REINVENT YOUR FUTURE

Are your clients ready to be coached?

Whether you're coaching individuals, groups, or teams, is important to discover before the start of a coaching relationship if your clients are ready to be coached. This can often be hard to assess. Listed below are five traits I pay particular attention to when seeking to discern if a client is ready.

1 | ENGAGEMENT
I look for clients that exhibit energy. They are willing to dive into conversation, ponder questions being asked, and eager to see some form of transformation materialize in their life or ministry.

2 | OWNERSHIP
The client exhibits a sense an urgency make something happen and they know that they must play the primary role. They own the results of their words and actions - both the successes and failures.

3 | UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT THE ROLE OF THE COACH
Coachable clients acknowledge that they are the source of the wisdom that is generated. They recognize that the coach is going to follow their lead and ask thought-provoking questions that honor the client's intentions. They avoid seeking to turn the coach into a counselor, a consultant, or a mentor.

4 | TENACITY/PERSISTENCE
The best clients have the energy and fortitude to "tough it out," do the hard things that get different results. They recognize that their preferred future requires different approaches, different practices, and different conversations than they've had in the past and are willing to faster and more frequently in order to succeed sooner. They are sufficiently hungry for a different way of being and doing that they are willing to do whatever is needed to get a different result.

5 |HUMILITY
Clients who are ready for coaching are humble.  They are open to new ideas and approaches. They recognize that they don't have all the answers and can learn from other people and situations. They acknowledge, perhaps even expect, that there is a better way for moving forward.

What are some of the traits you look for to determine if a client is ready to be coached?
If you feel that a client isn't ready, when and how would you share your reservations?
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36 Comments


Mike Marsh - April 22nd, 2021 at 7:56am

In addition to what is described in the post I also look for the following:

- A willingness to change and grow;

- Ability to be self-reflective;

- A desire for more than just fixing a problem;

- Some sense of or openness to an interior life;

- A willingness to work at least as hard as I will;

- Not taking themselves (or me) too seriously;



My first thought about how to share my reservations that someone is not yet ready for coaching is a question and contradiction. Is it possible to coach someone to see that they aren't ready for coaching and then help them find what might be appropriate help. I also think a conversation about the distinctions between coaching, mentoring, consulting, counseling, and spiritual direction might give them more insight as to what would be most helpful. I might also consider a brief follow up letter confirming that there is no ongoing relationship and providing resources and referrals.

Dan - March 10th, 2022 at 8:55pm

In addition to all the salient characteristics detailed in the blog I really like two additional traits lifted up by Mike: the ability to be self-reflective and having some sense or openness to an interior life.

Jessie Bazan - April 22nd, 2021 at 11:09am

The ownership point is especially important. I can imagine coaching scenarios where the client is expecting the coach or other colleagues to take on the brunt of the work. Without a strong sense of ownership and drive, the client will likely not be successful. At the same time, I'm glad humility is listed as an important trait. There needs to be a balance between claiming the issue as one's own and being open to growth.



In determining if a client is ready to be coached, I would look for flexibility, adaptability, good listening skills, and an eagerness to enter into the process. If a client is not in this space yet, I would have a direct conversation with them to talk through next steps.



Michelle Townsend de López - March 12th, 2022 at 7:43pm

Jessie I appreciate your assessment as I was also thinking that directness is the best approach and going through the steps adds the clarity and readiness for coaching now or perhaps at agreed later time to allow for client to address current barrier then can own if they are able to do that then at "agreed" or selective time could revisit the coaching and I would probably be very clear a 30 day verbal contract with specific items like prework between session built in to ensure they follow through and help with follow through to gauge readiness for the desired change/outcome.

Sherry Villanueva - March 20th, 2022 at 5:52pm

Michelle, I also agree that being direct in what we are seeing or lack thereof, is a way in which to not only get to the point, and at the same time showing that you care about the clients success in the coaching process. This can play a part in building trust in moving forward or the client returning to coaching at some future time.

