Coaches and Clients in Action

A Sequential Analysis of Interpersonal Coach and Client Behavior

Coaches are available for almost every situation. They can contribute to professional and personal development. However, little is known about the link between coach-client interaction and coaching success. In particular, interpersonal behavior in coaching remains unexplored, although it is considered highly relevant to social relationships and interaction outcomes.

Coaches are available for almost every situation. They can contribute to professional and personal development. However, little is known about the link between coach-client interaction and coaching success. In particular, interpersonal behavior in coaching remains unexplored, although it is considered highly relevant to social relationships and interaction outcomes.

A recent publication by Patrizia Ianiro, Nale Lehmann-Willenbrock and Simone Kauffeld examines the dynamics of interpersonal behavior of coaches and their clients based on the two behavioral dimensions “affiliation” and “dominance”. Affiliation includes the friendliness. Dominance is the sovereign, self-confident attitude that the client expects of the coach. The client wants to be led by the coaching process, which is also required by the coach. But how dominant should the coach be?

For the empirical study, coaching sessions were evaluated by behavioral observation and video-based interaction analysis with the Mangold INTERACT Software. A total of 11,095 behaviors nested in 30 coach-client dyads were recorded and analyzed. The sequential analysis shows that reciprocal friendliness patterns were positively linked to working alliance. Coaches’ dominant-friendly interaction behavior activated the clients, in terms of showing dominance during the coaching interaction process. Although the client wants to be led, they are also aware of their own essential contribution in the success of the coaching. They would like to be acknowledged at “eye-level” with the coach. This contributes to the fact that the relationship is perceived by the client as being particularly constructive and successful.

The results highlight the importance of interpersonal behavior for coaching success. For coaches, the study implies that high awareness for interpersonal signals can help establish a positive atmosphere and activate clients’ dominance.

Link to study >>>