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Beyond Coaching Questions: The Conversations That Coaches Dread

Posted by Julia Stewart

Dreaded coaching conversationsMy colleague and friend, Deborah Brown-Volkman, and I are planning a coaching communications project that moves beyond, ‘Which coaching questions should I ask?’ and covers the trickiest and stickiest conversations that professional coaches must have, but often dread.

 

 

You know the coaching conversations that give you sweaty palms:
  • How do you handle the client who doesn’t pay you on time?
  • How do you tell your client that you really can’t give them an extra 20-30 minutes every week?
  • How do you tell your client that s/he needs therapy instead of coaching?
  • What do you say to the client who ‘can’t afford’ you?
  • How do you raise your fees without losing your clients?
  • [insert your dreaded client conversation question here]

My students and mentees ask me these questions everyday, but Deborah and I are creating a new resource to give you answers and ideas that are right at your fingertips.


The truth is, as a coach, you need advanced communication skills. And if you don’t have them, your peace of mind will suffer and so will your coaching.

“Success in life is directly proportional to the number of awkward conversations you’re willing to have.” - Anonymous

Do you worry about how to handle touchy conversations with your coaching clients? Then please share which conversations keep you up at night in our comments section, below.

Tell us some of the hardest or most difficult conversations you've had or don't want to have. Your questions about communication best practices for coaches will help shape this project greatly - and will help us to better help you.

Please share your questions below. We’ll be happy to offer answers or methods for finding your own best answers, so you never have to dread having another uncomfortable conversation again. And if you have a great story about how you handled a tough conversation, we’d love to hear it - and you might just help a fellow coach get a good night’s sleep tonight!

[UPDATE: Deborah and I are hosting 4 low-cost live, interactive tele-webinars on how to have the toughest coaching conversations of your career. Click below for more info...]

Click me

Ask your questions about dreaded coaching conversations, below...

Topics: Career, Coaches, coaching clients, Deborah Brown-Volkman, coaching questions, communication

How Coaching Skills Can Save Your Career

Posted by Julia Stewart

Coaching on the Job"People who are coaches will be the norm. Other people won't get promoted."- Jack Welch, CEO, General Electric

That's the story in a nutshell. People who work with people and know how to coach effectively will lead more productive teams and improve the company's bottom line. Their team members will report more job satisfaction and  fulfillment. Everybody wins.

However, you need to have a job before you can get promoted.

The current job market is one of the toughest that most of us have ever seen. If you're job has been automated or shipped overseas, or if you just don't fit the ideal employee profile that potential employers are searching for, you're probably wondering how you can reinvent yourself to succeed.

I won't tell you to become a coach.

Coaching as a profession really isn't for everyone, but coaching as a skill set is something everyone should consider, especially if you're looking for a way to make yourself more employable. And I'm guessing you might also prefer to have more fun, money, fulfillment, accomplishment, and job promotions, as well. Who wouldn't?

This article isn't for people who want to become professional coaches, unless you just like knowing that coaching skills will always make you more employable, in case you ever want to get a "regular" job again. I'm writing this for people who would benefit from upgrading their coaching skills, so they're more successful in other careers.

The numbers are impressive. 

At any given time, there are tens of thousands of job openings that require coaching skills.Yes, some of them are for sports coaches, but virtually every other type of position as well, from nurses, to chefs, to managers, to sales professionals, even to engineers! Go online and look for yourself. The problem is that most folks don't really know how to coach their people.

But what if you did? 

What if you used this time to invest in becoming an excellent coach? Not just by sitting in on a weekend course, but by practicing and working at becoming an effective coach? It's just a thought. 

  • If you've ever wondered how you could inspire your people to do their very best
  • Or how to get the information you need without interrogating people
  • Or if you've ever wondered how leading a productive team could be fun, and at the same time help you finish projects on or ahead of schedule and still bring in more money for the company.
  • Or maybe you've wondered if it's possible to wake up on Monday morning anticipating another great work week.
  • Or maybe you've just wondered how to motivate twenty-somethings to show up for work looking and acting like professionals. A recent episode of 60 Minutes summed it up nicely:

Stop bossing and start coaching!

