Abintus Coaching Resources

In order for the coaching relationship to flourish there needs to be a rapport between coach and client. Coaching assignments can be short so the coach has to invest in building rapport and the relationship from the off. The success of the coaching may be dependant upon it!

Determining rapport

According to Wikipedia, rapport is defined as “a close and harmonious relationship in which people or groups concerned are “in sync” with each other, understand each others feelings or ideas, and communicate smoothly“.

Even from this definition we can see that rapport is not about having something in common with someone when we first meet them e.g. – sport, politics, work etc. It’s about more than these ‘ice breakers’.

Rapport is about having a genuine relationship with someone, where the coach understands the client from their view of the world. The coach sets out to understand how the coachee thinks and feels, how they approach situations. It is a state where both parties feel relaxed and want to engage in a mutual conversation. When it is achieved there will be a natural ebb and flow to the conversation which allows openness, trust and honest to develop.

The stronger the rapport the more receptive to learning the client will be.

Building rapport with clients from the outset

Some people have a natural ability to build rapport and relationships, it simply flows from them! However in most instances the coach has to put effort and focus into the process. Simple approaches can include:

  • Make building rapport a deliberate behaviour. Put planning, time and effort into it.
  • Begin from initial contact with potential clients, you don’t have to wait until the first meeting. Phone calls and emails all present opportunities.
  • Show you are listening to them, this demonstrates your intent and value toward them and the relationship.
  • Be genuinely interested in your client
  • Sharing own experiences demonstrates empathy toward the client. But do it sparingly.
  • Build up the conversation and language. Don’t go straight to ‘heavier stuff’. Start with small talk and keep building on this
  • Not their body language and mirror some of this.
  • Use the words they use and the pitch and pace of their delivery. This will help build a kinship with them.
  • Find out about their values and beliefs and what is important to them. Share your values too. This is about understanding what makes them tick.
  • Talk about what is genuinely of interest to the client.

Interestingly, many line manager coaches say ‘well I have known Steve for years now, I already have a good relationship with him’. While this might be true. Coaching is a different kind of relationship though and it is a relationship of equality not hierarchy. So the line manager should still put effort in building rapport. This will then lead to a much stronger relationship, inside and out of the coaching one.

Building rapport during the coaching session

Developing client rapport and the relationship with them is an ongoing activity. Whilst you might continue with some of the same approaches there are other areas to consider to which will help.

Seeking permission to share feedback and personal work experiences with the client strengthen the relationship. It says the client they have control and are being treated as an equal. This is empowering  and shows that the coach is prepared to relinquish power to the client.

Use questions that help to build rapport. Factual questions are transactional. People, thought and feeling based questions are transformational.

Share positive feedback with the client, based on what you experience with them as they speak. Make observations on their strengths, qualities, knowledge and abilities.

Other considerations

The more the coach knows about the client more they can bring into play to help rapport, the relationship and the conversations. Other tools can be used to assist in this:

Learning styles – using assessments such as Honey and Mumford’s learning style assessment can help the coach tap into their learning style. They can adapt their approach, language and methods accordingly.

Similarly, the NLP approach of Visual, Audio and Kinaesthetic (VAK) can provide useful insight.

Psychometric assessments and personality profiles such as MBTI, Insights, DiSC and Strengths Finder can all provide insight if the client is happy to share them or even undertake them (if it will benefit their coaching outcomes).

In summary, great rapport in the coaching relationship opens up many doors for coach and client alike. However, as with becoming an effective listener, rapport has to be deliberately focused on and built. The skills of the coach come to the fore here to transform the client relationship.