How to Manage Relationships with Your Clients as an ICG-Recognised Coach
Updated: Nov 23, 2021
Relationship Management explores how we conduct ourselves as coaches and leaders of our community.
It is one of the core areas you get feedback from mentors as an International Coaching Guild (ICG) Recognised Coach.
Relationship Management is further divided into three competencies:
1. Meeting the code of ethics and professional standards 2. Establishing the coaching agreement 3. Developing trust and intimacy with the client
So what does this mean and why should it interest you?
In the increasingly competitive world where life coaching is the second fastest growing industry, a professional recognition ensures you are ready to meet the demands of the market and clients.
It means you develop your coaching skills and join a community that will support and champion you.
Being recognised also means that you are in this for the long haul, and your clients can count on you. They sense your commitment to coaching because you’re walking your talk.
How to Practise Relationship Management in Your Coaching
1. Meet code of ethics and professional standards
As an ICG-recognised coach, you follow the Code of Ethics in your coaching business to successfully manage relationships with your clients.
Part of this is to apply the ICG Code of Ethics appropriately to all coaching situations.
One example of Code of Ethics is to refrain from engaging in a personal relationship with your client throughout the duration of your coaching contract.
Another example: ICG members agree to honour completing at least 20 hours of professional development annually (in theory and practice). This is a requirement for coaches who wish to continue their ICG recognition when preparing for renewal.
During your coaching journey, you will gather many secrets and ensure your client’s safety and confidentiality. Your clients will put their trust into you. They will pour their hearts out to you.
And you’ll hold these secrets forever.
Of course, there are exceptions. If your client threatens suicide, your job is to inform the police and do what you are supposed to do under the law. Same applies when there is a possibility of child abuse.
As coaches, we don’t have the same protections as clinicians. That means if you’re requested for any notes or assistance by legal authorities, you’ll have to abide.
This is because coaching is an industry, not a profession.
In all other cases, you should act as if the conversation never happened. You don’t discuss clients outside the session, ever.
Another point to touch is Professional Boundaries. Your client is not your friend – you share a coaching relationship with them. And it is “one-way” relationship – which means you, as a coach, do not share personal stuff about yourself apart from your qualifications, background or experiences only as need be.
You will also evaluate outcomes with key stakeholders and agree on expectations beforehand. If the person you’re coaching isn’t the one who’s paying, you want to be on the same page with them and deal with the specific issue at hand during the session (topic-specific coaching).
You also agree with what’s to be reported; what can and cannot be shared with the sponsor and what specific outcomes are wanted, desired or required by sponsors and stakeholders.
If you’re a new coach and you have a client who wants to get coached on X but you haven’t yet done the required training, the best course is to refer your client to a specialist.
This is particularly true in case of sexual abuse victims who want to overcome the trauma. It takes specialised training and if you don’t have it, refer them on.
Because in the end, it’s all about the client.
2. Establish coaching agreement
When setting up a session, do not over-promise what you will deliver. Communicate what’s expected and possible during the session.
Agree that you’re a coach, not a specialist who gives legal or financial advice.
For issues you believe are beyond your expertise (such as executive coaching, business coaching etc.) or if you are not able to deliver what they want, ask if you are the ideal coach for them. If not, refer them on.
It’s also worth getting clear on the coaching relationship between the two of you. For example, you may want to coach only by phone or Skype – so establish this at the very beginning.
Same goes with describing the coaching process, as well as your style of coaching to the client, because this may be the first time they are getting coached. If you like checking in with your clients every week via email, let them know so.
While you’re at it, you should also point out what’s appropriate and what’s not. Such as it’s OK for them to phone or email you with questions on specific days only.
Therefore it helps to establish outcomes and a coaching agreement at the beginning of the coaching relationship.
An agreement can be formal or informal. Joe Pane, Senior Trainer at The Coaching Institute, has never used a formal coaching agreement. He operates based on trust of a handshake. Sharon Pearson has done both. So you have a choice.
Whatever your style, make sure your client clearly understands what is being offered to them. For example, they may want you to mentor them instead of coach. Or they may like you to act as their motivator. The best way to know is to ask.
3. Develop trust and intimacy with the client
As a coach, you genuinely care about the client. You respect their desired outcomes and do your best to deliver them. Caring means recognising the patterns of thinking and behaviour they have, what needs to be changed and what may sabotage the coaching initiative in the long run.
How do you do that? For starters, you establish the coaching space for them. You ensure all phones are on silent or switched off. Have a glass of water. Check that there will be no interruptions and so on.
Part of establishing the space also includes doing a recap of the last session, checking in on any home plays and the new focus for the session.
As you do that, make sure you ask for permission to explore sensitive and new areas. A simple “Would you like to continue?” will do the job.
Some people are perfectionists. Some like to hug. Others like to gain significance by arguing. Your client is unique and you acknowledge their uniqueness by respecting their perspectives and personal style.
By doing this, you demonstrate complete certainty in your client, manage strong emotions that may come up during sessions and be there for them as a whole – not just a part where you as a coach are comfortable.
In future posts, we will explore each competency in depth. There are 15 core competencies in all, and you may download all of them here in the meanwhile.
Have you got any personal stories of meeting the above core competencies as a coach? Share your experience with us in the comments!