What makes a coaching conversation really come to life?

Maybe even a better question is: What separates a good coaching relationship from an awesome one?

Two answers jump to mind for this question: 1) either the coach is especially skilled OR 2) there is something about the client that sets up an effective coaching engagement.

Are you coaching on purpose?

What is it about some clients that make their coaching relationships more effective?


I think you know that I’m an advocate for coaches who develop their skills to a high level. Nothing replaces skill development for a coach. The skills are not that difficult to understand, but they require a significant investment of energy to sharpen them to a razor’s edge.

Let’s assume that you’re doing everything you can to develop your skills. You’re going all out. What can a coach do to help their clients get the most out of a coaching relationship?

Client expectations are the foundation of effective coaching relationships. A solid intake process should frame what the client can expect from the coach during your working relationship. But what about what the coach can expect from the client?

In my last post, I talked about a church planter I know that I’ve tried to coach a number of times. He always pushes pause on the coaching because it’s not a two way street. All the knowledge, gifts, experience, passion and other skills that are present in the relationship–both his and mine–are leveraged to help him accomplish his goals. In this case, he’s not comfortable with that. So coaching doesn’t work.

This one way leveraging hints at some of the things you can look for in your clients or potential clients.
– The coaching relationship has to have a clear purpose. BUT the client has to be coming to coaching not just with a purpose but also on purpose…we’re there to work.
– There’s nothing wrong with enjoying this and looking for it before you begin. I enjoy my clients–the people I get to work with–but some of that
enjoyment comes from the fact that I know what we do in our coaching
adds value to their lives.
– Be clear about from where that purpose comes. The client has to provide it. No matter how compelling or inspiring I am as a coach, if the client isn’t coming to the conversation to work, coaching won’t be effective.
– As a coach, you help the client stay focused and accountable to that purpose. You should always put some effort into confirming that the client is ready and you help them stay there.

Just to be 100% clear about this: if you have questions about whether the client is bringing this internal purpose to your coaching relationship, you MUST explore those questions. If you’re not completely convinced, it’s probably better to NOT coach that person.

I’m going to say that again. Don’t coach someone if you can’t see their internal commitment to come to your sessions purposefully and completely ready to work.

The client must come to every coaching session and coaching relationship ON PURPOSE.

You might have a smaller coaching load than you want because of this. But you’ll be more effective as a result, and over time your practice will grow.

So how you do find clients that are coming on purpose to be coached?

A great practice is to rely on the idea that The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If a client is motivated to change WITHOUT a coach, imagine how much more motivated they will be WITH a coach! Here are some coaching questions you might ask to get a sense of how a person gets and stays on purpose:
– Ask for stories from their lives that illustrate where they get their motivation.
– Ask for stories about how they stay accountable to finishing what they start.
– Ask for stories about how they handle roadblocks.

What comes to mind for you? How could you get a sense of the purposefulness a client brings into a coaching conversation? I’d love to hear your comments below!