I was reading an article in the Coaching Psychologist on the way to a client this morning.  The article reported some research into whether client factors – described as clients’ “core self-evaluations” – are a significant factor in the effectiveness of coaching; client factors being one of the four “common factors” of efficacy in counselling and psychotherapy.  A little surprisingly, the authors concluded that core self-evaluations were not a significant factor; surprisingly because intuitively one suspects that how a client sees themselves, and how they see themselves reflected in the mirror of their relationships, must play a part in how they engage in coaching and what they get out of it.

On the way home after seeing my client, I found myself having a kind of symmetrical reflection, musing on why I had enjoyed the session and, savouring my own positive self-evaluation, why I felt that I had been useful to my client.  I was reminded of the difference in experience when working with a client I like and when working with one for whom I feel somehow less sympathy – whose own presence in the relationship radiates less appeal.

My musing seemed to end on a note of caution.  As a coach I think there may be some wisdom in guarding against being a reed in the wind of affability.  Not that it is a sin to enjoy the work; but I wonder if the pleasure taken in the company of a client can lead sometimes lead to complacency – or at least for me, to the danger that I start making assumptions and stop listening; that I slip into thinking that my client and I share a closely similar worldview.

Once, at the end of a coaching session, making an ironical comment on the trials of leadership and the strangeness of human nature, I wished my client well by saying “good luck in bending your team to your will”.  Much to my dismay she bridled at the comment and strode angrily from the room and from the coaching relationship, never to be seen again.  I had inadvertently, and probably too flippantly, touched a nerve or stamped upon something important to her.

That was a long time ago.  Today, thankfully, I was able to enjoy the session and to choose my closing words a little more carefully!


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