Coaching is still one of the professions that's growing, despite the economy and for good reason. When done well, it makes a huge difference. And you can do it well, if you learn what to do and practice it in the right environment. Again, it's just a thought.

 

Topics: business coach, coach training, become a coach, free coach training, make a living as a coach, coaching success, coach, coaching skills, coaching career, communication

Coaching vs. Therapy: The Ick Factor

Posted by Julia Stewart

Life coaching vs therapyThe "coaching vs. therapy" issue has been debated by coaches and therapists for years.

It came up for me in two completely different episodes, recently. One was in a coaching session that I observed where a coach/therapist brilliantly used a therapy technique and got the response they were after, but elicited considerable resistance from the client, in the process.* It took me by surprise, because it clearly wasn't part of the coaching "rule book" and it became a catalyst for some reflection, on my part, about what actually defines a boundary between coaching and therapy, because as you know, they are very different professional services that do overlap in a number of areas.

The other situation was with a coach/therapist who I had reason to talk to for a few minutes, who was clearly not happy that I hadn't done more of something that they thought I should be doing.* It was a really icky conversation that reminded me of how there are times when neither coaching nor therapy is appropriate.

Why therapy and counseling don't work with coaching clients: This is simple. High-functioning people hate being put in too small a box and in most cases therapy or counseling feels way too small to them. The exception to this is when someone gives permission to a therapist to counsel them. Permission is everything in relationships. Coaching clients do not give permission for therapy. Period.

People with therapy or counseling backgrounds often assume that coaching will come easy to them, because of the communication skills or techniques that they have already mastered. In some cases this is true. In many more, it is actually a hindrance, because the style of communicating that may have served them well within counseling situations, irritates coaching clients. I remember observing a coach who had previously been a child counselor.* Their clients, who normally were quite open to coaching, kept shutting down. It was because they were using their "child counselor" voice, which was offensive to their high-functioning adult coaching clients!

Subtleties make all the difference.

Even when the communication style is completely appropriate, therapy techniques will feel manipulative to a coaching client, because in therapy there tends to be a bit of a "one up, one down" relationship, where the client has agreed that there is something wrong that they need the therapist's help with. In coaching, the relationship is always between equals and the client doesn't need to be fixed. Get tricky with a coaching client and, even if you succeed in the short run, you'll pay for it down the line with a less open and less trusting client. 

That brings me to my icky conversation. The person I talked with tends to communicate with me from a coaching/counseling approach, even in emails. This is alwaysinappropriate, unless the person you're communicating with gives permission. It is presumptive and rude. Virtually always, when a coach thinks someone needs their help, their ego is getting in the way. The other person will sense this and shut down.

It's like that old saying about why one should never try to teach a pig to sing. It doesn't work and it irritates the pig.

In this case, calling the coach on what she was doing didn't help. To make matters worse, she seemed to be using her "therapist voice". Yucko. When the conversation was over, I remember thinking, "God I hope I never run into her again!"

I was one irritated little piggy.

After later reflection, I realized that while there were many reasons I chose the path I took, which this person clearly wasn't satisfied with, there was another, more subtle reason: I had gradually shut down over a period of months, because of their meddlesome, coach-y, I-know-what-you-should-be-doing-better-then-you-do style of communication. By the time we came face to face, it was already over.

Why coaching people without their permission doesn't work: High-functioning people hate being "helped" unless they've given permission. It implies they're incompetent. Don't try to coach them and definitely don't try to counsel them, unless they've told you they want it.

The Ick Factor will get you. Clients will shut down. Friends and acquaintances will avoid you. People will do less of what you want, instead of more. (They might even blog about it! ;-)

*I purposely made these stories vague, because the details aren't important, but the ramifications are.

