Becoming Attached to [and Disidentifying from] Our Clients' Outcomes
One of the CLC3 Apprentices recently asked me a very important question.
He asked about the problem of becoming attached to the outcomes of the client--in other words, “what happens if they do not achieve them? What happens if they do not hold up their end of the bargain [doing homework, reading, etc.], and what does that mean about us? How do I avoid this problem—and the discomfort of it all”.
“And what happens if--even worse, they have already paid in advance in full and it becomes clear they are not keeping up with the milestones that are necessary as sign-posts on the way to their destination we call 'goals' or 'outcomes'? What do we do?”
This is an important question and it has a several-part answer. It is important because it comes up for most coaches and practitioners; at some point you really, really want XYZ for the client. Yes, they must be outcomes the client wants [not outcomes you see they "need" but they do not resonate with] but even still, with their outcomes we get emotionally engaged--we care--and we want them to have XYZ really badly.
Part of the challenge is that we are not responsible for the lives of our clients--we can't be. They would get less out of the process if we were; at best, we would actually be inhibiting their growth if we take on that responsibility. They might blame us; they would take less responsibility for creating the life they want and deserve. It could become the coaches "fault" or for some, the coaching [or whatever you call the process] will be just another thing that did not work for them, etc.
And we created that with our attachment.
So the first part of the answer is to make clear to the client--practically--that we are not responsible for their life; that they are. How do we do this? We write it directly into the client-coach agreement that they "are responsible for the results of their life, business, relationship", etc. And given how some people can be when they are making large life-altering decisions, we review the agreement and then we further clarify and have them initial each paragraph while reviewing it with them to make sure we have done our due diligence as a practitioner in making sure they understand the nature of the relationship is one of trusted adviser--nothing more—and that they understand the agreement in full.
That is the practical aspect.
What about the interpersonal aspect? The actual coaching dynamic? Because you see, to complicate matters if you seem attached [that is you start become emotionally attached to their outcomes, you may engage them in a way that has them polarize, dig in, and resist you--and they start to resist you in ways that will not serve the process overall.
Or worse--they do not do their "homework"--whatever that may be or represent--and they are scared to tell you. In the worse cases they may simply go missing in action. Or they become dishonest.
This is simply another reason I am not a "coach" I am a "Guide" and that approach is something I am careful to embody in every interaction--they do not do their "homework" I communicate to them--with a compassionate smile and a shrug--that I want them to get their outcomes. That I care; and I may even ask them how they best want to be supported. How they want to be held accountable--and I have them design the dynamic.
I have found this softer approach--with nothing for them to resist or push back against--is far more effective than any hard-nosed techniques by far.
Finally [and at times most importantly] is our own development as we, as practitioners, continue our path: who we are is not the results we assist clients in achieving [both positive, amazing over-the-top goals as well as "failures". Who we are is not that.
Those are the results we assist them in producing, to be sure, and we are professionally responsible for that, but who we are is that which is experiencing it all. Who we are is that Witness; that locus of awareness. And as we come from that place, we will be even more effective, they will feel more freedom to expand and grow within that gentle, ever-present embrace. From that place, where universal beauty unfolds, we are reminded why we do what we do--for that expansion. And within that expansion a better, more joyous, more beautiful world awaits us all.