Client or Coaching?

In my previous article “A Butterfly Goes to a Coach” I tried to make the boundaries between consultancy, mentoring, counseling, coaching and therapy more clear. That article has received a considerable amount of feedback so far, and has triggered some very interesting discussions and good questions.

One of those good questions is whether remaining loyal to such boundaries actually is the best for the Client. Since the Client is paramount in the coaching relationship, shouldn’t we Coaches choose to give the Client what he/she needs if the Client (or the moment) asks us to? Or should we refuse that (explicit or implicit) request and choose to stay within the boundaries of our profession? Which should we choose: the Client or Coaching?

Those of us who decide at certain moments to choose for the Client say that:

  • our ultimate task as Coaches is to help the Client achieve his/her goal. There are times in which assuming a different role – that of a consultant, for example – is more beneficial to the Client and also a more efficient way of accomplishing that ultimate task.
  • more directive approaches from the Coach are legitimate when they are taken with the Client and his/her goal in mind. Therefore, offering explicit advice or telling the Client exactly what to do, solving a problem themselves or providing the answer the Client can’t find, leading the Client to a different perspective or way of thinking are all justified if they seem to be the best for the Client.

Those of us who choose to remain loyal to the boundaries of our profession still agree that the Client is paramount, and that it is our ultimate goal to help the Client achieve his/her goal. However,

  • not only are they committed to the achievement of the Client’s goals, but these coaches also seem to commit themselves to the long term development of the Client;
  • they believe that letting the Client find his/her own answers fosters learning, growth, independence, responsibility, pro-activity, creativity, reliability, constructiveness and trust.
  • they claim that a more non-directive approach still helps the Client achieve his/her goal, and also empowers them with new (or better awakened) skills and confidence to do that again on his/her own.

I myself am part of the second group, because beyond helping my clients achieve their goals, I want to fulfill my Mission. That Mission is to use my talents and help create an environment in which a person can experience warmth, respect, empathy and UPR, challenge and support, so that he/she feels free to express themselves, their needs, doubts, fears, wishes and dreams. An environment which motivates a person to reflect, create, take responsibility and act. I believe such conditions, together with the questions I ask and the feedback I give, foster development and growth, and help people flourish, release their potential and get the most out of themselves.

Choosing for the Client would mean that I am not congruent with my Mission, with my Values, with myself. It would mean that all I say I do and believe is actually a Lie. I don’t mean to say that I am right and that every coach has to do what I do. All I mean is that I can’t do otherwise.

I understand it seems like I choose for Coaching and not for the Client, but deep inside I know I choose for the Client and not for myself.

What about you? To which extent do you identify with this dilemma? How do you deal with it? Your feedback, opinion and experience are welcome.

(I have originally written this article as a guest writer to the Coaching Confidence site)


About Sandro da Silva

Sandro da Silva is a Dutch executive, business and life coach who from time to time shares his experiences with coaching in this blog. He starts his days by reading, selecting and tweeting his favorite articles about leadership, management, business, change, diversity, development and start-ups. A different selection of articles, targeted at executives and the C-suite, is posted everyday on his LinkedIn page. He talks to his life coaching audience via his Facebook page. You can read more about him on his website (translation in progress) or contact him by sending an e-mail to View all posts by Sandro da Silva

5 responses to “Client or Coaching?

  • Marcia Ore

    Great article. Integrity is an important part of an individual or company’s brand, and also demonstrates professionalism.

  • Harry Shade

    I believe if you are willing to compromise your ethics in any way, then it gets easier and easier to do so in the future, until such time as you have no ethics.

    As a coach, I stay in my coaching role at all times. Now, I have had clients ask me for answers before, especially when to them the whole coaching thing is getting difficult and they are seeking the “easy” way out, as has been their pattern in the past.

    In these instances, I have stopped and said this, “I can give you an answer to this, however, it may not be the right answer for you. Plus, this will not allow you to learn, grow and evolve. And, if I am going to be requested to give you the answers, then I am going to take off my coaching hat, put on my consulting hat and charge you four times more. Which would you rather do?”

    I have found that my clients appreciate both my honesty and humor, as well as, when they do come to an answer that works for them, they are happy that I allowed them the opportunity to learn, grow and evolve.

  • Demyan

    Great article, Sandro. It resonates with me (and they way I conduct my coaching practice) that it is priority what is best for the client…whether it be coaching, mentoring, counseling …or referring.

    In working with Generation-Y, I have found that mentoring is often more applicable for than coaching – and it has more sustainable results.

    With “fragile” clients, it is often necessary to first counsel and built a report of trust, before progressing to coaching.

  • George

    Hi Sandro, I would not like to be prescriptive here. I as a coach or consultant definitely look at the client interest as paramount. However I would not compromise on being authentic. In this process I may lose some business but that is t5he way I work

  • Edward

    Another good article Sandro,

    I tend to do what the client needs at that time, which depends on their pain to empowerment threshold (i.e. what will most affect their life). I don´t impose methodology, but one style I have seen successful in training, coaching, bringing up kids, education, mentoring is to teach someone how to do it then the next time it comes around allow them to tackle it themselves with due support, and additional confidence, knowledge and experience that they then have.

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