Establishing the need for coaching

I have a coaching client who doesn’t seem very clear about why he’s come for coaching, and I’m struggling to get to the bottom of the issue. What can I do to help him discover why he’s really here?

I would start with coaching terminology, which can be a minefield for the uninitiated.  Your client may have misunderstood the nature of coaching and be expecting mentoring or counselling.  He may be unsure of the boundaries of the conversation – is it just about working on organisational issues, or is it ok to bring personal challenges which are preying on his mind?  He may be embarrassed to do the latter and need direction from you.   My model of coaching, like many others, is a whole person approach, working with the “doing self” of course, but also crucially the “being self” – we don’t leave our values, identity and being self at the door when we come into work each day.  Try clarifying this and give your client some idea of typical issues people bring to coaching.

A common tool used in a first session is the life/balance wheel, where clients describe their current satisfaction with different areas of their lives – typically money, career, health, relationships, personal development, physical environment, fun and recreation.  Completing this can help clients to make connections and see what impact change in one part of their life might have on other areas.  Using the wheel also explicitly signals a holistic, whole life approach in your joint work.

Encouraging your client to imagine the end of a successful coaching assignment and describe what has changed/shifted for him could also help.  Finally your client may be a very well defended, private person who needs time to feel safe with you.  Chemistry is crucial, and despite your best intentions you may not be the right coach for him.