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Creating Client Coaching Contracts – Part two

In my last article I laid out some basic ideas for you to start thinking about if you are a Coach, particularly a new Coach. In this article I will build further by focusing on the business aspect of your practice.

If you are a new Coach you may not have given much thought to the business aspect of the contract however this is essential if you want to be successful enough to keep working as a Coach.

I often find that new Coaches on my training programmes are uncomfortable with some of the necessary elements of creating a business. This makes sense if you think about values. You are most interested in helping others if you are drawn to coaching. This means that sometimes the business elements of the contract can feel unpleasant or be in conflict with your values.

So what am I talking about?

In particular I am talking about ‘terms and conditions”. There are several very specific things to consider:

  • How much do you charge?
  • When do you need payment?
  • What is your cancellation policy?
  • If clients don’t pay what will you do?

There are other things to consider however for right now let’s focus on this list.

Deciding what to charge is often a topic in my Supervision groups and one of the most difficult challenges if you have a value around helping others. Sometimes there is an unnecessary complex equivalent in play, e.g. charging is unkind.

I look at it another way, when a client pays for a session there is an exchange of energy. The client will be more committed to whatever outcome or action plan results from a coaching session if there is this exchange.

Does this mean you can’t do pro bono work or offer low rates for those on limited funds? Of course not. The exchange of energy can take other forms such as sharing your posts on social media.

Another aspect to consider, how are you valuing yourself? Is your reluctance to charge connected to a self-worth issue?

There are many rather alarming marketing campaigns that claim they can help you earn a 6 figure salary as a Coach. They often tap into self-worth issues and quite frankly in my option most if, not all of them, are really just scams based on pyramid selling and/or false promises and best avoided.

Here are some tips about deciding what to charge.

Firstly, what is your market sector? Are you aiming at business coaching or self-financed life coaching? The market price for these two categories can be quite different. There can be regional differences. Having said that in all sectors and all locations there will be a scale of prices on offer. There will be people charging as little as £20 through to people charging £2000.

So where do you place yourself?

I recommend that you start by writing down all the costs of the training you have received up until now. This will give you an idea of how much you have invested in yourself as this is your product. Make sure you include course fees, books, materials, travel expenses if you did face to face training and also your time.

Now you have a reminder of what the client is paying for, they are paying for your expertise, experience and time.

Do a little market research of the sector you wish to work in. You really don’t want to be the cheapest. Many people have the belief “you get what you pay for”. If you price yourself too low in the market a lot of people will be put off. Paradoxically the ones who do take it further often ask you to reduce your fees further.

If you are the most expensive coach in the area you will need to be sure your CV and marketing strategy is strong enough to draw your preferred client to you. You might want to consider pitching yourself mid-range. This will give you a comfortable income to get started with and if client’s check around they will feel they are getting a bargain if you are lower than others but high enough to signal competence.

Remember you can still have an option to offer reductions for people in real need who are cash poor. You just need to make sure this is not your fall back position with everyone.

Coaching is a trust business so when should you expect to be paid? Again this can be the cause of anxiety for many new Coaches. There are many ways you can go with this, the most important thing is to be clear about your expectations.

For example, if I work with a new client that I have not met before I usually ask for payment in advance. This tends to ensure commitment for the first session. With my regular clients I am far more relaxed.

This connects in with Cancellation policies which we will touch on again in a later article when we discuss boundaries. Sometimes we need to “teach” clients to value the time slot that has been set aside for them.

It is not uncommon for Coaching clients to cancel at the last minute or even just not turn up. This happens most often with new clients, free sessions or where payment is collected after the session.

A clear Cancellation Policy can safe guard against this. For example, full payment is appropriate for a late cancellation or a failed appointment. With the former it is too late to offer their spot to someone else and a failed appointment means you were sitting there twiddling your thumbs waiting for them to arrive!

You need to decide what you consider a late cancellation to be and you can have a sliding scale. E.g. full payment with less than 24 hours notice (2 days or 3 days or whatever you think is reasonable). Seven days notice could be 50% fee for example.

You might also want to consider what terms would be okay for a postponement.

At the end of the day the most important thing about terms and conditions is that you have some. You can post them on your website or include them on your invoices. Having terms and conditions in place means you can then choose to waive them and this will give you emotional credit with your clients. For example, if I have a client who has a genuine family emergency I will be flexible. This deepens the trust between Coach and client.

This article is really only meant to be an introduction to this topic. Do share with me your thoughts, tips and questions.

Creating Client Coaching Contracts – Part one

Although contracting is an essential part of the coaching relationship with your client many new Coaches struggle to know what to include. In this short series of articles I will share some ideas and tips to help you work out what will work for you.

