15 Questions to Ask Before Recommending (or Receiving) Coaching

At Blanchard Coaching Services, we work with learning and development professionals in organizations to roll out coaching initiatives.

Most of the people who are to chosen to receive coaching are excited about the prospect and immediately enthusiastic; however, some are not. These folks either miss the initial email from their L&D business partners, or they read the email and don’t really understand it, or they do understand it but aren’t really signed up for what feels like yet another thing to do. Sometimes they have had a bad coaching experience in the past.

When clients aren’t prepared to meet a coach at least halfway, it can lead to problems. This type of coaching client often doesn’t show up for their coaching sessions—or, even worse, they do show up but they “yes” the coach. This essentially means that the client shows up for their session but doesn’t really pay attention or commit; they just say enough of the right things to slide by. Most coaches know when they are being “yessed,” but it is amazing how good some people are at this. In the worst cases, the client goes along and then claims the coaching was a waste of time and their coach was terrible. The financial, emotional, and lost-time cost of this kind of coaching situation is painful and embarrassing for all concerned—so we work very hard to avoid it.

It is critical for the professionals in charge of the coaching initiative to put some effort into what we think of as internal marketing. This includes:

  • An Invitation. Nobody likes to be told that they are getting a coach, even if they actually want one. An invitation respects the individual’s autonomy, which is critical to motivation. This is beautifully explained by my colleague Susan Fowler in her book Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…And What Does.
  • An Explanation. Coaching is expensive. It’s important for candidates to understand why they are being offered coaching right now, what the organization expects them to get out of it, and how they can expect to benefit professionally and personally.
  • An Opportunity to Opt Out. Candidates need to be given the option to decline coaching as well as clear direction and support for how to make the decision. There should never be a sense that any coaching candidate will be judged or penalized if they decide to forgo coaching for now.

Ultimately, a client must be ready, willing, and able to work with a coach for the exercise to be fruitful.

To help L&D professionals support coaching candidates in making the best choice for themselves, we developed a series of questions potential clients can ask themselves. There is no hard and fast rule about how many of these questions a potential coaching client needs to say yes to. The purpose is to shine a light on the client’s present mindset and circumstances.

Is coaching right for the candidate? Have them consider these questions:

  1. Am I planning to stay in my role and/or grow with the organization for at least the next six months?
  2. Am I currently feeling successful in my role and organization?
  3. Am I on an even keel from a performance standpoint—having some challenges, perhaps, but no serious problems?
  4. Am I eager to obtain, consider, and be influenced by feedback?
  5. Am I familiar with or open to learning what coaching is all about?
  6. Am I open to new perspectives?
  7. Am I ready to accept input?
  8. Am I able to devote time—at least three hours a month—to coaching sessions or commitments made in coaching sessions?
  9. Am I willing to be challenged?
  10. Am I confident enough to disagree with my coach?
  11. Am I confident enough to give my coach feedback if I don’t think the coaching feels useful?
  12. Am I capable of introspection?
  13. Am I eager to grow and change?
  14. Am I currently free from severe personal problems that require extra brain space? (This may include addiction recovery, deep grief due to recent loss, difficult relationship issues with significant other, child or parent that requires close attention/therapy/counseling, contentious divorce/custody/legal issues.)
  15. Do I believe coaching is the best use of my time, focus, and efforts right now?

Allowing individual clients to think ahead and choose for themselves will increase the likelihood that every coaching engagement will result in a success story. Consider how you can help your coaching candidates be better prepared to get the most out of what coaching has to offer.

About the Author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is the co-founder of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 150 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

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