Many years ago, Thomas Leonard, founder of the first coach training school and the “father of life coaching,” said:
Never want more for your clients than they want for themselves.
That woke me up! I began to examine my motivations and set healthier boundaries for myself with clients.
Have you ever sensed that you might want too much for your clients?
Most coaches fall into this trap on some level, until they let go of their desire to effect change on their clients, and replace it with an understanding that what is best for the client is only what the client is ready to commit to change within themselves right now.
We can never know the path of another person. If we react protectively, anticipating our client’s pitfalls and mistakes, are we keeping them from valuable experiences that may bring success more quickly? If we jump in to solve their problems and salve all their hurts too vigorously, will we somehow take away their power?
The real beauty of coaching is the co-creative relationship: where coach and client focus collaboratively to draw out and utilize the client’s wisdom toward high payoff actions. The coach trusts that the client is creative, resourceful and whole. In other words they are fully capable of taking care of themselves.
Let’s explore the symptoms, causes and side effects when we want too much for our coaching clients.
Symptom: Over-delivery in the sample session
Cause: Trying to find solutions for every issue raised, rather than focusing on one coachable moment that will move the client toward a perspective shift and the takeaway stated in their agenda.
Side effect: The client does not hire you.
The client is overwhelmed by your desire to help them beyond their current level of commitment to help themselves. How are big problems solved? One small integrate-able step at a time. Support your clients to make leaps in their perspective, and to make more progress on their own between sessions.
Symptom: Feeling drained after a session
Cause: Stepping out of the co-creative role and pushing your energy out onto the client in an effort to correct, fix or “save the client from themselves.”
Side effect: The client progresses slowly and you lose confidence.
At its best, coaching energizes both the client and the coach. Focus on listening closely for the client’s wisdom, using intuitive responses and questions to invite powerful shifts. Take it easy.
Symptom: Doing the client’s work for them
Cause: Abandoning the co-creative role to influence the client from a consultative, teacher or parental role.
Side effect: The client is disempowered. You overwork for your fee.
There is no doubt that you know many valuable things. Put that content into articles, products, training programs and public speaking for your target market. In coaching sessions, let your client’s wisdom reign. Provide short cuts and resources only after you’ve thoroughly drawn out and endorsed their own ideas. Never do their work for them just because you can.
In all of these cases, what’s being unknowingly sacrificed is the co-creative relationship — the very thing that makes coaching so powerful for clients!
A few words about your client’s strong emotions…
Anger, frustration, guilt, grief, sorrow — are natural feelings that usually move on. They don’t define a person or their future, and rarely indicate that something is wrong with the client. And, here’s the thing, even if something is “wrong”, it’s not up to you to make it all better.
Deep, and even dark, feelings are often the herald of something very right in the works. Simply validate those feelings and support the client to do their own work during these times. If through their tears and rants, you continually hold that they are creative, resourceful and whole, they will come through shining even brighter!
We’re all connected. When you are “right sized” about your responsibility to others and especially clients, they are empowered to take better care of themselves.