By Martha Lasley

What if your clients don’t follow through on their bold commitments?

Have you ever been discouraged when a client doesn’t commit, resists the change they know they need to make, or doesn’t follow through?

Ever notice how often your clients make significant strides forward when you’re rapidly growing? I hate to break it to you, but our clients serve as human mirrors for ourselves. Their issues are likely to be similar to our issues. If my clients consistently fail to live up to their full potential, I look in the mirror. If I can see where I’m letting myself down, avoiding doing my own work, or copping out, then I can make some changes, and no surprise, my clients usually shift too. Clients respond much more to my energy and authenticity than to my words.

If you’re impatient with the pace of change, you may have forgotten to trust the inherent magic of the coaching process. Next time you feel frustrated because a client seems resistant to change, consider the possibility that their journey is happening at the perfect pace, and that your frustration is about your own slow pace of change.

We call out the power not just by asking empowering questions, but by offering challenges. As heretical as it sounds, bold coaching sounds an awful lot like directives. Except that our directives are connected to the clients’ yearning and we’ve created a relationship where clients can push back and choose their own direction. Here are some examples of directives that connect to the client’s yearning:

  • Give more than voice to your vision.
  • Now is the time to honor the playful side of your leadership.
  • Amplify your desire for social change.

Clients are in charge of their lives. Always. If they hold onto a behavior, belief or action, it must be serving them is some way, even if it’s not obvious. We all get stuck occasionally. Profound wisdom and growth arise from our darkest nights. So part of calling out the power is about creating space for the darkness.

Fear is not the enemy, but a signpost of what’s important. Recognizing that at the core of fear is pure energy, we can help clients reframe their fear as excitement about what matters most. Our role is to open clients to their own courage which leads to bold action and taking risks.

How to Push your Own Boundaries: Get Feedback about Your Edginess

To expand your own boundaries, ask clients for feedback. After a coaching session, ask, what percent of the time did we spend in each quadrant? Then compare to your own perceptions.

Another way to move toward edginess is to practice coaching with peers. Ask an observer to put an X in one of the four quadrants every time the coach speaks. As the coaching relationship builds, you can stretch toward edgier coaching.

Also ask clients for specific feedback on which moments were most supportive, most challenging and which moments had BOTH – taking them into their growing edge.

Finding that balance opens both the client and the coach to their own edges – which takes the coaching relationship into the zone. That high performance space doesn’t mean we vacillate between supportive and challenging questions – it’s about fusing both aspects together simultaneously.

The way we coach changes over time… more support happens early in the coaching relationship, more challenge comes once trust has deepened. But don’t wait. Most clients won’t even hire you if you don’t offer them edgy coaching from the get go. But we can continuously recalibrate the blend of support and challenge based on feedback and what is working for each unique client.

As you move into the zone, any ridiculous pressure to “fix” or “save” your clients melts away. By listening to the subtle changes in the wind, you’ll intuitively know when to catch a wave and when to float during a coaching session. The coach’s role is to keep the channels open to aliveness, awakening the client to both their beauty and their blessed unrest.


About the author:

441 Martha Lasley is a founder of Coaching for Transformation, an accredited coach training program and ChangeMakers, a year-long facilitation training program. She creates results-oriented programs that inspire, motivate, and transform. “I surround myself with people who take risks and look for new ways of doing things; we explore both the solid ground and the edges of transformation.”

Martha is a certified trainer in Nonviolent Communication and is a professional member of the Indian Society for Applied Behavioral Science. She has written three books: Courageous Visions; Facilitating with Heart; and Coaching for Transformation.

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