Coaching the Young Client

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This flexibility and responsiveness comes with a caveat. On occasion, a coach must take a firm stance or at least a persuasive attitude with regard to the client’s issues and ways of working in the coaching relationship. High potential clients want to believe in their own ability to resolve the issue using their own expertise and energy. The coach must, at times, challenge the client to recognize the complexity of the issue being faced—such that it will only be successfully addressed with the assistance and support of other people—because the client is unaware of the need for more information and the creative benefit of dialogue. In conjunction with an internal locus of control (so familiar to these clients), an external locus of control must be acknowledged if the coaching issue is to be confronted in a realistic manner. Thus, flexibility on the part of the coach must at times be tempered with a dose of coaching persistence and confrontation.


The high potentials are probably already performing above expectations and are ready to excel in their current job or in a new job. The high potential clients might be encouraged by their coach to pause for a moment to reflect on the reasons why they are considered to be above-expectation performers. High potential employees are often worried that they can’t meet the expectations—they might be “found out” and be a disappointment to people they wish to impress. The coach can be supportive by being empathetic, and by assuring these clients that it is common for high potential employees to be concerned about their future performance.  In coaching a high potential, the coach must be able to assist their client in facing uncertainty with imagination and best practices.

Sometimes, an organizational coach must be ready to assist in the identification or definition of results. The client can benefit greatly from articulate statements from the coach regarding what successful results look like in a specific organizational context. Results are congruent with the culture of the organization and with the tactical or strategic plans of the organization. At other times, the organizational coach asks the provocative questions that challenge the client to be more thoughtful about the results she wishes to achieve or is already achieving: “How will you know that you have been successful?” “How will other members of this organization interpret the outcomes of your work?” “What are the short-term and the long-term implications of your successful performance in this organization?” These provocative questions often lead the client to be more grounded in the real world. The questioning of the coach often turns to the even more basic issue: “What exactly are the expectations of this organization regarding your performance?”  For the high potential client, an even more specific question might be: “Why do you think you have been identified as a high potential employee?” The answer to this question may say something about the values of the organization and about the alignment between these organizational values and those held by the client.

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