What Do Your Clients Need From You as a Coach?

Nov 23, 2022

What are you responsible for as a coach? How heavy is your backpack when you show up for sessions?

If you’ve ever found yourself asking yourself, “How much is enough?” in thinking about what you give your clients, you’re not alone.

Depending on whom you ask, you may be told that it’s your job to …

  • Hold clients accountable
  • Inspire clients to be better
  • Chart a clear path for clients
  • Reflect clients’ limiting beliefs
  • Set agendas for sessions
  • Tell clients what to change
  • Tell clients how to change
  • Solve your clients’ problems

… and this is only the beginning! Yet no coach can bear the weight of all of these responsibilities for every client day in and day out. Even if it were sustainable (trust us, it’s not), you wouldn’t be doing your clients any favors.

Yet if your clients don’t need you to carry all that for them, what DO they actually need?

We’ll dig into the answer to this question below. Before we do, let’s hear from the founder of Narrative Coaching Dr. David Drake.

A Note From David:

When I think back to when I started coaching and teaching coaching skills in organizations 25 years ago, I recall feeling both exhilarated and exhausted. In part this was because coaching was in its formative stage, but mostly it was because I was working very hard to do well by my clients in what felt like uncharted territory. While my doctoral studies gave me great resources for thinking about my practice, what I lacked was confidence in myself (and ultimately in the client and the process itself).

I would show up to sessions and workshops with an overflowing ‘backpack’ filled with everything that might be needed for that client or group. I felt a need to be able to answer any question that was asked — and tell them how I came to believe that to be true. I felt an even stronger need to help them solve their problems, feel better, make progress . . . You get the drift. . . Everything came to a head with a client who was a leader in the public sector.

I knew I needed to make a big shift. I started focusing on fewer things, but with more depth. I started inviting him to re-organize key elements in his life so that he would have more support for himself. I started focusing on my presence and what was right in front of me instead of what I should be doing. I let go of agendas and goals that others had set and helped him discover what truly mattered to him and make choices from that place. My backpack got much lighter … and I had much more energy to work with him.

The Four Things You Should Provide as a Coach

We’ve found through years of research and experience that what clients need from their coaches is more simple than you might expect. When you provide these four key experiences for clients, your sessions transform into rich and fruitful spaces for change and realization.

1. Clients want to be seen and heard without judgment.

To really be seen and heard by another person isn’t very common these days. The fast pace of modern life and the constant ‘pings’ from our technology pull our thoughts away from the present moment. It’s not uncommon for someone to be “listening” to you while also thinking about their next appointment, ruminating on some past interaction, or daydreaming about dinner. Clients want to be welcomed as they are before anything else. We shy away from using fancy terms, labels and boxes, or our formulations about them and their stories.

2. Clients want a safe place to pause and just be.

We prioritize radical presence in what and how we teach. It involves situating ourselves as fully as possible in what IS and using our breath and presence to create a sacred space within which to work. It involves inviting them to Pause, Relax and Open, especially in moments of meeting where you both are challenged to grow. It enables MI practitioners to stand still in order to get to the heart of what really matters and move ahead gracefully. We shy away from assuming we know where clients should go or how they should get there.

3. Clients want an authentic and generative human connection.

We are hard-wired as humans to connect. We are social creatures who desire rich inner and/or out landscapes to nourish us. Entering into communion with others is a sacred human experience and one that is harder to come by these days. As our world continues to evolve at a fast pace, it is easy to feel like we are in survival mode as we try to ‘catch up’. Connecting deeply with our clients is what they often remember most, and it gives them the support and confidence they need to experiment with new beliefs and behaviors.

4. Clients want a safe place to experience and experiment with what is possible

What if, instead of trying to fit clients into a predefined formula or framework — and just attend to the unique human in front of you? What is the client’s story and their telling of their story wanting us to notice and address? What opening for new experiences or experiments is emerging? These are important questions because what adults often lack the most is not more knowledge, buzz words, or tools. What they need is a safe place to practice who they want to become and how they want to be in the world.

Putting It Into Practice

These four needs our clients bring to coaching are simple and intuitive. Yet, to bring them to life in our practice often requires unlearning key elements of how many coaches were trained. Practitioners who have worked with us at The Moment Institute deeply appreciate our support for lightening their load and freeing them to show up more fully for their clients and move with more ease and grace as they coach.

All of our programs, workshops, and events are designed to develop practitioners like you to deepen their self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-efficacy — so they can do the same for their clients in working with them.

To find a free upcoming event where you can experience working this way for yourself, check out our Events Page.