I had been tasked with help in serving a client. In addition to his coaching with Noam, this client would send me daily updates of his day, and at the beginning of each week I would send him an e-mail containing: Coaching Questions about the way he spent his time/things he replied the previous week, a Masterpiece Card and an Inspiring Video.
This was the first I got to see what long-term coaching meant. Week by week I got to experiment and see what worked and what didn’t.
Here is an example from our first e-mail conversation:
Me: ‘My name is Dan and I’m an expert in storytelling. For the next 6 months, I’ll be helping you take the distance needed to gain useful insights about the story you live every day. Together, you will learn to weave more powerful stories. For the purpose of our work, your main point of contact will still be Noam. I coordinate all my communication directly with him.
His reply: ‘Find my answers to your questions below. If you are a storyteller expert, what would really help is a power story from my company to the customers. That would be valuable. Please find attached our briefing to the web bureau to inspire you.’
My immediate reaction was defensive and slightly panicked. This was not what I was tasked to do at all. Create a power story… what? Is he pulling my leg? Is he testing me? How am I supposed to do something related to a company I know little about?
I spoke with Noam about this and we revealed two truths: (1) The client has some problems with communicating his requests effectively and (2) My emotions related to the situation were still about me – It was I who didn’t know my exact role, who felt tested on his storytelling abilities because I didn’t have enough faith in them.
At the beginning I started by asking many questions and making many observations. While this was useful, it was also fairly frustrating for the client. As time went on, Noam pointed on that I should strive to ask only 3 questions and always think about: What is the one question that can have the most impact?
This is something I also learned while being coached on the way. One question can be far more valuable than many. It is especially interesting to answer the same question over a period of time. That allows you to see the difference in your responses. For me it was: What do I want, what am I afraid of?
In late December I remember one time I was lying down thinking about how to make the next e-mail, and as I let my mind wander, the card ‘FACING FEARS’ appeared into my head. I’ve always relied quite heavily on intuition so I really thought that the client might be yielding to fear at the time. I discussed it with Noam but we decided to take an approach other than bringing out that fear.
By the end of it, the client became less responsive to our questions and started sending his daily updates less often. I thought ‘Ah no! He is giving up! Falling behind! Why isn’t he answering my questions? And what is there to do?’ Noam pointed out that we have to keep a certain distance from clients, that we can only do what we do, and that the client has his own responsibility.
We ended up stopping the daily updates system completely, to see what his experience would be without it and if it still served him. His feedback was that the coaching served its purpose and he implemented a lot of the suggestions we made. It forced him to ask questions about how he used his time and makes decisions, and understand better why he does what he does. One of the main things we kept pushing was for him to get a VA. He ended up getting a VA for one of his guys and will get one for himself!
1. It is easy to confuse your own emotions/states of mind with the client’s. Just like the time I thought my intuition was telling me fear, I realize now that it was actually my fear from that time. Thus, to serve a client, self-awareness is key. This is something Noam had been training me into from the very beginning: Awareness.
Another thing that helps is not to respond to e-mails immediately, allow your emotions to calm down and give yourself time to think over the space of a few days.
2. Practice patience, the client needs to go through what the client needs to go through. When something doesn’t work out, don’t panic and immediately change your approach, have faith in the process.
3. When you don’t know what is happening with the client, ask. In the end, we are not mind readers, ask them what they need.