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

The Dilemma

The Dilemma

In my earlier post Goals and Values, I had written about the importance of knowing the values behind our goals. Not too long ago, I had occasion to use this learning when Alex (name changed) came to me for help.

Alex is a young man of 29, who had a small software business running for the past three years, with 15 people working for him. He had plans to grow his business steadily and increase his wealth. He has a wife and a very young daughter for whom he has big plans. In addition, he also supports his parents who live with him. Alex was a happy man who had big dreams for the future. In a freak fire accident, all of his assets were destroyed and his business came crumbling down and with it, his dreams. What was more painful for Alex was to tell his employees to look for alternate employment as he was not sure of his own future.

When the person who referred Alex to me told me about him, I gathered that he was grappling with indecision and was not sure of whether he wanted to start his business all over again, which seemed daunting or get into a corporate job which might take some time to land but would offer the assurance of a steady income. Getting back into business would mean going through the pain of starting over where his skill levels would far exceed the challenges and he would therefore be bored. Getting a steady job would perhaps take long as he was out of touch with the corporate world for some time now. While his family was outwardly supportive, Alex could sense the tension underneath and therefore chose to stay away from them as much as he could in order not to be sucked into a negative force field.
By the time he came to me, Alex had two alternative goals in mind and believed he would do well in either of these. The dilemma now was which one he should choose. He was passionate about training people and the work of a freelance Corporate Trainer seemed appealing. That would satisfy his entrepreneurial urge as well. His qualifications and experience suited him for a corporate career though, in the role of a Business Analyst or Project Manager. I could calibrate his urge to be on his own.

“Let’s look at the two avenues you have,” I said. “If you believe you will do well as a Corporate Trainer, what would that get for you?

“I like teaching and there is nothing like the satisfaction of supporting students”, he responded.

To this and each of the responses thereafter, I kept asking him “What would that give you?” or “Why is that Important?”

We finally came to “Well, I care about my family and their well being.”

It was clear that he looked to the support of his family in whatever he would venture to do.

I then changed his focus on the other goal and asked him what he would get out of a corporate job. He paused a while before answering, “Recognition. Recognition in terms of position.”

Once again, I persisted with the “What would that give you?” and “Why is that Important?” questions till we landed at “I see where this is going. Yes, ultimately, I care about my family.”

“So, in both the goals, the value is caring for the family”, I said. He nodded in agreement

“If caring for the family is your top most value, what is most important for that?”

He thought for a while. “Financial security?” he asked. I nodded.

“What would you need in order to be financially secure?”

“A regular flow of income and the ability to save and grow wealth.”

“Well put. Good. And what would you need to do to have a regular flow of income?”

He paused long to think and his eyes twinkled. “A steady job”, he answered. “While I am passionate about training, it may take a while to start off and there may be times when I may not have assignments in the initial period.”

“Right,” I said. “Do you now have some clarity on which path to take?”

“Yes”, he said with conviction.

“What about your passion for training? If you take up a job, how can you satisfy that need?”

“I guess that needs to be set aside for now”, he said with a sense of surrender showing in his voice.

“What if there were opportunities for training in the Company you get to work for?” I asked. “Would you take them up?”

His eyes lit up. “Of course. That’s always an option.”

I then went on to ask him for an action plan and sought a commitment to action and got him to list down steps to progress towards his goal.

I heard back from him two weeks later, saying he was offered the job of a Project Manager with an IT major.

Image from Google http://chuansong.me/n/2634596

The Journey

The Journey

Many of us set goals and many more of us don’t. I set my first real goals 15 years ago when I was a few years shy of the retirement age that young people today dream and talk about. I discovered how to set goals from a book by Anthony Robbins and set out in right earnest, going on to write my goals in different areas. The process consisted of a few steps and writing down all goals, however outrageous and how many ever in number and ultimately focus on the four most important goals. That was in August 2001.

I did achieve two of those four goals by the specified time and some more of the other goals since, though not by the time I had estimated. In the initial days, I used to have a ‘Goals Tracker’, a spreadsheet where I logged what actions I had taken during a week so I could monitor my progress. Two years later, circumstances in my life changed drastically and with it, my goals and focus changed too. The tracker was not updated with the regularity it once saw and very soon it got lost in the maze of the various other spreadsheets that my computer housed.

