One of the questions that comes up in coach training is, “How do you coach someone who doesn’t want to be coached?’’ My usual answer is, “You don’t.” Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that you can’t coach someone who does not want to be coached.
The client in a coaching relationship must have a growth mindset; that is, the person must realize that he or she is responsible, creative, and capable. If a client tells me that he or she is incapable of change, there is no point in continuing the conversation. I can ask questions, encourage the client to seek clarity, and even push a bit, but I cannot motivate him or her to grow.
There are situations where an employer, a supervisor, or a personnel committee will approach a coaching professional and say, “This person needs a coach and we would like for you to work them.” How does a coach handle this process?
First, ask the initiating person or group the reason for believing the person needs to be coached and the individual’s readiness to accept the relationship. If they don’t know whether the person is ready or not, the coach can do an “get acquainted” session with the prospective client to assess their feelings about being coached.
Second, develop clarity with whoever is paying the fee about the reporting expectations. When I do coaching where there is a third-party payer, I use a contract that explains exactly what information the payer will receive and the level of confidentiality with the client. I usually agree that the payer will receive a report when the client and I meet for coaching, but I will not disclose anything to the payer about the session unless it is specifically approved by the client. In fact, if the client decides that the payer should receive information that comes of the session, I suggest that client provide this information to the appropriate people.
Third, I make clear to client that he or she is the focus of the coaching conversation. Although a third party—a church or organization, for example, is footing the bill, the client is doing the work so he or she must be committed to the process. I also make certain that the client understands the confidentiality agreement.
Fourth, if someone in the organization breaches the contract by asking me for additional information, I remind the person of my agreement with the organization. If they are not willing to abide by that agreement, we can terminate the contract. If someone in the organization approaches the client for information our sessions, I reaffirm to the client that he or she determines what to disclose.
Fifth, there is always a time limit on these contracts. If we come to the point of renewal and the organization has not seen the progress they expect on the part of the client, they are free to move on and I will as well. On the other hand, if the client has bought into the process, we celebrate his or her achievements.
I have found that most leaders, when given the opportunity to have a coach, are very appreciative and take full advantage of the experience. As a coach, however, I must be very open and objective about the relationship and assessing the progress of the client. On a couple of occasions, I have let a coaching relationship continue past the effectiveness stage, and found myself regretting it.
Honesty with the client, the sponsoring organization, and oneself (while maintaining confidentiality) is essential.