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Trish Bell


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Teaching clients to coach themselves


Coaches may be excellent leaders, but we are only human, and we cannot be there for our clients 24 hours a day. In fact, in the midst of the current coronavirus pandemic, we cannot even be there physically for them at all, in many cases.

Moreover, with so much uncertainty in the air, our clients’ career, family, and home situations may be changing faster than our scheduled weekly coaching sessions can keep pace with. Strategies that seem relevant one week may become completely immaterial in the face of unexpected new challenges.

Teaching our clients how to coach themselves can be a valuable way to be there for them, even when we are not actually able to physically be there for them. By arming our clients with positive reframing as a self-coaching tool, we can help keep them on track to their goals, even when the future seems unclear.

Times are changing

In today’s rapidly changing global society, with the specter of Covid-19 hovering over us all, our clients’ most pressing concerns seem to be in a constant state of flux. We, as coaches, need to be on top of this trend and ready to respond, in order to best meet our clients’ needs.

It is evident that many of us are already embracing this mindset by redefining our functions and roles as coaches in ways that we may never have imagined. We are taking our coaching sessions mobile by conducting them over the phone, or even online via video chat services like Zoom or FaceTime.

Yet, despite these great strides forward in embracing flexibility in our coaching platforms and modalities, there is another great frontier that we may still hesitate to explore – teaching our clients to coach themselves.

Potential concerns

As coaches, we may sometimes find ourselves wondering exactly how much information is appropriate to share with our clients -- especially when it comes to wondering how much of a detailed explanation of the hows and whys behind our coaching methodologies might be too much for our clients to process.

It may feel counterproductive to offer up a blueprint to our clients detailing how the various ‘cogs and sprockets’ of our coaching techniques work together to create lasting results in our clients’ lives. After all, even the most inquisitive, analytically minded client may get bogged down in these details and end up missing the forest for the trees.

To add to this dilemma, as coaches, we may also fear that giving away too much about what we do might make us irrelevant in our clients’ lives. What will happen when our coaching clients know ‘everything’ we know and no longer need our help?

Debunking the irrelevance myth

The good news is that these fears are, by and large, ungrounded. Teaching our clients a few fundamental coaching skills will not summarily render us obsolete as coaches. In fact, the opposite may be true, because teaching these skills has the potential to make us more relevant than ever in our clients’ lives.

Consider this: If a client learns a few healthy eating tools, does that mean his health coach is suddenly out of a job? If a client learns how to use all the machines in the gym, does that make future sessions with her fitness coach unnecessary?

The truth is that the more our clients engage with us and grow with us, the more rapport we create with them, and the more likely it then is that they will be inclined to turn to us for support. This is because, on a foundational level, coaches offer so much more than just expert advice.

The true value of a coach

We are the guides who take our clients’ hands and lead them home when they lose their way. We are the introspective sounding boards that allow them to hear their own inner wisdom more clearly. We are the cheerleaders supporting them from the sidelines when their motivations wane. We are the friendly faces they seek when they feel alone or discouraged.

Moreover, our clients look to us to help them find the fuel hidden within them to light their inner fires and to create a sense of urgency and accountability in the pursuit of their goals. This provides a powerful value that cannot be overstated. After all, for many clients, getting started and staying in motion are the hardest parts of the process.

What to teach

Because of this, when deciding which coaching skills we should impart to our clients, we would do well to address the second of these common sticking points – staying in motion. The ‘getting started’ part, after all, is the part that we, as coaches, should have ample opportunity in-session to tackle.

However, our clients may be prone to losing momentum between sessions, especially if life gets stressful, sessions get cancelled or pushed back, or other more pressing-feeling matters pop up. This is why preemptively teaching clients the skills to coach themselves back on track toward their goals can be invaluable.

Positive reframing

Since maintaining a positive mindset is critical to fueling motivation and moving through life’s myriad struggles, teaching coaching clients how to effectively make use of a coaching technique called ‘positive reframing’ can be of significant benefit.

Positive reframing is a neuro linguistic programming (NLP) tool that encourages looking at a difficult situation from several different perspectives and ultimately embracing the viewpoint that offers the most benefit. As coaches, we likely walk our clients through this process regularly, but we can empower them even further by teaching them how to walk themselves through this process.

By mastering the ability to consciously derail negative thought patterns in this way, a client can learn to shift out of a mindset of gloom and doom and into a mindset of strength and growth, even without direct coaching intervention, thus avoiding many potential landmines and obstacles to success.

Added value

As evidenced above, despite what some may believe, introducing the concept of self-coaching to a client does not imply weakness or disinterest on the part of the coach; it actually provides added value that can enhance the strength of the client-coach relationship.

After all, one of the reasons that we call ourselves ‘coaches’ rather than ‘instructors’ or ‘professors’ is because our goal is not to impart knowledge by simply lecturing to our clients. On the contrary, our goal is to guide our clients in learning how to uncover the knowledge that they already hold within themselves.

In this way, one might even say that teaching our clients to coach themselves is, in fact, an essential part of the coaching process.

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Trish Bell


Read more from Trish Bell

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