What do we need to know about our clients before we begin to coach them?

The answer to this could quite simply be, “nothing” – we’re going to find out everything we need to know by asking the right questions! Yet using an “assessment” as a tool for stimulating reflection and self-awareness can be very valuable in establishing a good coaching partnership.

Of course, the word “assessment” can be daunting and a little off-putting to anyone who likes to avoid the possibility of failure, and at Wellness Coaching Australia we tend to refer to it as a Wellbeing Questionnaire as being the instrument of choice.  However, assessments provide many benefits, including:

  • Some clients will prefer a “safe” space to provide information and doing this in a written form can be less intimidating then answering a lot of questions.
  • Actually seeing what they have written can be powerful as it provides an insight into their measurable scores and also perhaps their state of mind so it becomes qualitative as well as quantatative, depending on what assessment is used.
  • An assessment can help a client see the difference between the way they are living and the way they would like to be living and this begins the process of “developing discrepancy” which is one of the aims of coaching
  • A more introverted person may prefer to share information initially in the written form which then helps us respect people’s personality styles
  • It can give both coach and client an idea of the readiness to change certain areas of wellbeing.

All of these benefits are worth noting but the biggest one by far is the opportunity to let a client being the process of self discovery and self awareness and think about where they are at, and where they want to go. In other words, it begins the coaching process.

We can coach within using a formal assessment tool but we should not discount the value of beginning the coaching journey in this way.

Compassion rather than Compliance

Using an assessment can be a smooth way to begin and as long as good coaching skills are used in when reviewing the answers, it can be an ideal starting point. However, it is also worth noting that some dangers exist and these are:

  • Coaches can occasionally focus on what is “wrong” with the client, rather than the opportunities that exist.  They may fall into the mode of fixing and wearing their expert hat, particularly if they have a former role in healthcare.
  • The responses may promote judgment around unhealthy behaviours and choices, or even provoke sympathy, whereas what is needed is a good dose of empathy,
  • Finally, people who complete assessments are human and they may be tempted to respond in a way that wins favour with their coach. In other words, the answers may not be as accurate as we would like.  

However, our role as coaches is to help clients reflect and explore and using compassion as a means of helping people feel trusted will lead to further honesty, visioning and problem solving.

The aim of any discussion around an assessment is not for compliance (ie accurate truthful answers at all costs), but to create a place where compassionate listening will lead to greater motivation to change behaviours.

(Reference:  Coaching Psychology Manual, 2nd edition, Moore, Jackson and Tschannen-Moran., 2016)