How to lighten up and create more energy with your coaching client

lighten up with your coaching clientsCoaching is serious business! Companies hire coaches to get results by working with their people to improve their performance and grow professionally. Individuals hire coaches because they want a better or different result in one or more aspects of their lives.

To me, getting results is a given and that’s the top line of what coaching is about. Yet there is a deeper through-line present which is personal growth, and also transformation. There is nothing more satisfying to me than when I hear a client say that as a result of our coaching they are happier, more confident and a different person than before we worked together.

I coach in the corporate environment, and when the client says I’m not only a better leader, but a better spouse and parent as well, that is just the best. Now that’s the result I want to hear! The name of my company is Full Being Coaching for a reason; I want my client’s to have a full experience of being a better version of themselves than they were before our coaching.

So getting results is always a given. You can be serious about the results your client wants, AND also have your client be transformed in how they view themselves, and engage with others. It’s the difference between ‘giving someone fish’ (telling them What to do/giving them your answers) and ‘teaching them to fish’ (drawing out more of their inner resources so they come up with their own answers, now and beyond the coaching engagement).

Just because our clients are paying us for results doesn’t mean we have to be serious all the time. The ICF Core Competency of Coaching Presence has a sub-point that reads, “Uses humor effectively to create lightness and energy.”

What I’ve noticed as a Mentor Coach and ICF Assessor who listens to a lot of coaching sessions, is that when the coach remains serious in their energy, the client remains serious in their energy.

When the coach lightens up and becomes a little playful, the client’s energy lightens up too, and interestingly the client often has more access to self-knowledge, inner resources, and other perspectives. It’s almost as if the lighter energy relaxes both coach and client, and a deeper level of truth becomes available.

Here are some tips on how to work from serious, to lightening up:

Start by following the client’s energy.

If your client is more serious, match their tone, pace and volume/energy when speaking. When we match our client in this way, they are likely to feel like we understand them, and it helps to build rapport, and trust.

If you are connected and present with your client, you will be listening for not only their energy level, but also their use of words. There are at least three ways you can move forward:

Make a comment or observation based on what the client says.

Let’s say your client is talking about having to travel for work every weekend for the next 4 weeks and they are not happy about it because they enjoy spending time with their wife and dog. You could make a comment such as, “That sucks!” I know, that is not likely something everyone would say, but in the moment, that is something I might say! The point being that I’m relating with my client yet my comment is a lighter comment and is likely to bring a laugh or lighter energy from the client.

Ask a counter-intuitive question.

Now that your client is a little more open or relaxed, you might follow up with a question that seems like the last thing they’d want to consider, for instance, “What’s the best thing that being away for the next 4 weekends could bring you?” Your client may look at you as if you’re really weird, yet it might give them access to different perspectives. It is what it is, so how can the situation be viewed differently, so the emotional experience can be different.

Offer a comment based on the energy you are sensing.

Let’s say you are sensing anger, frustration or resentment when your client tells you about having to travel for the next 4 weekends for work. Shift your attention from the words and on to the client’s delivery through energy, tone, volume or pace of speaking. For example, “You seem upset about having to travel. What’s the emotion you’re feeling right now?” Let’s say the client says they are upset and annoyed at how often this is occurring (which might be a coaching opportunity of who they need to speak to about their travel schedule….) Again, you could ask a counter-intuitive question such as, “What’s the benefit of feeling upset and annoyed?” Again, your client might start to lighten up or even consider different perspectives. And if it is a conversation they need to have with a superior about their travel schedule, then the energy shift may be more useful for them to take into that conversation.

What not to do

Some coaches think that being light means making jokes or laughing during a coaching session. If your client is in a serious frame of mind and you laugh or make a joke that isn’t connected to the client’s energy, you can break rapport or lessen trust, because the client might not feel heard. Instead, through comments or questions as outlined above, you wait until your client has lightened up which you do by the way you are being with your client, and the comments or questions you make.

The other thing I often hear is the client laughs a lot in the session and it could be either uncomfortable laughter, or it could be laughing at oneself because they see their habit/pattern or the ridiculous side of their reasoning. This is a great opportunity to inquire about client energy/emotion such as, “What was that laugh about?” or “You seem to be laughing at yourself a lot. What’s funny?” The intent is to bring awareness to a pattern being presented to you by your client, as well as lightening up the energy. And when a client laughs often in a session and the coach remains serious, it lessens trust and rapport.

I have coached clients who have serious life situations or even life threatening illnesses, and we have laughed a lot in our coaching. You can be respectful of your client, and still be light and playful. We are human beings first and foremost and life’s difficulties can be a little easier to be with when the coach appropriately uses lightness and humor to unlock more energy in their client.

Are you preparing for your first or next ICF Credential?

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One of those offerings is an extensive library of MCC, PCC and ACC coaching sessions for our participants to listen to, evaluate, debrief, and learn from, along with The Target Approach to demystifying the ICF core competencies. These are incredibly valuable learning tools, and will accelerate your understanding of competency distinctions.

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