The 4-Question Process to Help You Choose the Right Coaching Clients

November 25, 2021
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I usually receive coaching requests from senior executives directly. Sometimes through the HR function of an organisation which essentially means that they have either recognised certain individual(s) within the organisation that they believe could do well with being coached or they’ve realised the need to bring in a coaching culture into the organisation as a whole.

So, when it comes to coaching the leader that the organisation has identified, I typically go through a four-pronged procedure to see if the leader and I would make for a suitable match. Depending on your philosophy and attributes that are important to you as a coach, you can tweak these questions to turn it into your own standard process. 

The 4-Question Process

  • “Is the leader coachable?” The subtext of this entails more questions such as: “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, team, and thus organisation?” If the answer to these questions is yes, we move on to the next question.
  • “Is the leader coachable now?” We may find that the leader is quite amenable to inputs and feedback and has the right attitude and belief in the process of coaching. But what if they are in the midst of a large work engagement or immense business pressure? So, it is quite possible that while the intent and right mindset is there, the leader may not have the necessary bandwidth in terms of time and energy to reflect and make changes as is required in a coaching engagement.
  • If the aforementioned questions have a positive answer, then the question to ask is Who can coach the leader?” And in this regard organisations can take different views; one, to look for an internal coach – perhaps a senior leader within the organisation who has the necessary skills and time availability to coach. Or, to hire an external coach if the organisation feels there aren’t any potential coaches available within the organisation. In such cases the suitability or compatibility between the coach and client can be discovered by checking if a) the coach has trained executives in the same level before toward similar goals and b) by conducting what is commonly known as a chemistry session between the coach and leader.
  • The final question then before onboarding a client would be to ask “Is it enough for this leader to be coached individually or would it be more beneficial for the leader to get coached along with their team?” Depending on the organisational goals and specific circumstances, either an individual or a cohort effort may be useful – and the call can be taken in an open discussion. One thing to note is that if you take on a group coaching engagement, then the willingness and openness of clients will vary from individual to individual. 

Green flags & red flags

So, what would make for a good coaching engagement between a coach and client? These are the attributes of coaching clients that help move towards the goal of a successful coaching outcome:

  • They are courageous and open to change 
  • They have an openness in communication
  • They are willing to take feedback from peers, team members, managers, etc.
  • They understand that coaching is not an overnight process; it is long-term in nature
  • They are willing to be vulnerable 

And then there are some behaviours, which are potential derailers that I look out for during the coaching engagement. 

  • They are not on time for sessions and/or they reschedule often
  • They are not willing to think about coaching in between sessions; they only show up for the scheduled sessions and do not put thought or work towards the coaching engagement before coming in for the session
  • They do not execute on the follow-on actions that have been agreed with the coach

So, to ensure that the coach and the client are a good for each other, I recommend all coaches to…

Design a standard intake process

Having a standard intake process based on the above four questions is something I’ve found quite useful. It is essentially a series of structured questions that prospective coaching clients can answer confidentially during the chemistry session or as a survey. 

If a coach finds that they are not a good fit to work together, then the coach should openly communicate the same to the leader or the senior person. It could be due to some aspects mentioned by the client or the coach feeling that he does not have the necessary competencies & knowledge required to guide in what the client needs assistance in. 

Either way, it is important for this to be communicated honestly and upfront. The coach should not give vague reasons but come with hard facts based on the intake form to support the decision of not working with the client.

In such a case, the coach can help redirect them towards another coach that they think will be a better fit or suggest an alternate route based on their understanding. This will prevent any feelings of resentment and help create a certain goodwill in the eyes of the client (and the organisation).

About Simply.Coach

Simply.Coach is an enterprise-grade coaching software designed to be used by individual coaches and coaching businesses. Trusted by ICF-accredited and EMCC-credentialed coaches worldwide, Simply.Coach is on a mission to elevate the experience and process of coaching with technology-led tools and solutions.  

About the author
Executive Coach & Co-founder of Simply.Coach

As an Executive Coach, certified by Marshall Goldsmith for leaders and teams, Venkat believes that a mix of ideal leadership behaviours and a well-executed strategy determines business outcomes, and he works with industry leaders in achieving specific results with the right changes in behaviour and processes.  Earlier, he was a Partner & Vice President at IBM, with a track record of successful engagements leveraging technology and Change Management. Venkat has lived in Europe and Singapore and consulted with clients across industries worldwide and in India.

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