July 05, 2022 by Amanda Reill
Whether you’re just getting started as a coach or you’ve been at this for a long time, you may occasionally find yourself in situations with your clients that you just aren’t sure how to handle. Some of these situations are surprises you simply couldn’t have planned for. But others can be a result of weak or unclear boundaries.
Simply stated, boundaries are a set of expectations between the coach and the client. They lay out the respective responsibilities of coach and client to minimize confusion and unmet expectations. These boundaries are best set down in writing at the beginning of the coaching relationship. Putting these boundaries down in writing better helps memory retention, thus creating a firm line in both the coach and the client’s mind, but also allows those boundaries to become a contract. This contract, once signed by both parties, serves as a legal, moral, and mental record. When things get hazy, or hard, it’s good to have a written agreement to fall back on when needed.
Boundaries are a tough thing for some people to establish and maintain, coaches included. And whether or not you’ve ever thought about this or tried to put boundaries into place, it’s never too late to set both personal and professional boundaries with your clients that you may never have considered. Boundaries are essential to a successful coaching business to maintain a professional, but helpful relationship, without overstepping or potentially causing trauma.
Here are 5 steps to setting boundaries with coaching clients that will free both you and your clients up for personal and professional success.
…it’s okay to decide not to coach them anymore, or not even take them on as a client in the first place. Not all clients are going to be a good fit. Turning one client away frees more time for you to pursue and work with your ideal coaching clients. This boundary enables you to show up for your work with as much enthusiasm and passion as day one, without feeling the dread of a client that doesn’t fit your own personal and business needs or boundaries.
The best way to communicate about boundaries is on the front end — before you feel that lines have already been crossed. But it’s not possible to anticipate every single situation. So what can you do when you feel like you’ve entered into a sticky situation that you need to backpedal out of? These conversations can be daunting.
Consider taking a perspective of gratitude in these situations. Think in advance about what you will learn and how strong you will feel after the difficult situation is over. Remind yourself that you’ll be a better coach for having to face uncomfortable situations and you’ll better serve your remaining clients even if you lose some.
Finding the right words can pose a challenge, but it’s best to be honest. You can let the client know that you don’t feel that the coach/client relationship is benefitting one or both of you, and that they may be better served by another coach, a therapist, or something else. It’s great to have a network of coaches (and therapists) that you’re ready to refer the person to.
Setting boundaries can sometimes feel like you are shutting people out or not making yourself available for people as much as you’d like. In fact, the opposite is true. If you set up healthy coach-client relationships from the start, it will actually reduce stress and miscommunication, freeing up your time to more effectively do what you love to do: coach.
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