I was always good at tests. Comprehension and answers come easily to me. In contrast, coaching class at Pack Edu has been humbling, and the practical skills assessment — the coaching version of a test — is no exception.
What is a practical skills assessment? At Pack Edu, it’s an opportunity for you and your health coaching mentor to review and assess a coaching call you have recorded. You are measured against the set of evidence-based criteria that the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) has established as a standard for health coaching. These include measures such as your level of presence, demonstrated empathy, and ability to tie client-stated goals to their greater life vision.
What’s wonderful about learning to be a Health Coach is also what’s unusual about it: There is no right answer or solitary study guide that will guarantee a passing grade. In coaching, there is no grade! That’s what makes the practical skills assessment both challenging and enriching. It is not a test of whether you can recite correct answers, but rather how elegantly you can dance with your clients through their health challenges and goals. Instead of having an answer sheet in front of them, your mentor will be listening for key words and phrases that indicate how well you listened, how actively, and how effectively you drew out your clients to unlock their next steps.
In theory, I’ve got this all down. In practice, I have a ways to go! My first of two practical skills assessments so far was nerve-wracking but fun. I had focused on applying active listening skills I’d learned in class — specifically, asking open-ended questions. I did this too well, as my call sounded more like an interrogation than a conversation. On the plus side, I had used humor and warmth effectively, and I had done well at offering reflections. I also learned that I had selected an easy client to coach; he was goal-oriented and ready to make changes in his life. Armed with feedback from my mentor, I made a mental note to coach someone resistant to get better practice and be more challenged. I view my first assessment as a level-setting exercise. I had learned what the assessment process was like after not knowing what to expect.
My second practical skills assessment was level-setting in the opposite direction. Whereas I had been full of eager, grade-A student energy on my first practical skills assessment, I was overbooked during the week of my second. Instead of carefully preparing for my call, reviewing the tools from class, I winged it. This is what coaching is not! I gained a lot of wisdom from this misstep. I learned what it feels like to be unprepared, and I saw how it played out with my client. He did not get the support he needed, and neither of us felt we had met our goals on the call. As I prepared for my practical skills assessment with my mentor, I felt ashamed. I knew I had fallen short of both my client’s expectations and my own. One bright spot is that this experience served as my assessment of coaching itself. It reaffirmed for me that while there is no right answer, there is an ideal method and spirit with which to approach coaching. Standards exist for good reason: They work! Even assessing a call that did not go as well as it could have was a positive experience. I received affirmation for the skills I had demonstrated well, and I received specific, helpful feedback on areas where I could have been more aligned with coaching standards.
The practical skills assessment is easily the most challenging assessment I have completed, but it is also the most rewarding. I have learned humbling lessons that will help me better support my future clients. Most importantly, I will help them unlock their potential by living up to mine in the role of their Health Coach.
Post written by: Stephanie Dillemuth