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The Outstanding Coach Series #3: Build Trust and Intimacy with the Client

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As coaches, we must care about our client, and appreciate that they are not there to answer our questions, but to achieve their desired outcomes.

Clients have a way of being that they prefer, which we need to respect. Not all of their attributes will be comfortable, but it’s never about the coach but the client.

An outstanding coach will respect and appreciate their client, hold the space for them and be there for them through their journey.

10 Steps to Effectively Managing Client Expectations

Maintains trust and intimacy with the client

1. Establish the coaching space for the client.

When beginning a coaching session with your client, make sure you –

  1. Check all mobile phones are off

  2. Check that call waiting is off

  3. Check that there will be no interruptions

  4. Make sure you can’t be disturbed

  5. Have a glass of water

  6. Have notes from previous session – read them over before the session

  7. Have any research you may need ready

  8. Check if there is nothing that will disturb them during the session

  9. Clear your own head of clutter so you can be fully present

Allow the client the time and space to explore all that they wish to share. Once they have finished, ask them if there’s “anything else?” If they add something, ask if there’s “anything else?”

This allows the client to explore the world in a way that has meaning to them. Keep asking “anything else” because more likely than not, the first issue the client brings to the table is not the real issue.

2. Demonstrate genuine care for the client.

Caring for the client doesn’t mean hoping they like you, or skipping to ask a question that might make a client to not like you.

Sometimes the urge to “belong” in the client’s tribe, although they may not require you to, is too great amongst new coaches. It holds the coach back from asking what needs to be asked. Perhaps even favour the question that won’t cause the client to face their own fear about rejection.

This is not caring for the client, and getting in the way of coaching. No coach can say “I care about my clients” and then not say what needs to be said.

3. Seek permission to explore sensitive and new areas.

Always ask for permission to explore new and sensitive topics. Examples include new levels of awareness that make a topic suddenly more personal than the coach and client had first realised, when the client is emotional and when other people must be discussed in the context of the topic during the session.

4. Establish and keeps all promises and commitments

Trust is the true value of all business. It is the most valuable asset a person has. Trust is earned and maintained through behaviours which are seen as consistent with what is agreed, either formally or informally (implied).

5. Respect the client’s perspectives and personal style

An outstanding coach demonstrates respect for their client, their learning style and their preferences. They appreciate the fact that some people are more reflective, some more active in their approach to learning. Whilst it makes sense to challenge your client to allow them to experience growth, be sure to respect their preferred method of learning so they feel validated.

6. Be comfortable with managing strong emotions and client uncertainty

Generally, humans are okay with emotions such as happy, gleeful, interested and other “safe” emotions.

But sometimes, your clients need to experience strong emotion around you, to see if they can trust you. It is not always, and not all strong emotion is a test. It is with some clients, sometimes.

As their coach, you got to be open to any and all emotion without getting affected by it. Angry is always better than apathy – it tells you the client is emotionally engaged in taking this journey.

7. Be open to not knowing and confidently explore new perspectives

Coaching is one of an adventure and the coach needs to be ready to take it with their client, and be OK to “not knowing” and “not having all the answers”.

Getting to the “I don’t know” in coaching is a good thing. And the faster it happens, the better.

8. Be available for all that the client stands for

Some clients are detail-focussed. If as a coach, you are all about the big picture, what do you do?

Others care only about results. If you are about feeling connected, how do you coach them?

Ultimately, we, as coaches, must build enough behavioural flexibility to coach the client. It’s up to us to adapt to our clients.

9. Demonstrate complete certainty in the client

It’s all about the client – see them as whole and able. As resourceful, mature adults. When they are not acting that way, a great coach will know it’s in them and have complete certainty that they will prevail.

10. Bring an insatiable curiosity

Asking questions in the hope that you’ll know what’s going on is not insatiable curiosity. It’s about needing more certainty, it’s worried about getting it wrong.

New coaches mistake this with “bringing curiosity” – when in reality they are circling.

In the beginning, this is how it will be. After about 6 or 7 sessions, a coach needs to get rid of that pattern of asking the same boring questions and start asking more questions.

The only way to find out how curious your client wants you to be is to take it too far in the beginning so as to realise how far you can actually go.

It takes a realisation that it’s never about us as a coach but always about the client. This is how a client breaks through the boundary conditions. It can’t happen by asking questions that are well within their awareness – you have to stretch them enough.

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