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Let me share another fruit from my fruitful failure tree…

There have been times when I have struggled mightily in my coaching relationships. Whether the relationship is with a person or with a team. The conversations are exhausting, draining for me. Likely for my coachee(s) as well.


What I learned from the Co-Active Training Institute is that effective coaching could feel like an effortless dance. Sometimes, the client leads. At others, the coach leads. Sometimes it is hard to tell who leads. Either way, the coachee discovers new resonant pathways to living a resonant life that they are born to live.


I also learned that one essential ingredient for an effective coaching relationship is a designed alliance between the coach and coachee – a “designed alliance” that guides their interactions. I realized that in almost every coaching relationship that felt like a struggle, there was an opportunity to improve our designed alliance.

The designed alliance is often created by exploring some questions that surface what’s most important to the coachee and coach in their relationship. I have my “go-to” questions. You probably have yours.


I began by designing alliances with my coachees by sharing a list of questions. The inspiration for these questions came from what I learned from three key sources…

  • My 1×1 coach – David Darst
  • What I learned by attending 104 hours as part of the 5 coaching workshops offered by CTI’s – Co-Active Professional Coach Training
  • What I have learned so far by attending the first two months of the rigorous 6 month CTI Coach Certification Program, especially from my group supervision coach – Juhree Zimmermann

What I found challenging was that a bulleted list of answers was harder to refer back to during coaching conversations. So I visualized the questions in the form of a canvas that I want to share with you – 9 Questions To Design An Alliance-2021-12-27-v2.1 (fillable form)


There are two contexts in which you could use this canvas…


Ask your 1×1 coaching client to fill this canvas out and share it with you. Listen at levels 2 and 3 as they share. Be curios and surrender to your intuition to explore words and topics that intrigue you in greater depth. Maybe you could share your own canvas with your coachee, so they get a sense for who you are and where you are coming from.

As you coach your client, tie back their choices to their canvas especially when you feel their choices seem misaligned with their purpose and values. Help them clarify their choices and / or canvas as needed.


You could also use the canvas as you help Agile Teams forge a shared identity. Each team member could fill out and present their canvas to their team members. Help them understand and honor each other’s perspective. Then, explore if they can create a shared canvas for their team.

As they work together, if you notice them deviating from the ideals they shared in their team canvas, bring it back up. Help them look at their choices through the lens of their team canvas and explore if this might reveal any new choices to be who they aspire to be.


Let me know what you think and how you made this flawed tool your own. If you want to learn more about these ideas, consider these resources…

Co-Active Coaching – For 1×1 Coaching

ORSC – For Team Coaching

Engaging With Us – Contact us to see if we can help you apply these ideas in your context – whether it be through a 1×1 coaching engagement, or through coaching at the organizational level.