The coaching relationship

The Coaching RelationshipCoaching relationships

In this post I though I would put a spin on things. I have shared extensively in previous posts from the coaches viewpoint and prospective within coaching.

Today I would like to share my own thoughts backed up by available research on coaching relationships.

Before I begin I would like to talk about a few pertinent points.

There has been in recent times research on the quality of the coaching relationship itself and with our clients whilst we are coaching.

A fascinating exploration on these areas and in relation to coaching relationships comes from Erik De Haan and Charlotte Skills in Coaching relationships, the relational coaching field book, 2012, Libri Publishing.

There are stated pillars of appreciation from the “coach” in respect of the relationship with the client.

  • Human beings are deeply motivated to be in relationship with others, so part of what we (client and coach) anticipate from this relationship might be to repeat our other relationships (outside of the coaching arena) and ideally to create better ones, both within and outside the coaching space.
  • All content of coaching can be seen as relational, i.e. clients are continually, even if subliminally, linking relationships elsewhere (real and imagined) to this relationship
  • This coaching relationship is worth exploring at all times for, the learning contained within it.
  • This coaching relationship is worth strengthening (in the eyes of the client)

So what does this mean in practice?

I believe a great deal of coaches will focus on themselves as the facilitator of change within the coaching session.

This may be models based coaching which uses a range of coaching models that can be “used” within the coaching session, performance based approaches with smart goals and step-by-step action plans in how to reach them.

The world of coaching has also seen recent applications from neuropsychology, positive psychology, gestalt, narrative and brief coaching and also therapeutic approaches from person centred theory, TA, NLP and so much more.

This is all wonderful material for future posts and learning but what sits at the core of these approaches, theories and applications within the coaching session?

The relationship with the client

This is over and above anything that you as a coach “do” within the session.

Core components of this relationship I believe are:


To really understand the client and step inside their worlds with an air of unknowing, not needing to be right or know how to help the client but with an open minded acceptance for the client and their beliefs, values, drivers and motivators.

To let them talk before being talked too.

Tailoring and flexibility

As a coach we need to be flexible with our approaches that fit the client and not what we feel we should do and have within the session.

That isn’t to say that we cant impart knowledge and useful avenues of exploration but we need to remain mindful that coaching is not a rigid format and recipe for helping clients but a fluid exchange that ebbs and flows within the session led by the client and their desires.

Outside factors

When we coach we do so at the level of best impact and purpose with the client. Whatever that means to them. A great deal of revelations and learning will be put into practice and learnt, not within the coaching session itself but in the clients own world outside of the coaching space. When they are out living their lives and interacting in relationship with others.

We need to assess this and see how that could be for them but also allow them to experience a full richness of experience in their own lives, good and bad.

Hope and trust

Hope is another key energy and driver that allows such wonderful results in coaching. The client will come to the session wanting to change something integral to them and this sense of hope that things can be changed, improved and get better can be contained and worked with in a session.

Trust is paramount within a session and this needs to be built, maintained and paid close attention to from the very first interaction with your client.

The above is not set in stone and there are many other wonderful viewpoints to come, which will take coaching beyond a normal goal setting, and models based interaction.

I am very excited about the new world of coaching and the fascinating landscapes still to explore.

For now, when you next coach, don’t.

cognitive-behavioural-coachingAbout The Author

Paul Kensett is a life coach and founder of Paul Kensett Training and Coaching solutions and a qualified coach and NLP Practitioner.

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