Are your clients ready to be coached?
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.
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.
QUESTIONS | APPLICATIONS
- 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?
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.
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.
I agree with some sense of an interior life. Self-reflective people will be more inclined to participate fully in the coaching process.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The understanding of this work as a journey or ongoing process is very helpful.
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.
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.
I like that language, too, Nathan! Self-discovery and growth are never a destination, but ALWAYS a journey.
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.
Agreed! Inviting them to reset beforehand is huge.
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!
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.
great rephrasing of this Carl. I think I would piggy back on your cohort comments that clients have to commit to the time involved and to making the coaching sessions (individual or cohort) a priority, not just something to fit in if nothing else comes up. I also think that carving out time to reflect and act on the work that has happened in the cohort or individual session can be overlooked. The session is just the beginning.
I certainly agree with all of the traits listed in the blog. I would add curiosity. Curious people seek out new solutions to problems. I would also add discipline. Without discipline, a coachee will not be on time for appointments, commit to a plan of action, or complete next steps.
If I felt a client wasn't ready to be coached, I would address it immediately because unless there is transformation, coaching isn't happening. There is no sense in wasting their time or mine, when perhaps a different service may be more beneficial. We can always revisit the conversation about coaching when and if they are better prepared to take on the kind of responsibility required for this practice.
100% agree about the priority! I'm experiencing some issues with priorities right now, and it's maddening! Seriously, no one is going to benefit from a casual approach!
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.
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.
Mary, I think the same thing!
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.
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.
Nathan, as you note, the willingness to experiment is key.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1000% this! I think that because we are all fairly used to the helping professions, there is a sense of, "Sure, I'd love the opportunity for this conversation and support" when in reality what will really propel a coaching relationship forward is an attitude of , "I am ready to put in the work to achieve my goals".
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.
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.
It's hard to top what's already listed. I'd also perhaps add I can tell a client is ready to be coached if they are willing to write down any compelling takeaways or new questions during the session, and/or that they have an open spirit going in. Often when someone is in the space of frustration they end up pacing so much emotionally that the coaching session becomes a counseling session.
If I feel that a client isn't ready, I draw that line through warm boundaries that say, "It's okay if you're not up for what this time would be. Let me know when you are ready and we can then proceed." I would then keep and eye out for an open spirit and willingness to let the structure of the coaching session be healthy.
I echo a lot of what has already been said! I think for readiness--it might sound silly, but a stuckness feels necessary. If you are in a situation where you know what needs to be done but are resistant to doing it, I am curious if coaching would be helpful--I would welcome thoughts on that! If you really were feeling stuck, I feel like the powerful questions of coaching would 'get the juices flowing' to find a path towards forward movement.
I love Jim's question of, "convince me" as a model for sharing your reservations on coaching someone who isn't ready. It seems as the coach, our role is to engage the client with the right questions to help them see that they may not yet be ready and identify steps that could move them towards readiness.
Stuckness is absolutely a signal of readiness (if they don't like being stuck, that it). Some people benefit (weirdly) from being stuck, and the resistance to moving forward is what is keeping them there. In that situation, I would imagine coaching might not improve anything. But for those who are stuck and exasperated by it, coaching would be a great way to "get their juices flowing," I would think.
I agree with you and Jim on the "convince me" model as well. I used to tell my kids they had to give me five solid reasons why we should do something they wanted that I had said no to, and then I would give it more careful consideration. I feel like I could use that in coaching as well! ;)
I think tenacity is one of the most important traits. People who are ready to change are also willing to work hard for it despite various challenges and possible setbacks.
Other things I look for are a kind of place where the client feels like they've got nothing to lose and everything to gain from coaching. It's not rock bottom at all- just an idea that they can continue to grow from the place they are to the place they want to be.
So many good ideas here. I wonder if readiness could be dependent on what problem they are bringing in to solve or an issue they want to move forward on. I wonder how often someone comes in thinking they want to accomplish something that is a few steps away from what they realistically are ready for or have the capacity to deal with. Maybe when addressing the readiness issue there could be some space for talking through what they could potentially work on first before they are ready to tackle the thing they think they are there for.
Great wondering, Mel! In our practice coaching sessions, it takes a bit for me to determine what I really want to tackle or what I am ready to tackle. Consistent coaching and client relationships would hopefully allow the client to prepare and ready themselves for "the thing they think they are there for."
What are some of the traits you look for to determine if a client is ready to be coached?
They show up and are willing to be vulnerable, acknowledge the places where they can be stretched and are engaged in the coaching process.
If you feel that a client isn't ready, when and how would you share your reservations?
If a client appears to not be ready for coaching, I would ask what circumstances need to change for them to be ready to take the next step or if they do nothing, what will happen, following up with how would they feel if nothing changes vs. how would they feel if they started to see change. If they are unable to distinguish the difference, I would suggest to them that maybe they are not ready to be coached.
I think being combative or defensive immediately is a clear sign that someone isn't ready to be coached. I'm always surprised when someone seeks coaching, but then pushes back on every question. I see this happen in cohorts too. I also think a willingness to commit to the time and the work is important. Coaching can't work if they don't show up and don't follow up by doing the work. Working in a ministry setting though, how can we redirect folks if coaching isn't working without getting into sticky situations?
While I was reading through this, it gave me a great idea to look for these 5 aspects at the beginning of a coaching relationship. While the person may not have all of these, I would look for queues in at least 4 aspects listed here. I usually look for perseverance and excitement in clients.
If I see that the client is not ready I would also formulate some questions, like what would it take for them to work on the goal that they want to achieve.
A person has to want to grow and change and is willing to invest time and money to accomplish both. I listen for hunger cues that tell me a person is hungry and open to trying something new to achieve a new outcome.
If I feel a person isn't ready for the challenging coaching will bring, I may say they seem to have reigned themselves to their situation and see what they say. If they voice that they feel stuck, I might ask if they are willing to do the work it will take to bring about a different outcome. If they are not ready to be coached but need some help, I may say as much and ask if they would like a referral (to a counselor, for example).