How to have a great chemistry session with a new coaching client

A Case study

When a new client really loves me, it makes me sweat, my teeth chatter and I very nearly wet my pants. I had a really great chemistry session this week with a new potential client. It terrified me

The background

This client is the HR Exec of a small but lucrative company in the insurance business. When she had been in the position for a short time, her boss told her in a feedback session that she should consider voice coaching. He thinks she can do with a stronger and more commanding presence and gave her a number for a coach that might help her. She did not want that coach, so she kept putting it off.

Then she saw a presentation of mine at an Organisation Development Conference and loved the energy I created. “This woman can help me”, she thought and immediately bought my book, Grow your Voice to Speak with Confidence, which was for sale at the conference, and emailed me for an appointment.

The appointment

Now we were having our chemistry session on the phone. We wanted to do it face to face, but there were labour issues at her company, so she could not leave the office. We wanted to skype, but we kept having breaks in our network signal, so she called on the company phone and we had our session on the phone. The fact that she did not cancel at any of these obstacles told me something of her commitment, so I wanted to know wherein the commitment lay.

After she told me her story, I asked: “What was it about the other coach that you did not like?”

“Oh, I don’t know, I never talked to him. There was just something in the way. I never made that first phone call.”

“ OK, I say, “What makes this different?”

“It was your talk, I really liked your energy and approach. I have to click with someone and trust them.”

“Thank you, I appreciate you saying that. What do you trust me to do?”

“I think you can tell me exactly what I need to work on and how to fix it.”

And that is where the terror hits me.

Immediately I am thinking: So, she was impressed with my ‘magic’ and she thinks I am going to wave a wand and fix her. Her commitment is to me, not to herself. This does not bode well.

“How do you think that will work?” I ask. She picks up on my fears: “Oh, I know I will have to put in the effort and do the work. I realise there is hard work involved, but I trust you to know what is wrong and help me fix it.”

My terror increases.

Now I am going to be held responsible when things go wrong. I begin to sweat.

“I have a feeling you already know what is wrong and what you need to do to fix it. Can we explore this possibility?”, I ask cautiously, clutching at straws. There is silence on the other end. My mouth is dry.

“You said earlier that breathing might be playing a role, but you don’t know.” I venture,  “And you have read my book and heard me talk about the importance of breathing for confident speaking. This may or may not be your issue and may or may not be a solution for you. You want me to tell you yes, it is one of your biggest problems, and here is how you fix it?”

“Can you?”

“I don’t know, “ I confess, “There is a story here that says: “Breathing is important for confident speaking. The question is, how does this ‘best practise’ story relate to your own personal issues or story regarding speaking? So, let’s find out. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the kind of situation you described earlier where you typically lose your confidence. You mentioned speaking to large groups of strangers as being the worst kind of audience for you. There they are in front of you and you have to ‘be present and commanding’. You hear the boss’s expectation in your head, you look at the people. Now, what is your breathing doing?”

“It is fast and weak”.

“How do you want tit to be?”

“Deep and calm.”

“Can you deepen the breath now?”


“Can you slow it down?”


“Ok, you can try counting too. See if that works for you. Breathe in for four counts and out for four. Counting takes your brain out of the limbic system that makes you panic and into the rational part of your brain.” I give her a few moments and then ask: “How do you feel now?”

“Much calmer. Much more confident.”

“So, Is breathing an issue for you?”


“How do you fix it?”

“Oh breathe more deeply and slowly. I’ll have to play with the idea of counting, it is new to me”

“If it does not work for you, drop it. Did you know, ” I go on, “that some people’s breath stops altogether? Others report that their breathing comes out it big heavy sighs. Not all go fast and weak like yours.”


“Each person’s story is unique. Tell me, can you use what you discovered now in your real life story  the next time you speak?”


“So, we have just had a rehearsal for your own future. How does that feel?”

“Great, empowering.”

“Who decided what the problem was?”

“I did.”

“Who decided how it should be fixed?”

“I did.”

“So, can we keep on working this way?”

“Sure, but it will be hard work.”

“For whom?”

“For me”

“You’re right, but then, you knew that coming into this. You said you knew you would have to work hard.”

“So I did.” I hear a smile in her tone, “ Send me the coaching engagement letter. I’m ready.”

I sigh a deep sigh of relief.

This is going to be a walk in the park for me. The commitment is now in the right place. My client has committed to doing the work. That means she is also taking the responsibility and ownership. I am off the hook and she is in for real success.