Do You Want Too Much for Your Coaching Clients?

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.

Coaching ClientsWe 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.

  • Hi Rhonda, this is really a powerful article – I’m not a “traditional” coach, but I coach clients within a tech environment – creating websites, strategising & working out the best for their online presence – and what you’ve written holds so true for that too! Just yesterday I got myself flustered by a client (wanting more for her than she sees the need for right now) so this was a good wake-up call for me.
    thank you!
    Tracey

    • Fantastic that you realized it Tracey! I’m so glad this pertains to your awesome work world too.

  • Gina Mostert

    So true – thanks for the excellent refresher, Rhonda.

  • Dal

    Great article, Rhonda. Very timely for me too, just as I was wanting more for my client than she was ready for. A good reminder to keep pace with the client and honor when they’re ready to commit to change. 

    • I think it’s one of those day to day kind of reminders we need when holding space for others. Thanks Dal!

  • Jon

    Rhonda,
    I agree with Tracey.  Great article.  It’s a great reminder to maintain a healthy balance in the co-creative process and consistently empower each client.  And, I appreciate coaches who recognize and affirm that change happens step-by-step in a grounded way w/ changes in perspective plus the necessary work that each person must do in between sessions.    

  • Eileen

    Thanks, Rhonda, for this great, well-written reminder.

  • Some difficult and confusing emotions came up for a client just yesterday. I felt at a complete loss as to what to do for or with her. I half-concluded that I just didn’t like being in emotional sessions and this was part of my Red Velvet Rope Policy that Michael Port recommends, in that I only want to work with people who are positive and emotionally balanced. Then I remembered: All humans are humans and that means anyone I work with has the potential to get very, very emotional around a subject.

    I’m glad you touched on this and suggested a better way to deal with strong emotions in sessions. My client is definitely creative, resourceful and whole. I asked if she was continuing to journal as we’d agreed would be good for her and as she said it had been very beneficial and enjoyable in the past. I had at first stated that “You can’t control your feelings,” hoping to comfort her. That was the wrong thing to do, I quickly realized, and wasn’t something I believed anyway. She’d reframed something pretty big earlier, so I left her at the end of the session with the powerful question, “How can you reframe your thoughts around these emotions” as, in the end, we both agreed that your emotions stem from thoughts, whether conscious or unconscious.

    Thanks again for this, Rhonda! I hope you write more on the subject of emotions and humanity later!

    • It’s so cool you shared this with us, Shauna. I know everyone has sessions like this. What’s fantastic is how you stayed present with your client and present to what you were saying to her/feeling about the situation.

      When my clients feel deep emotions, I like to take deep breaths, relax completely, and listen. I encourage them to feel what they are feeling — let it out. All feelings (and crying too) are AOK. I’ve never had a situation where the client did not come back to center after allowing emotions to flow.

  • William

    thank you Rhonda,I facilitate group coaching, and some times am very fustrated when people don’ want to move on.I always have to remember that it is not about me.