Client Engagement is a topic all coaches and counselors have to deal with. It’s a crucial factor for the success of any change process. If clients have the attitude that the coaching will magically fix all their issues and that they don’t have to do anything for it, the process is sure to fail.
Real change can only happen if clients take action after the sessions and do something different in their lives. Commitment and actual implementation of the insights and plans is therefore essential. Unfortunately, the magic pill that automatically makes us accomplish our goals does not exist.
Motivation from outside also won’t get the job done. The desire and motivation to change something have to come from within. It has to be intrinsic. This is why it great coaches and therapists take a close look at the true motivation of every single client before starting the change process.
What is the real reason for their wish for support?
What is their so-called WHY?
And is there a counteracting inner force (roadblock) that might inhibit motivation and follow-through?
These two factors can negatively influence or even prevent client engagement which can ultimately lead to clients quitting in the middle of the coaching and telling you it’s just not working for them.
1 – Behind the obvious “Why“ (the problem or symptom), there is a hidden “Why“ (the cause or diagnosis).
2 – A counteracting inner force that inhibits motivation and follow-through
1- Exploring the hidden “Why“
The actual (visible) problems of the client are usually only the symptoms that are the effects of the underlying cause. Exploring this cause (the hidden „Why“) is like making a diagnosis. This diagnosis gives us knowledge of the underlying causal factors and the root cause of the problem.
This knowledge then enables us to plan the necessary steps to eliminate the causal factors that led to the problem. So instead of just treating symptoms, we are eliminating the reason for the symptoms.
Often clients approach us with a desire to eliminate the symptoms without addressing the underlying causes. This is usually because they are often not even aware of the real reason behind their problems. Or some of them have a feeling that treating the root cause could be hard work and therefore intuitively avoid touching it.
A good example is a common behavior when we are sick. We have a headache (symptom) and grab a pill (quick fix). This happens mostly without working on the cause (the „WHY“), which led to the headache. We try to fix our problem as fast as possible without working on the causes, which could be stress or tensed shoulders in this example. As a result, we get rid of our problem (symptom), but it keeps coming back if we don’t fix the root cause.
A typical case in coaching could be a workaholic who would like to spend more time with the family and his or her hobbies. Instead of simply looking for ways to spend one’s time more wisely and therefore making the workday shorter (fixing the symptom), it would be better to find out what is behind the excessive workload (the cause). Why does the person work so much? After the cause is identified, it becomes possible to name the „WHY“ and start fixing the problem from the root.
2 – Exploring the Counteracting Inner Force
The second common reason for lack of client commitment, motivation, and discipline in coaching, counseling, and therapy is a counteracting inner force.
The clients seem to be motivated and ready to overcome the problems on the surface. But once the process started it turns out that they have a hard time to follow-through and staying on track.
Putting the plans into action doesn’t work out as expected. They find it incredibly hard to get rid of old habits and establish new routines.
A typical example is clients who finally feel ready to take a leap and make a career change or even start their own business. However, the necessary action steps are postponed again and again or one deals with rather unimportant details instead of focusing on the things that would move the needle.
After the coach took some time to investigate by asking specific questions it turns out that the client is intrigued by the chance to earn more and become their own boss, but is at the same time not ready to put in the necessary effort and time that is needed to make their new business a success.
It becomes clear that the client feels more comfortable to fulfill orders and routine tasks instead of having to come up with creative ideas and strategies. The client hasn’t been aware until now that he or she prefers to be employed rather than self-responsible for their own business.
The client was not aware of this fact and always (unconsciously) went back into his or her comfort zone and found excuses why it was not possible to implement the plan right now or why it did not work out.
Once the counteracting inner force (the engagement roadblock) has been identified it becomes possible to discuss how the coach and client should deal with it. Does it make sense to continue pursuing the original goal or would it make sense to adjust it?
The Magic Key to More Engagement in Coaching, Counseling, and Therapy
Whenever a client lacks engagement or commitment it’s worth taking a look at these two factors. Once clients have become aware of what’s holding them back you can decide together with them what the appropriate next steps are. Some might need to reevaluate their goals, while others will automatically become more engaged once they identified their roadblocks.
Apart from training awareness and self-reflection the questionnaires and exercises in the Goal-Setting Toolkit are a great way to explore the „WHY“ and the real reasons for the desire to change. Two crucial factors for the clients’ engagement and commitment throughout any change process.