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Choose your clients

You’ve got a choice, so choose your clients

Reminding the client that the chemistry check is a two-way process is often the point at which I know I’ve got their attention, gained their trust and that we will be working together. The picture in my head is of a meeting in the middle, not a one-way relationship. To see if there is a meeting of minds it’s sometimes useful to see how far apart you are.

With that in mind I often try experimenting and respectfully push the client away a little to see if they come back. If they come back then I know that we’ll be able to engage in some useful and effective developmental work that is likely to have an enduring benefit.

I’ll often say something like:

“You know the important thing about coaching and this part in particular is that it takes two – it’s a process which takes place as a result of a relationship. And so this ‘chemistry check’ is a two-way process. I need to feel that we could form a strong working relationship so that I can add real value to your journey. So, I’m thinking about whether I could work with you just as you are reflecting on that too….”

This approach often takes them by surprise but the result is almost always the revelation of a key insight about their motivation or allows them to share a real fear about going further. Once either of those two things are out on the table you’ve got fresh material to work with. Then you can start coaching.

“Your comment – that you didn’t accept all clients – was a big plus for me”

I’ll often follow up this kind of question with another. If I’m not convinced that they are really committed to a journey I’ll ask for them to tell me a little more about the area I’m in doubt about.

Or, if I feel that they are really engaged I’ll play that back to them and focus a little closer in.

For example:

“It seems to me that we could form a strong working partnership – especially if you are really prepared to look at that issue you just mentioned …”

These kind of questions tend to quickly surface the real coaching agenda or the underlying resistance. Often both. But either way the client is now connected to their material and so there is something to work on.

And that’s a good option if you sense that the client just isn’t really interested in working hard at their own journey. I’ve declined to work with two clients in the past year but with a third I decided to take on the client against my better judgement – just to see if I was wrong and if, in fact, I could turn them round and into a motivated and engaged client.

Sadly I was right – I couldn’t.

Apart from one or two glimpses and insights, we laboured through six painful sessions in which I was working much harder than the client (always a bad sign) and the change was minimal. I should not have persuaded myself to work with them. I’ll never make that mistake again. The client deserves better. You can’t force chemistry.

So, be confident about this aspect in particular. Don’t try and persuade yourself. Don’t try and sell yourself. If you look like you are there to ‘win the business’ you are more than likely not going to.

Your confidence needs to be around the ability to coach, not to sell, and to remain true to yourself in this crucial first stage, not about the ability to win the client over. And that’s all about stance, not content or tools.

I feel that I’ve nothing to lose at this stage and so that creates a refreshingly politics-and-agenda-free climate in which to talk. And clients who are really ready for a developmental journey always seem to welcome this.

“I wanted someone who would challenge me with uncomfortable discussion to maximize my learning and development”

Start at the end
Take in the whole system
Acknowledge what is
Not about you
Choose your clients
Everything else . . .

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Start at the end
Take in the whole system
Acknowledge what is
Not about you
Choose your clients
Everything else . . .

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