We all have expectations. Coaches should make those expectations explicit at the outset of the coaching relationship, and they should insist on them throughout the relationship.

It is important to be very clear about these expectations. The client should understand exactly what you expect of them, and what they can expect of you. You must remain true to these expectations – you lead by example.

What you should expect from the client

You should expect the client will:

  • Take responsibility for their own progress
  • Make a consistent effort
  • Turn up on time
  • Complete agreed work on time
  • Focus during coaching sessions
  • Be reliable

What the client can expect from you:

  • You will always seek their best
  • You respect them as people and the boundaries they set
  • Professionalism in your manner, approach, skills, and speech
  • Ethical standards, including confidentiality
  • Mutual accountability

These expectations are foundational for effective coaching. Trust, honesty, and openness depend on them. Unfortunately, some clients don’t deliver on the expectations you have of them. They may not turn up on time; their efforts may be spasmodic, and they may make excuses instead of taking responsibility. But that’s why they need a coach. Your job is to help them develop better habits.

There may be other expectations too, and some of these may be more aspirations than expectations. It is important to explore these with the client, because these may be the measure by which they judge the effectiveness of your coaching.

Aspirations and expectations

Clients might want to achieve something specific – a specific career or relationship goal, an improved business outcome, or whatever. They may expect you to deliver on this goal, and judge your effectiveness as a coach based on what happens. It is good to explore such expectations early in the coaching relationship. Clients must understand you are not a worker of magic, and you can’t wave a wand and make things happen. It is great for clients to have clear goals – that’s what you want – but these should be aspirations rather than expectations. They are things you work on together, in different ways, and you journey with the client towards the goal.

Being clear about mutual expectations at the outset ensures everyone is clear about the ground rules, and that’s a great starting place for coaching. What have been your experiences around expectations as a coach?

Written by Steve Barlow