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Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council
Top business and career coaches from Forbes Coaches Council offer firsthand insights on leadership development & careers.
Part of being a business and career coach is learning the best way to guide each individual client. For instance, when working with a client who has a sensitive issue or who doesn’t always take guidance well, it may be especially important to frame your message in a way that encourages them to take the necessary steps without seeming critical or overbearing.
So, how can a coach steer a client in the right direction without driving them away? To help gain some perspective on this balancing act, we asked 13 experts from Forbes Coaches Council to share their strategies for counseling a client with care while making sure they stay on track toward their goal.
Members of Forbes Coaches Council discuss strategies for counseling clients who don't always take guidance well.
1. Give Them The Power
Frame questions in a way that indicates that the power over the issue rests in their hands. Ask questions such as “What have you tried? What could you try? What would you like your experience to be? What advice would you give yourself?” And have them ask themselves, “What inner resources will I need to accomplish what I am trying to do?” - Angela Mulligan, Angela Mulligan Consulting and Coaching
2. Keep The Questions Coming
The more questions, the better. Period. When it comes to coaching, it’s about the client coming to the answers with the guidance and, perhaps, the proven process the coach employs. So, for clients who resist feedback, I work the questions harder, and keep ’em coming. - Sarah Beth Aubrey, Aubrey’s Coaching & Training
3. Encourage Introspection
Rather than giving my clients all of the answers, I like to have conversations with them that allow them to become self-aware. In the course of questioning tendencies and decisions, they are usually able to see things about themselves that it may have been difficult for me to bring up. The probing also gives them some control over the speed of the discovery. - LaKesha Womack, Womack Consulting Group
4. Explore The Larger Vision
Keep your client connected to the larger vision that they are striving toward. Encourage them to remind themselves of that vision with you so they can bring that positive energy into the present moment. Once you’ve brought that vision back into focus, remind the client that there is more than one road they can take to get to the destination, and explore options that excite them to move forward. - Matt Mills, Matt Mills Coaching
5. Ask Yourself Some Questions First
I immediately build trust naturally, creating a space for honesty. Before I share a tough truth, I ask myself these questions: “Is it kind, true and necessary? Can I be gentle about it? Is it something my client needs to consider for growth? What is the payoff?” If all answers are “yes,” my energy is in alignment and I know I must share it. When I come from this place of service, the truth is well received. - Rosie Guagliardo, InnerBrilliance Coaching
6. Change The Lens Of Perception
Powerful coaching questions allow the client to explore possibilities from a variety of perspectives. One way to accomplish this is to allow the client to look through a new lens. Asking, “What if you did nothing?” or “What would your best competitor do?” are two ways to begin seeing the full picture from a new perspective. We find our best answers when we can see a situation in a new light. - Teresa Ray, Leadership Arkansas
7. Listen To What They’re Saying And What They’re Not Saying
Powerful questioning will help the client reveal, realize and understand how to resolve the issue without threatening or “pushy” dialogue. Listen to what the client is saying and not saying; this will help you come up with questions that ignite reflection. When clients comes up with the solution on their own, they are more likely to take action through heightened awareness. - Rosa Vargas,Authentic Resume Branding & Career Coaching
8. Share A Story, Then Take A Step Back
The more sensitive the issue is, the harder it is for a client to be objective. Share a story about a similar situation. Ask the client how they might have encouraged the other person. Talk about possible outcomes. Then, most importantly, let it rest. Many clients need time for ideas to marinate. Revisit the conversation in a following session to see if the client has had any additional thoughts. - Erica McCurdy, LunaNav, LLC
9. Show Support And Understanding
I suggest a three-part strategy of planning, paraphrasing and proposing. Plan your proposed value to the client in advance; then, inside the conversation, paraphrase the client so well that he or she knows you understand the details of their point of view. Finally, propose how your alternative idea builds on and develops their goals further, deeper and with added impact. - Thomas Larkin, Communico, Westport CT
10. Be Bold, But Not Confrontational
Framing the right question authentically, with genuine curiosity and with a bold, yet non-confrontational, tone, and persisting with it until the client truly hears it, will work wonders. Questions such as, “What do you think about X, Y and Z?” or “How do you think others see this situation?” might be enough for the client to engage with the issue. Combine bold honesty with caring curiosity. - Aileen Gibb
11. Reconnect To Their Larger Goals
Our clients take actions they feel move them toward their goals—usually. But when the issue is touchy, emotion can make it harder to take action. Start with the most minimal force necessary—meaning, reconnect the conversation to the client’s purpose and larger life goals. Connecting those dots can realign energy and passion so, together, you are able to evaluate direction from a positive place. - Carry Metkowski, Carry Metkowski’s Rockin’ Workplaces
12. Allow Them To Stay Stuck
When a client is avoiding steps that will move them toward their goal, it is often helpful to deliberately hold them in the space of no movement. Have them imagine some period in the future in which they have not moved—they’re still in this same place. Deeply explore this place. They will become clear: Either it’s not that important, or the idea of still being stuck will drive a change and a step forward. - Christine Pouliot, Evocent Coaching
13. Focus On Their Mindset
When dealing with a sensitive issue, the focus for the messaging should be the client’s mindset. Begin by saying, “I am going to say something, and I want you to hear it with new ears and see it through new eyes, to shift your mindset and view the issue in a different way.” By getting the client to focus through new lenses, a shift in mindset is easier to accomplish. - Jon Dwoskin, The Jon Dwoskin Experience
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