When you work with clients in a heart-centered industry like coaching, it can be easy to slip into a pattern of giving, and often at your own expense. Coaches and others who work for themselves can sometimes struggle with setting healthy boundaries with their clients. Boundaries can sound like a negative, but the fact is that having strong boundaries can be the difference between just ok coaching and truly exceptional coaching.
Let’s talk about boundaries: why they are important for life coaches and how to assess if you are operating with weak boundaries. Then, we’ll offer some great ways to establish the strong and healthy boundaries you need to better serve your clients and yourself. Let’s jump in!
Why Boundaries Are Important in Life Coaching
We all hear about the need for boundaries in personal relationships. We probably even help our clients establish boundaries in their work and personal lives. But why can it be a challenge for life coaches to set boundaries?
As coaches, we focus on being of service to clients, giving our time, energy and knowledge to help them lead a more fulfilling and joyous life. We act as sounding boards for some of their most personal and vulnerable issues, thoughts and worries. Because of this, it can be tempting to give a little more time here, and a little more leeway there, in the spirit of being of greater service to them.
When your boundaries are weak, you are left vulnerable to people who take advantage of your time, energy and resources. This leaves you feeling depleted and unable to give your all to any client, and especially to yourself. Most clients will not do this maliciously or even consciously; it’s just what happens when you don’t set clear, strong boundaries around your work.
Healthy boundaries in the coach-client relationship mean that there are clear limits on what is acceptable behavior for both sides. It allows both parties to know what to expect of the other, resulting in a fulfilling and hopefully wildly successful coaching relationship.
As a coach with good boundaries, you can expect the following results:
- A clear understanding of your boundaries, and the ability to communicate them to others
- The ability to quickly determine when your boundaries have been crossed
- The confidence to know how to deal with boundary violations
- The ability to show respect, trust and confidence in yourself
- Opportunities to demonstrate credibility, integrity and strength to your clients
- The creation of a joyful and rewarding life
Do you have weak boundaries?
So, how do you know if you have weak or nonexistent boundaries? For many of us, it can be hard to see. After all, we are just taking extra good care of our clients, right?
Taking care of your clients at your own expense is not how the coaching relationship should work. The good news is that there are some clear-cut signals that your weak boundaries are negatively impacting your life. Ask yourself the following questions to see if any of these resonate with you.
Are your clients always late? Do they miss appointments without any notice? Are you regularly waiting on them?
Do you give coaching services away? Are clients paying late… or not at all? Is the value of your services diminishing?
Are you struggling to have a personal life? Are you getting phone calls, texts and emails at all hours of the day and night? Do your clients expect you to return their messages right away, and get upset when you don’t?
Check in with yourself to see if and where you are sensing things like resentment, anger, fatigue, or feeling undervalued or underappreciated. These can be signs that you may need to set boundaries in these areas.
5 Ways to Set (and Keep) Boundaries
Write It Out
Don’t assume your client knows what you expect! Prepare a document that explains all of your policies and procedures and ask the client to review and sign it. If an issue comes up, you can refer to the document that they have agreed to. Being clear up front can save you a lot of time and distress in the long run.
Watch the Clock
Start and end on time, all the time. Unless there is a special circumstance, keeping firm on your schedule every session shows that you value your time and that of your client.
Choose Clients Carefully
Just because someone wants coaching, doesn’t mean that they are the right client for you. If you notice any red flags (late for consultation calls, calls or emails late or often), you do not have to sign on to work with them.
Choose Your Hours
It can be very helpful to include your work hours in your email signature, contracts and any other documents you provide to clients. If you identify specific work hours for yourself, stick to them and don’t feel obligated to respond after hours, even if you have the time.
Don’t Feel Bad
Setting boundaries is not about restriction or closing off your clients. It can actually have the opposite effect –creating a more powerful coach-client connection. Resist the urge to feel guilty about setting boundaries with clients.
About Life Purpose Institute
Life Purpose Institute is one of the premier Life Coaching Certification Programs available today. We are known for offering the most comprehensive curriculum and personalized support, all in a variety of convenient formats that meet your unique needs. Life Purpose Institute is an International Coaching Federation accredited coach training school located in San Diego, California.
If you are interested in learning more about our programs or how to get started, contact one of our specialists today. Our experienced staff can answer all of your questions so you can feel confident that you have found the right life coaching program for you!