff’ and keeping yours out of the way, always acting with respect and curiosity.

At the same time the coach needs to get the client to look at their own stuff so that they can evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. Then they can identify what might change for the better.

The basics of Clean were laid down in 1990s but types of application are still evolving. It’s a very effective approach to coaching and other interpersonal work. It’s pretty simple really: there are just 12 clean questions.

When people are facilitated to find their own solutions, change really works.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *