What Does A Client Really Want From A Professional Coach?

David Krueger MD

This question came up in a discussion with some coaches I am training. The obvious answers include understanding human dynamics, strategic planning, playing a bigger game, a good return on investment, an accountability partner, a secret weapon in business.

But for the coaching engagement to really make a difference for the client, to go beyond expectation, I believe it takes something more and different.

The role of storyteller and listener unfolds on the shared lap of the coaching relationship. Part of the experience of story making is the feel, the safety, the trust, and the ambiance of connectedness. The resonance of voice as well as words with a knowing receiver. As Lily Tomlin said, “He listened with an intensity most people have only while talking.”

What, I believe, clients want from a Professional Coach:

* Unselfconscious participation in serious work, and sometimes in play

* To understand their metaphors as the symbolic language that expresses the hidden wisdom of the unconscious

* Acceptance of praise without embarrassment or deflection, so that we can give it back to its creator as a self-statement

* Empathic resonance with his or her feelings, without taking anything personally, to never lose sight of the client’s perspective and best interest

* To hope that we see the self the client hopes to become, and focus on the evolving new story that sometimes gets obscured from the client’s view

* To see a thought, a feeling, or a behavior as an answer to a question its creator has not consciously dared to ask

* To recognize the silent intent embedded in the compromised result; to see the possibility camouflaged in the frustrating process

* To hope that the coach will not be awkward, self-conscious, or say anything that would distract from the client’s flow and focus

* To believe in the client until the client teaches both of us why

This architecture of trust silently forms while you talk about other things. The co-created new story gives oxygen to hope, highlights the relief and release of new experience, and pushes creativity to full flight.

A strategically informed new experience includes the formulation of a new model in which to understand and incorporate those changes.

Old stories have to be mourned. And along with them, the self left behind. No matter how ready someone is to change, to give up a long-practiced habit is like saying goodbye to an old friend. Julia Cameron said it beautifully in The Artist’s Way: “I’m astounded that I could let go of the drama of being a starving artist. Nothing dies harder than a bad idea.”