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How to Inspire Your Clients and Facilitate Their Progress as a Coach

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Here’s the thing.

As coaches, you are not responsible for what your client does – but you’re responsible for facilitating change and progress.

To make sense of this, here are three questions you should ask before coaching a client:

Is life coaching the right methodology for this person?

Is this the right time for this person to receive coaching?

Am I the right coach for this person? Are they the right client for me?

For example, if the client’s situation is more suited to therapy or mentoring, suggest it to them.

Not everything is victory, and some things can’t be influenced and controlled. Clients may beat themselves over issues which are out of their control and fail to acknowledge that they are doing the best they can with the resources available at the time.

It’s the coach’s job to help them see this and bring a new perspective to life.

In the last post, we discussed how you can support your clients with technical coaching skills, the fourth ICG core competency.

The fifth and last ICG core competency category is made up of the following:

1. Inspire learning and growth

2. Develop goals and action plans

3. Manage accountability and advancement

How to Inspire Your Clients and Facilitate Their Progress

1. Inspire learning and growth

As a coach, your goal is to help your client see beyond the current challenge or goal, to genuinely be delighted with your clients and to advocate new thinking and perspectives.

The proficient coach sees beyond what “is” to what “could be” and shares their delight in the exploration with their client.

An effective coach will always reflect back to the client what they’re doing, how it connects to what they want, where they’re heading, and how it’s an expression of who they are.

You help them set goals and new directions and assist them by holding them accountable to the commitments they’ve made for themselves.

You bring a broad toolkit of methods to help the client by allowing them to see beyond what’s “real”.

Richard Bandler, co-founder of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), shared once that he doesn’t settle for what the client wants – because the client can’t see very far.

Bandler goes further, because he can see so many more possibilities that the client is.

Let’s explore this a little more. Let’s say you’re climbing a hill. Do you see the top? Most likely you can only see the next steps, or the next basecamp from where you are.

Now imagine you’re in a helicopter. You can see the hill-top, the other side of the hill, the basecamps, alternative routes, and alternatives hills too!

In short, you can see so much more from this vantage point.

Your client is climbing the hill and you’re in the helicopter. You can (and should be able to) see more possibilities and opportunities than your client can.

Brainstorm with the client all the possibilities. Don’t let them limit to what simply appears to be.

This allows you to challenge them beyond their current thinking. I once had a client who wanted an apology from their dead mother. They couldn’t move on unless they had the much-deserved apology.

Clearly, there are many assumptions here. The client assumes their mother owes them an apology. And that peace will come from those words. And if they can’t hear them, they are doomed forever.

We can only impact our own action and thinking – the apology was not coming, so I challenged the client to explore uncharted territories: What makes them sure they would find the peace if they got the apology?

Of course, there are times when you don’t know the answer.

What do you do then? Smile mischievously? Frown? Feel stressed? Love it or loathe it?

The more uncertainty you can handle as a coach, the more assured the clients will feel.

It also evokes thinking about, rather than passively accepting, an idea. For example, your client may say, “It’s always hard to do that.”

Do you accept this statement without questioning it?

Because to accept it, you have to agree this is how it “always” happens. I would check in with them: Always?

And: “Is it hard? Or is it something else? How about interesting? Challenging?”

Be careful before accepting presuppositions in client’s language.

By giving them an opportunity to question the truth of the statement, we give them a chance to loosen their map of the world a little.

This allows for a broader perspective, counter views, contrary opinions and alternative views, leading to innovative thinking. Because many times, the client isn’t after a solution but after a different way of thinking.

2. Develop goals and action plans

A proficient coach will see something bigger for their client than they are capable of seeing for themselves right now.

You assist the client to clarify their vision and how their goals fit within. When a goal is decided, it’s worth considering what else this may impact.

A business goal may impact a relationship.

A relationship goal may impact a health goal.

Where appropriate, map out with the client the steps to achieve a goal. Oftentimes, planning saves a lot of time down the track.

Brainstorm different ways to achieve a goal, because there is always more than one pathway and a range of options for achieving goals.

Make sure the goal can be measured and developed into an action plan or project plan, or scheduled in a diary.

Coaches can be sometimes overly enthusiastic about what can be achieved. There is a belief that all possibilities exist. Of course this is true on a spiritual level. But it’s not always helpful for someone who sees limitations everywhere. Just because someone can do a thing, doesn’t mean they will or will want to.

At the start of a new session, ask: “How did you go with the goal?”

Let them share whatever they feel is significant. Then check in: “What did you learn? How is this different?”

3. Manage accountability and advancement

Acknowledge your client’s progress and lack thereof.

Reflect what you observe back to them.

Sometimes a client won’t see the progress because they are so fixated on what’s not working. By bringing them back to what they’ve deleted, you can give them a more holistic view of things.

It’s not as simple as “yes I got what I wanted” or “no, I didn’t get it”. There are lots of grey shades in between.

It’s up to the client what they want to own, what they want to deal with, what they want to ignore and what they want to keep.

You’re not their keeper. The coach is there to assist them achieve outcomes they desire. It’s up to the client whether they actually achieve it.

Just say, “I think you’re going to need to up your level of commitment on this one.”

And let them respond, without any emotion on your part. Detach from responsibility; let them decide.

A big part of being an effective human being is to be resilient during setbacks and challenges. Anyone can be happy, upbeat and optimistic when things are going well. Do you stick to your values and intentions when things aren’t going that well?

Our role as a coach is to help the client’s success and milestones.

To facilitate progress, at the end of each session, ask: “Is there anything else we need to bring to this session to make it more complete?”

You may also ask: “What have you decided to commit to from this session?”

Then ask: “How would you like me to follow up on these commitments?”

Book in the next session.

When you’re concluding the session, let them take the lead to express their thoughts/feelings. Acknowledge their progress, your delight in working with them.

As you practise the above steps, you’ll allow your client to explore a range of options to reach their goals. You guide them to handle setbacks and unexpected situations by going beyond their current level of thinking.

How do you inspire your clients and facilitate progress? Talk to us in the comments!

This was the last ICG core competency category. In future posts, we will talk about each competency and its use in coaching. In the meanwhile, you may download all of them here.

Click Here to Find Out More About Becoming an ICG Member
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