A Coaching Power Tool Created by Elaine Lee
(Health and Wellness Coach, SINGAPORE)
Fostering mutual trust, respect and understanding are fundamental in coaching to engage your clients. As a coach, I need to be constantly reviewing, reflecting and looking for better ways of engagement or commitment towards my client’s needs and desired to make a change in his/her perspectives in life. Every client is unique in his/her personal agenda henceforth, building a good rapport, establishing trust and intimacy with my clients is essential for coaching sessions. It takes two to “Tango” in striking a chord.
The coaching movement is gaining steam at companies that emphasize engagement, according to Dan Harris, workplace insight analyst at Quantum Workplace in Omaha, Neb. “There has to be that strategic buy-in that it’s essentially worth their effort, time and strategizing to collectively think about the benefits that may be yielded from a coaching culture,” he said.
To be effective in coaching, a coach needs to identify four key components for mutual understanding in enhancing a successful engagement.
Identify the levels of Engagement
The level of awareness to differentiate “Engagement vs. Disengagement” is essential in knowing your client better. For fully engaged clients, they are more productive and displayed a positive attitude. On the other hand, disengaged clients tend to be disruptive, negative in their thoughts and beliefs. By identifying the levels of engagement and addressing the client’s unique needs in enhancing the coaching style and benefit each other from different coaching objectives.
Recognize your engaged clients
Focus on your client’s agenda and acknowledged his/her strengths, performances, emotions and motivations whenever appropriate. Know your client’s needs, take time to understand his/her aspirations and provide a safe space and supportive environment for a coaching session at all times.
Nip Disengagement in the bud.
Disengagement is a killer to the entire coaching session. If the client is displaced with negative thoughts and beliefs, coaching can be a challenge and unable to fulfill the needs of the client. As such, coaching may end prematurely with the undesired outcomes.
In my field of practice as a career coach, my clients came from all walks of life; Professionals, Managers, Executives, and Technicians (PMETs) and Unemployment. Engagement requires mutual trust, understanding and walking the journey with the clients in giving guidance and providing essential support. As a coach, it is important to break the ice of my clients so that they feel at ease and comfortable to share their thoughts, inner feelings and emotions more openly.
However, it may not be the case for some of my clients as he/she may have his/her reservation. As such, disengagement may occur when there is a tension between the coach and client since he/she is not willing to open up to you. Others can be due to mental blockages such as stress at the workplace, domestic issues or personal problems which may hinder productive/ effective coaching sessions. At times, I do come across some situations whereby my clients can be uncooperative, demanding and not taking ownership seriously whilst coaching them.
As a coach, I must bear in mind to define the coaching agreement clearly and set the boundaries right, the roles of coach versus client at the beginning of each individual coaching session. The coaching agreement should be communicated clearly that it is not a consultancy, counseling nor therapy. It is also based on the best interest of the client’s agenda. Once the boundaries are set, the clients will have better clarity like have a sense of self-awareness of his/her roles and responsibilities, taking ownership of his/her action plans, ability to discover his/her strengths and uncover the underlying beliefs/needs of oneself. Coaching presence should be demonstrated at all times in creating mutual trust, cordial yet spontaneous relationship with the client.
The coach versus client relationship is critical for cooperation, guidance, and accountability. As a coach, I strongly advocate in keeping my client-focused and holding him/her accountable in setting their goals/objectives. The client has a role to play in setting the agenda, identifying the goals and committing throughout the coaching processes. Establishing trust and intimacy with the clients enhance better engagement in creating a safe and confidential space for mutual respect and trust. In the nutshell, believing in your clients’ability that they can solve their own problem or provide a solution to an issue once trust is notable.
Conversely, disengagement occurs when the client displayed disinterest, not taking ownership, no progress in the coaching session and accountability is absent. At times, it becomes derailed when there is no mutual understanding and agreement between the roles of the coach versus the client. In an unfavorable situation, the responsibility of the client becomes overshadowed hence there is a tendency of an obligation to take ownership. As a consequence, there may be a situation you over-stepped into the boundary of your client rather than allowing to be accountable for his/her actions.
“Being responsible means, you have a sense of moral or ethical duty to something or someone which may imply an obligation to do something. An obligation is simply a mandate to do something that does not connote any moral or ethical dimension. Dec 19, 2013”
Acknowledging your client whenever he/she has a sense of self-awareness, self-discovering and self-management is essential to know your client well and understand his/her needs. As such, your client is able to explore the possibilities of his/her strengths in generating ideas, identify their weaknesses to close the gaps and uncover their underlying beliefs to heighten or arouse the interest of your client for better engagement
As a professional, a coach should “Practice what you preach” which is a basic foundation in setting the principle guidelines and ethical values. Regardless of social, cultural and environmental background, a coach should display an exemplary model such as “Walk the talk” as part of building mutual trust, rapport, and respect with your client.
In today’s coaching profession, the skills and approaches used are clearly defined by the International Coach Federation as we should comply with the code of ethics and standard guidelines set by the foundation. Whereby, the Gold Standard in Coaching should demonstrate the following competencies:
To be fully engaged with your client, he/she feels emotionally connected to while ignoring the others during and throughout the coaching session. Feeling a sense of security holds most of the client’s retention and loyalty which are influenced by his/her emotional factor. Based on research, behavioral economists believe that rational considerations actually account for less than one-third of human decisions and behaviors. This means that the majority of a customer’s buying decisions are made from the “heart” rather than from the head. Hence, emotional connectedness is key to engage your client successfully.
