A relationship based on trust, authenticity, and a connected bond between coach and client is a primary goal of any coaching relationship. It is the priority. Mission critical. It is also the first goal of any coaching relationship. Some perspectives from a variety of expert coaches and coaching organizations who place high value on the coach-client relationship deserve our attention, whereby the coach establishes and maintains a trusting relationship with their client.
This helps to ensure a safe space and supportive relationship for personal growth, discovery, and transformation to occur. When done properly, the client is open to sharing and receiving information and knowledge. The client feels safe enough to see the coach as their advocate. Only when this is in place can our client see growth and transformation as possible and manageable. This provides some grounding for the client, as they realize realistic expectations for outcome goals and results that endure. This is just another responsibility of coaching.
Strategies for Improving Coaching Relationships
To help guide coaches, there are some key elements that are considered core and coaching relationships. Mutual respect, confidence and competence are all non-negotiable. It is also helpful if coaches are judgment free and accepting so that their client always feels safe in the space provided to share their fears without being judged by the coach.
Coaches also work toward building healthy coactive relationships.
The industry guidance on how to create a collective relationship that is rooted in competency with each client. Interestingly, establishing trust and even a level of professional intimacy with the client will also foster a safe and supportive environment that allows for ongoing mutual respect and trust to flourish.
In addition to showing genuine concern for each clients unique welfare and future, coaches balance the need to demonstrate their personal integrity, sincerity and honesty and the coaching relationship.
When working with clients who are on different levels of understanding, coaches have to show a deep level of respect for their clients perspectives, perceptions, their style of learning, and even their personal well-being. We are, after all, coaching for positive healthy outcomes!
Competent coaches build healthy coaching relationships by having skills that support while championing new behaviors and actions; this also includes those that involve risk-taking and the clients fear of failure for a particular change effort or outcome goal. For this reason, we always have our client determine their own goals and we ask permission to coach a client in any new areas that have not been discussed before, especially those that are sensitive or difficult to broach.
All of this means that coaches are in it for the long-haul. For the coach, their contribution to the relationship is one primarily dedicated to serving the long-term self-generation, confidence and development of the client as well as themselves.
There are scientific research studies that we can anchor our coaching in, but there is also an art to coaching. This includes the need to be competent through the use of conversation as a means of facilitating processes, so that a client can work toward their desired goal in a fulfilling manner. Indeed, coaching is the process that fosters self-awareness in the client, resulting in motivation to make changes, but opens the client up to guidance for a change in other ways when needed.
Reflective and Collaborative Mindset
In this way we can see coaching as client growth and development that helps individuals access new discoveries in a more deeper reflective and collaborative mindset with their coach. In some instances, your client might have not asked himself the more powerful questions, and they will have a greater ability to discover answers that they can uniquely appreciate because they come directly from the client and ownership is implied. Once we have a client in this situation as part of our co-active relationship, coaching becomes more about assisting, encouraging and supporting the client to discover their own answers and their own outcome goals.
The coach never plays the role of the expert. Yet coaching is about fostering learning, which is different than saying that the client is a teacher. Coaches are not always expected to know how to do anything better than their client. While a coach is tasked with observing patterns, setting the stage for new action, and guiding clients on the path toward more successful actions, they are never to be in the driver seat of change. This absolves the coach for the success – or lack thereof – when clients work toward difficult outcome goals.
Competencies for coaches include active listening, providing reflections and asking powerful questions. There are times when coaches provide information, and this process is intended to allow the client to become more self reflective and self generating. The art and practice of asking powerful questions allows the coach to engage in a collaborative alliance with the client, establishing purpose and outcome goals with a plan of action to achieve them.
Here you can learn more about communication, listening and feedback strategies as a coach.
All of these nuances of coaching actions point to one common denominator: building relationships. We do this every day as we seek to form and maintain lasting personal attachments with others but with coaching clients, there needs to be frequent positive interactions within the context of a long-term and caring relationship between both parties.
Research and time have shown us that the relationship between a coach and a client is the fundamental ingredient in positive outcomes. This nurturing type of relationship makes for more successful outcomes across the board, be it cognitive, behavioral, or systemic changes; it is also believed that the co-active relationship accounts for why clients improve or not. The quality of the coach-client relationship is a working alliance and serves as a powerful predictor of client success. It’s not that the client who experienced positive outcomes described the relationship as positive, but that a relationship deemed positive at the beginning of the engagement and it then led to subsequent positive outcomes. The second most important factor reported was a set of personal characteristics for the coach—being empathetic, inspiring confidence, appearing competent, his or her own positive mental health, and the ability of the coach to operate from the client’s value system. These skills are part of all Spencer institute training, and coaches are encouraged to use them liberally with clients until they become second nature to the coach.