Tips for promoting client engagement, even from reluctant clients, include:
- Clarify their ideal purpose – ask them what they would like to work on.
- Acknowledge their concern/discomfort and inquire into the nature of the concern. Generate ideas with them on how to best deal with the concern.
- Describe it as a joint or shared process (use ‘we’ instead of ‘you’) and make it clear that coaching is not disciplinary (if that is a concern, maybe you shouldn’t call it coaching).
- Coach with confidence.
- Tie the coaching in to what’s important to them and how it can help them achieve that goal.
At the start of every coaching engagement, identify your client’s goals for the coaching session by using open-ended questions like:
- What do you want to achieve with the coaching?
- What do you want out of this coaching session?
- What do you need help with?
- What do you see as the purpose of this coaching?
Distinguish between the client’s goal/purpose for the coaching sessions (which may be to understand and manage your negative reactions) from their goals in a particular life situation they are facing, which may form the topic of discussion in the coaching session. In that life situation, their goal may be to get a better job with a better boss. Both levels of the client’s purpose are relevant to your coaching mandate.
When we listen to clients as a coach:
- Try to identify where they are, where they want to be, and what is the gap that needs to be bridged/filled.
- Listen for clues to their deeper purpose for the coaching.
- Actively draw out a deeper level of self-reflection and self-understanding with exploratory questions.
- Listen for clues to the client’s challenges.
- Identify any assumptions they might be making.
- Listen to what their inner voice might be saying.
When speaking to coaching clients, frame comments as factual observations rather than judgments/conclusions. Hold up an objective mirror, and let the client consider and analyze what the image means. Follow-up with questions to encourage further self-reflection by the client.