Getting Clients To Trust Themselves

Are you a clean coach? If so, what do you do when clients ask you for advice, feedback or ideas?

Several managers in a company in Kuala Lumpur wanted me to tell them what I thought of their strengths and weaknesses, and whether I thought they were doing the right thing. I had introduced them to the idea of clean coaching and they knew it would be non-directive; that a coach is not the same as a mentor or consultant; and that my role was to ask them questions to allow them to arrive at their own insights and solutions. But that didn’t stop them from looking to me for validation or advice.

Another time, a client asked me for guidance. She wanted to know how I make decisions so she could gain a new decision-making strategy.

Here’s how I used a couple of different clean approaches to help these clients to recognise that their own ideas would be better than mine:

Clean Feedback 

With the group of managers I used the Clean Feedback model to encourage them to trust that they had the best answers for themselves.

This model trains us to give feedback in the following specific ways:

Evidence: Objectively, what did you both or all see and hear that lets you know something happened the way it did?

Inference: What story did you make up about what you saw or heard? What assumptions are you holding in order to make up that story?

Impact: And when you tell yourself that story, then what happens for you?

The managers had practised using Clean Feedback during a group session, learning separate evidence from their interpretations. They understood how to suspend assumptions and judgments about one other, and could see the difference it made in their communication and relationships.

So when they repeated a request for me to tell them about their strengths and weaknesses, I said, “Yes, I could do that. I could tell you what I think your strengths and weaknesses are. And I could also suggest what you need to do about them. And what I would be doing would be interpreting your words and behaviour. I would be making up stories, in my head, about what I think is going on. Is that what you would like?”

That gave them pause to consider that any ‘expert’ opinion of them would actually just be stories I was making up. They agreed it made more sense to continue with clean coaching.

Focusing on the client’s words

With the client who wanted me to share my decision-making strategy, I simply repeated back the client’s words to remind her what she was capable of doing on her own.

After two sessions, this client had reported that she was able to ask herself, “What would I like to have happen to have a clear mindset?” She said, “I take time to breathe and an answer comes to my mind.”

In the third session, she wanted to know if she was making the best decision she could about her career.

Me: For today, what would you like to have happen?

Client: Some guidance from you.

Me: And some guidance from me. What kind of guidance?

Client: Your past experience. How you make decisions or the best practices you have carried out with other people that have benefitted them. I will apply their experiences and see which one best fits me.

Me: And I could do that. And what works for me will not necessarily work for you. Doing that will not allow you to do what you’ve been doing so well already which is to take time, breathe, and an answer comes to my mind. So, if I were to share with you how I make decisions, and how I know when it’s the best decision for me, what’s going to happen is that our attention will be focused on what I’m doing that works well for me. And you would lose the opportunity to take time and breathe so that an answer comes to your mind. Because our attention is going to be on me, and our attention will not be on you. Is that what you would like? 

The client immediately decided that she would get the ‘ultimate benefit’ if we carried on with clean coaching and withdrew her request for guidance from me.

These strategies helped convince my clients to trust their own self-knowledge …


 What about you? What do you do when a client asks for your advice within a clean coaching session?

Tags: clean language, coaching, outcomes, clean questions, clean coaching, clean feedback, jacqueline anne surin, assumptions, inferences

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About the author

Jacqueline Surin

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Jacqueline Ann Surin is the first certified Level 1 Systemic Modeller outside of the UK. She is Specialist Trainer and Coach for Leadership Development at People Potential in Singapore and Malaysia, and an associate of Training Attention in the UK. She is leading the development of Clean Language in Singapore and Malaysia with Anne Munro-Kua Transformations. She can be contacted for a free experience of Clean Language for individuals and groups at jacqueline.surin@peoplepotential.com.

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