Youth Coach, CANADA
A student recently shared in class that one of the reasons he LOVES ICA is the amount of diversity he regularly experiences in his classes—hearing students and staff from around the world sharing their experiences, beliefs, and different cultural perspectives. I agree! Our school embraces and promotes diversity and often gives students enhanced awareness of differences that may exist between people, including coaches and their clients. While some differences are easy to spot, others may not, and lack of awareness could impede a coaching relationship.
We all have our own preferences of how we like to do things. These likes/dislikes are often influenced by our cultures, experiences, core values, beliefs, etc. and may be similar or different from others—even in our own families. When similar, interactions are often easy and effortless. When different, tensions and emotions may rise. The goal of every coach is to adapt to the preferences of their clients—to “dance” with them, always letting them lead.
THINGS TO WATCH/LISTEN FOR …
In our class on Diversity, we often brainstorm potential differences to watch/listen for with clients. Here are a few that are frequently mentioned, and some related pitfalls to watch and listen for:
- Let your clients set the pace. You might feel they are going slower of faster than you would go, and that’s ok. Some clients need to take lots of baby-steps, while others want to race ahead by leaps and bounds. Remember, this is their journey.
- Processing style & speed. Some people think out loud while others internalize the process. Be sure to always give your clients lots of time and space to think about your questions. Let them know they can take their time and there is no rush. Hearing, “I don’t know,” a lot? It could be a sign they need more time and your encouragement to take it.
- Does your client sound like an optimist or pessimist? Do they appear to have a fixed or growth mindset? Listening for patterns can give us clues about what to explore next.
- Core values. Having different core values than our clients is not an issue, unless it results in you slipping into judgement. Stay aware of your feelings and listen to your intuition. If you become aware clients are not a good fit for you, it may be time to say good-bye.
- Language differences. While some differences may be obvious, many times clients who skillfully speak multiple languages may still be unfamiliar with colloquialisms, terms, and phrases. We may misinterpret too. Clients saying, “Yes,” to fieldwork might mean they have heard you rather than agreed to undertake the task. If you ever suspect a misunderstanding may have taken place, get curious.
Awareness and celebration of diversity are hallmarks of great coaching. So remember, honouring the fact all clients are unique will help you remain curious, reduce assumptions, and help clients find their personalized pathways to success.