Coach has often been told that the focus must always be on the client’s agenda.
Obviously, if the coach’s own agenda is the prevailing focus, there is on longer a coaching relationship. As it is more like employer-employee’s, And the saying goes – “the boss is always right!”
Let’s examine a few scenarios of coachee’s agenda.
A client has problem in relating to his colleagues at work. He wants to find a way to build better relationship with his colleagues.
This is an obvious case of a client stating what he wants and hence his agenda. On this premise, the coach proceeds with the coaching sessions.
The client wants to create better rapports with his colleagues, so that he can leverage on the relationship to achieve his own agenda, for example, getting a faster promotion, even at the expense of his colleagues. The consequences faced by the colleagues can be severe, both emotionally and materially. This is very much going against the coach’s value system, whose universal agenda is not to hurt another parties.
Let’s make the matter even more serious. The client is prepared to take whatever means to achieve his own agenda, getting involved in corruptions, or carry out character assassination against someone else. And the client is seeking the coach’s help to find out the most effective ways to do just that.
The coach cannot be free from no agenda. As he or she has belief and value systems. There will be many conflicts if the coaching sessions proceed.
To use the argument as what is best for the client is actually exercising the coach’s own judgment on what is right and what is wrong. This is more like advisory role rather than coaching role.
Now, let’s see another scenario. This time, the coachee, i.e. the client, after a few coaching sessions, with the coach intensely listens to his or her problems, becomes physically attracted to the coach, and emotionally dependent on the coach too. The client’s agenda has shifted from the original “seeking ways to come out from depression” to “wanting to establish intimate relationship with the coach” as the solution to his or her problems.
In all the above cases, the client expresses explicitly his or her goals or agenda. Looking back again at the opening statement : “Coach has often been told that the focus must always be on the client’s agenda.”, isn’t it a dilemma for the coach now?
Before we further discuss whether it is a dilemma or how to resolve such conflict, I wish to share a story.
Once there is this beautiful lady-client who has problems getting along well with people around her. Whether the people are the lady or gentlemen friends, colleagues, supervisors, even her own family members: brothers, sisters or parents, she often get annoyed, frustrated. And that anger and mood affect the people around her.
Eventually she seeks the help of a coach so that she could get on with her life and with people interacting with her.
It is clear to the coach that this beautiful lady has a lot of hallucinations. She lives in her own world and only pay attention to her own agenda, which is totally non-aligned to the reality around her, as per the reactions shown by the people she interacts with.
One of the frequent hallucinations expressed by the lady-client is that she is very possessive of a boy-friend. And she insists that this boy friend is Jesus Christ. This is one of the biggest problems she faces with her community of Christians, who believe Jesus Christ is the son of God, not her boy friend. It also disturbs the coach, as he is a devoted Christian too.
Now you can understand the tensions she creates with the people around her.
It only takes a few coaching sessions before the lady-client gets accepted by the community and lives a normal life again. How does the coach do it?
Yes, still keep to the principle of sticking to the current client’s agenda, the coach goes along with the lady-client, making enquires about her boy friend, Jesus Christ, his well being, their relationship, what works, what does not work.
Choosing the right moment, the coach informs the lady-client that her boy friend, Jesus Christ just informs him that he wants to breakup with her. The lady-client responds : “What the hell are you talking about? There is no Jesus Christ as human being!” She comes to her senses.
Similarly, you can imagine the coach will go along with the client in plotting strategies to take advantages of colleagues, or corruption planning or character assassination or thinking of intimate relationship.
What does it mean exactly Client’s Agenda in coaching relationship?
In NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), it means creating rapports and matching with the client in neurology, physiology, thinking, feeling and sentiment. Then the coach helps the client in creating numerous choices to find out for himself or herself what really is his or her own agenda or underlying needs, want or goals. All this is done in order that the client can take responsibility in making his and her decision.
There is no need to have coach’s agenda, or sticking to one’s own values or moral judgment, but a few cardinal principles or presuppositions in coaching.
- The map is not the territory, whether is it that of the client or the coach.
- The client makes the best choice and decision based on his or her current resources and wisdom
- Choices are much better than no choice.
- Solutions come from the client, not given by the coach.
Andrew Wong - EP Coach