Coaching Chemistry Check
Many outstanding coaches – men and women who create strong relationships with a wide range of clients, provide perceptive feedback and guidance, enable powerful insights, and deliver transforming personal change – still find that the selection meeting, the so-called ‘chemistry check’, is unexpectedly challenging. What’s going on and could a more grounded and productive approach be possible? John Whittington examines this question in a search for answers.
Is it something intangible that creates good chemistry? Something, like effective coaching itself, that goes beyond tools & techniques?
In many conversations with other coaches and my own experience it seems clear that creating good chemistry is something to do with a particular way of thinking about a relationship – with yourself and the potential client in front of you.
Your inner stance.
When you find a particular inner attitude, a certain stance, it puts you on solid ground. Potential clients sense that and instinctively want to make a connection with you, to move towards you. And with that kind of connection, that chemistry, really effective coaching can begin.
Finding your stance
If you believe that helping someone is reminding them that they can help themselves the stance is likely to come easily to you.
If you like the idea of staying true to yourself – but not talking about yourself – of finding your own solid ground as a coach or organisational consultant when in these challenging first meetings then you may find some specific ideas and a framework useful.
If so, the thinking behind the ideas here (captured in the acronym which follows on the other pages: S T A N C E) will affirm and support your approach and enrich the ‘chemistry check’ experience for you and your potential clients.
The ideas behind the acronym inform the initial sessions I attend and have created a reliable framework for me and others. Feel free to use what’s useful, combine it with your own skill, personality and experience, to suit your particular background, and working context. Whatever you do remember that stance is always more important than content, tools or techniques.
And allow time, but not too much. In several of the conversations I was interested to notice how many experienced coaches feel a kind of resistance at having to invest their time in a possible relationship. Many coaches have found that limiting the session length and articulating this time limit with the client helps support good levels of attention and focus for both parties. It respects the fact that both are giving something for free. And that level of mutual respect is a vital ingredient in this context.
Lean back so you can see the larger context, withhold all judgments, resist the urge to help and remember, it’s not about you.
The result of this combination is the creation of a space in which the client can safely reflect, clarify and align. A space in which the coach can stay fully present so they can support the coachee get to the very essence of their or the desired outcome.
And if you don’t do that in a chemistry check then you may have missed the greatest opportunity of all – to identify the essence of the issue and start coaching.
Find your STANCE and everything else follows. Naturally.
“Have no intention. Especially to help.”
The origins of this site
In the summer of 2006 the international coaching business of which I was then an associate asked me what I was doing in the client ‘chemistry meetings’ they sent me to. They asked because I had an unusually high success rate. In fact I found that every client I went to meet appointed me and this was beginning to raise questions. That led me to reflect on what it was going on and I began to share those reflections in informal conversations and peer group discussions.
I had often thought of writing and so decided to try and express my thoughts on the subject of first meetings online, the first piece of serious writing I had ever attempted, long before my book ‘Systemic Coaching & Constellations.’ So, even though this writing is now over ten years old (only the website design is new) I hope you find it offers a useful stimulus to your own thinking and approach.