by Marion Franklin, MS, MCC
Last month VOICE
published an article about
a coach who found himself stuck in traffic
and would likely not be on time for his
client. Accordingly, he called the client
from his cell phone to either change the
time or reschedule. The client asked if
the coach was driving, and he replied that
in fact he was a passenger. The client then
became enraged and claimed that his confidentiality
had been violated and slammed down the phone.
When the coach tried to contact the client
to explain, the client did not respond.
[ed. It is not our intent to scold last
month’s author. AND we want to know
what you are thinking about previously published
topics and about new ones. So we offer here
an alternate ending to the story.]
When someone tells you a joke, particularly
a long one, you anxiously await the punch
line. When the punch line isn’t funny,
you feel let down and disappointed that
you listened to the whole thing for nothing.
That’s how I felt when I read last
month’s VOICE article about the use
and abuse of cell phones. I found myself
going in a completely different direction.
The nature of a typical coaching practice
is that clients come and clients go. We
may work with some for longer periods of
time, but overall, clients feel complete
once they have accomplished their intended
goals. And perhaps more importantly, when
they use the tools and wisdom they gained
from coaching to handle situations and challenges
on their own they feel the value of their
But, there are instances when clients leave
abruptly. On occasion, it may be without
explanation. Oftentimes, they use a convenient
excuse such as the cost factor. Or like
in the scenario we read about, the client
fired the coach seemingly out of anger.
We could speculate forever on why this happened.
- Was the car ride the real trigger for
the client’s anger?
Was the client anxious to speak with
the coach to share something?
Was something going on for a usually
easy client that he didn't feel his appointment
time was honored? or
Was there some preexisting mistrust
and this was a final straw?
What’s the learning in the
The client said that he felt violated, and
so the lesson might really be just about
confidentiality. Trust and rapport are imperative
and crucial in a coaching relationship.
As a professional, those are our responsibilities.
Therapists are compelled not to reveal the
name or identity of a client. But for coaches,
it’s a matter of ethics. We don’t
have any written laws but we do pledge
to uphold a Code of Ethics that includes
maintaining client confidentiality.
Early on in my coaching practice I offered
a free month of coaching for any referred
new client who hired me. I stopped quickly
when I realized that it meant my current
client would become aware of a new client
working with me.
The client in the cell phone story might have felt disrespected
around the appointment. In any relationship,
especially a professional one such as coach/client,
employer/employee, doctor/patient or
teacher/student, there is an inherent understanding
that when a meeting is arranged, it will
Yes, traffic happens, and consequently,
people are late for a meetings or appointments.
When a doctor keeps you waiting for a scheduled
appointment, you get agitated and annoyed.
It feels as if you aren’t important.
It’s as if your time is not valued.
It feels disrespectful.
For some people, this may not have been
a big deal. Clearly though, dishonoring
a professional appointment can have major
Perhaps the client was feeling some of that
disrespect. Conceivably, he felt as though
the time set aside was not valued. It’s
possible there was more going on, but we
will never really know. What is important
is realizing that dishonoring a time commitment
can evoke a lack of trust, a sense of disregard,
and at the very least a huge disappointment.
In the end, when something unexpected happens,
like this client’s rage, it is important
to examine the event from as many perspectives
as possible. Is the reason given the obvious
one? Or is it something entirely different.
Getting input from the client if at all
possible would be most beneficial. Then
we are more likely to prevent the same thing
Questions to Ponder
How do you feel when someone keeps
you waiting or cancels at the last minute?
What if you are running late or need
to cancel, do you notify the person immediately,
apologize, and/or offer something in return
for the inconvenience?
What are the potential consequences
and impact of missing an appointment?
About the Author:
Marion Franklin, MCC, trains, mentors, and coaches individuals and groups
focusing on honing leadership qualities, enhancing communication, and
strengthening interpersonal relations. Visit her site @