When it comes to coaching, we speak often about the ways of acquiring new clients, setting up a coaching business for success, pricing coaching sessions right, etc… But at the core of every coaching business or practice is the coach-client relationship and how strong and effective it is. Think about it – without a good relationship with your coaching client, your coaching engagement would not be a success; and if this is a common occurrence in your other coaching engagements with other clients, then any and all talk about growing your coaching business or discussing strategies to scale it and take it to new heights is redundant.
So, how to build a good relationship with your clients? We believe these 5 components are essential to getting it right.
1. Check for Chemistry
The first thing you need to do even before taking on a coaching client is to see if they’re the right fit for you. And you for them. You may be a largely lauded coach amongst your peers and networks, but pairing up with a client who is not the right match for you usually often backfires no matter how great you are at what you do.
At the end of the day, aside from the objectivity of credentials, a certain subjectivity also comes in as a big factor when looking for the right coach-client relationship. And this is easy to ascertain in a chemistry session – a standard practice in coaching. Such a session allows a potential client to connect with the coach a little informally to see if they’d be a good fit for each other.
So, what accounts for good chemistry? A few no-brainers include having a similar background or experience that increases relatability. But real chemistry is subtler than that and something that can be understood only by spending a little time together and seeing how the coach and the client ‘gel’ together. Sometimes things can be great on paper, but in reality, two people may figure out that they are not feeling completely at ease with the other – not because one is good vs bad – but because the chemistry is just not there. And without the right chemistry, building a strong coach-client relationship is rather difficult, if not completely unlikely.
2. Ensure Client Coachability
An aspect that is spoken about often in the coaching world is client coachability – and there’s good reason for that.
Coachability is not a skill but rather more of a mental attitude towards coaching. You can have all the experience of coaching, all the right funnels in place, and the most well-structured and thought-out coaching program out there, but if your client is not coachable, none of those things matter.
Coachability, in essence, is a combination of several things, which include:
- The ability to listen to receive feedback
- The willingness to integrate feedback for growth
- The flexibility to change oneself and try new things
These aspects can be checked during the chemistry session itself by answering the following questions about your prospects: “Are they open to inputs from others?” “Are they open to feedback?” “Do they believe that if they made changes to their behaviour it would lead to a more productive self and team (if applicable)” If the answer to these questions is yes, then it means your client is on the right track and is very possibly coachable.
Want to learn more about client coachability in detail?We’ve got you! Click here.
3. Establish a Firm Foundation
When establishing good coach-client relationship, as important as it is to give and provide value to the client, it is also important to set boundaries in place.
This can be easily established by communicating detailed aspects of the coaching journey with the client before starting the first official session and putting it all together in a coaching contract so that you are professionally and legally in a safe place.
A few things you discuss with your clients and come to a consensus about include: the number of sessions in the coaching journey, the frequency of meeting, importance of adhering to the fixed time and schedule, access to the coach outside of coaching sessions (within office hours, not on weekends, only via email, expecting at least 24-hour wait time…etc.), what the coaching engagement includes and more importantly, what it doesn’t include (being a counsellor or a friend, for instance), expectations from the client, and more.
The details of this would differ from individual to individual, but the essence of setting these foundational aspects in place is to set expectations clear from the very beginning, so that the client can clear any doubts right at the beginning and thus start off being sure about what to expect from the coach and sessions. If there’s no ambiguity or doubt, the client is more likely to trust the coach and their process.
4. Hold Space & Be Present
It’s no news that being a coach requires one to be a good listener. But this is usually harder than it sounds, as coaches are humans and have their own set of prejudices & biases that they are trying to deflect from entering the conversation between them and their client.
This requires constant work and the ability to have a great amount of empathy & understanding for realities that may be different from our own. One of the biggest things that clients seek is a space that allows them to share freely without judgement.
When we see our client’s struggling, the tendency to want to ‘fix’ it or give solutions is not uncommon. But what is important to remember is that the client is not necessarily always looking for solutions, but instead to just be in the presence of their coach sometimes. And that presence can be purely in silence as well.
To ensure you are not always quick to solve a client’s problem, check with yourself if you are listening to them with the intent to ask the next ‘right’ coaching question or if you’re really just listening to understand them. Understanding the subtleties between ‘doing’ and simply ‘being’ can create space for the coach-client relation to grow, thrive, and flourish.
5. Demonstrate Integrity & Trust
One of the major pillars of coaching is maintaining client confidentiality and trust. No client will be able to embark on the journey of being coached and possibly seeing change and transformation in their lives if they don’t trust that their coach is keeping the contents of their coaching conversations with great confidentiality. That is one of the first things the coach promises before the session officially starts.
If you as a coach have your client’s best interest in mind and treat every action (or inaction) that you take with the intent that it is in the client’s best interest, then the client will be able to put their trust in you and share everything in their mind much openly.
This can translate in so many ways, such as committing to your word when you make certain promises to them (whether it is about keeping things confidential or arriving on time for sessions or sending them material by a certain time), not trying to sell them a higher-end coaching package just to increase your monthly revenue, and letting them know honestly when you understand that they are not the right fit for your style of coaching or if you feel that the coaching engagement cannot go further due to incompatibility or because you realize mid-engagement that you do not possess the right skillsets to help them further.
By inculcating these elements in your coaching practice and consciously practicing them, you can build beautiful professional coach-client relationships that can uplift the coaching engagement even further. And if you take it one step further, you can continue to nurture these relationships by keeping in touch with your clients even after their contract with you ends – purely out of goodwill and with the intent to see them do the very best in their lives.
1. What is expected in the coach & client relationship?
In a coach-client relationship, there are some things that are absolute non-negotiables. Some of them include:
- Maintaining client confidentiality
- Being a sounding board or a mirror to the client
- The client being accountable for their own goals and actions
- To understand that coaching is a collaborative effort and not a solution vending operation
- Maintaining integrity and keeping the client’s best interest in mind
- Being absolutely honest and upfront with each other
- Trusting the process
2. What are the key elements of coaching?
The five key elements of coaching are:
- A strong coach-client relationship
- Problem identification and goal-setting
- Defining clear and measurable outcomes
- Being solution-focused > problem-focused
- Keeping the coaching engagement time-bound