coconut candyWhether you call it difficult or challenging or another word all together, the bottom line is you have an experience with a client that is not satisfying. The word to pay attention to here is experience: what you experience with the client in the coaching interaction.

When you know how beautiful coaching can be, how life changing, how delicious in the deep connection with another soul AND you do NOT experience that, it’s like biting into a chocolate candy expecting a creamy cherry center only to find a crunchy coconut center …when you hate coconut.

How you interpret these experiences is really important to ensure you don’t make yourself or the client or coaching wrong and in so doing, ding your self confidence or your passion for this work.

Instead of getting caught in a cascade of make-wrongs, use these questions to help you meet the experience far more effectively:

  • Is the client really “difficult,” or are you simply not having the experience you want (expected) to have with the client?
  • Is the depth of connection missing?
  • Is the client not fully engaged?
  • Are you attached to an outcome of some kind?
  • Are you more invested in your client’s success, movement or change than s/he is?
  • Are you uncomfortable with your client’s reaction/emotional intensity/pain?
  • Is your client jiggling your Jello™ by mirroring something unresolved within you that sets up an inner wobble? (Hint: This can cause you to be attached to having your client change in order to eliminate your inner wobbles.)
  • Are you depending upon topical expertise to give you confidence…and finding your client has a topic that’s outside your personal experience? (Hint: You may have been doing more consulting than coaching if this is true for you.)
  • Is your concern over getting it right or delivering value or pleasing your client preventing you from being fully present?
  • Do you need to develop your coaching skills in a specific area, such as language, in order to invite discovery and learning? Does your client have a processing or learning style that you don’t yet know how to meet effectively?


To change what you’re experiencing with those “challenging” clients:

1)    Notice when the coaching is not satisfying.

2)    Stop making yourself, the client or the situation wrong.

3)    Change your question from what’s wrong (with me/them/it) to what’s this about? What’s possible because this lack of satisfaction exists? What does this call me to notice? What’ the opportunity for learning, for me, for client? Would I feel better if the client xxxxx (attachment check)? If so, why?

4)    Go back to your coaching agreement and check in to see where your client sees themselves in relation to desired outcomes specified in the agreement. (You may be surprised at how often the client is more satisfied with the coaching experience than you are. Hearing this can adjust your perspective.)

5)    Take the situation to your coach. If your Jello™ has been jiggled, get that handled so you can see the situation through a different lens.

Bottom line: Rethink what “difficult” means with regard to your coaching clients, and instead focus on what about your experience with the client seems challenging for you. Use that as a springboard to your ongoing development as a coach so you can have more of the deliciously productive coaching interactions you want to have!

In celebration of your unfolding journey in coaching!



PS: If this article is useful for you, you’ll likely enjoy the audio of the September, 2014, Heart and Soul of Coaching program, from which this is drawn. Not yet a member of the H&S community? Join here, at no charge.