My Worst Client Case Study + How You Can Learn From Yours

Just like everyone else, I’ve had some doozy client situations. What has really helped me become better and better and better as a practitioner is being willing to look closely and assess carefully client cases that aren’t working so well…even if it’s uncomfortable – almost painful! – to do so! (This is why in my coach trainings, we always have Client Case Clinics to look at the stuff that comes up).

I thought it would be valuable for you if I shared my Worst Client Case Study, and what I learned from it. Here we go!:

Let’s call this client Stacey. I worked privately with Stacey about 4-5 years ago. When we first started working together, I was mostly very excited. Stacey was whip smart, energetic and really motivated.

Our first two months or working together moved along very smoothly and successfully. Stacey was meeting her goals, and even surpassing them in some places. She was thrilled with her progress and really happy about the work we were doing together.

And then, sometime in our third month together, things started to get harder. I was working with her on building her business, and some of the strategies we were using starting to take a little longer or more effort than they had the first two months. As a seasoned coach, I knew that this was normal: there are moments of more rapid outer growth and moments of slower outer growth. It goes in cycles.

But Stacey became frustrated very quickly. Now, I am usually all set to work with a client when she experiences frustration. In fact, I WELCOME it, because I know it’s a total opportunity for growth and evolution. But with this particular client, her frustration somehow freaked me out.

The truth is that I had been just a little intimidated by this client. In my first year of coaching – 18 years ago! – it was not uncommon for me to become intimidated by clients, to worry that they didn’t like me, to fear that they thought I was incompetent. But I had really learned my lesson pretty quickly, so it took me by surprise that I was intimidated by Stacey. But there was something about her and her attitude that I guess triggered me and I allowed to let me feel “less than”.

So, instead of holding solid ground for Stacey and really working with her to go deep into why she was devolving into frustration and negativity and anger so quickly, exploring with her around her Victim Shadow, helping her Befriend her Fears, and working with her to Re-Wire her Negative Beliefs…my knee jerk reaction was to go into “fixing” and “solution” mode. I quickly thought of new and different marketing strategies she could use, went back to re-work her messaging and positioning, etc.

This looking for solutions with Stacey went on for a good 4 weeks (which felt like 40), with each session of her becoming more frustrated and negative triggering me into fixing and people pleasing even more. I was worked up into such a place of feeling badly about myself as a coach and trying to take over-responsibility in the situation that I even considered giving Stacey her money back.

Thank goodness that, at week 4 of the insanity, of barely being able to take it any more, I paused. And I called myself out on my frantic grasping for new solutions for Stacey, and reminded myself of who I was as a coach. And it was then that I was able to see what was going on in the coaching. I was able to see that I was intimidated by Stacey and therefore not showing up for her with all of the presence and skills and tools I had to be able to really serve her.

I got grounded and slowed down and really held space for Stacey to courageously look at her beliefs and her patterns and her sabotage behaviors and her Shadows…and of course, within a few intense but powerful sessions, she was TOTALLY back on track and making beautiful progress in her business.

But not only that. Stacey thanked me profusely for helping her leverage that frustrating and seemingly negative experience into an opportunity for her to know herself better and move towards the next steps of her personal evolution.

In addition to the skills I used like working with Stacey’s Shadow and helping her of the Wheel of Self-Sabotage, this outcome would have never happened if I wasn’t able to look deeply at MYSELF as a coach and at what my own reactions and triggers and Energetics were. (This is such an important part of how I train coaches – it’s not just about Mastery of the Skills. It’s about Mastery of human behavior and Personal Mastery.)

I hope this little case study was valuable for you, and I HIGHLY recommend that from time to time you do your own Worst Client Case Study. Assessing yourself in this way will give you so many new awarenesses and support you in becoming better at what you do.

Here are some questions you can journal on:

  • What was your Worst Client Case or situation? (If you haven’t yet worked with clients, you can look at friendships or any relationships)
  • How were you showing up in the situation? Who were you showing up as?
  • Looking back, what was it that your client actually needed in the situation?
  • Why weren’t you able to provide it?
  • What Coaching Skills do you desire to go deeper with?
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