Critical Thinking is an Essential Element of Marketing & Growth Coaching

Critical thinking is increasingly recognised as a crucial skill for coaches to move beyond being ‘thinking partners’. Coaches who have developed their own critical thinking skills are in a stronger position to take reflection to the next level and achieve amplified outcomes through critical thinking.

That’s why I use critical thinking in my approach to Marketing and Growth Coaching and take coaching beyond reflection. This ensures that my clients benefit from my experience of more than 30 years of working in marketing and business with 250 clients.

This article summarises a recent study exploring how coaches and clients create and benefit from critical thinking in coaching. The research identified three key interconnected factors for establishing a productive critical thinking environment.

“Given the huge value of critical thinking in today’s fast-changing world, this research provides coaches with important guidance on the importance of cultivating critical thinking. This means that the most effective coaching has to include mentoring for the you to get real value and transformation from coaching sessions, with the client’s consent,” says Christopher Lamotte from Real Marketing Transformation.

To investigate Marketing and Growth Coaching, contact me, Christopher Lamotte for a no-obligation Marketing Transformation Call today for an informal chat over a coffee.

The critical thinking research

The study by Johnston defined critical thinking as the ability to analyse events and relationships between them, consider different viewpoints, challenge assumptions and work towards better outcomes.

40 coaches and clients from different backgrounds were interviewed for this research.

In-depth analysis identified three important ways to ensure that critical thinking is part of coaching:

1. Contracting – Establishing the coaching relationship

Contracting with the client to agree the scope of the coaching is essential to create an environment conducive to reflection and critical thinking. This involves contracting specifically to establish psychological safety and clarify the client and coach’s expectations and responsibilities.

2. Thinking space – Deepening the relationship

A comfortable thinking space is vital for successful coaching, ensuring that the coach and client are willing to engage in new thinking on equal terms, with mutual respect and trust. This boosts the quality of thinking as both coach and client are encouraged to take risks and have permission to question openly.

Important coach actions include: asking insightful questions, listening deeply without interruption, addressing assumptions, and allowing pauses. A key distinction was revealled between reflection and critical thinking.

3. Physical environment – Putting the relationship in a comfortable physical space

The physical space effects coaching outcomes eg a comfortable, private setting free of interruptions. Some clients preferred an initial face-to-face session before virtual coaching to build rapport and trust, enabling better critical thinking.

That’s why I like to have a face-to-face meeting for the first session, at least, if this is possible, but have also put a lot of thought into the quality of any Zoom sessions, in terms of lighting and sound, where this isn’t practical.

Recommendations about critical thinking

In summary, the research emphasised intentionally deepening the coaching relationship to encourage effective critical thinking. Paying particular attention to developing a ‘not knowing’ mindset as a coach and seeing yourself as an equal critical thinker is vital. The research highlighted the interdependent nature of contracting, relationship building and environment for facilitating crucial critical thinking is highlighted.

Why this matters for clients being coached

Critical thinking allows deeper analysis of assumptions and beliefs that may be limiting clients. Enabling clients to redefine assumptions empowers significant growth and change.

Therefore, understanding how to encourage critical thinking should be a priority for coaches. However, common challenges exist:

  • Coaches may inadvertently slip into an ‘expert’ or consultant mode rather than an equitable partnership
  • Power dynamics may emerge that close down creative thinking
  • Assumptions may not be effectively challenged
  • Questions may lead clients into reflection but not push critical thinking
  • Comfortable assumptions may feel safer than critically examining beliefs

How critical thinking can be improved in coaching sessions

  • Increase awareness of your own thinking patterns and assumptions
  • Prepare insightful questions that dig into assumptions
  • Create an environment founded on trust and psychological safety
  • Allow sufficient pauses for deep thinking to emerge
  • Take critical thinking expectations into account in the contract with the client

Being skillful in critical thinking generates immense value for clients grappling with complex challenges. Ultimately, enhancing critical thinking capabilities helps coaches achieve better coaching outcomes and greater transformation for clients.

To investigate Marketing and Growth Coaching, contact me, Christopher Lamotte for a no-obligation Marketing Transformation Call today for an informal chat over a coffee.


Johnston, D. (2021). How do coaches and clients create and experience thinking environments? International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, (S15), 198–211.

Please Share This Article