Lead the Way with Candour - Be Bold in Your Coaching! | by Dr. Sarah Evans, MCC

A bold coach at their desk

What would be possible for you as coach - and in your coaching - if you accessed just 5% more bold?

The coaching conversation

As coaches, we use ourselves as an instrument for the client's growth. And the coaching conversation is both the arena and the vehicle of our work.

Each conversation is important.

Perhaps the most profound way to think of a conversation can be found in this inspiring quote:

"Our work, our relationships, and our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time. While no single conversation is guaranteed to transform a company, a relationship, or a life, any single conversation can. Speak and listen as if this is the most important conversation you will ever have with this person. It could be. Participate as if it matters. It does." Susan Scott1

How, as coach, are you showing up boldly in your conversations?

Bold defined

By bold, I don't mean the boisterous or bombastic 'bull in the china shop'.

Instead, consider the Oxford dictionary definition of bold as: (of a person, action, or idea) showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous.

The related synonyms are: adventurous, audacious, courageous, daring, fearless, enterprising, intrepid, unafraid, undaunted, valiant.

With this definition in mind, what would be possible for you as coach - and in your coaching - if you accessed 5% more bold? What would be different for your coachees?

Bold leadership enabling behaviours

Bold leaders are thought to be twice as effective in comparison to those who lack boldness.

Zenger Folkman's research on bold leadership2 indicates that bold leaders are self-aware, confident, compassionate, humble, ethical, adaptive learners, innovative and hold a larger mission to society and humanity.

Using the analogy of the experience of mixing two foods together to create an exceptional treat, Zenger Folkman's research on bold leadership also identified behaviours that enable and augment boldness to create exceptionally positive outcomes.

These boldness enabling behaviours include:

  • Good judgement.
  • Ability to inspire, energize and empower.
  • Recognition of what needs to change and ability to act.
  • Openness to feedback.
  • Willingness to listen (really listen!).
  • Having high standards of excellence.
  • The ability to leverage new ideas.
  • Clarity of vision and strategic direction.
  • Spotting trends and opportunities.
  • Keeping self and others focused on top priorities.

As you read the list, which of these behaviours can you strengthen in yourself and in your coaching?

A personal learning moment

I was coaching a high level global executive. And while my intuition was calling on me to challenge and point to a potential blindspot that could have significant business impact, I didn't.

When I reflected on this afterward, I was aware that I had got discombobulated. I was thinking, "Who am I to be coaching this individual?" and "How dare I go there?" instead of coming from a place of seeing "myself as an instrument" to their growth.

I had played it safe and careful rather than being bold, fully present, and in full partnership.

Later, when I shared this with the coachee, our powerful conversation was a priceless reminder to me of not only trusting my intuition but daring to boldly go there. From our conversation, they were able to have clarity on something that was indeed a blindspot and they made a difficult decision that ended up having a significant positive impact.

Leveraging bold in coaching conversations

If we are bold, we can engage in the "fierce conversations" that Susan Scott (of the opening quote) speaks of.

Fierce conversations are where "we come out from behind ourselves into the conversation and make it real." These are the conversations we might feel unable or be unwilling to have, yet if we had them, they have the potential to change everything.

And we can also access what Kim Scott speaks of as "radical candor"3. In its most basic form, radical candour is a framework to facilitate communication that is kind, clear, specific and sincere. It's about being able to "Care Personally and Challenge Directly" at the same time.

While this kind of communication is always important for building trust and maintaining relationships, it's even more important at this time when anxieties are heightened and everything is uncertain.

"… Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Here are 8 Practices for being bold:

  1. Deepen your awareness of self - your values, passions, aspirations, thoughts, feelings, strengths and weaknesses - and your impact on others.
  2. Fine tune your instrument, consistently aligning your self, words and actions.
  3. Show up fully present and in full partnership.
  4. Be an 'edgy' coach. Be willing to challenge and point to inconsistencies; notice patterns and connections.
  5. Get out of your head and listen to your gut or intuition. And then be bold enough to share or take action.
  6. Know and clearly state your position without blame or defensiveness, while keeping compassionate connection with those around you.
  7. Take calculated risks for both your own and your coachees' learning and growth.
  8. Engage in wise action consistent with your wise intentions.


Bold is about going to the edge of your comfort zone and expanding out, navigating your anxiety, and becoming more confidently and courageously you. Sarah Evans

Think of the vibrancy of a bold colour or the oomph and power of a bold note in music. Then choose to strike this vibrant and bold stance.

Thinking back over this article and the practices and ideas I've shared, what bold leadership practice will you add?

Your coachees and communities will thank you.


1 Susan Scott (2004). Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time. (revised and updated). The Berkley Publishing Group. p. xv.

2 Joe Folkman discusses Zenger Folkman's research on bold leadership in https://thriveglobal.com/stories/how-bold-leadership-can-help-or-hurt-you/ and https://www.forbes.com/sites/joefolkman/2018/09/04/10-behaviors-that-make-boldness-a-virtue-and-not-a-vice/#4827a71a59ab

3 Kim Scott (2017). Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. St. Martin's Press.

If you like this article on boldness, you may also like:

Sarah Evans, MCC Guest Author

Contributing Author:

Dr. Sarah Evans, PhD, MCC, Dip. CS is passionate about working with visionary decision-makers and influencers inspired by the transformative potential of coaching. She is an executive leadership & team coach, facilitator, OD consultant, coaching supervisor, and mentor coach at Evans Leadership Group. Sarah is dedicated to cultivating resilient leaders—supporting individuals, teams, organizations and coaches lead and thrive in complexity. Her goal is to maximize human capacity, organizational capabilities, and contributions to societal well-being. Her key working themes are relationships, resilience, results! Visit her website here and connect with her on Linkedin. Sarah is a member of the International Coach Federation, where she holds a Master Certified Coach (MCC) credential.

Learn more about Sarah & see all their articles here >>

Image of Bold Coach at Desk by Sergey Nivens via Shutterstock


  1. Kenn Schroder

    Hi Sarah - love that word "bombastic." I gotta use that in writing.

    I like your #6 (Know and clearly state your position without blame or defensiveness, while keeping compassionate connection with those around you) and it's positioning in the list — it's like learning about "how you want to be bolder" and then embracing it.

    Now that I think of it, if I had my clients provide some answers to this as we built their websites, it'll make them shine boldly and not bombastically.


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