Three Keys to Creating a Powerful Coaching Relationship



by Lisa Illman

In my article, Use a Coach and Watch Your Results Sky Rocket, I discussed a few of the characteristics to be on the look out when interviewing for a new coach. Recently, I was fortunate enough to connect with an old friend, Vicky Barto, who is now living the dream as a coach on the John Maxwell Team.   Vicky helps individuals reach their goals in any area of their life and she has a keen sense of the challenges each of us face when we try and go it alone.


“Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast or a bridge player.”

-Bill Gates


I have noticed some business coaches and clients have an especially powerful connection. This connection, I noticed, was taking the client from good results to better, long term, great results. I really wanted to drill down and get the ingredients that make this special coach client recipe. Vicky and I kicked this topic around, and here are a few of the key coach attributes that we came up with that will support a powerful coach client relationship.


Coaches Who Establish a “Thinking Partner” Bond

Having a thinking partnership between coach and client is the meat and potatoes to creating new ideas and solutions for problems the client faces. This is also an ingredient for a strong foundation to brainstorming innovative ideas. When you create a thinking partnership, problems start to unravel, alleviate and resolve.  Vicky talked about how the probing technique (restating what her clients says, sometimes in a question, probing for the root of the problem and ultimately the solution) coupled with visualization techniques, leads her to this powerful engagement with her clients.

“What is nice about the probing technique is it allows the client to think on a deeper level. Most people are what I call ‘surface thinkers’ meaning they only think enough to get by and do not stop to dig into what is lying in their subconscious mind. They think enough to get by. But when they are asked to visualize what outcome they want and are asked questions to do a full 360 visualization, many times they realize that ‘oh, that may not give me what I am looking for’ and we can continue to explore.”


Coaches Who Establish Judgment Free Environments for Clients

In my article “Effectively Using Accountability Partners for Business Results” I outline the importance of trusting your partner, and I make note to say, stay away from gossips! This goes hand in hand with avoiding judgmental coaches who are in a position to greatly affect your self-esteem. Trust your coach; know she is not judging you. If your coach is telling you the intimate details of a client she has, rest assured, she would do the same to you. Vicky Barto and I see eye to eye on the importance of trust and non-judgement.

“Our world is full of judgment and ridicule, people are worried about what others will think of them. In my coaching environment there is no judgment by the coach. Clients are free to release their inner thoughts (and emotions) and I help them to explore those thoughts (and emotions) for their true meaning. Many of my clients are in a manager/leadership role. These roles are demanding and come with a lot of challenges, pressure and undesirable situations. As a person is growing into their role they need to learn to identify their own solutions. What I might consider inappropriate or a wrong approach does not matter. My role is to ask questions to the client so that they can make a fully informed decision as to what path they want to move forward with.”


“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”
― John Wooden


Coaches Who Know and Accept When Clients No Longer Need Them

This is such a powerful attribute, and speaks volumes about a coach’s maturity. Many times we see professionals trying to keep the client’s business or simply has an ego feeding addiction to the client’s good results and hard work. This lack of objectivity can make a client to needy and overly dependent on the coach. In the long run, it actually undermines the client’s success.

“A good coach knows when they are no longer needed. It is very important that as the client achieves the goals they identified at the beginning of the relationship, gains confidence and momentum that the coach sets the client free to continue on their own. Many times the client loves the results they got from their last goal that they set a new, higher goal. The coach needs to be careful not to allow the client to become dependent on them. Most coaching clients last 3 to 12 months depending on what they want to achieve. On occasion you will get some that may last longer. The longer the relationship lasts the higher the risk is for the clients dependency on their coach.”

A powerful coaching relationship is evident in the self-empowerment of the client. Cultivating this special and strong bond not only transforms the dynamics of the relationship, it literally sky rockets the client results from good to great!




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