In this first article let me first clarify that contracting in coaching is not really used in the legal sense of the word. If you want to have legally binding contracts you would need to consult a legal specialist.

So what is contracting in coaching?

You are basically setting up a set of agreements to ensure that your coaching is professional, effective and supports the coaching relationship. It will include on one end of the spectrum your terms and conditions and on the other agreements about the coaching relationship.

As a Coach becoming skilled at the use of contracts is essential and this is evidenced in my Supervision groups and individual Supervision sessions. The most common cause of problems for new Coaches is ineffective contracting. I remember one of my early mentors, Julie Hay stating a truism that I use today with my students:

“The work is in the Contract”

There are many elements of the contract that will remain constant throughout your coaching practice, other elements will need “tweaking” to suit a particular client.

Other elements of your contract will be co-created with your client and will be focused on the client’s situation and desired outcomes.

You may already have some great contracting frameworks that you follow and it is still worth reviewing regularly to ensure that you are maintaining best practice.

It is worth mentioning that the term “contracting” can be off putting to some clients so although we will use the term contracting here you may choose to re-frame labels. There is certainly some benefit to separating out the different types of contracting. You also need to be clear which parts of the contract are non-negotiable and which will be defined in partnership with your client.

Over the coming weeks I will include the following elements:

  • The business aspect of the contract including Terms and Conditions.
  • Professional boundaries and responsibilities.
  • The importance of multi-cornered contracts
  • The relationship contract, client’s outcomes (goals) and tasking.

 If you want to get started right away you may want to check out the websites of Association for Coaching, International Coaching Federation and European Mentoring and Coaching Council. They have a lot of great resources although you may need to be a member to access some of them.

Let me know if you have any particular questions about Contracting that you would like me to address.

Do you recognise Parallel Processes in  your Coaching sessions?

Parallel processes in your Coaching sessions are common but do you know what they are and how to recognise them?

Let’s start with a definition of parallel processing.

When a parallel process occurs a dynamic in one part of the system can be replayed in another part.

In Coaching the client may describe a problem they have with a colleague or a family member such as talking in circles for example. The client then begins doing the same behaviour with the Coach without realising it. The Coach may end up feeling the same feelings the client had described experiencing with their colleague or family member.

This is often out of awareness of the Coach and the client. As a Coach if you can learn to recognise when a parallel process presents you can begin to utilise it to help your client and as part of your own development.

The first way you can utilise it is to deepen your understanding of your client’s experience. Notice your experience, it may give you clues about what is being triggered for you client.

With this additional empathy you can ask targeted questions to help your client become self-aware. You can then help the client explore what new information they are gaining about the dynamic presented in coaching.

As a self-aware Coach you will also be role modelling how to handle the “problematic behaviour”. This is deliberate parallel processing.  In the example above of talking around in circles you can demonstrate how to focus the client back on the original topic. You might also demonstrate other approaches such as actively listening until the client runs out of steam. You could also reflect back to the client the behaviour you are noticing and bring it into their awareness as a tool for managing the process.

If you are a Supervisor you will also see many examples of parallel processing from the Coaches you Supervise.

 In Supervision the most common form of this is where the Coach unconsciously replays their client’s issue. This may cause the Coach to act toward their supervisor in the same fashion their client acted towards them. This tends to be out of awareness. The skilful Supervisor can bring the parallel process into awareness for the Coach in a way that can promote greater understanding or even transformation.

I find it useful to encourage my Coaching Students to notice parallel processing while in observer role in our Coaching Circles. It is often easier to spot this kind of thing in others. I do a similar thing when I train Supervisors.

If this topic is new to you do contact me with your questions.

How do you Coach a client who talks constantly without pause

Have you ever worked with someone who talks constantly? What I mean by that is a client who starts speaking and doesn’t even pause for breath.

As the Coach you may not be able to even get the contract in place or clarify the client’s outcomes. It’s a problem, right? Or is it?

Before considering how you might manage such a client it is important to assess what is going on for your client. Are they getting value from talking out loud and using you as a silent sounding board? Do they find solutions as they talk out loud or do they seem to be going round in circles?

If the client is genuinely getting benefit from this approach maybe it is not a problem for them. Is it a problem for you? This could be an opportunity to notice your own reactions and process. This can be great content for a supervision session or supervision group.

Alternatively, is the client’s incessant talking unhelpful for the client? Do they need you, as Coach to intervene and help them?

Unhelpfully constant talking can have a number of causes here are a couple of possibilities.

