The coaching relationship is a mini-laboratory for breakthroughs. Whatever inner dynamics brought your clients to coaching will most assuredly be acted out with you. And don't forget you have your own habits of attention. Always ask yourself if you're behaving in ways that help or hinder your clients' growth. Be aware that how you interact with them makes a big difference in their progress.
- Clients with Enneagram style Three seek approval from outside themselves. They typically list their accomplishments during each coaching meeting. Will you reinforce that in-the-box behavior by approving or will you help them see this habitual behavior as it occurs with you?
- Clients with Enneagram style Six seek authority and then challenge it. Will you be caught in this pattern? Will you let them turn you into an authority or will you comment if you see the pattern and use what happens during coaching to encourage their transformation?
- Clients with Enneagram style Nine rely on others to provide structure. If you ask a probing question and find these clients somewhat confused, will you jump in with a suggestion or will you be patient and encourage them to start anywhere--an arbitrary choice, a set of alternatives, or even a list of what they do not want to do?
- be receptive, provide a safe harbor, listen deeply and with empathy,
- take a stand for your shared vision and challenge their self-limitations [this is especially important when they (or you) are most discouraged].
While coaching Jean (Enneagram style Two), for example, I pointed out her retreat from discussing what she felt as a criticism from me, even though she was clearly upset. She was still so tied to her pattern of focusing on my needs and feelings, she diverted attention away from her own.
After that call Jean wrote me an e-mail saying she felt I'd betrayed her needs (a recurring theme for style Two). She wanted to stop coaching after the next session. My first reaction was defensive. As an Enneagram style Nine I worried I might have been too blunt, not kind enough to Jean. But I managed to stay centered, to not take her attack personally.
In her next coaching session, we were able to discuss the dynamic we'd created and explore how this same pattern showed up in Jean's other relationships. During this discussion I helped her express her needs openly (difficult for style Two). When she tried to move the conversation back to me, I gently pulled her back to her own feelings. Jean subsequently decided to continue with me as her coach.