Bill - April 24th, 2021 at 1:45pm

I guess my thoughts about if a client or person is ready to be coached would be....



1. Open to a journey rather than a quick "fix it' type approach.

2. Someone who is certainly thoughtful and self-reflective.

3. Open to change

4. Excited about a new future or at least changing things up

5. Is a go-getter or at least energy to pursue change



My reservations would be....



1. Someone who is a "know it all" and who thinks they are experts but in a harsh way not in a thoughtful way.



2. Someone who is very negative and or too cynical



3. Not willing to explore new possibilities



4. Someone who is "too needy" or at least someone who assumes that I will do all the work and follow up and research for them.



I think I would go through a few sessions and if I notice some major red flags I guess maybe have a conversation along the way. But I would hope that an initial conversation or interview at the outset would help prevent any problems later.

Nathan Luitjens - March 10th, 2022 at 11:29am

I really like the language of a "journey" rather than a "quick fix." Like any journey that requires change there are going to be some starts and stops along the way and the client may find themselves in some unexpected situations. The willingness to take the journey is a really good indicator of whether or not the coaching relationship has the potential to be a success.

Dan - March 10th, 2022 at 8:56pm

The understanding of this work as a journey or ongoing process is very helpful.

Sherry Villanueva - March 20th, 2022 at 5:54pm

Dan I agree about the coaching process being a journey. While we look to find a client that is "eager" it's important not to make the coaching process a fast marathon to the desired future.

Tom Smith - April 3rd, 2022 at 10:34pm

Building on that Dan, for me, the journey is where life is lived so in addition to the work involved there ought to be joy and hope. We never really get to the destination this side of heaven and even in heaven I believe there is growing and learning in abundance-without the sorrow.

Ladd - March 22nd, 2022 at 12:10pm

I never thought about a red flag being,. "Someone who is very negative and or too cynical." It is amazing how ones attitude can really effect a coaching relationship.

Amelia - March 22nd, 2022 at 4:27pm

Two things I am drawn to: approach as a journey rather than a quick fix and the "too needy". I appreciate your list of reservations. Thank You!

Carl Horton - April 27th, 2021 at 7:28am

This is a really helpful list and these five areas really cover it. In my own words I would look for this in client readiness: motivation, self-awareness, knowledge and appreciation of the coaching relationship, determination, and a willingness to take risks, fail and learn. In my work with cohorts I have found the initial one-on-one meeting as a helpful way to ascertain client motivation and investment.

One thing that has helped me in our training is when we have talked about "dialogue partners" and made this distinction from coaching. I think a lot of people just want someone to talk to and don't necessarily want or intend to set or achieve goals. Watching for signs of being a "dialogue partner" is a good "red flag" to whether this is someone who wants a coach.

Kate Dalton - April 27th, 2021 at 12:59pm

I like Mike's - sense of or openness to an interior life. I think so much of this is being willing to shift perspective and self-narrative and if someone doesn't seem to have a sense or curiousity about that, I think it would be hard to coach them. The ability to articulate and explore what they want to achieve or change I think is important. If we can't come to some clarity to help guide us, it will be hard for coaching to be effective.



In terms of not being ready, I think having introductory conversations about what coaching is and isn't is important to do in the first meeting or pre-meeting. I think also addressing any lack of engagement or ability to take responsibility quickly (if it comes up) is important.



I disagree with regards to Carl's comment about conversation partners. I think someone can be receiving coaching in a conversation partner like relationship if I remember that my role is to ask questions that prompt self-awareness, discovery, new knowledge. My experience of coaching is that I don't always have a concrete goal outside of myself that I working on but I am still evolving during our sessions.

Mary Eide - March 10th, 2022 at 4:20pm

Kate, I haven't started coaching yet (other than briefly in class), so I appreciate your reminding us about the importance of that introductory conversations about what coaching is and isn't...and also addressing any lack of engagement or ability to take responsibility. Having been a client in years past, I find myself wondering how frustrated my coach must have been at times when I didn't prioritize the tasks I'd identified...and then show up the next time with nothing done.

