by W. Bradford Swift
I've come to realize lately that when clients first hire me as their coach, one way I can provide a lot of value is to help them get the most from their calls. After all, for many of them, coaching calls are a new experience, and most people are used to using the phone for socializing or for business calls of a different nature than coaching. If you've hired a coach and would like to leverage your time, energy and money with your coach, this list is for you.
1. CREATE THE "COACHING EXPERIENCE": Think carefully about what you want to cover before the call begins. Most coaching calls are brief, 15-45 minutes, and coaching isn't cheap, so make every minute count. Ask yourself thequestion, "If I could cover just one thing on the call today and have it be worth the entire month's coaching fee,what would it be?"Another powerful part of creating the coaching experience means taking a few extra minutes before the call to mentally prepare yourself, rather than 'jamming' the call into an already overly full day. For example, when I book a call with my coach, Michele Lisenbury, I write down the time of the call in my calendar then I book in an additional 15 to 30 minutes for prep time. This way I assure myself that I will be ready to reap the benefits from Michele's wisdom. I may take a short walk during this prep time. I may look over my prep form, whatever. I makesure that I take the time to 'shift gears' from my usually busy day. It pays off in big dividends.
2. START WITH A FULL PLATE: Working off the question above, make a list, not of one thing, but of 5-10 things thatwould be important and valuable. Have more on your plate than you think you can possibly go over, then go forgetting them all addressed. Of course, you don't want to be slipshod about it. Some matters take longer than others, so don't get upset if you only cover 1-2 items, just make sure they are important ones.
3. FIRST THINGS FIRST: One way to see to it that your call is well worth the time and money, is to prioritize whatyou want to go over. Coaching calls are not the place to save the best for last. Put the most important item at the top of your list. That way, even if that's the only item that gets handled, the call will have been well worth while.
4. MAKE CLEAR REQUESTS: Once you have your list and the priority, write down what requests for coaching you have in one or two short, clear statements. For example, let's say that your number one item to cover is, "How can I makemy business more profitable in the next 60 days?" That right there is a good start in requesting coaching. You might take it one step further by asking yourself, "How do I want my coach to support me in this?" Do you want to brainstorm some new ideas, run some ideas you already have by him/her, get some resource information from yourcoach, etc?
5. CUT THE CHAT: Keep the "chitchat" to a minimum. In one sense I hate including this step because I love to "hangout" with my clients and I enjoy chatting with my own coach, but not if it takes up half the call. That's not really what I'm paying her for. Now, if that's your style and that's what you're paying your coach for, that's fine, just realize it may be a costlier friendship than it needs to be. Chat with friends who aren't charging you to talk to them. Get down to business with your coach.
6. TURN THE TABLES: Turn the tables on your coach by asking questions and making requests. Two common and effective coaching techniques is to ask clients pithy questions that can uncover or reveal important insights or pearls of wisdom, and to make unreasonable requests of a client. Well, these same techniques can work well in reverse. I recently asked my coach what specific actions could she see me taking to develop my "capillary marketing system"and she sent me a ton of information on what to work on, all from one simple question. In this way, she's earning her keep, after the call as well as during the call.
7. FRONT LOAD THE DETAILS: Handle as much of the preliminary or background information as possible before the call. I find one of the highest time drains is a client who feels the need to tell me all the history about something before we can get to work on what their request is. While some background is needed, most of it can be handled before the call. One of the greatest value-leveraging devices my coach introduced to me and that I quickly incorporated into my practice is the Prep Form. I fill out the prep form a few hours prior to our call and email it to her so she has the necessary background information before we ever say a word. In this way we start the call already running rather than warming up. Filling out the prep form also helps me become more focused. It's a great structure for planning the call.
8. DEBRIEF YOURSELF: A second form that is also valuable is the Review Form which is sent to your coach a day or so after the call. The review form helps me debrief the call by helping me realize what I got out of the call, as well as helping me see what we didn't cover that we can address in the next call.
9. BE 100% RESPONSIBLE: Take full responsibility for the coaching. This one is so important it probably should be higher in the listing. Don't hire a coach to do your work for you. Don't expect him or her to 'do coaching' on you. Coaching is a partnership that empowers you to make a difference in your own life! A healthy approach to coaching is to consider yourself 100% responsible for how the relationship goes and what value you get out of each call. Atthe other end of the spectrum, I recommend coaches take the same view, that they are 100% responsible for therelationship as well. In this way you have a 200% responsible partnership which is an awesome experience.
10. KNOW WHAT WORKS AND TELL YOUR COACH: Give regular feedback to your coach so he/she knows what works and what isof most value to you to do more of it. Also, let your coach know what's not working or has less value so it can beeliminated. Of course, at first you might not know what's of most value but it won't take long before you'll startto realize that some calls are very powerful whereas other calls were so-so. Begin to look at what was different about the two calls.
11. NOT JUST INSIGHTS BUT ALSO ACTION: Remember this equation: Insight + Action = Breakthrough/Evolving/Growth.During your coaching call don't drop out the critical component of action. Once you've had an insight into yourlife, how can you apply it? As one of my first coaches used to say, "An insight without action is like a pinch in the ass; momentarily interesting but hardly “life altering."
12. CAPTURE THE CALL: Record the call for listening to later. Sure, you can take notes but note taking is slow andcan take your attention away from the conversation so make arrangements with your coach to record theconversations. The simplest way to get high quality recording is to buy a small adapter for hooking a tape recorderto your phone line. These are readily available at Radio Shack and other electronic stores. Remember, it's illegalto record a conversation without getting permission from the other person, so ask first. Not only will you capturethose important nuggets of information but you can also use the recording to train yourself in making the next calls even more focused and powerful.Thanks go to my clients, all of them, for inspiring this article. It's such a privilege to be your coach whetheryou ever adopt any of these steps or not.
W. Bradford Swift is director of Life On Purpose Institute -- an organization dedicated to people clarifying theirlife purpose and living true to it -- where he is a coach, writer and trainer for other coaches (http://www.coachingonpurpose.com). Hundreds of his articles have appeared in such diverse publications as Modern Maturity, Hope, New Age Journal, Yoga Journal, and many others. He may be contacted by email:firstname.lastname@example.org; by phone: 1-800-668-0183; or visit the Life On Purpose Institute website:http://www.lifeonpurpose.com. For a FREE subscription to Purposeful Pondering Ezine, send an email to PurposefulPondering email@example.com.