By Emma Quansah, Coach and Ambassador.
Is your client coaching ready? Emma, experienced coach and alumni of Wellness Professionals At Work, talks us through this important question.
Part of your skill as a coach is to undertake the discovery of whether a client is actually coaching ready.
When I explain coaching to potential clients I always use keywords such as goal setting, change, exploration, decision making. The context being that the client will be thinking about or wanting to go through one, some or all of these processes – this means, for me as a coach, that they are likely to be coaching ready.
Why is it important ?
The coaching process will succeed, when the client is in a place to do the above work, i.e. they will engage with the process. If they are not, your client will not gain anything from the sessions with you, and it may raise questions around our ethical behaviour as coaches to accept paid clients that we know are not in the place to make change.
Also practice makes us more perfect – working with clients who are coaching ready allows us, as coaches, to continue to exercise and refine our skills. The type of business we are all growing is built largely upon references and reputation – so we want clients that have been able to meet their goals to talk about how we have helped them. It would be more difficult to get that feedback from someone for whom the process hasn’t worked.
As coaches it can be a challenge to ensure we have a consistent income stream too, so having clients be coaching ready is a crucial part in having a profitable business.
So how do we spot someone who is not coaching ready (NCR)?
Some of the clients I’ve coached have been referred to me as part of a support package around securing employment. For some, coaching is a box to be ticked as part of a process, so they may begin with no idea of what coaching is (this doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t coaching ready but it should alert you to the fact that they haven’t sought coaching out specifically and you can use that fact to explore whether they do want your help).
Another NCR behaviour is not prioritising the sessions with you – we all know life happens, but if your client is often very late, or a no show, or even moves the sessions around frequently you may want to consider whether they are committed to the process. I was recently booked to coach a client that had (unknown to me at the time) extremely poor health so they had to cancel their first appointment. They recently fed back to me that they felt very bad that they were not able to come back to me sooner to re-book sessions in, so they didn’t contact me at all – shame is a powerful feeling and one to bear in mind in respect of the coaching dynamic. It could be an unseen barrier with a client you haven’t yet gotten to know. It’s a hard balance between checking in with someone to let them know you are still there and not putting pressure on someone who may not be coaching ready but isn’t comfortable communicating ‘not right now, thanks’ (a topic I love to help clients with).
I’ve also experienced clients who only want to go so far in coaching and are closed to exploring issues central to their particular problem or challenge, they may respond with ‘I don’t knows’, or want you to provide the answers. This is all part of the work of being coached and a person who is ready to engage with exploration is definitely coaching ready. They will be eager to set goals, explore and try to answer questions, turn up for every session, do the work away from your sessions too, and are generally open.
Another scenario I have come across is where a client appears extremely positive about the coaching process and eager to engage and then after one or two sessions never re-engages. This is why its best practice to consider any feedback and self reflect as a coach in terms upon each session – it may well be down to a number of factors that you could influence and learn from. In the scenario I mention my very eager and positive client had shared with me their lack of focus with committing to any idea or process and felt they were always jumping around from one activity to another. I have now learned to be mindful of an abundance of positivity – it can be part of a procrastination characteristic. Excitement about the potential outcome of something but not committing to the process required to achieve it, due to a number of reasons (often fear, or not yet acknowledging one’s true desire regarding a goal).
How do we challenge NCR clients?
Trickier still, is the conversation to be had if you feel your client is not coaching ready. I always try to carry compassion and empathy in every conversation – actually if you don’t mind a bit of guilty pleasure viewing try ‘Selling Beverly Hills’ on Netflix, if you’ve succumbed to the allure of streaming, – Mauricio has the BEST conversations with staff even when he is challenged or disappointed. Worth a look in my humble opinion!
Giving acknowledgement that you have seen and heard your client is a great place to start – as humans we are so similar at our core in needing to be heard. The fact that you noticed your client might not be coaching ready is a solid reflection of that need. Invite them to consider the possibility that it might be too early to start the coaching journey just yet and allow them to input into the decision/assessment – be inclusive. You may want to re-explain the coaching process and find out on a scale of 1-10 how committed they feel to that process. And finally diarise a future time for you both to come back together to discuss whether coaching can commence (or not as the case may be).
If you are coaching on behalf of a company it is important to share your insight regarding the client’s coaching readiness with them also.
How do we ensure our clients are coaching ready?
It’s good practice to set out your stall before coaching begins – explaining what you offer, how you work, and importantly what work the client is expected to do. The client can then make an informed decision about whether to continue or not.
There are some effective tools you can use to assess someone’s coaching readiness and safeguard your income.
Wellness Professionals At Work provided me with pre-assessment sheet templates to use with clients as part of the sign up process and you can also develop your own ways of capturing information. You’ll want to establish what someone knows or doesn’t know about coaching and what their goals are, as well as how they like to communicate. This information immediately tells you whether they know exactly what they want to get from the sessions (that they want some sort of change to occur) and how much input is required from you to ensure they understand what they need to bring to each session as a client (the work!). You can do this on a written form or during a discovery call before both parties sign up to enter into the coaching relationship. A good open question I like to use is ‘What would you have liked to change by the end of our sessions together?’
It’s also a sound idea to arrange payment for sessions in advance so that if clients do discontinue with sessions then you haven’t lost out on your planned income.
- Coaching is a personal choice and your client must consciously choose this path.
- Establish coaching readiness ahead of the coaching sessions
- Protect your time and your income
- Accept that occasionally some clients are not in a place to fully commit to the process and don’t be hard on yourself if a coaching programme ends early
As coaches we want the best for our clients and making sure they are coaching ready is absolutely part of this!
Emma can be found here. We are delighted to have our Ambassadors guest blog for us and thank Emma warmly for her contribution!