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The Outstanding Coach Series #4: Calibrating Your Clients and Maintaining Rapport

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As a coach, you need to be fully present for your client, recognising the indicators of where your client is at.

From there, you can adjust the communication, demonstrate genuine interest in the client, build rapport and respect the client’s experience of the world.

7 Steps to Fully Engage Your Client & Deliver an Outstanding Coaching Session

1. Be fully present to what’s said (and what’s not).

We communicate through more than just words. We communicate with our silence and our sighs, as well as our breathing.

We are, as coaches, required to be present to these indicators. This level of sensory acuity involves calibrating our client for the minute changes from moment to moment.

Be fully present to them, “all” of them.

At any point during a coaching session, you may find your clients –

  1. Tapping fingers

  2. Shifting in their seats suddenly

  3. Breathing rapidly

  4. Moving rapidly

  5. Looking in a different direction

  6. Breathing slowly

  7. Frowning

  8. Closing eyes

  9. Shaking their head

  10. Playing with an object

  11. Seeming distracted

You don’t interpret your clients based on your own beliefs. That would be a mind read. Check in and ask: “What just happened?”

You calibrate the client and then recognise the shifts in them from moment to moment. We can then determine which shifts are significant, and how to respond.

Use questions such as “what just happened” or “Just checking in…” to get a clearer picture of what meaning the client attaches to their movements.

2. Adjust communication based on effective calibration

Based on this calibration, we adjust our own communication.

For example, we may pause to allow the client to make a mental adjustment.

We may ask a clarifying question.

Or we may challenge what’s said, because their words won’t be matching their body language.

3. Demonstrate genuine interest in the client’s verbal and non-verbal communication

Show genuine interest in what the client communicates.

There is little point in “pushing on” with the coaching conversation (also known as surface-level coaching), when there are under-currents and movements communicating so much more, through body language, sighs, shrugs etc. To gauge that, put all focus on the client.

4. Build rapport based on matching and mirroring skills

Rapport is generally defined as the sense of trust and responsiveness where the coach’s words become the client’s thoughts.

To have that level of rapport is to be able to use your sensory acuity to calibrate the client, and then to be able to match and mirror the client in subtle ways which enhance the feelings of comfort and trust that the client feels.

5. Build rapport based on shared beliefs and values Rapport starts at the physical matching and mirroring of body language. But that is just one level – the other level, which is more impactful, is to match the client in terms of beliefs and values.

6. Respect your client’s map of the world

Let’s face it – we all see the world differently. We all have our own maps of reality. We interpret the world in our own little ways – we have perception filters, beliefs, values, memories and past experiences that form the map.

Needless to say, there is no “right” or “wrong” map. It just is. Your job as a coach is to not necessarily agree with someone’s map, or to get it, but respect it nevertheless.

When we let ourselves experience this, we get out of our way and begin to see the client fully.

7. Enjoy your client immensely

Have fun with your client. Let them be free to enjoy themselves and the coaching experience.

Really enjoy their quirks and views. Delight in their patterns of behaviour, even the ones that mess things up. They probably judge themselves a lot already, don’t be someone that they have to worry about.

Show you’re enjoying yourself. Don’t keep a straight face. Be human, be humoured and be delighted.

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