The Clients Speak Out

(originally published in PERSONAL SUCCESS - SEPTEMBER 2007)


the clients speak out

What do clients really think about coaching? What benefits do they really receive from their sessions? Coach Helen Battersby was keen to discover the truth and so quizzed a variety of clients on their views.

As coaches, we are all aware of the dangers of making assumptions. We have also read, in these very pages of Personal Success of areas of controversy amongst coaches, for example, around the areas of how directive a coach should be.

I have requested feedback from the horse’s mouth (where the horse has been the client receiving the coaching or the sponsor reviewing it)!

The coachees in this selection range from headmistresses to owner/ managers, to corporate executives and managers. I hope that their responses will provide a platform for other coaches to be able to assert with confidence the benefits that coaching brings.

1. What expectations did you have of coaching before it took place ?

‘I was hoping that it would bring a fresh approach to resolving issues that fell outside normal training programmes.’ (Neil Murray, M.D. Certikin International)

‘Because of the confidential aspect and talking to someone not involved in my day to day I felt I wouldn’t feel threatened and could make myself vulnerable to get real results to the challenges I was facing.’ (Kathy Machlauchlan, Pre-prep headmistress, Taunton School)

‘I have friends who are coaches, so I expected someone with whom I could bounce ideas off and help me to formulate a clear direction moving forward.’ (Neal Pickering, MRSI Solutions proprietor)


2. When the coach explained how coaching worked, were you intrigued/surprised / sceptical about anything in particular ?

‘Personally, I thought the scheduled sessions would be too short - I was happy to be proved wrong as the programme panned out.

On the whole, the programme looked interesting with personally tailored targeting while still looking relatively informal.’ (Tim Wilson, Ops Manager, Certikin International)

‘I thought it would be difficult to quantify the issues I wished to address in terms of setting measurable goals, but after initial discussions the coach did crystallise a set of goals and critical success factors into concrete entities.’ (Jo Ainsworth, Export Executive, Certikin International)

‘When we completed the Wheel of Life, I realised that coaching was going to be beneficial to all aspects of my life.’ (Jane Norman, headmistress, Marycourt School)


3. What was most important to you about the way coaching was set up?

‘As I was some distance away from the coach I found the mix of some telephone coaching surprisingly effective. I was initially worried as I am quite a visual person. It was easily accessible, fitting in with my jam-packed lifestyle.’ (Kathy Machlauchlan)

‘Flexibility (one-to-one sessions at my place of work with dates to suit and no rigid time frame for completion, meaning no missed or cancelled sessions). Economical in terms of time compared to group training sessions (i.e. all discussion was 100% relevant to me 100% of the time).’(Jo Ainsworth)

‘It was done in a logical and structured manner using a variety of tools that dovetailed together nicely removing any ambiguity of thought that I may have had regarding my direction both personal and professional.’ (Neal Pickering)


4. What were you hoping the coaching would give you specifically and were your expectations met ?

‘Expectations were met and surpassed. So many things came out of it. I’ve got to the point where I can sit back and enjoy the fact that I am performing. I’m much more relaxed about things.’ (Kathy Machlauchlan)

‘I wanted clarity of thought and finished the programme with very clearly defined goals for my personal and professional life.’ (Neal Pickering)


5. How did coaching compare or contrast to other development areas such as training or mentoring that you have experienced in the past ?

‘Coaching was much more from within myself. It was a method of self-discovery rather than of being given information or taught skills as in conventional training.

Also, as it focused solely on me the whole of the session was relevant to me - no time was wasted and I was not distracted by the needs of others.’ (Diane Murray, HR Manager, Certikin International)

‘Training I had experienced before always made me feel inadequate, as if I did not know what I was doing, but this enabled me to appreciate knowledge I had and to apply it to my role.

The personal approach allowed time for reflecting and as the sessions went on, self-congratulation!’ (Jane Norman)

‘I have trained in some psychological aspects of sales on training courses and have had mentors in the past. However, I found coaching to be a much deeper experience; on a psychological level it made me stop and focus on some very deep issues and helped me look at these from a variety of angles which I found tremendously beneficial and highly enlightening.’ (Neal Pickering)


6. Debate exists in the coaching world on whether coaches should be directional with their clients. What are your thoughts on this ?

‘I achieved the required outcomes via first class questioning techniques. I think there is a danger of pushing the client down an avenue the coach believes is the right one.’ (Neal Pickering)

‘Different clients will need different styles of coaching. I need to be allowed time to speak and I am able to analyse my own actions. Being directional could lead to clients feeling that their responses were directed.’ (Jane Norman)

‘Although I think an occasional suggestion or prompt keeps the stream of development on course - if it were too directional I would not have had the same ownership of the process. Anything I learned through the coaching, I believed in.’ (Diane Murray)

Feedback is important - a balance - someone to facilitate and scaffold the outcomes. The tools were also useful - tangible things that made a difference to understanding. A structure is important to know where you are going and how you are going to get there. (Kathy Machlauchlan)


7. Were you surprised by any extras that were delivered and that you did not expect ?

‘Yes, I believe that coaching has given me a deeper self-awareness rather than a quick fix to specific problems and the insight to build on the outcome for sustainable future success.’ (Jo Ainsworth)

‘It exceeded my expectations - not only were the goals achieved, but also the effect has been maintained since the programme finished four months ago.’ (Neil Murray)


8. Thinking of where you were at the end of the coaching compared to the beginning. Could you summarise the main benefits ?

‘Self-confidence and self-belief - the ability to organise myself in a better way. It has had a huge impact on all aspects of my job.’ (Kathy Machlauchlan)

‘I found a calmness that I had lost. I am able to see things more clearly and I sleep better!’ (Jane Norman)

‘The main thing was the opportunity to discuss work issues in depth with someone impartial. The coach enabled me to analyse and identify the underlying factors behind the issues I wished to address to then gain a realistic perspective and come up with long-term strategies for dealing with them in a positive way.’ (Diane Murray)


9. One of the claims made by coaching surveys is that intercompany relationships are improved as a result of coaching. Did you find any evidence of this ?

‘Yes, the ability to put things in perspective has removed a great deal of day to day frustrations in the coachee I sponsored and improved relationships with colleagues.’ (Neil Murray)

‘It could in certain environments, perhaps larger organisations. Our culture is quite benign but it can strengthen even reasonably good relationships.’ (Jo Ainsworth)

‘I have always felt that I worked in an understanding workplace and managed with sensitivity but I can see that going through the process of coaching can make a manager more aware of others’ needs. This can only be beneficial and develop a more effective working environment.’ (Jane Norman)


10. One eminent coach speaks of using coaching to develop people as ‘bringing humanity into the workplace’. Is this a fair claim in your view ?

‘Definitely. It’s enabling you to have control over your job, your life and what you value.’ (Kathy Machlauchlan)

‘I believe that everyone and every company could benefit from coaching, as for bringing humanity into the workplace a little, yes!’ (Neal Pickering)

‘I think humanity was there long before coaching was invented. Sounds like a good strapline though!’ (Neil Murray)


Further information

Helen Battersby has a background in corporate life in an international, multicultural environment and is qualified as a personal and corporate coach with The Coaching Academy. You can contact her at or via her web site at




“A great and life changing experience. Thank you”

Neal Pickering, MD MRSI




“Not only have I achieved my goals but I have learned a lot about myself along the way. This has helped unleash greater potential to develop and has already enhanced my performance goals”

Diane Murray, HR Manager, Certikin UK