10 Lessons from the delinquent client

10 Lessons from the delinquent client

I was excited at the prospect of starting off my first assignment and meant to give it my best. I had the sponsor tell me what he wanted of the coachee (who I shall refer to as ‘X’ or ‘client’, for more elegance). This was followed by an initial meeting with both the sponsor and X during which X sat silent for most part.

I then progressed to getting a feedback from the X’s colleagues. Some of these were laudatory while some were downright critical, which gave me different perspectives. This was going to be challenging, I thought. I didn’t realize I was being prophetic. I sent a questionnaire to X to fill up, as also an exercise to understand how satisfied X was with different aspects of life. X returned these by the assigned time. I was not entirely satisfied with the telegraphic responses and I meant to have this corrected in the first session with X and I looked forward to the meeting, all agog with energy.

The day arrived. During the meeting, I got a rather detailed insight of X’s life from childhood up until the present time, including the attendant problems at every stage, enough for me to write a biography. Not wanting to interrupt the flow of speech, accompanied by copious flow of tears, I sat and listened. At the end of two hours, I summed up the goals that we would be working on and requested X to reflect again on the responses to the questionnaire and elaborate on them and send them to me two days before our next meeting, seven days later. Little did I know what I was in for. The appointed time arrived and I sent a polite reminder. Not seeing a response coming in by the day of our next meeting, I sent another reminder which was greeted a more stony silence. A week later, I raised the issue with the sponsor who sympathized with me. My very first coaching client had turned delinquent. Not a great way to start a coaching business but I learnt a few lessons from this.

  1. Understand very clearly what the sponsor wants and whether it is in line with what the client would like to achieve too. If there is a dissonance, the objectives of the exercise will be obscure leading to sub optimal results.

  1. Explain to the client your approach, what is required of the client and how you will help him/her. As far as possible, your endeavour should be to finish the assignment as quickly as you can. The longer the duration, the more likely are the chances of the client going off track.

  1. If the client does not respond well in the initial days, it is likely that the behavior will continue and the coach will therefore have to guard against this.

  1. Do not get carried away by the sob stories of the client, sympathize with him/her or get too much into the person’s early life except and to the extent it has a bearing on present behavior and if any interventions are required to get rid of any influences of past incidents. I use a bit of NLP to do change work with my clients and therefore this is important for me.

  1. Do not let the client hijack the meeting. You should control the agenda while respecting the client’s freedom to speak.

  1. Do not keep following up with the client. A committed person will keep time and perform the assigned tasks by the allotted time. In any case, if you have explained your approach, the client should be clear about this as also what is required of him/her.

  1. Each client is different and a cookie cutter approach will not work in every situation.

  1. Make sure you apprise the Sponsor of the progress or lack thereof in the assignment and the way forward.

  1. Sense how involved the sponsor really is. If he/she is not, do not expect the client to be any better.

  1. Be very clear upfront about the fee you will charge and when, however well you know the sponsor. You will avoid spending too much time following up for payment later.

I tend to look at every interaction as a learning experience and this certainly was a great one at that. I hope the client has made some progress towards achieving what the sponsor had in mind when he engaged me.

Image from Google- www.managementissues.com