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Co-Creating the Coach/Client Relationship

Almost all of us know the biblical Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Fewer people know the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them, not as you would have them do unto you. Even fewer people know the Coaching Rule: Do not do unto others that which they can do for themselves.

This rule applies both to coaching and to teaching and it was driven home recently as I taught a graduate course with some insightful professional learners.

As part of our coursework we have live coaching sessions and provide feedback to one another. One person serves as the coach and another serves as the client who brings a real life situation to work on. Everyone else observes and then I lead a debriefing of the session. Today I want to share some of my students’ insights as well as some of my own.

When we debrief I ask the “client” and observers questions like: “What did the coach do that supported you to have a new awareness and make forward progress?”

Here are some insights we came to:

The Importance of Space

A coach has to create space: through silence, acknowledgment of emotions and thought of the client. This enabled a shift of thinking and feeling in the client.

The Value of Witness

 There is power in simply witnessing and being present to a client’s thoughts and emotions and  listening non-judgmentally. This supports the client to vent if they need to, clear negativity, and step into a new frame of mind. It provides freedom, like shedding old skin.

The Necessity of Trust

Trust in the relationship between coach and client is a key to the client feeling safe enough deeply share one’s warts. The client trusts that the coach will meet them in a state of support and curiosity vs. judgment. I also impart that real trust is hard earned: you don’t deserve simply by labeling yourself as a coach, but by demonstrating your willingness to share in the struggle to find a solution.

Implementing the Coaching Rule

Who is doing the work? If you, as the coach, are feeling tired from working so hard, trying to come up with questions and drag things out of the client, you are working too hard. Put the work back into the lap of the client. It is their success and they must take responsibility for their portion of the work. If they don’t own the process they can’t implement and own the result.

Bottom line: successful coaching requires the co-creation of the coaching relationship. The overlapping space between the coach and the client is where magical things happen for both the client and the coach.

I want to know: what is the most important insight you have learned in this co-creating process?


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