Brin in the Coach, Im Ready to Play

By: Susan Dunn, Ma Clinical Psychology, The Eq Coach

I get letters …emails, that is. Inquiries from prospective clients. They ask the only questions they know how to ask in seeking a coach, admittedly a hard thing to do when you’ve never had a coach, and their questions reveal as much to me, in this joint-interview process, as my answers reveal to them.

While you’re looking for your Ideal Coach, the Coach is looking for his or her Ideal Client.

Here are things I’m looking for in my clients, many of them Emotional Intelligence characteristics. However, since I coach EQ and teach these skills, I’m also looking for the person with low EQ who is eager to learn, “trainable," and ready to commit to do the work.

1. Good Enough Manners

Being courteous on the phone call, or in the email, such as, “I was wondering if you have time to talk now," or “Dear Susan" or some salutation. We are about to enter a relationship, and it needs be one of respect and dignity.

2.The ability to communicate with me in a common language.

At the very minimum, a person must be able to realize she and I can’t communicate if she speaks Swahili, and I do not. It’s a bad sign when we both speak “English," but they speak a dialect, such as Business-eze, or Psychiatry, and they don’t know everyone doesn’t speak it. This sort of blindness to social cues is a bad sign … unless of course they’ve come for Emotional Intelligence coaching, in which case, we have our work cut out for us.

Example 1: When your therapist says to you, “Okay. What part of ‘malignant regression and pathogenic reintrojection as a defense against psychic decompensation’ don’t you understand?" (Source: New Yorker cartoon)

Example 2: The client who thinks before he speaks –“ I want to ask her about minimizing the census on the QIW Ward. Now how can I put that in plain English?"

3.Empathy … enough

I received an email yesterday with “coaching" for the subject line, and the body of the email contained this: “What do you do? Lillian."

This is not a good prognosticator—oops, skip the jargon—this is not promising. For one thing, it doesn’t pass the Manners Muster.

For another, I do 3 large areas of coaching—Emotional Intelligence, Marketing, and what I call “Helping People." I call it “helping people" because I like to speak the vernacular (the language ‘us guys’ speak at the water cooler) so I avoid terms like “Personal Life Coach" (does this exclude public life or professional life? There’s no such thing.), or “Ontological Coach" – say what?

Now, the prospective client doesn’t have to know I work in 3 areas, or that I train EQ coaches, or that I run a Distance Learning School, and in fact in some cases couldn’t have known, but they need to know that asking me “What do you do?" is highly unlikely to elicit a response they can use, no matter how smart I am.

Call it a basic understanding of the field., i.e., in seeking a lawyer to do your divorce, you don’t need to know what a Public Bonds attorney does, you just need to know a Divorce Attorney does divorces and a Public Bonds attorney does not. That’s the way the field “is".

Yes, we coaches have our “elevator speeches" ready, but the savvy client, the one I want to work with, is the one who knows how to ask a question. They write, “I want to XYZ. Can you help me? Is this the kind of coaching you do?"

4.EQ is better than IQ, but IQ has to be there

I received an email from My Ideal Client-NOT! saying: “What’s the difference between a Business Coach and an Emotional Intelligence Coach?" One tells who you serve, the other tells what you do. Not being able to grasp that general concept is a clue they aren’t “conceptual" enough to be my Ideal Client-YES!

5.Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Baby Bear … this is “just right"

I like a client who’s already developed a good set of tools, i.e., on the introvert/extravert scale, they test toward the middle. On the left-brain, right-brain scale, they test toward the middle. If an individual is an extreme of anything, there will be more work to do. But of course that “balance," is what Emotional Intelligence is all about.

EXAMPLE: An extremely left-brained client will continually be saying, “We weren’t talking about that," or “That’s way off the subject." A coach must gather information that may not appear to the client to be relevant to “the subject." Not trusting the process is part of the client’s problem!

6.Certain life experiences

Coaches differ on this, but there are certain life events I’ve not experienced, or things I’m not (a male, for instance), that I know preclude me working well with a client and I refer them elsewhere.

EXAMPLE: One very savvy shopper had an excellent set of questions for me, including, “Do you think someone who has never been a mother can understand my feelings about starting to prepare for a career after they’re gone?"

I replied that no, I did not. Motherhood is one of those things you can’t relate to if you haven’t been one. She hired me and we’re working well together.

By the same token, I think one area where the field of therapy is lacking, is in helping people with corporate careers. Most therapists have not been in the corporate world, and can plain-out give bad advice. There’s a level of vulnerability you can’t project in today’s corporate environment, and until that changes, to assume that someone cares about your feelings when your mother-in-law is in the hospital, when there’s a $1,000,000 deadline hovering, is not just naïve, it’s dangerous.

One life crisis is like another in terms of physiological and emotional responses, and stages of coping, but can someone coach you on your divorce who’s never been divorced? Or never been married? It’s up to the shopper to decide.

In this case, I think the coach has to be responsible for knowing their own limitations. A lot of training, and lot of experience helping others with the problem, can sometimes fill the gap. I coach individuals on how to parent with Emotional Intelligence, but I don’t feel I can coach someone on “how to be a father." The Ideal Client knows that.


My Ideal Client keeps things in perspective, understanding I can’t remember every detail of their situation. She brings me up-to-speed at the beginning of the session, or says, “You’ll recall I mentioned last week…" or “Well, I met with Fred. That’s my boss."

8.Sense of Humor

9.A Relator

The best coaching will be co-coaching. The results of the coaching will be as good as the relationship. My Ideal Client approaches coaching not as a to-do list, or me as a Master Sergeant, but as a relationship, a process, and something not necessarily fast. It is, in fact, when we “wander" that I get the kind of information that helps me help the client the most. ( It’s a managed wandering however. )

10.She has an Observing Ego.

IQ gets you through school; EQ gets you through life. EQ is based on self-awareness. Being self-aware means you have the capability to sit back, figuratively, and observe yourself. The client who can say, “I don’t relate well to [this type of person] in [this certain circumstance] or [when I’m feeling this way], is leap years ahead of the client who says, “People are hard to get along with," or “Everyone hates me at work and I don’t know why."

11.The Learner

My Ideal Client is a lifetime learner. It’s the key to Resilience, and the prime is already pumped for growth and change.

12.The one who laughs when I ask, “And how has this been working for you?"

It’s often the most important question I ask.

13. The client who says EITHER, “Jacques Louis-David, isn’t he the one who painted ‘The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons’?" OR “Jacques Louis-David? You say he’s an artist? Sure. Bring it on!"

14. Looks at my EQ reading list ( ) and says EITHER “We like the same books. Wasn’t “Art & Physics" awesome?" OR “Fascinating. Never read a one of them. Where should I start?"

15.The Person who says, “Oh, so you do General Coaching AND Marketing Coaching? Well, that makes perfect sense, because whatever we’re doing, we’re always marketing ourselves."

16.Someone who is accustomed to paying for professional services to make their life work better.

17.The client who asks “why?" ten times as often as he asks “what?"

18.The client with good timing. I can make a roaring fire out of the lowest flickering embersArticle Submission, but not when the ashes are cold.


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