Arghhhs, my client is stuck!!

In a really cool Facebook group where coaches hang out called ICF ACC PCC MCC Journeys (how about that for Alphabet soup!) someone asked the other day what our responses would be if asked: “My coachee is stuck, what do I do?”

*Rolling up her sleeves* — here are some ideas:

I don’t have a solution, but I certainly admire the problem

Sit with the stuckness. When coaches (or leaders) feel that our clients (or team members) are stuck, we often want to jump in and “help”. As we are kind people, that is only natural. However, jumping and offering solution is very seldom beneficial: “Please don’t help, it is hard enough on my own!” So sit with the stuckness. Make it an ok thing for the moment. Acknowledge it: “Hm, sounds tough, do you feel stuck?” but don’t put on your red cape and head for the rescue.

Is the client stuck or is the client thinking?

Sometimes we think the client is stuck when they are actually thinking hard and there is silence. If this could be the case, make sure you don’t signal that it is now your turn to speak. Harry Korman, an expert solution focused therapist, has a wonderful story about this: When clients say “I don’t know”, appear stuck, it only takes one nod of the coach to signal that the coach has now taken his or her turn in the conversation and the client can stop thinking. So when the client says: “I don’t know”, look at them expectantly, turn your attention to your notes, do anything, but don’t acknowledge the receipt of an answer. Make sure that it is still the client’s turn to think and speak.

Here are two illustrations (silly… but, ok… I just don’t happen to have a client with me):

The bright-eyed-bushy-tailed helper:

Taking care not to “take the turn”

When in doubt — be appreciative

Acknowledge that it is tough for the client and ask how they are able to cope with the stuck situation. What are they doing to make it bearable? What gives them hope that this can change (and they must have some hope or otherwise they would not be talking to you).

Hope this “helps”. I feel a bit self-conscious now, doling out advice when I am arguing against giving advice but “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” said Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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