Coaching to Your Clients Style – 1 of a 3 Part Series

Different people think, feel, and prioritize differently. If a coach does not recognize this simple truth and then adjust to meet the client’s needs, they are not coaching as effectively as is possible. As a coach, it is your responsibility to understand your client and meet their needs.
In part 1 of this series, let’s start by asking ourselves a few simple questions:
1. Would administering and assessing a test cross over in to mental health?
2. Does it require administering and assessing personality tests to identify personality traits and needs?

A plethora of personality tests and tools is available today. Some swear by one of the tools, and others by different ones. Is there a right or wrong tool? Each has value for those that utilize it. Is a coaching relationship the place to administer and evaluate these tools? Some would say yes, others say no.

Let’s boil this down: assessing and diagnosing, or giving an assessment test and reviewing the results to determine personality, sounds simple enough. At the same time, we know that extensive education and licensure are required to practice mental health, which includes assessing and diagnosing. Consider lawsuits that have occurred wherein an employee sues their company because they were told they needed to get mental health services. The employees win lawsuits because the courts find that ‘telling’ someone they need mental health services implies that you have assessed them, diagnosed their need, and given advice, which amounts to practicing mental health without a license.
What is the line between coaching and mental health then? Because coaching is an industry that is not controlled or monitored, the line is not clear. Some state government offices that oversee the mental health professions are receiving complaints about coaches, and as a result legislation is beginning to set parameters. If the line is not yet clear, how do we avoid crossing it? As a coach, I find clear boundaries are important to my clients and to ensure an ethical practice. Administering a test and evaluating results seems to fall at the very least in to a grey area between coaching and mental health.

The second question we are addressing here is whether or not administering and evaluating a test is necessary. Consider now how each of us naturally recognizes differences in family, friends, and colleagues. How many times have you heard, “that’s just the way they are?” What do you notice about others already? Simply knowing that it is important to notice others and how they are to develop rapport and build a positive relationship gives you a solid foundation. When you add perspective on ways to focus on people to increase your understanding and insight of them, and on how to treat different people according to their needs, you are enhancing your skills as a coach. It is possible to easily and naturally recognize personality differences in conversation without giving a test. Tools that are available now provide coaches with the opportunity to focus on their clients and meet client needs.

Part 2 of this series will look at ways to understand your client’s style through conversation and part 3 will explore how clients receive and process information.

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