See if you identify with this story and what you can achieve with life coaching
This headline could have also been “How to respect your business and your client” and is only a short summary of issues I cover whilst coaching fellow coaches and therapists.
With communication at the core of our profession I always assumed that this is one of the strongest skills a coach can have. I was wrong, at least partly. It always surprises me when I come across fellow coaches who are "flakey", unreliable or over-promise and under-deliver. I do hope however that those coaches are rare. If you are struggling keeping appointments, please read on.
I do believe that a lot of people like the idea of being a coach but do not understand what this actually means, even after many, many months and even years of training. Probably part of the problem is that either their own coach has not championed important skills to them or the training did not cover those skills. When I meet a flakey coach this usually happens around Skype meetings when the other coach doesn't turn up and doesn't bother to cancel in advance. For me, and in observing how many coaches actually get their business off the ground this bad communication is one of the reasons why in the long-term some coaches fail in private practice.
If you are having a hard time to get started, you might be asking yourself these questions:
Are you losing clients and don’t know why?
Are your enquiries not turning into clients?
As coaches we model and champion healthy and professional behaviour to our clients. It shows our clients that we care and teaches skills they might not have developed yet. Our coaching presence is also important during first impressions. When thinking about communication with clients you might be assuming that I mean warmth, affirmation, positive regard, perceptive reflections and other relationship building skills. Although these are very important whilst working with clients, my focus here is on that first initial contact and I will discuss a few common mistakes that coaches –qualified and in training- make.
I do hope that most of what I talk about here will be common sense to you but if not, please take your time to reflect on your own practice. If you are my coachee you will have received a professional coach wheel of life that you can use to improve your communication with prospective and current clients.
The first contact between you and someone enquiring about your services will be either by email or phone, with email enquiries being the most frequent ones. Here are some questions I would like you to think about before moving on to the next section.
How soon do you reply to an enquiry / email / phone call?
How do you reply to an enquiry?
How do you feel about initial contact? (Are you enjoying it? Do you feel nervous?)
On average, what is the percentage of enquiries turning into actual clients and at what point?
These questions are good to think about on a regular basis. It might be useful to keep statistics on these to identify things that work or don’t work. A simple excel sheet will suffice. If you are part of my coaching practice group or an individual client I will have given you a sample sheet with your coaching material. It is not time consuming and can be done once a week in 5 minutes just to identify areas to improve.
So, how soon do you reply to an enquiry?
Generally I recommend as soon as possible but no more than 24 hours upon receipt of the email or phone call unless it is a bank holiday or weekend. There are several reasons for this:
Letting down a client is terribly uncomfortable but sometimes is inevitable. Being stuck on the motorway after an accident and no reception or a technology glitch can of course happen. How you communicate afterwards with your client is very important.
Here are some common explanations have heard from other coaches and possible reactions from clients:
From the how soon to the how….
Here are some comments I frequently hear from coaches and therapists:
These are only a few points and hopefully they will be common sense to most of you but unfortunately the above issues are not that uncommon and I have experienced them myself whilst working with other coaches.
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Feel free to post questions and suggestions for future articles below in the comments.
Googling around today and looking for inspiration for my website I realized what a jungle the internet is for someone looking for a Coach.
I came across quite a few magic cure quick fix sales power-designed (the virtual 80's power suit) websites. Most of you will have seen websites claiming "cures" in as few as 1 session. Only today I saw a website claiming to "cure" PTSD in 3 sessions. Having worked in psychological and psychiatric research for many years, reading peer-reviewed papers and having learned to identify "faulty" research and pseudoscience I got quite suspicious right away, also a little concerned and finally I found what I was looking for: Inspiration for this article.
Quick fixes are generally situations where something is done "onto you" by the "expert". Straight away there is a power imbalance and that increases the risk of "dependence" on the coach. Whenever something new arises, e.g. a new challenge, it is more likely that people will go back to get fixed whatever needs fixing. Some quick fixes of course work, whether it is placebo or something else is the question. The result in any case: Learned Helplessness.
So how does REAL and long-lasting change work, especially in connection with coaching but also psychotherapy?
First of all, coaching is a relationship of mutual responsibility and ultimately you are in control of that relationship. One part of the change process is of course action. You try new things, act on your plan. The other important factor however is learning. You learn about your process, reflect on what works and what didn't work in the past. You learn about your strengths and your resources. This learning is empowering and ultimately leads to independence and autonomy, a goal that every coach and therapist should have for their clients should have. Someone once said to me: "If you want your clients not to need you ultimately you are going to coach yourself out of business. It's about making people come back for more." I couldn't disagree more. Not only is this against my work ethic but also against my professional integrity.
Once you have gone through a real transformative change process you are more likely to use the skills you learned and the strengths you are in touch with independently. This is true empowerment. Positive Psychology lends itself for that perfectly. We realize that we can depend on other people but don't necessarily have to when we know our strengths, skills and resources. You know you had good coaching when you learned something about yourself and the change process, reached your goal and are maintaining it.
Studies show that the most successful "self-changers" are people who had several attempts at it. This means that they didn't give up but also have been creative with the way they changed the process of goal setting and achieving. They don't see their previous attempts as failures or relapses but as "recycling". They are more likely to succeed within the next 6 months.
Change never really ends. Being human is about growing. Once a goal is achieved this means that we are in maintenance. A lot of quick fix solutions don't take into account that this is also a process. Quite an exciting one actually as you truly internalize the things you have learned with an honest and authentic coaching relationship. It becomes second nature. Depending on what the issue was, maintenance can take a few months or - in a few cases- a lifetime.
When you go on a journey of change, an authentic coach keeps you in the driver seat. He or she might point out different directions and together you can explore them.
The end result is not only reaching the goal but also a sense of real achievement and true empowerment.
For more information on true transformative and co-active coaching check out the books Co-Active Coaching and Changing for Good