Fresh Coach and Client Perspectives: Hitting the Reset Button
Written by Mark Teahan. This article was originally published in Issue 13 of Personal Trainer Magazine. You can download the newest issue and all past issues here.
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) did no less than 3 membership surveys in 2020, mining for information from Coaches during the pandemic. It became a common response within a chaotic period, everyone wanted to know how others were shifting around during the first waves of COVID. Still, there was a fair amount of Coach training discussed, mostly for how the industry would rise to meet the challenges of coaching during a time when we needed it most but were least able to provide it.
Transparent organizations survey their graduates and students regularly. We recently asked for feedback from our graduates regarding what the Coach feels clients are looking for. The responses were fairly similar in tone, with most Coaches believing that clients are looking for a coach that provides a safe place for them to speak their truths, for their voice to be heard, and for the space to brainstorm new ideas. They want to be able to give voice to their ideas/desires that they are timid to share anywhere else. Clients are seeking encouragement, from the coach, to live, grow, and explore. A client wants their coach to be able to identify patterns in their life that they may not be able to see. A client also desires empathy for their experience and tools for them to shift their mindset or other patterns. All great and well, correct?
But there is more. We also found that Coaches see some clients as those seeking connections, permission, and guidance to create something new. Others see a client as someone who is looking for their coach to provide acceptance, guidance, and a nurturing, caring spirit when they interact together.
Key Skills Used in Holistic Coaching
Positive Emotional Attractors and Negative Emotional Attractors (PEA & NEA) are both powerful ways to help clients face change and the self-esteem struggles that some clients have. Using PEA and NEA, our clients can identify what attractors are regularly coming into their lives. The summoning of one’s PEA and NEA turns out to be an excellent self-awareness technique. When done properly, clients realize those lesser-known (subconscious) NEA going through their minds. To break clients free of this old pattern, we might also try doing some visualization so that the client can see what a holistic lifestyle looks like.
Regulatory Focus Theory
Understanding promotion focus and prevention focus allows a Coach to listen for clues as to what path our client is traveling. This skill set allows Coaches to connect with clients where they feel most comfortable, not pushing them on a promotion path when they desire a prevention focus. This skill is mastered by asking powerful questions; sometimes the motivation for these Coach questions is only fully realized by the client in hindsight. Regardless, if this is the case, congratulations! You have been able to influence considerable positive focus that is spreading into your client’s conscious thoughts.
Get Comfortable Talking About The Ideal Self vs Ought Self
This theory can be powerful to share with clients. Clients are seeking validation for their feelings and an understanding of why they want something different than the people around them (family, friends, work colleagues). Learning about the ideal vs ought concept will comfort a client who may have conflicted their whole life, not realizing they were living an ought life for someone else’s vision, dreams, and goals.
Holistic Coaching Dynamics
Clients will come to us for anything from eliminating brain fog and having more energy to simply wanting to live a more vibrant life. What’s pretty great about any goal your client has, it will be largely determined and achieved by the client. The client is the party who will need to embrace the holistic system of nutrition, physical movement, mindset, and spirituality. A Coach might help clients decompress with breathwork, meditation, stress release goals; Similarly, a Coach could lead the client through yoga postures to address physical, mental, and spiritual needs. Nutritionally, after assessing where the client is on their food journey, we could discuss the process of eliminating processed foods and seeking healthy, whole nutrient-dense foods that support the human body.
The Coach’s Presence – Expressions of Your Skills
There are many expectations and typical behaviors for a coach to embody when working with the client. Before meeting with a client, the coach needs to clear out their channel (meditations, breathwork), creating a clear space to work with the client. The practice of clearing out allows the Coach to be mindful and actively listen, without being distracted by the stories of our own lives.
When we can actively listen, we can respond in the moment. Active listening also allows for our intuition to almost seem more clear with the added focus we have deliberately set in motion; this will allow for probative questions that tune into the needs of the client while clarifying with has already been shared. We have said it before – it’s a checkpoint, a sort-of summary. Recognizing positive and negative emotions, as well as energy shifts, with a warm, calming spirit can take experience but when it occurs, it is quite powerful and Coaches will see how much this helps their clients open up and reveal their truths from within.
As a coach we must reflect back to the client what I hear, so they can confirm we are hearing them, we understand the information and they can correct anything not fully understood or clearly defined. Reflection allows clients the opportunity to see their thoughts in a new light, from a new perspective, rather than only listening to and shaping their self-talk.
Lastly, the Coach’s presence includes an expectation to harness client energy so that listening, feeling, and expressing compassion results in a relaxed, calm, and satisfied client. We can be strategic about inching a client toward triggering stories/feelings/emotions, but when possible, we want to not embody the emotional energy that also comes with challenges or the hard work of making behavior changes. When a client hires a coach, they are looking for someone to reflect their successes to them, and praise them for their strengths. We call this celebrating client successes and appreciative inquiry (AI). These affirmations help rebuild the client’s confidence. When we realize how often – and how many – of our clients struggle with change due to uncontrolled self-esteem concerns, we might also see how powerful improving self-confidence can be in the coaching process of transformation.
A coach embodies a multitude of skills to provide a safe, encouraging, space for the client to expand and create new shifts in their life. The more skills used in a session, the greater the likelihood of positive client outcomes. When everything goes well, we create an enjoyable, transformative experience. Furthermore, when Coaches share experiences in research studies, we can all benefit from the interpretation of the results, however, in the end, it is our client who benefits the most. Better Coaches, better client experiences.
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