A brand new working relationship can be daunting. At first, neither party knows exactly what will happen, or what will unfold as the Coach and Client relationship progresses. Moreover, if it is a complete stranger, then there’s no existing rapport as a starting point to work with. This can seem unnerving, but it really doesn’t have to be.
It’s important to note that, despite our best efforts, sometimes the chemistry just doesn’t work, and that’s ok too. This is not due to fault on anyone’s part, but for whatever reason, either the ‘Coach’ or ‘Client’ doesn’t wish to continue, so it’s useful to be able to refer them to another Coach; although this is not necessarily common.
The good news, is that there are some key factors that can aid the process when you begin to work with a new client, so there’s really no need to worry. Rachel Haith, founder of the Inspired Life Group, Accredited Coach, Speaker, and RAF Veteran shares her tips on the approaches you can take to ensure the best possible level of success with new clients.
Any new relationship between two human beings has to start somewhere. There might be awkwardness or shyness at first perhaps, or maybe a desire to protect from embarrassment or judgement. It could also be true to say, that particularly in a difficult period like a pandemic, stress may be playing a part in behaviour. These are all perfectly normal human responses to an unknown situation, and do not have to be a barrier to an effective coaching relationship.
Ensure they know what ‘Coaching’ is, and isn’t
Most people have an idea of what coaching is, but that doesn’t mean they truly understand it. The only way to find out, is to ask the client. Based on their response, and possible previous experience of Coaching, you can judge where to pitch your explanation of coaching. A great starting point is to clarify for the client, what coaching is not! For example, it is not mentoring, it is not therapy (albeit it may have a therapeutic impact), it is not counselling and it is not training or teaching.
On meeting someone for the first time, there will be an initial judgement to make as to whether there is some chemistry or connection there. If that’s in place, then it’s all about showing that you’re listening and that you’re there to create a safe space for the client to open up. They might not open up straight away, but that’s normal until they feel comfortable.
Setting boundaries, or contracting, with a client is crucial and is an early part of any coaching relationship. Clients must be assured that it is confidential, non-judgemental and that they’re in control. Boundaries may need to be reiterated if it becomes clear the client is unsure, or if you perceive they haven’t understood fully. A safe space requires mutual agreement.
Make sure the coaching space is suitable
This is just as important in online coaching, as it is in face-to-face coaching; and must be assessed prior to a coaching session starting, to ensure you create the right environment for the client. If working online, ensure there is nothing distracting in your background and that you won’t be disturbed. If working face-to-face, then you must assess whether the space has adequate room to allow for personal space and again, be free from distractions.
Find out what the Client wants
As the coaching progresses, it would be easy to make assumptions about what a client wants, so ask yourself whether you’re making judgements based on your own life experiences, or whether you’re able to park your own ‘life map’ and just walk the journey with them. Are you being curious in your questions to the client? Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it’s the coach’s greatest ally.