Holding our Clients in Positive Regard

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Travis Bradberry’s article in Entrepreneur Magazine was a great reminder of the importance of the beliefs we hold about our clients. In “8 Unrealistic Expectations That Can Harm You“, Bradberry alludes to the great quote from Henry Ford which goes something like, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

“Your expectations, more than anything else in life, determine your reality. When it comes to achieving your goals, if you don’t believe you’ll succeed, you won’t,” says Bradberry, “Indeed, we get the most out of other people when we believe in them. Research shows that this happens because when we believe in someone we: treat them better than people we think will fail;  give them more opportunities to succeed than we give those we think will fail; give them more accurate, helpful feedback than we give others; and, we do more teaching because we believe it’s time well spent.”

This phenomenon is similar to the “Pygmalion Effect;” a persistently held belief in another person such that the belief becomes a reality. In other words, what we see is what we get. And so, with our clients, we must be aware of our expectations and labels. When we have labeled a client as stubborn, unfocused, non-compliant and so on, our coaching behaviors follow suite. As we unconsciously begin to treat that client as stubborn, lazy, and non-compliant, the client is more likely to reciprocate with that behavior.

Changing our expectations and negative labels allows us to see the client in a new light. Look at the positive side of a stubborn, for example. A “stubborn” client could instead be appreciated for their willingness to persist in the face of difficulties. A “unfocused” client could be appreciated for their energy and zest. Persistence, energy and zest are, in fact, traits that are often highly admired.

As your vocabulary changes, so does your perspective. You begin to focus on strengths and potential, and through your own signals, send the message to your client that you believe in their potential, holding them in positive regard.

Coaching inquiries: What words do you use to describe your client, out loud or in your head?  How are these assets for them?

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