Pushing the boulder uphill – when the client is not for moving


We have all been there. You are called in by HR to coach a senior exec. You are given a full briefing of all issues and the messages given to the coachee. You meet and greet and they appear committed, but already your gut feel is beginning to twang. Something tells you it’s not going to be easy. In the first session all doubt is confirmed as they tell you all is well and appear reluctant to set real objectives. So what can you do?

Contract.  We all know that it is good practice to contract with your client, setting out the number of sessions, responsibilities, confidentiality etc. But contracting needs to go further. At deWinton-Williams we set up contracts with the paying client and also the coachee. That contract sets out not only the number of sessions and the usual details, but also the business goals they will work towards, the cost, the cancellation terms and their responsibility as a coachee. They are asked to sign up and commit before session two. No signature, no coaching. Tough but transparent.

Three way objective setting. All too often we are asked to come in and coach around a behavioural issue which has not been dealt with for years. Feedback has been withheld or moderated, behaviours tolerated and the other cheek turned too many times. The business is hoping that the coach will not only deliver the message but by some magic bring about a change which the coachee does not realise is required.  A powerful alternative is to set up an objective setting session in which the coach facilitates a three-way session with a line manager to ensure the feedback is delivered and objectives set. Such a session is often challenging, but it creates a platform for change.

Challenging. Someone who has been very successful despite their behaviours can often see no reason for change. Why change a winning formula? Sometimes this leads to impasse, in which case you need to think about proceeding. But sometimes questions about the desire for respect, what else could be achieved; leaving a legacy; what do you want said about you when you retire? Do you think they will say that?

Monitoring. Some clients simply do not notice the positive results of change. A monitoring system in which they log changes, successes and get prompts from their coach can enable a more consistent and fluid change rather than a quick burst of activity in the days before their coaching session. We are already seeing dramatic results using our deWinton-Williams Track Momentum system.

Usually a combined effort and transparency creates the momentum you need and you see a recalcitrant client move to a real coaching success. It doesn’t always work, in which case have the honest talk and stop.