What do you do when a client comes to a session resistant, as if their arms are folded across their chest? Coaching seems to bounce off them.
Or worse they seem to have the expectation that you’ll fix or figure out things for them, but aren’t willing to be part of the solution. What’s going on there?
It might be about power dynamics and, specifically, the power that is perceived by the client about the coach and the coach about the client.
For coaching to happen, both coach and client must show up creative, resourceful and whole. In other words, standing firmly in their personal power, rather than deflated or inflated.
Perceived personal power can dramatically affect how safe, effective and enjoyable the coaching relationship feels to both coach and client.
I’ll share 5 things you can do to support a healthy coaching relationship.
The Perceived Power Differential Between a Coach and Their Client
What goes on inside a coach and client during a coaching relationship?
I had my eyes opened about the Right Use of Power by Cedar Barstow, an ethics consultant and Hakomi Psychotherapist, who has a book of the same name. It is geared for practitioners of all sorts.
The 2 big takeaways for me were:
- There is a perceived power differential between a client and coach. Because the client pays the coach and the coach is seen as a resource to help the client make important changes, the client’s or coach’s sense of personal power can shift — inflate or deflate. Self-worth and assumptions about the other person affect this too.
- It’s the coach’s responsibility to be aware of that potential power differential and make small adjustments before and during a professional coaching relationship to address the gap in perceived power.
Do You Feel Less Than or Greater Than Your Coaching Client?
I’ve had clients put me on a pedestal, which I do not want to be on! And I’ve had clients treat me as their subordinate. Neither of those will make for an ideal coaching environment.
Similarly, I’ve thought — not consciously but way back in my sub-conscious — that I knew more or less than my clients. If I get hung up on that it will affect the power dynamics of the relationship.
What about you? Do you ever feel intimidated when you meet a potential client thinking “I can’t coach them.” Or, have you ever quickly sized up a potential client thinking you know what they need? Those are thoughts that shift power.
In Episode 88, I covered 7 RED FLAGS to watch for with clients and how to monitor your integrity. Check that out at prosperouscoach.com/88.
Now, let’s look at this more closely.
The Helper in You May Overdo it
Most coaches I meet genuinely want to help others. In fact, it’s often a driving force in their lives to give.
Are you familiar with the Enneagram? What’s your number?
I’m a 2 – The Helper. And I’ve gone many turns around the spiral learning to become ever more conscious about the heavy shadow side of that noble desire to help and give. Do you feel me?
Wanting to help and give all the time can actually dis-empower others.
While it’s an obvious choice to become a coach if you like to give and help, that very impulse needs to be monitored.
So, for me learning how to empower clients begins with “right sizing” myself. My intention is to show up as powerful as I am without inflating or deflating myself through my thoughts, words and actions. Because I know if I’m not right sized it will upset the power dynamic and dis-empower my client.
Think about it … in your last coaching session were you RIGHT SIZED?
It’s not a set it and forget it sort of thing. It requires centering before beginning any session and then tracking yourself
5 Ways to Empower You and Your Coaching Clients
1. Hit the reset button before sessions.
- Take 5 minutes of quiet to breathe and reconnect to your Highest Self.
- Value yourself intrinsically.
- Own your gifts, talents, and skills (as different but not more than your clients.)
- Show vulnerability without being self-deprecating.
- Get your needs met outside the coach/client relationship.
2. Let your clients take full responsibility for their role.
- Charge fees that pay you well — an important gateway to right use of power.
- Never adjust fees to get a client.
- Treat clients as resourceful adults.
- Don’t do your clients work for them.
- Set time boundaries and ask clients to honor them.
3. Promote original thinking and self-starting.
- Verbally appreciate your client’s unique abilities.
- Praise self-awareness, intuitive action and insights.
- Reward initiative with enthusiasm and ask about their next steps.
- Challenge them to do more than what’s comfortable.
4. Spark their wisdom without manipulating.
- Let go of assumptions of what you think they know or don’t.
- Ask their opinion about how to best coach them.
- Ask a lot of direct open-ended questions. Let go of impulses to lead.
- Own your opinions as just that … opinons. Don’t make them wrong for theirs.
5. Listen for their truth.
- Validate their feelings without taking them on. IMPORTANT!
- Separate your story from their story.
- Ask questions to help them separate facts from interpretation.
Consider printing out this episode transcript and evaluate how you’re doing with these 5 things with your clients. They take self-awareness and maturity to monitor. But it’s amazingly transformational if you do. It will help you become a better coach and a better you.
What are other ways you’ve found to empower clients, stay right sized yourself and stay out of the trap of fixing or saving them?