Martha Beck ROCKS!

Today was our first class with Martha as moderator, and she really showed why she is who she is. I mean, she was calm, relaxed, funny, and a MASTER of coaching. The master part comes from all her own life experience – her own self-work, her clients, and her taking the time to reflect and process at each step of the way. She is extremely well-read, and we all know how prolific she is as a magazine, nonfiction book, and memoir writer.

Her way of being allowed her to expertly manage the flow of the phone call, answer questions at a natural pace, address the pre-written questions that had been submitted on the Forum, and utilize material from the class participants AS INSTRUCTION. She stayed with her intention to lead, and therefore every moment was an opportunity for her to lead a discussion in a direction that would benefit us as future coaches. I believe this is because she has lived it.

She even said there will be a section of the course entitled, “Nightmare clients”, in which she will share her experiences with certain types of clients and how to deal with them. I was most enlightened – and felt freed – by her discussion today about what she calls “whack-a-mole” clients, or clients with “No, but…” syndrome. These are people who will complain endlessly about problems in their lives, and then when the coach suggests a hypothesis, like, “Maybe it has something to do with your mother,” the client will deny it. If the coach listens some more, and offers a different hypothesis, like, “Maybe it has something to do with your father.” The client will deny that too, saying, “NO IT DOESN’T! My father is fine!” Maybe the coach will listen to more of the client’s stories, and then offer a third hypothesis, like, “Maybe it has something to do with your dog.” Of course the client dodges that one too, saying, “NO YOU FOOL! My dog has nothing to do with this!”

You get the picture. As the coach, you feel like you’re playing the “whack-a-mole” game, but each time you offer something, it’s always something else that the client wants you to focus on.

Her advice today to coaches in this situation was to (a) shut up and listen, and (b) don’t let them pull you into their energy. She also said, and I quote, “I’m also very happy to fire people like this because they won’t make progress.

Martha’s mantra for this: “Leave ’em lay where Jesus slang ’em.”

All of these “whack-a-mole” clients are trying to psychologically control their coaches and get their attention, but they are not truly receptive to or necessarily interested in being coached. Interestingly, Martha said, in her experience, a lot of these “whack-a-mole” clients are living double lives, and unless they are willing to go into the territory of uncovering whatever their secrets are, there is not much hope for coaching them.

As I listened to this part of the call – furiously scribbling down notes – I felt a huge clear exhale come from my body. Something had cleared within me. I felt understood and heard in a profession that I had created out of my own imagination. I have been a coach for the past five years, and have gathered my share of “whack-a-mole” clients. Eventually in each case my essential self has driven me to send these people packing. But I did it only with a buried, tremendous sense of guilt and failure at not being a skillful enough person. I did it as a wounded person, instead of from the real place where my feelings arose – a place of empowerment and seeing clearly. The part of me that knew I needed to get rid of these clients was actually the truthful, honorable, loving part of myself. It was the most compassionate and kind thing for me to do for those people when I let them go.

Martha also reminded us today that in coaching, as in horse whispering, the way to work effectively with a client (or horse) is to stay attentive, do your own mental work, and keep sending out the energy of FREEDOM: “I am free to run away at anytime. You are free to run away at anytime. But what I will never do is hurt you deliberately.

Sounds like a good mantra for love, too.

Thanks, Martha!