The last few articles introduced concepts in co-creating the relationship with the client. In this article, we take a closer look at competency 3 Establishes and Maintains Agreements and how to make sure that you are appropriately matched with clients before committing to a relationship. This concept is supported by competency marker:
4.Partners with the client to determine client-coach compatibility
Having a successful coaching engagement starts off with ensuring compatibility. Most coaches do some sort of “chemistry” session with clients before entering a relationship. This session often includes a “getting to know you” conversation for the coach and client to make a more human connection and get to know the person they will have a personal relationship with for several months or possibly years.
During this conversation things discussed are usually some form of overview of the coach’s background and what drew them to the profession of coaching. The coach’s values and beliefs about coaching and coaching relationships and limited personal information that may help the client be more connected to them as a human. This conversation is also an important opportunity for the coach to get to know the client, why they are considering coaching at this point in their life or career, what their beliefs about coaching and what it can do for them, and what they wish to achieve through a coaching engagement.
Another important aspect of this conversation is that this is where the coach will get an understanding of the type of professional the client really needs. Some potential clients may disclose at this point that they are under the care of a mental health care professional. This does not mean that coaching is not relevant for them. However, it does indicate that a conversation about how coaching is different than therapy is necessary. The coach may ask the client if they have discussed coaching with their therapist and what topics or goals they believe are more pertinent to coaching than counselling.
In my opinion, while this initial chemistry session may produce an outcome of a new client under contract, it is not intended to be a sales conversation. From my point of view, this conversation is about gaining a dual understanding of if this is a compatible relationship. Some considerations the coach may make are:
- Is this the type of client that the coach loves working with?
- Does the client seem appropriately engaged in their own success?
- Do the client’s needs, motivations, and goals for coaching fall into an area the coach feels competent and confident to work with?
- Do the client’s personality and communication patterns mesh with the coach’s ability to see them as creative, resourceful, and whole?
Considerations from the client’s perspective are often:
- Is this coach someone I feel safe with?
- Do I believe this is someone I can be vulnerable with?
- Does this coach’s values, beliefs, and background give me confidence that we can have a strong and successful engagement?
- Can this person challenge me to new awareness?
- Does this coach have a personality I feel comfortable working with?
I have noticed that for some coaches this initial contact with a potential client is often focused on the business perspective of just getting clients to work with. While I can completely understand this need for business success, I have also learned over time that what is most valuable is to work with a potential client prior to contracting with them to make sure that the two of you can have a compatible relationship. This sets the foundation for embarking on an engagement with a client; and for declining the opportunity if the coach or client believes that they are not compatible. The compatibility of the relationship is vital to both the coach and client’s long-term satisfaction and success and is more important than simply “closing the deal.”