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How to Coach the “Rebel” in Your Client

A Rebel Without a Coach

Punk on the beach
Little did he know, "the man" is what gave his life purpose.

On a scale of 1-10, how rebellious are you?

1-2: “You tell me…please” 3-4: “Saying 'no' to people makes me nauseous” 5-6: “I do what's in my best interest, even if it means going with the flow” 7-8: “I actively pursue living an alternative lifestyle or I've considered living in the woods as a viable option” 9-10: “I'm on a watch list or currently wanted by the government”

If you are like most people, you probably sit at a comfortable 4-6 on the rebellion scale. You don't let people push you around, but there may be things you would prefer to be changed. You may even have people pleasing tendencies, but you know where to draw a hard line. The fact of the matter is, to truly change the status quo, a bit of rebellion is often required. As it turns out, most of history is made by rebels. Rebels don't settle with what is given to them. Rebels incite conflict, change, and ultimately transformation.

Hmmmm...conflict, change, and transformation. Sounds eerily similar to life coaching, doesn't it?

Well this week on CLCI Live, Brooke Adair Walters (MCPC), Jerome LeDuff Jr (MCLC), Anthony Lopez (MCPC), Lisa Finck (ACC), Jen Long (MCPC), and Kyle Rodriguez (MCLC) talk about coaching the rebel in all of us. We dive into when the rebel is useful or is actively working against our own best interests, and how coaches can work with our more rebellious clients.

Rebellion for its Own Sake

Anarchist symbol
Reject authority. Reject rules...but what then after?

Let's just for a second, just pretend we all are anarchists. No rules, no laws, no authority. We live truly and freely for ourselves. We are our own bosses... But what happens though when we impose rules on our own behavior? Is it possible to lose authority even over ourselves. YES, in fact it is, and people constantly do it all the time. In the coaching realm, clients will often come up with a goal, make up all sorts of self-imposed rules to follow to achieve their goals, and then eventually rebel against themselves. In fact, self-sabatoge is the #1 reason why clients fall short of their own goals. So what's happening here?

There is a conflict, a rebellion, between what a client wants to do vs. what they believe they ought to do.

Our old friend Sigmund Freud would call this a battle between the Id and the Superego but will drop the psychology jargon for now.

The basic resolution to all of this being that there is no true winner in this eternal conflict. What actually happens is a balance. We never said that this would be a happy balance, that's between you, the coach, and your client how a happy balance is achieved.

So when you encounter a client who is in a constant state of rebellion, discover what it is they really value and have them find the balance, before you know it the rebel will have nothing to rebel against.

Positive Rebellion

When you rebel, there is always take a negative stance being taken. What is left to be determined is are you adding in a positive aspect? We aren't talking about good vs. bad, but asking why the rebellion is happening and where is it going.

When working with a client who is in the midst of a rebellion, either against something in their lives or in themselves, you should ask these two questions:

  • The Negative: What are you negating or denying that you don't agree with?

  • The Positive: What are you asserting or affirming instead?

A rebellion without the positive aspect is a client just venting or worse, being contrarian. The positive is where coaching can actually take place because it creates a goal that can be worked towards. Here's an example:

Sara is a client who is being coached for career fulfillment. She works directly subordinate for the owner of a large company and business is good. But, the owner does not pay Sara well, they disrespect her in front of other employees, and the owner is highly unethical in their business practices.

In the session, Sara states she does not like her boss, her job, and wants to do something about it. She also tells her coach that she will sometimes undermine the boss or spread gossip as an act of rebellion, but that she is ultimately not happy with the situation.

In the example, there is a small rebellion taking place, but ultimately there is no positive aspect yet and Sara has still yet to set a goal for herself. As the coach, your job is to have the client identify the ideal end result and figure out a way to get there.

Remember, Sara's goal is career fulfillment. How is she going to achieve that despite the current situation? Throughout the coaching relationship, you work towards identifying what that end goal/positive rebellious act is.

Sara states "I want to open my own business and as a final celebration quit my job with zero notice" (Might be rebellious and unprofessional, but it's not our place to judge.)

In the end, rebellion isn't something we as coaches should fight against. Our client's rebellious nature can and should be a trait that can be used to reach higher goals and to maximize potential.


Last Chance! ACTO is Accepting Applications for Student Scholarships Now!

The Association of Coach Training Organizations (ACTO) is pleased to open the application for its annual (2022) Coach Training Scholarship.

As in years past, two Scholarships will be awarded – each in the amounts of $2,000 USD – to the individuals who best meet the established criteria of the Scholarship Award.

This opportunity is open to both new coaching students, as well as students currently enrolled in an Accredited Coach Training Program to complete a coach training program from one of the ACTO member participating schools.

The criteria for the ACTO Scholarship Award are narrowly focused as follows:

  1. Applicants must express a commitment to pursue a career in coaching, ultimately credentialing through a recognized professional body. The award must be accessed (but not necessarily completely used) within a one-year period and training completed within two years.

  2. Applicants must express a clear and specific intent to use their acquired coaching skills to positively impact society by working with underserved and/or historically excluded populations. (Examples of underrepresented people and communities include, but are not limited to: Black, Brown, Indigenous and other people of color, ethnic or religious minorities, lower socio-economic or caste status, LGBTQIA+ persons, youth, elderly, economically or educationally disadvantaged, incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals, immigrants or migrants, etc.)

  3. Applicants must share a credible expression of financial need for this award.

Completed scholarship applications must be submitted to ACTO by April 1, 2022. Scholarship Awardees will be announced at the 2022 ACTO Conference (June 15-17, 2022).

Important Dates

January 1, 2022 – Scholarship application process open

April 1, 2022 – Completed scholarship application submission deadline

June 15-17, 2022 – Scholarship Awardees will be announced at the 2022 ACTO Conference


Thank you,

Lisa Finck, Brooke Adair Walters, Jerome LeDuff Jr, Anthony Lopez, Kyle Rodriguez, and Jen Long!

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