Hold the Client’s Agenda

When we let go of being right as coaches, it not only frees us up to focus on the client fully, but also creates more space for deeper client exploration and expression.

The ICF Core Competency 5.1 states that the coach “Attends to the client and the client’s agenda and not to the coach’s agenda for the client.” Just as we physically can’t be present in two places at once, the same is truth for a coaching conversation. We can’t attend to our agenda and the client’s at the same time.

Merriam-Webster defines the word attend, a transitive verb as “to be present at: to go to” from the Latin word attendere, which means “literally, to stretch to”.

Let’s look at this in light of attending to our client and their agenda.

We need to transition from our own agenda that we think is ‘right’ to our client’s agenda. We need to stretch away from ourselves in order to be fully present with our client.

How do we do this?

It needs to be a continuous action that we take with mindful awareness. Not only at the beginning of a coaching session, but also throughout the entire conversation.

Here are a few ideas to put this into action:

1. Make the choice to set aside what you think the ‘right’ agenda is for your client and be 100% present with your client and their agenda. Listen in between the lines and dig deeper into their words and ask questions about their body language. In my own coaching, I find that the more I explore what my client is saying and gather more information, there is little room left for my ideas.

2. Pay attention to your thoughts as you listen and formulate questions. Phrases such as “I want my client to realize______”, “My client should do______”,  or “My client needs______” are likely rooted in your agenda, not your client’s.

3. Remember, this takes practice. It is supposed to be stretching! I find it helpful to remind myself of the ICF definition of coaching on a regular basis. The client is the expert, they’re right and so is their agenda!

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