Firstly, some people communicate in this way as a habit whenever they talk with (or at) others. It may be a barrier in their life generally too. Such people will be used to being interrupted. This means that if you interrupt gently but firmly you should be able to start focusing the client on outcomes etc. The way you do this is important because if you do it in a clumsy way you may break trust and rapport.  If this is something you are not certain how to do you might consider taking the topic to supervision for guidance.

A second cause could be anxiety or nervousnous. The cause of the anxiety may be the coaching process  itself or could be the topic the client is bringing to coaching. If it is the former they may need reassurance about the process of coaching.  Where the topic is the source of the anxiety the client may just need you as Coach to provide the space for them “download”. In such cases once the client has shared their thoughts, feelings and feels supported they often change their speech patterns to a more conversational style allowing the normal process of coaching to proceed. Listening to this type of client is essential in order to build rapport and trust.

There are other causes of incessant talking, the trick is being able to spot the cause and provide the client with the appropriate type of coaching intervention. What has been your experience of this type of client? What other causes have you recognised and how did you handle them?

Should Coaches share psychological models with their clients?

On a recent coaching course a question was asked about sharing psychological models with clients and if this is really coaching.

I wonder what you think?

For many of you it might depend on what style of Coaching you use, if you work solely in a non-directive way the idea of sharing a model may seem quite alien.

I work with the idea that there is a continuum which starts on one end with directive, hands on coaching and on the other end has non-directive, hands off coaching. Arguably Directive Coaching is really one to one training, and that may be true. There are times when this is valuable and may be why definitions of both Coaching and Mentoring can be so vague and overlapping.

Sharing psychological models falls somewhere between directive and non-directive. As an example, I teach Transactional Analysis for Coaches on my Diploma. This provides you, the Coach with a host of very useful models to explore “what makes people tick”.

The benefit for the client is that you start to move them towards using models as tools. This can help the client grow and develop and reduces the possibility of dependence on the Coach. Sharing models is a central part of Transactional Analysis (TA) and so begins with teaching the model.

Once the client has a basic understanding of a model they can then respond to non-directive questions that help them to deepen their self-awareness and their understanding of the motivations of others. This can be incredibly powerful.

So in answer to my question, yes, Coaches can share psychological models with clients as part of an excellent professional approach.

What do you think?

The Power of Group Supervision in Coaching and NLP

I was delighted to have the opportunity to present a session on the power of Group Supervision for the International NLP Conference last week.

This topic is close to my heart as I see Supervision as the best way for new Coaches and NLP Practitioners to develop their skills and feel supported through that process. I produced a handout for this session that I am very happy to share. If you would like a copy please email me and I will send you a copy of my Conference handouts.

If you are a Coach or an NLP Practitioner looking for Supervision do check out the link about my regular Zoom Supervision Groups and Coaching Circles.

If you are interested in training to become a Coach our rolling programme is very accessible via Zoom and you can join it at any point. Click here for more information.

If you are an experienced Coach maybe it is time to consider taking the next step and training to be a Supervisor. I offer both NLP Supervisor Diploma (Accredited by ANLP) and Coach Supervisor Diploma (Accredited by Association for Coaching) via Zoom. Both programmes start in August 2022 (early bird available until 6th June). Click here for more details.

Creating a Positive Coaching Culture in Organisations

Why have a Coaching Culture in the first place?

 

There has been a slow build over the last three decades of evidence that Coaching can produce results for the development of the individual. This has led to many large and small organisations exploring how Coaching may play a role in wider development.

 

Organisations such as Nestle, Deloitte and Accenture in more recent times have taken bold measures to scrap traditional performance management practices in favour of more fluid coaching based systems.

 

The benefits have included more effective drive of performance, the development of partnership and greatly enhanced staff engagement. In a recent interview Rhonda Howarth from Nestle reported that coaching initiatives had increased key measures on the engagement survey of about 4% up to almost 70%.

 

What can stop a Coaching Culture developing in a Positive way?

 

One of the biggest issues we see stems from how Coaching is viewed within the organisation. If care is not taken to address the image of Coaching there may be a resistance from all levels. For example, in some organisations there is a “myth” that coaching is used for remedial purposes or even as part of a pre-disciplinary process. We have also seen cultures where there is a distrust around the purpose and confidentiality of the coaching relationship.

 

In order to overcome such barriers there is a need to ‘reframe’ Coaching and to manage the narrative. Transparency is key and buy in from managers at all levels including board level essential. We need to create a positive buzz around the benefits of Coaching. Coaching needs to be seen as encouraging, nurturing and to feel more conversational.

 

Managers will in many organisations be the people delivering most of this coaching. They may have to unlearn old behaviours and develop a new reflex. Managers will also need to be reassured that this new approach will not be more time consuming than old approaches. Hopefully by making a Positive Coaching Culture more conversational we can remove a lot of the red tape and box ticking that does take up so much time. The greater engagement and partnership attitudes will result in higher commitment to the values and goals of the organisation.