The period that followed was possibly the lowest in my life up until then and being unused to such circumstances, my thoughts veered to the negative. Thankfully, very soon, I realized that I was not using the tools and techniques I had learnt to cope with such situations. This led to introspection, a lot of reading and positive reinforcement that gold was just three feet away. Things changed for the better at the end of six months and I thought, for even better, six months after that. I was again on the path to tracking my goals. The learning continued along with the ups and downs in life and this time around I was better equipped to handle the downs. As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes in his book “Flow”, the reason why some people are weakened by stress while others gain strength from it is because those who know how to transform a hopeless situation into a new flow activity that can be controlled will be able to enjoy themselves and emerge stronger from the ordeal. I continued to achieve some of the other goals that I had written up in 2001. Many years after I had written my first set of goals, I started thinking of what I was truly passionate about and started to venture in this direction and continue to do that.

When I look at the papers of 2001, which I still keep, I see that I am yet to achieve some of the big, hairy, audacious goals I wrote back then, but when I think of the journey to achieving those goals, I guess that is something. I no longer log into the ‘Goals Tracker’ but (to quote from ‘Flow’) ‘instead of insisting that my goals, my intentions, take precedence over everything else, I feel a part of what goes on around me’. I have neither achieved the stupendous success nor the greatness that some of my role models have, but along the way, I discovered certain other things that were more important and worth pursuing. Goals are not the end. They are just the means to discover the true purpose of your life.

Goals and Values

Goals and Values

 

When I sit down with people who come to me for help in achieving their goal, I first seek to find out what their beliefs and values are. Why do they do what they do and why do they not do what they don’t? Why do they want to achieve something or why do they want to give up something? The answers throw up interesting perspectives and I believe, quicken the process of finding a way. The reason is simple. When you have a goal, there is always a value behind the goal. Values are specific beliefs about what is right or wrong. You need to find out this value, for this is what will guide you to the right goal. Many times we see people do well in life in financial terms but deep down, they are unhappy. Why? It is simply because while they have set a goal, they have not found out the value behind the goal and have therefore moved in a direction opposite to the value while pursuing their goal. Here is a story I read some time ago that illustrates this point.

Father was a hardworking man who delivered bread as a living to support his wife and three children. He spent all his evenings after work attending classes, hoping to improve himself so that he could one day find a better paying job. Except for Sundays, Father hardly ate a meal together with his family. He worked and studied very hard because he wanted to provide his family with the best money could buy.

Whenever the family complained that he was not spending enough time with them, he reasoned that he was doing all this for them. But he often yearned to spend more time with his family. The day came when the examination results were announced. To his joy, Father passed, and with distinctions too! Soon after, he was offered a good job as a senior supervisor which paid handsomely.

Like a dream come true, Father could now afford to provide his family with life’s little luxuries like nice clothing, fine food and vacation abroad.

However, the family still did not get to see father for most of the week. He continued to work very hard, hoping to be promoted to the position of manager. In fact, to make himself a worthily candidate for the promotion, he enrolled for another course in the open university. Again, whenever the family complained that he was not spending enough time with them, he reasoned that he was doing all this for them. But he often yearned to spend more time with his family.

Father’s hard work paid off and he was promoted. Jubilantly, he decided to hire a maid to relieve his wife from her domestic tasks. He also felt that their three-room flat was no longer big enough; it would be nice for his family to be able to enjoy the facilities and comfort of a condominium. Having experienced the rewards of his hard work many times before, Father resolved to further his studies and work at being promoted again. The family still did not get to see much of him. In fact, sometimes Father had to work on Sundays entertaining clients. Again, whenever the family complained that he was not spending enough time with them, he reasoned that he was doing all this for them. But he often yearned to spend more time with his family.

As expected, Father’s hard work paid off again and he bought a beautiful condominium overlooking the coast. On the first Sunday evening at their new home, Father declared to his family that he decided not to take anymore courses or pursue any more promotions. From then on he was going to devote more time to his family.

Father did not wake up the next day.

The Father in the above story yearned to spend more time with his family. However, in his relentless pursuit of making money, he veered away from his value and by the time he realized it, it was too late.

Blaise Pascal said, “All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone”. Let us take quietly reflect once in a while on what our values are so we are directed to our real goals.

Acknowledgements-

Story ‘Live and Work’ from http://academictips.org/

Images from Google – simplelufestrategies.com, thefinancialbrand.com