A few episodes ago, we discussed integrity in our coaching businesses. I believe it is of the utmost importance to uphold a high level of integrity and trustworthiness in our coaching practices, not only for ourselves and for our clients, but for the industry as a whole. Upholding acceptable practices includes not only avoiding unacceptable practices but also being intentional to choose and implement good, quality procedures and policies.

In this episode, I pitch a few solutions to unacceptable coaching practices. I help you understand the problems these solutions avoid, as well as a bit on how the problems can creep in unaware in the first place. When we are conscientious of potential unacceptable practices, we can take steps to not only avoid them but intentionally replace them with excellent practices and approaches to helping our clients.

What You’ll Learn

Some unacceptable practices

  • Dismissing clients’ thoughts and feelings
  • Self-gaslighting encouragement
  • Bait and switch (over-promising, under-delivering)
  • Abdicating responsibility
  • Missing the mark

Ways unacceptable practices can creep in

Solution #1 – Define your role

  • Handle dissatisfaction appropriately
  • Make space to see clearly
  • Protect safety
  • Hold yourself accountable
  • Ask permission for further discussion

Solution #2 – Switching modes

  • Delineate when offering opinions versus offering expert advice

Solution #3 – Identify the needs of your client

  • Strike a proper, healthy balance between neutrality, thoughts, and feelings
  • An example when processing grief

Solution #4 – Clarify for yourself who your client is when you work with someone or do not

  • Identify when you may not be the best person to work with a client (example: certain traumas)
  • Help in your most powerful ways but refer out as needed
  • Define the type of work you do: set expectations and perimeters from the beginning

Contact Info and Recommended Resources

Connect with Molly Claire


Welcome to the Masterful Coach Podcast with Molly Claire, where coaches learn Skill Mastery, Business Mastery, and Life Mastery at a whole new level. If you’re ready to create a meaningful coaching business that makes a difference, you’re in the right place. And now your host, Master coach, instructor, Molly Claire.

Hey coaches, welcome. So excited to be with all of you today. We are talking about a very important topic, unacceptable coaching practices. And it’s not exactly the lightest topic, but I believe it’s so important. I’m so passionate about the coaching world and about the service that each of you listening provide, and the way that you are truly able to help empower your clients. And it is for this reason that I think it’s important we talk about these things.

I had an episode on ethics a few weeks ago, if you haven’t listened to it, make sure to go listen to it. I’m going to be definitely talking more about these kinds of things as we go because I believe that upholding the integrity in the coaching world is to be able to hold ourselves accountable, hold others accountable, and to really be able to be mindful of what we’re creating in our businesses. Okay, so that’s what we’re going to be diving into.

Before I do, huge welcome to all those of you that are joining us for this round of the Coaching Collective. The last several weeks have been so fun on the podcast sharing with you stories from our mentors, our community members and it’s just been a really great time. We had a great Facebook group that we did, helping you guys with your offers. And it’s been a great time already. And those of you that are coming with us, Aimee and I are ready to catch you. We’re ready to help you every step of the way. And we just love you already. So, huge welcome to all of you.

All right, let’s talk about unacceptable coaching practices. We’re just talking about a few things today. And the way I’m framing Today’s episode is I’m actually going to be pitching solutions to you and helping you to understand the problems that prevents and the unacceptable practices that can be eliminated. So that’s what we’re going to talk about. Now, what are some of these unacceptable practices that I’m talking about. I’m talking about practices of dismissing clients thoughts and feelings, which can often feel like gas-lighting, encouraging itself gas-lighting from our clients, where they’re dismissing their own thoughts and feelings, a bait and switch where we are over promising and under delivering, even though we say we’re doing the opposite. I’ve seen this plenty of times abdicating responsibility, instead of taking responsibility, and really missing the mark on how you really do hold a place of power with your client, whether you realize it or not.

So these are some big words, big problems dismissing our clients gas-lighting, bait and switch abdicating responsibility, who wants to be associated with any of those. But the truth is that these things sneak in without you even knowing because of the way the industry is set up and often because of good ideas, good principles, powerful concepts that are simply misused. I want to say that again, these are positive, powerful concepts and practices that are mistakenly misused. And that’s why we’re talking about this today. It’s not because anyone wants to use a bait and switch or abdicate responsibility or gas-light anyone, but it’s because these positive concepts can be confused. And sometimes you may not realize it’s happening. And that’s why we’re talking about this today.

So, solution one that I’m going to speak to is defining your role with your client and the problems that this is going to solve. So one issue I want to talk about is when your client comes to you with an issue with your services, so this could be one to one, or this could be when you are running a group. So I’ve seen this plenty of times in the coaching world, where a coach is dissatisfied with a program not delivering on a promise, a coach is dissatisfied with how the coaching is going. And oftentimes what can happen is that as the coach instead of handling that from a business perspective, meaning listening to whatever the complaint or the issue is, and dealing it as a usual normal business would, you want to go into coach mode.