Amelia - March 22nd, 2022 at 4:28pm

Mary, I think the same thing!

Nathan Luitjens - March 10th, 2022 at 11:19am

I think the thing I would look for in a client, besides the things that have been mentioned above, is just a willingness to change. Sometimes we just aren't willing to risk the challenges and frustrations that we don't know, for the challenges and frustrations that we already have. If a person is simply not open to new experiences and willing to experiment, no amount of coaching will help.

Along with that, I think there also has to be an openness to the possibility of failure and to learning from those failures to see what else might be possible. If a person is not willing to try anything for fear of failing, then it will be impossible for that person to experience any movement.

Mary Eide - March 10th, 2022 at 4:15pm

Nathan, I think you brought to light a very important factor that can prevent a person from benefitting from coaching...the fear of failure...the fear of trying something new. We can get frozen in the fear of failing at something, whether it's from a perfectionism mindset, a people pleaser who never wants to disappoint, or those who have been humiliated when they've tried something new in the past. I've so appreciated learning about how some companies celebrate failures (like tech companies), and the encouragement we are receiving from our church leadership to just experiment.

Dan - March 10th, 2022 at 8:57pm

Nathan, as you note, the willingness to experiment is key.

Jason D. Bland - March 16th, 2022 at 5:54pm

Nathan, I think you're spot on! The client must be willing to make the changes needed for growth. If there's no willingness then nothing will happen and the coach-client relationship will be all talk and no action. As a coach we must help the client move from just taking notes to putting these words/ideas into action, which is why it's so important to highlight practical steps and accountability at the end of each session. If these steps fail each session then perhaps it's time to address whether that client is truly ready to be coached.

Mary Eide - March 10th, 2022 at 4:09pm

What are some of the traits you look for to determine if a client is ready to be coached?

If you feel that a client isn't ready, when and how would you share your reservations?

1. Are they really looking to be transformed, to embrace necessary changes.

2. They are ready to put the time, creativity, energy, and effort into coming up with the the answers, and take ownership of the tasks that need to be done -vs- rely on the coach to be the answer giver and planner.

3. They are ready to make time in between coaching sessions to be accountable for getting things done (including involving others who can assist with accountability and the work)



If ANY of this is missing, then the first step would be to ask what is stopping them...ask questions to make them dig deeper into what is blocking their thoughts, actions, and willingness to change.



If the client has had success in the past with coaching, it could be the approach the coach is taking or questions being asked. So asking the client what the coach has done/said in the past that has helped them...and what has not.



Finally, if all else fails...it may be the wrong time for the client to be coached. They may benefit from some other helping service (mentor consultant, therapist), another coach, or to disengage for a time if their schedule/life circumstances are a big barrier to the work.

Michelle Townsend de López - March 12th, 2022 at 7:38pm

If someone doesn't do the prework between sessions and tends to have excuses, I would ask what is keeping them from completing the work and whether this is the right time to embark on coaching. I might suggest that if they are are able to name it or make excuses suggest they take some time to determine if this is a priority or if there is something else that they want to focus on. I would also ask if they think I'm a good fit for them, so that if there is some underlying piece that is hindering their progress we can address that as well.



Also, if I felt that what they were looking for was a therapist or consultant I would again describe the coaching relationship and offer what the other two offer and get clarity from client what is the best path for preferred outcome.

Paul Backstrom - March 14th, 2022 at 12:33pm

I think people not knowing what coaching is, is where we are probably going to see the most confusion. I wonder even when we tell people about coaching, if they will really understand it. For me it will be important if during my coaching session they seem to be leaning towards putting me more in a therapist role that I remind them of what coaching is about. As we have been doing our coaching sessions, I have been very intentional about making sure I am coaching and not acting like a chaplain.

Paul Backstrom - March 14th, 2022 at 12:42pm

If you feel that a client isn't ready, when and how would you share your reservations?



