One of the Most Core Foundational Coaching Principles, Period

In my nineteen years of coaching, teaching, and facilitating…in my 10 years of parenting and working to raise daughters who are secure, confident and at peace…and in my many decades of being a human being communicating with family, friends, colleagues, and strangers…I have learned quite a bit about what it takes to hold space for deep growth, transformation, evolution and aligned action taking.

There is, of course, a lot that goes into this: mastery of questioning skills and listening skills and acknowledging skills and strategizing skills and reflection skills; mastery of working with resistance and working with fear and working with self-sabotage and working with Shadow.

But there is one core principle that stands at the center of all of these coaching skills.

One core principle that impact and direct all of these coaching skills.

One core principle that is so ridiculously simple…yet so deep and so profound, and often so hard to fully master when we coach our clients.

This coaching principle is the very first thing I teach when I train both beginning and very advanced coaches to become phenomenal at creating client results. I teach it first because truly nothing else matters, no other coaching skill matters, without this principle in place.

And when I teach this principle – for as simple and obvious as it is – the learning and shifting for even the most seasoned coaches is massive. And my clients tell me that their client sessions improve greatly – and right away – just by putting this in place.

I wanted to briefly share the principle with you today so that you can begin to toe-dip into it.

Equalize the Playing Field

An Equal Playing Field in the coaching relationship and context means:

You as the coach are approaching the relationship as if you and your client are two equal partners.

You see the both of you as wise, as able, as mutually worthy of respect. Now, of course, you and your client both have different roles in the relationship. You have certain info or expertise that they want and need. But that being said, there is no person in this relationship that is “better” than the other. There is no person in this relationship that is more powerful than the other. There is no person in this relationship that has higher status than the other.

When you have an equal playing field, that’s when Trust begins to get created. That’s part and parcel of where the mutual respect that is key to the powerful coaching relationships gets started. When there’s an equal playing field, then you’ve created an environment for true partnership to happen, for open communication to happen.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right?

But the truth is that many coaches aren’t actually approaching their client relationships with an equal playing field, even if they think they are.

If you’re not conscious and aware of it…if you don’t actively work at it…it’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of not totally owning your expertise, or not seeing yourself as smart enough, or intuitive enough, or ANYTHING enough….and when this happens, then you also start seeing your client as smarter than you, or better than you, or too powerful and overpowering. You get intimidated maybe by your client, or you’re scared he is going to judge you or get angry by something you say or suggest. Maybe you back away a little bit from speaking the truths as you see them about a client’s patterning…or you hold back on an idea you have for them…or most importantly, you simply don’t bring ALL of yourself forward with love to really create a warm and intimate and trusting relationship.

So that’s one way of not having an equal playing field: YOU come to the relationship as LESS THAN your client.

The other way of not having an equal playing field is when you come to the relationship somewhere inside of you believing that your client is not as good as you. Maybe there’s a little assumption inside of you that your client isn’t really enough in some way- not enough to follow through on their commitments or to show up or to really achieve their goals. Now, of course, this doesn’t mean that your clients don’t have challenges and crosses to bear…but that’s very different than believing that the client isn’t good enough or can’t.

In either scenario – either you approaching with yourself as less than or you approaching assuming your client is less than – you’re setting yourself up for having a very hard time helping in the ways you want to help because you’re energetically creating a relationship that’s about fear, shame, and miscommunication instead of alignment and openness and an equal meeting of the minds.

In my Sacred Depths Coach Training Program, we go DEEP into the ins and outs of everything I’ve shared here and do some very profound inner work to help you always approach your coaching clients with an equal playing field.

I hope this article gave you some good food for thought!

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  1. This was such a powerful post. It hit me way after I read it that I was holding myself back from working with certain clients who I perceived had “accomplished” way more than I have in their life. Why would they want to work with me? I wasn’t on that same path they were on and so they won’t relate. Blah blah blah. I’d never seen it as the total BS is it. I mean we all have been on our own path and so we all have a contribution to make. And sometimes coming from a whole different perspective is exactly what they might need. Anyway, thanks for this big A-ha moment.