And this can be both useful and very problematic. Let me give you an example. If you’re running a group program, and the client is unhappy and comes and says, “Hey, I don’t really feel like this is meeting my needs, I feel like I was told this and this, and I’m not really getting that.” This is a business complaint. And the way that you need to handle this business complaint is first listen and understand what is going on for the client. The next thing you need to do is take a look at you and see, is there validity in what the client is saying? Are there things you did not deliver on? So I want to make it clear that when you listen to your client, and when you consider what they have brought to you, this does not mean that you have to agree with all of it. But what it means is you are first allowing space for your client from you as a business owner for them to have a complaint, and you are willing to make space for listening to that, you are then checking in to see what your part in this may or may not be.

Now this can be a difficult thing for any of us whether we’re talking about in our business or in a relationship anytime there is a complaint. We need to make space to listen for it and see, is there some validity in this. Now the problem I see often with coaches is that there’s either an automatic response of saying you as a client are the one creating this experience because of the way you’re thinking just because that’s such an automatic way of thinking, but it’s unacceptable to do so. And I know that’s a strong word. And many people may disagree, I believe it’s unacceptable to do that. And here’s why. When we talk about defining roles, when someone is coming to you with a complaint in that way, they’re not coming to you asking for coaching, they’re not asking you to get inside of their head, what they are doing is coming to you as a business owner, as someone they have hired. And so when you step into that coaching space of getting into their business into their brain, it is an unacceptable practice, because you are going somewhere where you are not welcome at that time.

The other thing this does is it creates a sense of a lack of safety in groups and communities and for our clients because rather than them feeling a sense of safety and coming to you and expressing how they feel, they may feel that they will experience a dismissing of what they are saying or that this will be turned on them in that sense of gas-lighting. This is all your problem you are doing this. And as you’re listening to this, I want you to notice when you may have experienced something like this if you have and notice what it’s like for you. The reason that I say this creates a lack of safety is that our clients should always feel they can come to us with anything without us jumping into their mental and emotional business.

So just think about this for you, think about where this may come up, when your clients come to you, how do you handle those situations? If you run a group, how do you hold yourself accountable? And how do you ensure that you don’t create this automatic practice of dismissing or turning things on the client? Now the other thing I do want to mention is I do understand and agree that there can be value and helping the client to see the way they may be participating or contributing in a situation like this. However, there is a way to do it that both values and appreciate their perspective and also allows that opportunity if the client wants it. So what might this look like? Definitely first, listening and acknowledging what’s going on for the client. Definitely looking at you and holding yourself accountable for anything you may need to do differently. And if you want to talk to the client, from a coach perspective, you absolutely have to ask permission.

What would this look like, this might look like something like, hey, again, once you’ve heard the complaint, once you’ve talked through it, I wonder if we could work through this, would you be willing for us to talk through this in a bit of a coaching role to kind of understand what’s going on for you or what’s coming up here and clarifying with the client. This has nothing to do with, I hear the things you’ve said and I definitely want to make sure I’m delivering and I’d also love the opportunity to help you sift through this on a personal level. So do you hear the difference? Number one, you’re asking for permission from the client and you’re also not taking anything away from what they’ve shared about their experience or the part you may or may not play in this situation.


So I don’t want you to think it’s an all or nothing, because I absolutely see and understand that there are times when we can really help our clients see a pattern and what’s going on for them. But we have to handle it so delicately. Otherwise, what this does is, not only can it feel like gas-lighting in the moment, I was going to say the word help, but I don’t know if that’s the right word, help or facilitate, it almost creates this pattern for clients where they are doing this self gas-lighting, where they don’t think they’re allowed to say how they think, what they feel, or that things are going to be turned on them, and they actually turn on themselves. So, really, really important to define your role when someone comes to you with any issues in your group or in your individual work.

The next thing I want to talk about is even this idea of switching modes during a session. So in a session, there may be times when you’re holding a very neutral space with your client and there may be times that you are advising giving opinion. And there are also times when you may be giving expert advice from someone else, sharing some research or some facts. And in the coaching realm in the session, when you’re in that place, it’s so important that you clearly define when you’re switching roles. This might look something like, “Hey, I’m just going to be completely in a neutral space here. And we’re just going to be in a coaching space, I’m withholding all of my opinions.” If you move to a place of, hey, I want to share just some opinions and I want to toss them around. Now make sure that you distinguish that’s what’s happening. Because as I mentioned in the beginning, you’re in a bit of a place of power with your clients, whether you realize it or not, you have a lot of influence. And you really do become the voice in your clients head. And it’s so important to be careful with that role that you play.