I think it is very important if I don't feel the client is ready for coaching is to take the time right away to discuss it with them. As much as I would love to steer them towards being ready for coaching, they need to be ready or they will not respond to coaching.



I would hope to talk to the person over phone over zoom, so I could see or hear their reaction. It wouldn't be about shaming them but just telling them what i am noticing and asking how they are feeling. Maybe they are really stressed and right now isn't the time. If we approach them about it they might be able to recognize this fact and then set themselves up for success later on. I think letting them know that Not now is a good answer and doesn't mean they failed but that right now isn't a good time for them.

Jason D. Bland - March 16th, 2022 at 5:50pm

Curiosity and commitment are the two primary factors that come to mind when I think of a potential client. I’m looking for clients who are genuinely curious about the coaching process, if they’ve never experienced it, and for clients who are curious about the impact it can have on their personal & professional lives. This helps fuel the fire within them to start the coaching journey and pursue genuine change. This curiosity also leads to a commitment to seek change in their lives, to explore new opportunities, and seek new perspectives. Without a commitment to these things, the client will quickly fizzle out and lose all pretenses to wanting to have a healthy coach-client relationship.

If I find a client isn’t ready, it’s incumbent upon me as the Coach to hold them accountable to this fact and address it with them immediately.

Sherry Villanueva - March 20th, 2022 at 5:48pm

Some of the traits I would look for in determining if a client is ready to be coached would be:

1. They have an excited energy and eager anticipation of learning new things about themselves and aren't shy about asking questions and formulating new thoughts on what is being discussed.

2. The client exhibits a willingness to take the lead in the coaching process.

3. The client is not hesitant to take ownership of their actions, either negative or positive.

4. The client is not dependent on looking to the coach to take the lead or come up with directives or answers.

5. The client shows an inner fortitude in pushing through difficult conversations and awareness and sees the process as "worth it" to get to their preferred future.

6. The client doesn't see themselves as lacking if they don't have answers or direction but instead are eager for the opportunity to discover new ways of gaining insight and awareness.



The client isn't ready when ....

1. They consistently demean themselves and the coaching process.

2. They constantly second guess themselves and are apologetic for "not knowing"

3. Blame shifting

4. Try to take a back seat to the coach

5. Ready to "quit" when they find it hard to push through negative beliefs about themselves and others.

6. They remain "stuck" in an old pattern of "playing it safe."



If a client appears to be resistant or hesitant in engaging in the coaching process after a reasonable amount of time and attempts by the coach to help them move forward, the coach would need to skillfully and respectfully share their observations with helpful examples and ask the client to clarify what are the meanings of those observations. I think it is important too that the approach by the coach be one of curiosity (assuming there is a valid reason) and inviting the client to disseminate what has been observed from their perspective.



Brian Hooper - March 29th, 2022 at 2:41pm

Thanks Sherry. I agree that blame shifting is a good indicator that a client is not ready to be coached. The client perhaps does not recognize their function in the problem and might be stuck in not seeing a bigger picture or not ready to dream about possible positive future outcomes. However, if the client would be engaged they might be ready to recognize that they are part of the problem.

Ladd - March 22nd, 2022 at 12:16pm

I think some of the things I would look for in a potential client are:

Not looking for a quick fix or as me as the fixer

someone who is a self-starter and willing to do the work

Someone who is flexible and therefore willing to be open to change and experimenting with new things

Lastly, someone who is willing to take ownership and not seek ways to pass the buck. Future thinking.



If someone is not a fit, I would ask them to share with me what they think makes a good client and what doesn't. I would ask where they would put some of my concerns without telling them that they are my concerns about them. I would then dig deeper into asking them to reflect on if any of the concerns they lifted are areas that they could see them falling into.

Amelia - March 22nd, 2022 at 4:41pm

Hi Ladd! I'm not necessarily replying to your comment. I'm actually posting because I'm trouble making my own comment. Smiles!



