When coaching an executive client, many coaches believe that in 3-6 months, magic is going to happen. Some coaches believe that simply because a coach is involved in the process, a client is going to change for a lifetime. Maybe…but not so often does this really happen. While this MAY be true, there are so many factors to consider: the team members, board members, culture of the company, home life, physical health and the list just goes on and on.
I have written out 10 key components that I believe are critical to helping your client create behavioral change…not just for 3 months but for a lifetime.
1. When coaching a business owner or executive level leader, you must get involvement and commitment from all stakeholders around the person you are coaching. This means the boss, employees, team members, colleagues and family members. They have to be supportive of the change and not throwing sarcasm and jokes into the topic of coaching.
2. It is critical to get feedback from other people about this behavior by performing a full review (360 degree review) with the key stakeholders who truly know the client. The client cannot see himself or herself, but the people around the client are making assumptions and drawing conclusions based on their observations.
3. Determine in writing the key behaviors to change and what they look like now and what the client and stakeholders agree the behavior should look like to help the team improve. With intangibles like coaching, it is difficult to measure if coaching works, so it is important for everyone to agree that “When we see x happen, we will know that change has occurred.” Be very careful about tying success to a dollar outcome. The behavior may improve and the bottom line may fall, so this has to be discussed upfront.
4. Write out a week by week plan of action with the client. Having a plan is crucial, otherwise, both you and the client will have no idea where you are going. This plan certainly needs to be flexible, but without a plan on paper and checking in each week with that plan, you will end up going nowhere fast.
5. Check in on a monthly basis with the client and 1-2 key stakeholders (everyone needs to be in the room) to determine where you feel the client is in the change process. If you just talk with the client, the boss, CEO, Board of Directors and employees will want to know what is going on. Ask your client for permission to meet with 2-3 people who know the client and who he trusts to discuss the progress and any shifts which need to take place in the coaching.
6. Find out upfront what types of approaches have worked for your client in the past, but do not dwell on the past. Simply discuss what has worked and approaches that just don’t work for your client. Those old approaches MAY have worked in the past and they may not work today, so ask your client “In your honest opinion, how effective do you believe that strategy for change will work today, given that our world has changed by leaps and bounds in the last five years?”
7. At the end of the coaching, sit down and map out an exit strategy for next steps. This is where the stakeholders are going to be asked to really step in. If you are working with a key team member for 6 months, and you are then suddenly gone, who is going to be checking in with your client?
8. Remember…you cannot work miracles. The behavior the client keeps slipping back into has probably been a part of your client’s life for 20-30 years. If you think you can change your client in six months, it is time for you to hire a coach to get a grip on reality. Once you have provided the coaching, tools and resources to your client, with a solid exit strategy, it is no longer your fault or failure if the client “slips”.
9. Your goal of coaching a leader is not to win a popularity contest. The goal is to get the client to succeed in changing the behavior that is causing anxiety for your client, the team and all stakeholders. This is serious business, and you have to be willing to be tough enough to even get fired over it. You have to be willing to go the distance by holding the client accountable, assigning tough exercises and supporting them every step of the way.
10. If a client is slipping back into old behaviors, avoid using the word “Why?” This can create a great deal of defensiveness. Simply say “Seems like we are now back to square 1. Tell me what has gone on in the last few months/years that has pulled you back to where we started.” Using a child-like approach can also be helpful, simply by saying..”Hmmm….how come? What happened?”
Please add your ideas on this subject. We all want our clients to succeed, and all suggestions are so welcome and wanted!
And…don’t forget. The TOUGH COACHING program begins today, April 6 as 12:00 p.m. Eastern with a live, real time coaching on the topic of “How to coach a client who has been coached and has slipped back into the old behavior.” To sign up, head over to this page.