Dressing Down Your Coaching Client

Why Noticing your Coachees Appearance Matters

Why Noticing your Coachees Appearance Matters

As a coach have you ever given any detailed thought to what your clients were wearing in coaching sessions with you?


Then read on and you find out how noticing a client’s appearance can sometimes give you clues to what's going on in their heads...... and also provide leads for you when you get stuck with a client!

For example, a coach describing a flamboyant coachee working within a staid public sector environment, told me that she felt this was some sort of mask for him and that this might be getting in the way of effective coaching together.

It might not just be their clothes however.

My own supervisor unearthed an issue with two unrelated coachees of mine once, when I suddenly realised both coachees were 6ft 4inches tall and I knew that could not be a coincidence and perhaps needed greater exploration.

Recently I was doing some supervision with a coach and we were talking about a client she was working with in the NHS who was struggling to understand what he needed to do to move towards a more leadership and business role within his GP practice.

We explored how the GP was looking for set answers on leadership from his coach and was almost seeking a list of 'leadership things' he could do that would magically make him a leader!

The coach 's line of questioning in asking him what leadership meant to him was not eliciting much clarity for either of them.

The breakthrough came when I thought about the Seven Eye Model (see my video explaining this Model here), that so many supervisors use in coaching supervision. So, I decided to ask the coach some questions from the Mode 1 perspective, which metaphorically brings the client into the room.

  • Supervisor: What does your client look like? What was he wearing at the last coaching session?
  • Coach: He was wearing what I would call the GP's uniform. Cord trousers, V neck jumper and no tie with his shirt, sensible shoes with rubber soles and I have noticed before when he rolls his jumper arms up he often has a short sleeve shirt on.
  • Supervisor: What is significant about that?
  • Coach: Well, Doctors wash their hands a lot so I guess it's very practical.
  • Supervisor: Have you seen him in any other context and noticed his clothes then?
  • Coach: Yes, he came to a workshop with other GPs and I now realise he was the only one that was not suited and booted like the others. He was even carrying his Doctor’s bag!
  • Supervisor: So, is there any significance to this? What is his identity?
  • Coach: Oh, my goodness, just had a light bulb moment! He literally cannot "see" himself as a leader because he still looks like the GP he has always been. So, if he could change his appearance to be more leader-like would that be a start for him?
  • Supervisor: How motivated might he be to make this change?
  • Coach: Maybe the crux is that he doesn't really want this change and he is acting out his fear and defensiveness by hiding behind his “GP armour"?
  • Supervisor: So, what will you do?
  • Coach: I can give him some observational feedback on what I have noticed about his appearance and see how he responds to that. This may be the opening I need to help him explore his own routes to becoming the leader that suits his style.


Remembering what your client wears, as well as their overall appearance e.g. spectacles, hair, height etc, their style, and how it fits with the predominant culture, may give you invaluable clues to any stuckness you might be experiencing with your client. So note it down.

For more info about the Seven Eyed Model and the questions it elicits, check out my video or email me on julia@sparkcoachingandtraining.co.uk.