Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In Response to Iris' Comment on my Last Post

In responding to your comment I feel I first have to make clear the difference between what a parent's job is and what a coach's job is. The parent by nature is given the huge responsibility of being an expert, a teacher, a diviner of innate gifts and talents, as well acting as a kind of life-long coach (as opposed to life coach?), psychologist and source of unqualified love and regard. While a parent may have much less control over the totality of a child’s make up and genetic predispositions, they are given the sacred task of guiding, teaching, limit-setting and loving.

While a coach certainly carries the responsibility of some of those same "jobs", the relationship dynamic between coach and client is mandated to take place on completely equal footing. Parents, it seems to me, have much more authority and responsibility in the relationship with their child (at least during the child's actual childhood) than a coach has in the coaching relationship.

If we take that equality to be the required norm in a coaching relationship, then we accept the fact that we, as coaches, must refrain from making judgments or proscriptions for where a client "should" be in any movement toward change... even if it is in the process of a change the client has stated he or she wishes to be engaged in. We are contracted through the nature of the relationship to stand along side of our clients and assist them in facilitating the rate and steps of their own change.

Resistance seems to me to be something the coach feels as a result of a certain dynamic in the relationship that may arise in the work toward change... denial too is a way a coach might define their own perception of the client's motivations and movement toward change, or lack of movement, as opposed to what or how a client would label it. How could a client label themselves such if they were truly “in denial”? As soon as they recognize their own “denial” they have, in fact, delivered themselves from it. Resistance or denial, then, are the products of a coach pushing in directions or for rates of change that are not in sync with the client; it is the way the coach defines feeling out of step with the client…. and when the coach places the onus of that uncomfortable dissonance on the client, instead of realigning themselves with where the client is.

It could always be that the change the client states they wish for is simply not to be had. The client may not be ready for it… or perhaps there are deeper issues at stake that are beyond the coach’s (and perhaps the client’s) power to uncover and resolve. In that case the work for the coach and client is to go where the client wishes to go, at the rate they wish to engage and explore coming to terms with how that change is not a possibility. This might also be the place in the relationship where we would bring into the coaching conversation other resources that might be useful, reset goals for the coaching relationship, or refer to other professionals.

Some Questions to ask a client when a coach is uncertain whether the client is satisfied with their rate of change and/or progress toward goals:

  1. How well do you think you are doing in moving toward your stated goal?

  2. We have talked about this pattern (or issue, difficulty, stumbling block) for several sessions. What do you think stands in the way of moving beyond it?

  3. Are you moving toward your stated goals at a rate you are satisfied with?

  4. Are you still committed to the goals we set when we started working together?

  5. Why do you think it has been difficult for you to move beyond this issue?

  6. What would it be like if you were able to move more quickly toward your goals?

It is hard to contain our own perceptions related to what is blocking a client’s rate of change or progress toward a goal… especially if it seems to be very clear to us. But as coaches it is important to remember that we are working to facilitate the client’s own voyage of discovery and change and we cannot really know the inner landscapes that they must circumvent and navigate to get to their destination. We must ask for those details and help them see them more clearly. We help them navigate by asking for clarification and the various viewpoints of what they see ahead and how they plan to steer around or toward it. The client is our only way of seeing what is ahead for them… and we must trust that they know, consciously or not, what lays ahead, what they can accomplish and how long it will take for them to accomplish it. We are mirrors and clarifiers, tools and navigational instruments.

And how much more satisfying for a client when they are allowed to chart, navigate, and discover their own way? The end result belongs completely to them… and it may be that it is more complete and more an innate part of their wisdom and genius if we insert as little of our own, perhaps premature, perception about their inner world as possible.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Thought About Client Resistance to Change in Coaching

Readiness to change is not automatically a trait that the client brings into the conversation or one that the client recognizes in its totality, but it can be brought about through interaction with a coach who is attentive to the signals and signs of motivation toward change and responds in a way that enhances them.
What is called “resistance” or “denial” is, in fact, the product of the practitioner’s assumption that the client is closer to change readiness than he or she actually is.
Resistance and denial are actually problems generated from the practitioner and not the client.