Early on in my career I was approached for some advice by a very experienced colleague of mine, who incidentally had a very prestigious blue chip client base and over 20 year’s L&D experience. It went like this…

‘I’ve got a client I’m coaching at the moment and we’ve hit a brick wall and I’m pretty stuck on where to go with this’.

Those of us who have experienced the brick wall in coaching will feel for him.

As we explored his dilemma, it became apparent to both of us that some of the issues he was facing were not obvious. They seemed to have more to do with his client’s psychological mindset, rather than more tangible issues which surfaced in coaching sessions.

In the absence of psychological training, this is where the application of coaching techniques on their own, fall short.


In the absence of psychological training… coaching techniques fall short.


As our discussion continued my colleague became fascinated by my research, intrigued to understand more about how his client’s mindset was influencing the coaching discussion and subsequent outcomes.

Clearly, within coaching, if we rely on a coaching approach which adopts a ‘one size fits all’ principle, we are ill-equipped to tailor our approach to more specific needs. In these circumstances, there will be times when we feel like we’ve hit a brick wall, which is exactly what my colleague was experiencing.

Although time-served as a coach, he was struggling to pinpoint what was interfering with progress for his client, particularly in terms of some of the underlying issues which were clearly present, but less tangible to observe.

As a psychologist, I am used to working on a psychological level with clients, however, within my coaching practice I was fascinated to understand more about how a person’s psychology and mindset influenced coaching impact and what differentiated successful and unsuccessful coaching outcomes.

Ten years of research later, if I was to summarise my conclusions in one word, it would be ‘engagement’.

Why is Engagement important in coaching?

As coaches, if we really want to add value for clients we need to be able to deliver consistent results for each client.

This means that we need to be able to tailor our approach for each person. As such, we need to understand more precisely what engagement means within coaching.

Engagement in a coaching context means that someone is ready to embrace the coaching process and is ready to embrace change.


Coaching engagement = ready to embrace change.


If we secure this, we are likely to add impact. If clients aren’t ready to be coached, or ready to make changes, how much impact are you likely to have as a coach?

Ask yourself, what is the level of engagement with your current client base? How would you go about assessing this? Would your clients be able to tell you, or would you rely on your gut feeling, or some other spurious measure such as enthusiasm? If so, how accurate will this be?

As the demand for coaching impact increases, coaches need to be more prepared and equipped to address these questions and deliver the results.

Signs of engagement

As a quick guide, there are several things which will influence a person’s level of engagement in coaching, which will provide some measure of their readiness to be coached. These include;

  • confidence levels to deliver change personally and within their role
  • openness and receptiveness to change, new ideas and feedback
  • commitment, which is underpinned by motivation, personal ownership and empowerment

We need a clearer grasp of psychological factors

When we have a clearer grasp of the psychological factors which underpin these areas, we are more equipped as coaches to facilitate change for our clients and deliver impact in coaching.

Engage is an empirically validated coaching diagnostic tool which assesses readiness to engage in coaching, as well as psychological aspects of mindset which either help or hinder your coaching client. See Introduction to Engage to find out more.

(C) Engage Coach International 2017. Author: Dr Jodi O’Dell.


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