People can be surprisingly different in the way they think and the way they frame the world. When people are very different communication might not be as effective as it could be, or it results in rapport that could be better. Part of being an excellent coach is being able to flex and engage with clients quite different from ourselves and recognise role of personality differences on the coaching relationship. It is much easier to build effective relationships with people like ourselves – “people like people who are like themselves” (Knight). Similarities in believes, values, characters and knowledge between coach and a client help create an effortless rapport. In my experience, on one hand, it is of course great to have an exquisite connection for the sake of rapport which helps to be braver with trying new tools, methods and approaches. On the other hand, it’s an important knowledge for me to look for appropriate ways to challenge the client effectively and appropriately. Not to be too comfortable due to the similarities and stay neutral to honour clients’ own experience.

Sometimes we need to work harder as coaches and challenging sessions can be great learning experiences when working with client whose personality is different from mine. I used to work with a senior leader who had poor interpersonal skills but entered new role because of his excellent technical knowledge. I worked a lot on his self-awareness and emotional intelligence – EQ is what “makes or breaks leaders” (Goleman) to help improve his weak interpersonal areas and recognising feelings of others. I worked with various coaching tools and methods to challenge him and make progress on performance. But first I helped him connect what we needed to work on with his professional and personal goals and with what was important to him using Covey’s “seek first to understand, then to be understood” and by practicing empathic listening. This supportive approach at first paid off. “When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air” (Covey) and build trust which enables influencing or problem solving at later stage. This helped me challenge him in hard moments and overcome resistance to change. Following Mary Beth O’Neill’s coaching with ‘backbone’ and ‘heart’ and Hawkins’ and Smith’s ‘fearless compassion’ helped in the process as well. It took some effort, but I learned understanding better client’s reality and how differences between mine and client’s map of the world influence my behaviour as a coach. As well as always being ready for unexpected, flexible, courageous, creative and dance in the moment.

What we want as coaches is to get better to work with all types of people. Being good at flexing to someone else’s preferences means that you intuitively recognise them and adopt a style that matches and/or supports the clients preferences. I use models that help to identify the differences in people and help me as a coach communicate and “relate to people in the way that makes sense to them” (Knight) and maximise coaching.

Written by Patrycja Orzeszyna © 2019 ZenCoaching.eu. All rights reserved. 

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