Last week I was talking with a client who has been a coach for over twenty years. She shared that she never had a documented coaching process until now and what a significant difference it has already made in sharing the value of her work and attracting the right clients. It also is going to make a big difference in setting expectations for clients and having them “lean in” to utilizing the tools and resources she’s created, which ultimately will help them better bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be.
If you don’t have a clearly outlined process that addresses the biggest challenges and desires your clients have, I believe you are in good company. Even my most experienced clients rarely have a true coaching process until they work with me. Yet it can be a complete game changer for you, which is why I was inspired to write this two-part article on Process Creation.
Imagine for a moment that you are presented with a coaching opportunity with an executive who wants to interview three potential coaches, you being one. A clearly outlined way of working with your clients and expectations for what they get from that journey will absolutely differentiate you from the other coaches and help the executive see how you can help them before even talking to them. It gives you a significant leg up if they already want and need what you offer. It also helps them decide you aren’t the right fit if what they want is significantly different than what you offer. And both of these scenarios are positive. We don’t want to spend time talking to a prospect that will clearly not be a good fit.
Being essential to our ideal client
Our goal is for our work to be deemed essential to our ideal client. It shouldn’t be a nice-to-have personal development boost. It is work that makes a significant difference in the work and lives of our clients where their results far exceed their investment of time, money, and energy. When we do that, we create clients who are raving fans and likely want to work with us for a long time. Raving fans create strong referrals who are pre-sold on working with us. Clients who want to work with us for a long time lend ease and stability to our businesses. Win-win all the way around.
A clearly defined process, with tools and resources to support it, can help you help your clients bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be.
The Spectrum of Coaching and Coachsulting
I believe there is a spectrum of how you can coach and support your clients. On one side of the spectrum is the coaching we learn in Coaching School. The client calls and you say, “What do you want to talk about today?” In this pure form, there is no structure, no development plan, no coaching arc beyond that call itself. On the other end of the spectrum is a step-by-step, regimented, one-size-fits-all linear process that most likely resembles training with coachable moments. Most of my clients lie somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. They choose to be where they feel it best serves the client and themselves. Where they are both joyful as a coach and client, and the gap between where the client started and where they truly want to be narrows significantly, if not completely, during their engagement.
I think it is important to note that you can typically reside in the middle of that spectrum and still show up solely with your coach hat on in your sessions with clients. You can create a framework that allows your clients to have more structure in between sessions, offering exercises, content, and support that help deepen their learning and forward their action. Conversely, you may choose to blend that expertise into your calls. It is just important that you make distinctions for your client and ensure that clients are not giving away their authority to you. [Check out my article “The Best “Advice” is from your Own Inner Guidance” if you are intrigued by this concept.]
Where to Begin
The place to begin is identifying and listing your ideal clients’ biggest challenges and desires that align with your interests, credibility, and expertise. This is what I call your “Sweet Spot”. Get as specific as you can here. As an example, don’t say “become a better leader” or “be a better communicator”, but really drill into what makes a better leader or communicator and what challenges get in the way.
What I love about my work is that I have never met a client who has the same “Sweet Spot” even though, as an example, I have had dozens of clients focus on female executives. Each one of them had a different focus and approach that was unique and helped them stand out to THEIR ideal client.
Also know you don’t have to be all things to your clients. If areas they need help with fall outside of your sweet spot, it doesn’t mean you have to suddenly become an expert in that area. If there are common desires/challenges they have that fall outside of your sweet spot, you may want to have other coaches/practitioners that you can work with or refer to as needed. As an example, when I was an Executive Coach, I had a few people on my expert team, like an Assessment Partner (360 Survey Tools, Cultural Assessments, DISC) and a Negotiation Expert. I realize I could have gotten more training or certifications in these areas, but I didn’t really want to! Plus, we got more collective business by referring clients to each other, so it was a win for the client, win for me, and win for my strategic partner.
Bucket Your Challenges and Desires into Themes
Look at all the challenges and desires and decide which ones fit into the same theme. I find it helpful to color code them because your list is likely to be quite long, and it can help you sift through them. Sometimes after your initial pass, you may decide to further distinguish your buckets into more specific categories. As an example, a communication bucket may be further refined into a “having difficult conversations”, “giving/taking feedback”, and “self-advocacy” buckets. These buckets/categories are what I call Core Tenets, but you can also think of them as Focus Areas or Pillars or whatever language resonates for you!
Next, identify Tools & Resources for each Core Tenet that will help your clients in these areas. These may be resources you have created yourself or resources that others have created, such as Workbooks, Templates, Videos, Trainings, Articles, Blogs, and Exercises. You may also have a list of resources you want to create or find. Make sure you have permission to share anything that is copyrighted.
If you take steps to create your Core Tenets and a library of Tools & Resources to help support them, you are going to massively differentiate yourself from other coaches that work with your ideal client. Even if you already have a robust library of Tools & Resources, outlining these Core Tenets will likely have your clients “leaning in” to the tools you have available. Truth be told, just knowing they exist will likely up clients’ interest in them. You can create a password-protected Client Resources Library on your website, like I have done, to make these resources readily available. Alternatively, you can create a Google Drive or Dropbox folder that gives your clients access to your toolbox. Imagine the value that would create for them!
In my next article, we will dive further into Process Creation, so stay tuned! In the meantime, I’d love to hear about the progress you make on creating your Core Tenets! Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or thoughts. I always love to hear from you.