The reason this is so important is you may be giving opinion, and they may take that as something that they’re supposed to take on as fact. So anytime you go to opinion, distinguish when you’re going to that place, and also make sure that the client understands and realizes that they do not have to take this on. That’s how you keep it a neutral space, even while giving opinion. Same goes for if you’re giving any statistics, just make sure that you are defining the role as you go. This will make it clear for the client, and help them to have a more empowered experience.

All right, let’s talk about the next one. Identify the needs of your client. Now this may seem very obvious, but I want to talk about how this plays out exactly. So the word neutrality is a big word in the coaching world. We understand this idea that things in our lives are inherently neutral. However, we have thoughts and feelings and experiences about them. And I think first when coaches identify and realize how powerful our thoughts are, and that circumstances don’t have power over us, we can sometimes mistake this concept for believing that we should think and feel neutrally about things, or that things don’t impact us or they shouldn’t impact us as if we should be superhuman and not be influenced by things because they are just neutral. And oftentimes, this is what our clients can hear as well.

So, I want to address this idea that neutrality is a concept to empower our clients not to dismiss or teach this practice of self gas-lighting. And there are times when over emphasizing neutrality in a situation will not work for your client. This is why it’s so important for you as you go into your sessions to identify what is it that my client needs. Does my client need sifting through of these thoughts? Do they need for me to spend some time showing them neutrality? Or does the client actually just need to be heard? Do they need to have space for all of their thoughts and feelings to just matter to process them?

I think distinguishing between these two is a big deal. So think for just a minute today. How do you do that? How are you able to identify with your clients where the need is? And I’ll give you a few specific examples. If you’re working with a client when any kind of grief is coming up, any kind of trauma is coming up, which actually I’m going to talk about in a minute. Let’s actually push the trauma aside. Let’s imagine your client is having some grief come up in a situation. They’ve experienced loss. They’ve experienced something that most people would identify as a pretty big thing, it’s very likely that you need to make a lot of space for your clients thoughts and feelings.


Now there is an appropriate time when you can distinguish between the thoughts that are causing them added suffering, and those thoughts that need to be processed, felt and heard. But even though you as the coach can distinguish between the two, and you see that they are adding more pain, it doesn’t mean it’s always the right time to say it. So make sure that as you’re using this concept of neutrality, that you’re using it in a way to empower your client. And the way that you do that is you tune into what your client’s needs are, what do they need in this minute, and be aware of how that can very easily move over into a dismissing process that is never useful. It doesn’t breed trust or safety with you and the client. And it’s just not a good practice. So be aware of it.

Let’s talk about this last one. Clarify for yourself, who your client is, and when you do or do not work with someone. Now this may seem pretty obvious and pretty clear, but there are issues like trauma, severe depression, personality disorders. And this may seem that it goes without saying, but oftentimes, as coaches, we see the power in what we do. And we know that it can help people dealing with those issues. So sometimes you may try to take on more than is really your place to take it on. Now, let me be clear, I have worked with plenty of people with these very issues, but I’m not in a position of solving for all of it with them. Rather, I’m in a supporting role in those situations.

So when you can be clear for yourself on what you do and do not do with your client and the issues you tackle and do not tackle, it will make for a much cleaner process. It allows you to help your client in the most powerful ways, and to refer out for the things they need a different skill set for.

The last thing that I want to say about this is, even a smallest helping your client understand if you are a very solution, focused coach who does a lot of obstacles, strategies, tactics, those kind of things, then you want to make sure your client is aware of that some people are looking for that specifically, some people are looking more for thought and emotion work specifically. I don’t believe one is better than the other. My personal preference is to have a nice combination of the two. But it’s really important that you are clear with your client from the beginning on the kind of work you do and the kind of work that you do not do. This is going to set the expectation so that the client is getting what they are asking for. It sets you up to have fewer complaints, fewer issues. And also, as I said, with things like trauma, severe depression, personality disorders and things like that, it’s going to make sure that you are not stepping into a place that is not yours to go.

All right coaches, I know this has been a lot. These are a few specific ways that you can prevent these problems. Understand and identify your role when you’re with your client. Whether it’s a business complaint to handle, or even in those sessions, how you switch roles. Make sure that you are identifying the needs with your client, and using all of the powerful tools you have, including the concept of neutrality in a way that works for the client. And finally, make sure that you clarify who you do and do not work with because that will eliminate a lot of problems, create safety and productivity for your clients and it is a best practice. All right, coaches, I will talk to you next week. Thank you so much for being here with me.

Thanks for listening to the Masterful Coach Podcast you can check out www.thecoachingcollective.com for info about the ultimate program for coaches building a business. To find out more about Molly, you can visit www.mollyclaire.com.