 

Copyright, Julia Stewart, 2008

Topics: coaching clients, coaching vs. therapy, psychotherapy, Life Coaching, communication

Marketing and Sales: Nice Girls Don’t (Nice Coaches Don’t, Either)

Posted by Julia Stewart

Nice girl?If there's one thing that makes some coaches (OK, a lotta coaches, especially new ones) feel kinda squeamish, icky, or dirty; it's marketing and sales. Makes you feel like you did when those snotty, dirty boys pulled your dress up on the playground. You're not that kinda girl!

Okay, I'm being a little silly here, but if that's how you feel, it can get in the way of your success, Big Time. Unless of course, someone else is signing your clients on for you! So let's see if you can shift your perspective, here.

Gosh, where to begin with this issue? Let's look at why coaches feel this way to begin with. So what are all the reasons you've ever felt funny about selling? Please reflect on that. Make a list. Here are some I've heard about:

  • You were raised to be modest
  • You don't want to look pushy
  • You don't want to seem self-serving
  • You don't want to have an agenda
  • You don't want to be greedy

Hmm...notice the word all those phrases begin with?

YOU.

Yeah, ouch! There you go, worrying about yourself instead of focusing on the client! Oddly enough, when you're busy worrying about your modesty, you're ego is getting in your way. (And don't bother re-writing your list of reasons. Regardless of how you worded them, I can virtually guarantee that your objections to selling are ego-based, unless you honestly believe coaching is sleazy, in which case, why are you coaching?)

Your ego doesn't belong in a coaching call.

You probably already knew that, but how do you get your focus off yourself, onto the client, and still make a sale? Well, it's easy, once you get it AND until you get it, it's impossible!

Let's look at why you became a coach, in the first place. You may want to make another list. Here are some possible reasons:

  • You want to help people
  • You have a gift in this area
  • You've done a lot of work on yourself and you want to share it
  • You want to change the world

Well, these are pretty noble reasons and you may have noticed that there's a lot of "You" in there, again. But, what if you took "You" out?

  • Help people
  • Share gifts
  • Change the world

The noble stuff is still there and the phrases get more active. And your stuff is gone. If you're not in the picture, then your modesty, how you want to look and be, don't even matter anymore. The focus is off you and onto the action. Now you're ready to take action and make it all about the client.

I'm not just playing word games here; this is real.

If "you" didn't exist in a selling conversation, who would the conversation be about? The client, of course. Whose needs would matter? Whose finances, etc.? Does this person need a coach? Maybe. Do they want one for free? Probably not, because healthy, well-functioning people - the kind who make good clients - don't want handouts. They might even feel uncomfortable and say "No" if you insisted on coaching them for free. (The client, by the way, gets to show up to the session with all their ego stuff. It's you who needs to park it.)

Most clients will feel better about coaching with you if you let them pay you what coaching is worth to them. So that's the money thing.

And then there's the rejection thing. If you're worried about it, then it's your ego again. Strangely enough, clients worry about rejection, too. That's why making an invitation is so important. If you're doing a complimentary session with someone who sounds like your ideal client, park your fear of rejection and make an offer. Otherwise, you may be denying the other person a beautiful opportunity to grow and have a new life. Get yourself out of the way and find out if they're ready to take a chance. Often, all they need is an invitation from you.

Good coach marketing and selling is just clean above-board communication and relationship building.

Think about it. Part of being authentic is communicating honestly about who you are. That's integrity. If coaching is in integrity with your authentic self, then communicating about the gifts you have to offer the world as a coach, is part of your authenticity. If you're refusing to market and and unwilling to make a sale, a.k.a. communicate honestly and make invitations, then you're out of integrity. Your ego is in the way. Nobody is served.

So if you feel uncomfortable with marketing and sales, I have a tongue-in-cheek suggestion for you: Stop thinking dirty. Start taking actions that help more people experience the benefits of coaching. In other words, fill up your coaching practice!

Come on! You'll still respect yourself in the morning!

This is a theme we visit again and again in Coach 100, but especially in C100 classes #5 &6, "Successful Complimentary Sessions, Part I & II", and class #11, "I Hate to Market!"

Copyright, 2005, 2006, Julia Stewart

Photo by Skirt Girl Monica at Flickr Commons

Topics: Coach 100, marketing and sales, ego, coaching call, communication

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