“Customer engagement — which Gallup describes as a customer’s emotional or psychological attachment to a brand, product, or company — is the definitive predictor of business growth.”
On the contrary, indifferent or disengaged clients can be emotionally and rationally neutral or detached which can jeopardize the entire coaching session. Therefore, defining the purpose or agenda of coaching is essential in establishing the coaching agreement for the best interest of your client. Know your client well and clarify the importance of key elements of the coaching agenda is necessary for a coaching agreement.
Creating a safe and supportive environment that promotes mutual understanding, trust and respect for every ongoing session. Coaching presence should be demonstrated at all times for building rapport and gaining confidence in working with your client. Give space and allows the client to express his/her thoughts, feeling and self-discovery to uncover his/her underlying beliefs. Self-management plays an important role yet not be overpowered or enmeshed by the client’s emotions. Empathy plays a part in engaging your client but not “over-empathetic” which may pose a risk in crossing the boundaries and jeopardize the coaching process.
Setting the boundaries right at the beginning of the coaching session is important to be aligned on the “Do and Don’t” as a coach versus client during the coaching agreement. Effective communication skills involve two-way communication; active listening, non-verbal communication, asking questions that are clear and succinct, clarifying thoughts/beliefs and summarising what had been discussed and agreed upon are fundamental to engage your client. Be empathetic to show you care and gather constructive feedback whenever appropriate in order to be connected and resonated with your client. Establishing trust, respect and intimacy with your client are part of the coaching presence for better engagement during the coaching session.
Encourage your client to have a safe and open discussion based on his/her agenda and accept his/her strengths and weaknesses to explore alternative options in closing the gap. Always believes in your client’s ability to solve his /her problem and holds him/her accountable in setting the goals/objectives. Helping your client to uncover the underlying beliefs that evoke thoughts, feelings, and actions so as to heighten or strengthen his/her ability to act and achieve on the importance of his/her desired outcome.
Based on my diverse background as a certified nurse in general nursing followed by marketing of healthcare and nutrition products to the medical professionals and ended my last designation to spearhead the Call Center. I have all the assets and advantages to use these competencies to be connected and engaged with my clients from all walks of life. Besides, various exposure, fine knowledge, and rich experiences, I can help and support my client to influence or create an impact in his/her life through value-added my services in reaching out to a vast majority of the clientele. Coaching requires your client to resonate well and stay connected in the coaching arena/journey. With my nursing background, in-depth knowledge specialized in healthcare and nutrition requirements and exposure in the corporate communication industry have widened my scope in various sectors that developed my strengths over the years to share, care, encourage, guide and support my clients by adopting various approaches whenever appropriate.
Here is a real case scenario to share on one of my clients, he was totally lost due to recent retrenchment. In the first coaching session, he was rather tensed, confused and lost his sense of direction. As a coach, I need to “break the ice” so that he can feel at ease, confident to share on his experiences and able to connect with me.
In order to set the boundaries right at the beginning, I also need to set a ground rule in defining the roles and responsibilities as a coach versus the client. He began to open up and felt more at ease soon after 10 to 15 mins of the coaching session. Creating a safe and secure environment in coaching is fundamental to engage him completely. Coaching presence is essential as it takes “Two to Tango” and “Dance in the Moment” with him. Active listening and maintaining an open discussion help to ease the tension, address his issues and support his action plans in taking his ownership. Listen intently to understand his needs, identify his strengths and weaknesses in closing the gap and explore to uncover his underlying beliefs that inhibit his development. Realizing his self-awareness and self-reflection to evoke mindfulness and providing the support and opportunity to transform by looking at things from a different perspective in life.
Creating awareness helps to integrate and accurately evaluate multiple sources of information to have a perception or make the interpretation that enables your client to gain awareness for an achieved or the desired outcome. At the same time, your client can generate better ideas or options to uncover his/her needs. No action means “Action speaks louder than words” therefore, it involved your client to design action for a commitment in planning and setting his/her goals.
Using tools like “Wheel of Life” exercise helps to engage and determine if your client has a balanced or unfulfilled need in any aspect of his/her life. When one aspect of your life becomes the focus and the others are neglected (i.e. the wheel is out of balance to identify the gaps). As a wellness coach, I can apply a simple exercise to engage my client in identifying the areas for self-improvement, knowing the dimensions or aspects of his/her life and arrange in accordance with his/her desired or undesired lifestyle. It is a useful tool in helping my client to become more effective and satisfied with life and monitor his/her progress on setting his/her goal that is realistic and achievable. As a starting point, focused on the area of the priority he/she would like to work on to improve on his/her lifestyle like increased on the intensity of physical exercises such as jogging or swimming. Measure the progress like the frequency and duration of the physical exercise for the desired outcome and holds the client accountable for his/her actions.
Engagement requires skills and techniques in a coaching relationship to connect and resonate with your client. Whereas disengagement can jeopardize a coaching relationship that shows disinterest in the client resulting in not taking ownership and accountability is absent. Within the scope of ICF core competencies, our responsibility as a coach must ensure that the Ethical Guidelines and Professional Standards are adhered to, entering into a coaching agreement is key, establishing trust and intimacy with the client for coaching presence throughout the coaching journey. Last but not least, support your client on designing actions, planning and goal setting in managing progress and accountability. “Practice what you preach” for mutual respect and trust and “Lead by example” as a role model to engage your client completely.