Even the most effective coaching relationships go through ups and downs. You might be doing everything right–technically speaking–but for some reason the coaching relationship just isn’t on track. Maybe you’re losing focus, the client isn’t completing their action steps, or the relationship isn’t clicking the way it used to. What’s a smart coach supposed to do?
The following six steps will help you get back on track:
Ask the client for their input into the situation. Are you accurately assessing the state of the relationship? Does the client share your concern? One of the most challenging—sometimes maddening—situations of a coaching relationship, is that the coach can be dissatisfied with his or her performance and the client will love what’s going on. Ultimately, it’s client satisfaction that matters.
(NOTE: If the client is unconcerned—or even happy—with the results, try looking at the sense of dissatisfaction as a coach performance issue. A period of self-evaluation about your coaching in this particular relationship is a great next step. You might even compare multiple relationships to get a sense of whether or not this issue is more wide spread than just this individual relationship.)
Review the coaching agreement(s). You’ll get a very clear picture of whether or not you’re on track by just reviewing what you and the client agreed to when you began working together. An effective coaching agreement contains specific instructions about the purpose of the coaching relationship and the outcomes this relationship will generate. It’s all there in black and white. If your covenant has expired, or you’ve exceeded its bounds, that’s the first place to start. Bring the coaching agreement up to the client and have an honest and open conversation.
Name the problem in your own mind. Like any good coaching interaction, once the problem is named in the mind of the coach, the idea also needs to be in front of the client. The best coaching technique in this situation is to toss an idea out there for consideration. If the client doesn’t respond to it, the issue may not be a high enough priority for the individual to invest any time or energy. The goal here is to get the clients reaction and input to the situation. Remember that as a coach, you’re not going to demand the client adapt their view or work in order to fit your assessment.
But you can have an open and honest conversation—including feedback—that will give you a very clear picture of where the client and you are seeing things eye-to-eye. Don’t end this conversation until you and the client have come to some mutual understanding of whether or not you’re off track, and if so, why you might be off-track.
Brainstorm possible action steps to get back on track. Focus only on using the things that to which you already have access. Be asset minded. Try to resist the urge to brainstorm possibilities that require acquiring something new—a new software program, a new connection, money or some other outside influence unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Choose an action plan, and assign a timeline for implementation. Don’t over look the importance of the timeline, because accountabilty to the right kind of progress is much easier when there’s an element of time tracking! And don’t forget to determine when you’ll talk about the problem again so that you can most effectvely monitor progress toward your resolution…which leads directly to the last item…
In the scheduled follow-up conversation, don’t stop with just checking in on the existing problem. Spend a few minutes trying to identify early indicators that you might be slipping off track. It doesn’t matter if they are predicting the same issue or some other issue. What you’re after is a tool that might give you some kind of head start on keeping your coaching relationship on track.
If you can stay ahead of the problem before drift sets in, you can prevent most focus issues in a coaching relationship with only a minimum amount of effort. But that all starts with understanding the early indicators of when you’re starting to drift ever so slightly away from the purpose of the relationship.
What’s your best strategy for keeping your coaching relationships on track? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!