I would like to talk about creating self-empowered clients. Self-empowered individuals are people who know how to take a problem or a challenge in their life and are able to work on it themselves. They can be fully effective at solving their own problems.
I think, as coaches, we are aiming to help people be really great at this. What we don't want to do as coaches, is solve problems for people so that they are dependant on us, or on other people in their lives to solve problems for them all the time.
There is a part of our brain that is the problem solving centre and there is a switch that turns that on and off. So if the problem solving part of the brain is off, mostly what we will do is take input and advice and direction from other people. We can live life just fine that way. But the self-empowered person has this part of the brain turned on. They are able to solve their own problems.
If you, as a coach, are solving your client's problems for them, you are not serving them. Because you are keeping them from building this muscle of being a self-empowered person.
It is much more motivating to follow through on your own ideas than to follow through on somebody elses ideas. It is the same for your clients.
Now a lot of people have this part of their brain turned off. We have teachers and parents and bosses and people who tell us what to do all the time. It is more efficient in a way. But if they come to you as a client and you ask them, "How can you resolve that?" and they say, "I don't know," maybe that 'I don't know' is just an indication that this part of their brain is turned off at the moment.
Your job is to help turn it back on. You can do this in a number of ways.
- Help your clients find different aspects of themselves, to look at the problem from different perspectives.
- What are their values and how do their values help them see the problem?
- Find a wisdom part of themselves. How does that side of themselves see the problem?
- Help them frame the problem in different ways and maybe the solution will become obvious to them.
In all of those ways they are solving the problem. What you are doing is empowering them to build this muscle of the problem solver.
I have had a number of coaches in various coach training settings over the years ask me, "I was coaching this person and I could have given them a solution in the first fifteen seconds, but instead we spent this twenty minutes spending time talking about the problem and finally they came up with a solution."
Sometimes the coach will say they came up with the right solution. Who knows if it is the right solution or not, but often we think there is one.
I think if you have spent the twenty minutes it is not wasting time. You have invested that time. The client has been building this muscle of solving their own problem, of working it out. Now it is their solution. They own it.
It is much more motivating to follow through on your own ideas than to follow through on somebody elses ideas. It is the same for your clients. They will be much more motivated if you help them find their solution. They are empowered. They have done their problem-solving work. They have looked at it from different angles and they found a solution.
They will be much more excited about following through on that.
This interview has minor edits for clarity.
Lori Shook, a Master Certified Coach since 2001 has partnered with us to produce the Coaches Going Corporate video course. You can sign-up for a free taster here.