There are many good observations and posts in this blog! In assessing readiness I look for



1. Does the client have a sense of self-awareness?

2. Is there a sense of adventure into a creative process that may bring about new awareness?

3. Does the client engage in between action steps?

4. I also look for a sense of desire to live into a different preferred future.

5. An inner self reflective life

6. Playing the role of victim consistently





The conversation I would have if I thought someone wasn't ready or willing I would state "I've noticed....what rocks are in the way of making progress?" Or, I would be direct and ask them if this is working? And if not, is there something we could start, stop, and keep? I do like Ladd's tactic of asking them what they see as the qualities of a good client.

Brian Hooper - March 29th, 2022 at 2:55pm

In determining if a client is ready to be coached I would first share what coaching is and is not. As we shared it is not counseling, mentorship, or therapy. I would help them to understand that they would be the expert in the situation and that as coach I do not have all the answers.



In prospective clients I look for an excitement about forward moving plans. I look for a willingness to be open to new options and ideas. They might recognize they feel stuck, but I would like them to recognize that new possibilities might be achieved in our time together. I would want the client to display a willingness to put some time in the coaching relationship and not just sit on learnings and takeaways.

Tom Smith - April 3rd, 2022 at 10:31pm

One characteristic I like to see is awareness. Is the person aware of being stuck or aware that what they've tried hasn't led to the desired outcomes. Are they open and aware that new possibilities exist for moving toward their preferred futures.



Also, connecting with points 2 and 3 above concerns the person's understanding of the word "coach". Athletic coaches assume the athlete is prepared to lift weights and sweat, etc. so that they can perform at their peak. The athletic coaches I've experienced don't waste time on players who don't want to improve and develop and do the individual hard work needed to succeed.



I also like to see if there is a sense of humor about the person. Change is challenging and laughter helps smooth out the bumpy times.

Kim Boldt - November 14th, 2022 at 8:15pm

I would be looking for ownership and tenacity as primary indicators, with humility being a strong secondary. I would ask questions by session 3 if a lack of progress indicated a lack of willingness to change, or to take responsibility for action and outcomes. These could be more curious questions that progress to more directive questions. A second step would be to clarify the coaching relationship and expectations.

Jeff Smith - November 17th, 2022 at 3:35pm

I feel like a lot of these blog questions are written for people who are already coaching. I haven't done any coaching so it's hard to say what I look for yet. My guess is I'd look for what the post says and someone who is willing to trust me as their coach and who comes to sessions ready to do the work and puts forth their best effort.

Lea Kone - November 20th, 2022 at 3:27pm

I think the key difference here for me is - is being able to differentiate between people who are seeking "help" or "support" rather than those who are eager to be coached. I think that at the beginning of my coaching career I might be prone to taking on any client who is interested in the service, but this blog helps me to see that as the coach I have a role in helping to identify if they are a good potential coachee based upon these indicators.

Liz Miller - November 21st, 2022 at 4:08pm

I would look for clients who are able to self reflect - to identify what is their work/responsibility and what is someone else's work/responsibility. I would look for people who are open to change or who have a history of making change in their life. I am excited to partner with clients who have a positive outlook, or who even in tough moments or challenging situations recognize that things won't always stay that way. I think you should share reservations you have ideally when you have them. It does not benefit the client or the coach to hold back or keep moving forward in a direct that does not lead to positive transformation.

Wendy Petrochko - November 28th, 2022 at 4:07pm

Traits that I would be looking for in a client: someone who is open and wants to be transparent, someone that desires to be seen and heard, someone who can trust someone, and someone who has a desire to change. I think about Jesus asking , "Do you want to be healed" Some people really don't want to change. If I feel the client is not ready, I would pray and ask the Holy Spirit to confirm that and to give me the words to be share what I am sensing from them and then share with them that perhaps it is not the time yet for them to be working with a coach. I had a similar experience with a care receiver, I had extended grace many times but they were showing me that they were not ready to receive care because they were not putting forth any effort in the caring relationship.

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