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Tenets of coaching: Responsibility

Tenets of coaching: Responsibility

Many of my coaching clients will start from a place of taking inadequate and/or inappropriate responsibility. They may take not enough responsibility, or too much. Here are examples of things they may say to indicate this issue:

  • It’s not my fault I eat too much, my boss insists I take clients to lunch
  • I feel guilty that my husband got caught speeding
  • I’ve tried everything to stop smoking
  • I’m just disorganised; it’s how I’ve always been
  • I’m sorry you didn’t like what I cooked (this sort of phrase could be ok or not depending on the tone of voice etc)
  • I only hit you because you made me so angry
  • I didn’t mean to make you feel sad
  • It’s my parents fault that I haven’t got a degree as they wouldn’t let me go to University

My task task is to move the client to a place where they take responsibility for what is theirs and let go of responsibility for what is not.

This, however, is not an absolute. As a reader of this article you are likely to be happy to hear the statement that your arrival at this point in your life is the result of all the choices that you have made, all the actions you have taken and all the situations you have avoided. But most people will not initially be ready to hear this. As hypnotherapists know, however, it can be easier to talk to people about tricky issues such as this while they are in hypnosis. He/She has an opportunity to break down these barriers much more quickly than does a coach who does not use hypnosis.

Some people have stronger beliefs about responsibility than others. Do you agree with the following? (These are given as examples and do not necessarily reflect my views)

  • Each individual is responsible for all their actions, whatever the circumstances
  • A person chooses their path in life before conception
  • The body is completely under the control of a person’s mind therefore an illness is the person’s responsibility
  • Depression is a choice
  • All mistakes are unconsciously deliberate, therefore “I didn’t mean to” is no excuse

Remember that people may or may not believe these things, and nothing is guaranteed to upset a person more easily than what they would perceive as inappropriate and “unfair” blame. Eg, avoid telling a depressed person that they can choose to feel better!

The idea of responsibility is crucial in coaching, as the client needs specifically to take responsibility for what is achieved in the process. One needs to keep the client accountable, give them the responsibility for sticking to tasks, and then give them credit for achievements. If a coach takes responsibility for a client’s  progress, that is inappropriate (sorry!)

However, the coach has significant responsibility to control the process. The client is in control of the content, you are in control of the process. He/She a responsibility to behave ethically and to provide a thoroughly professional service to his/her clients.

I advise all coaches to seek professional support and to use checklists to review their own commitment, presence and to look for blind spots. It is important to remember this first tenant of coaching.

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