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Help Your Clients Take a Risk to Achieve the Goal

Posted by Fanie Zis, PCC | May 5, 2023 | Comments (0)

I went skydiving 15 years ago. I did not feel it was a risk at the time (and to date I still don’t).

But when I submitted my life coaching sessions for review towards my ICF credential PCC designation?  

Now THAT was a risk for me.

A risk of experiencing several emotional (ego) disturbances, putting my vulnerability and values on the line; challenging my self-concept, deepest fears, and insecurities; and facing possible rejection, and FAILURE.

But I took the risk and achieved my goal.

Risk-taking is an important part of personal and professional development, and as a coach, it is your job to help your clients take risks in order to reach their goals.

What is a Risk?

Risk is the possibility of something bad happening, and it involves uncertainty about the effects and the implications of an activity with respect to something that human’s value, such as health, well-being, wealth, or property.

There are all sorts of risks, not just financial and business, and you may find your client is willing to take more risks in one area than another. For some jumping off an airplane is interpreted as being less risky than sharing one’s true feelings, public speaking, or asking someone to go on a date. Your client may feel that setting up coaching is a risk. And you might find using techniques like confrontation and challenge with a client is a risk.

Why Risk-Taking Is Important

If done carefully, taking a risk can help your clients:

  • Get out of their comfort zone.  
  • Enhance levels of confidence, self-esteem, self-trust, self-efficacy, and personal agency.
  • Increase risk tolerance and build resiliency.
  • Take a necessary step to help them achieve their desired outcome.
  • Foster learning, self-awareness, and new skills, and explore values.
  • Find more options and greater opportunities.

 3 Common Myths about Risk-Taking:

It is important to dispel some common myths about risk taking such as:

  • Risks are always impulsive; They can be but don’t have to be.
  • What one person views as a risk will be viewed as such by everyone else; No, it’s subjective.
  • What was once a risk will always feel like a risk; No, this will change with experience.

5 Ways to Support Clients in Taking Risks

Your client may be in what I call the risk-taking trap: overthinking, overanalyzing, and ruminating. This can be a HUGE obstacle in reaching their goal. At some point, they may have to decide and take the next step! The following strategies can help:

1) Assess and Explore Risk

To help your client assess and explore risk, ask questions, such as:

  • What will happen if you do not take this risk?
  • What about this is risky for you? AND at this time in your life?
  • How will taking or not taking a risk affect your goal?
  • What happened or didn’t happen with a past risk?

Then, have them weigh the pros and cons and visit the worst-case scenario. Encourage them to talk with others who may have taken a similar risk and have a conversation about their experience.

Talk about the risk of staying in the status quo. A powerful question I ask clients is: “What is riskier, staying in the status quo or the identified risk/step?”

2) Help the Client Process Their Feelings

Validate, acknowledge, and give space for the client to explore and work through emotions and reactions. It doesn’t matter if you or anyone else thinks it’s a risk or not. If it is a risk for the client, then that is what it is at that time.

You can explore the areas of potential discomfort (failure, loss, rejection) and how they might work through these, if they were to go ahead with taking a risk.

3) Build Risk Tolerance

Start off small. Take one small step towards a bigger risk and see what happens. A visualization exercise can be a small step. If comfortable, the client can take another step, and then another, and so on.

Have the client practice by  taking one small risk each day. This slowly exposes the client to the discomfort of risk taking by allowing them to step out of their comfort zone; to navigate through risks — including those that succeed and those that don’t; and to create strategies that prepare them for bigger risks.

4) Ensure Emotional Safety

If your client does not feel emotionally safe working with you, they are less likely to take a risk. Emotional safety means having good rapport, trust, transparency, and providing  a supportive and safe place for them to go back to if the outcome does not work out.

Also be mindful that you challenge, not push.

5) Plan for Failure

Help your client prepare for things not going as planned. You can try:

  • Visualizing the risk going well and not well. What might they feel? Do?
  • Listing the potential positive outcomes if the risk does not go as planned.

Safety and Risk-Taking

Whatever the risk, it can be uncomfortable for your client, but it needs to be safe for your client.

Although you need to respect the client’s comfortability with risk (this is not about you and if you feel it is risky), you do need to decipher between danger and discomfort. You should use strategic questioning to help them come to their own conclusion; challenge them; discuss a safety and back-up plan; and make it clear in your coaching agreement, contract, and waiver that the client is responsible for their actions.

If you do not feel comfortable coaching the client with a particular risk, you might terminate the contract, refer the client elsewhere, and/or consult with a mentor.

So, was it worth the risk to submit my recordings for the PCC assessment? Absolutely!  As for the skydiving … I am still confused about what the goal of that was. Ultimately, taking risks can be uncomfortable, but it can be incredibly rewarding.

Fanie Zis, PCC

Fanie Zis, PCC, CCDP, CWS, CES, CCS, comes from a background in psychology, counseling, and career development. She holds a PCC credential with ICF and is a certified career development practitioner with the BC Career Development Association. Fanie is currently enrolled in David Kessler's Grief Educator Certification program and is looking forward to continuing to coach clients in their grief and loss journey. Fanie works as a life smart coach for the employee and family assistance program through Homewood Health in the areas of career coaching, career counseling, relationship coaching, family support, grief and loss, stress management, and pre-retirement planning. Fanie also works as a freelance life and career coach, supporting clients through personal and professional development and life enhancement processesReach Fanie at

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

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