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Yikes! What to do when you’re worried your client is about to make a big mistake

  September 28, 2020

Early in coach training, you learn that the coachee is 100% responsible for making the choices about their direction and the actions they will take to get where they want to be. This is so important that one of our guiding principles is that people always have a choice. But what do you do when you feel the decision your coachee is making is the wrong one? Following are some steps you can take to be sure you remain coachlike in your approach to the situation.

Step 1: Congratulate yourself on being someone who truly cares about your coachee’s well-being. Compassion, empathy and even love are all important ingredients of the coaching partnership.

Step 2:  Check in with yourself: Are you coming from a place of fear rather than curiosity? Do you have a subconscious bias that’s trying to run the show? Is it possible that you crossed a line and have become invested in your client having a particular outcome?  If you feel any of these circumstances might be unduly influencing you, take a deep breath and shift your mindset to the belief that your coachee is fully equipped to make the best choice for themselves and is capable of handling any eventuality. As their coach, you may be the only person in the coachee’s life who regards them this way, and it’s a valuable gift.

Step 3: Check in with your coachee: Are they aware of all their options? Have they considered all the possible outcomes to making a particular choice? Guiding Principle 8 (People Have a Choice) teaches us that awareness is the precursor to choice and that shifting perspectives expands awareness and reveals their choices. Help your coachee to articulate the current perspective that is leading to this choice. Ask them what other perspectives they might consider.

Step 4: Recognize that if you have knowledge or expertise about another option, it’s usually OK to share it, as long as you are offering it in the spirit of ensuring that the coachee is fully informed. Keeping in mind the terms of your overall coaching agreement, as well as the ethics of the coaching profession, ask the coachee’s permission to share your information if you feel you shouldn’t step over it.

Step 5: Understand that often the greatest growth comes from mistakes. If you are trying to lead the coachee toward making a different decision, you are potentially short-circuiting their growth opportunity, which could have a negative impact further down the road. If you are doubting or second-guessing the coachee’s ability to handle their outcomes, they will sense it in the way you communicate and walk away feeling disempowered.

Step 6: Realize that you don’t have a crystal ball that shows what the coachee might encounter along the way. Also, you can’t possibly know all the personal assets that your client is bringing to a particular path they choose nor do you know all their previous relevant experiences that will support them.

Step 7: Trust that events will unfold in your coachee’s best interest.

While it can be challenging to stay neutral when your client is making a risky choice, a powerful coach sees the value of mastering this skill. Growth for both the coach and the coachee is an inevitable result of the coaching experience, so be sure to celebrate how you are developing yourself and who you are becoming as a coach.



ICF Professional Certified Coach

Jennifer Anderson, PCC, fell in love with the concept of Life Coaching in 1997, when she was a young wife and mother struggling to find career happiness. Upon finding the Coach University training program, she signed up immediately and paid for the program with her very first clients. Since that time, Jen has gone on to become a class leader for Coach U, a Professional Certified Coach and a Professional Mentor Coach. Jen is the author of the Amazon bestselling book for career advice, “Plant Yourself Where You Will Bloom: How to turn what makes you unique into a meaningful and lucrative career.”

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