 

To equip managers we need to ensure they receive a good level of training in coaching skills and have access Coaches of their own. Organisations building a Coaching Culture often consider training key staff who are already have some coaching experience to take on this role by training them in Coach Supervision.

 

What has been your experience of Coaching Cultures? What has worked and what has not worked?

What is a Coach chemistry meeting?

A Coach chemistry meeting, also known as a Discovery session is a very useful tool for Coaches, NLP Practitioners and Hypnotherapists.

 

So, what is it and why is it useful?

 

A chemistry meeting is usually fifteen to twenty minutes and can be via phone, video conferencing or if local face to face. It has a value for both the Coach and the Client.

 

For the client there is an opportunity to find out if coaching is right for them and perhaps even more importantly “is this Coach for them?” The client can ask questions and find out more about the process of Coaching and the practicalities.

 

Many people looking for a Coach recognise the importance of trust in the coaching relationship. Meeting to find out more gives the client a chance to find out if they feel safe and trusting with you as their Coach.

 

As a Coach, you can also get benefits from this meeting. It is okay for you to turn down a prospective client and the chemistry meeting allows you to do that before a contract has been introduced.

 

There are a number of reasons you may choose not to work with a client. Firstly, if the client needs help that is outside of your experience or your chosen niche your are not the right Coach for them. The client may not know enough to make that decision for themselves and need you to guide them.

 

For example, if a client is asking for help with a therapy issue such as PTSD it would be appropriate to be clear that this is outside your expertise. It would be okay to refer them on if you know someone else with the appropriate training and experience.

 

If I refer a client who approaches me I like to offer them a choice of at least three other professionals. This allows the client to check out who is the best fit for them.

 

By the way it is also okay to refer even if you do have the training if the client wants help with issues you do not want to work with. This can be a professional decision if you have decided to specialise in a different field for example.

 

You may also decide to say “no” if you are getting any “red flags” that leave you feeling uncomfortable about working with the client. This can include feeling personally unsafe. An other example could be where the client is indicating they are seeking coaching to please someone else. Most Coaches recognise that such a client would not be committed to the process.

 

As a Coach the chemistry meeting will also give you an opportunity to build rapport and trust with your new client. This meeting can be a great opportunity to explain the process of Coaching, to discuss contracting boundaries and take a small amount of history. I say a small amount because if you get into too much detail it may take you down a side track at this stage.

 

There is an aspect of the chemistry meeting that many Coaches find uncomfortable and that  is the sales part of the work. You could say that this is the meeting is where you close the sale. Many Coaches find the marketing and sales aspect of the job uncomfortable.

 

If you know that is true for you I have a suggestion. If you approach this meeting with an honest intention to help the client understand what you do and how you work you will be closing the sale. If you have built rapport and trust in the way you are in the meeting the client will probably want to work with you. This makes it easy for you to ask if they would like to book a session.

 

Having said that, I recommend to anyone seeking coaching or therapy that you meet at least three coaches or therapists. If you are lucky you get to the speak to three good coaches, this means only one will get the booking.

Thank you to Nancy Proctor for the question about chemistry meetings.

 

 

What else do you think is important about the chemistry meeting? What tips would you give to other Coaches? I would love to know your comments, questions and experience.

 

 

Why do the best Coaches use a Reflective Learning Journal?

The best Coaches use a Reflective Learning Journal for a number of very important reasons and it is a sign of professionalism and commitment to good practice.

New Coaches often learn how to use a Reflective Learning Journal as part of their training. It helps them to track their progress, notice patterns in their practice and become more self-aware.

For example, when a new Coach reflects over a series of sessions and notice that there is a pattern in the type of challenge they encounter with their clients they have discovered something very important.

Perhaps they are unconsciously doing something that is triggering their clients and this is the reason for the pattern. The new coach reflects on this and then takes the issue to Supervision for more support.

A common pattern for new Coaches is the unconscious desire to “rescue” their clients. This may mean they stop coaching and start advising. Again keeping a reflective learning journal the Coach is more likely to see this pattern. And, of course, this is a topic for Supervision.

For the more experienced Coach all of this is still important. With experience you may be able to process some of your reflections on your own using your Journal. The patterns and triggers can often be more subtle and a little harder to spot so being able to look back over a series of reflections helps the experienced Coach notice where there may be a pattern that needs attention. Even the experienced Coach will still take their reflections to Supervision. The Supervision dynamic will become more a verbal reflection with the Supervisor helping the experienced Coach identify blind spots.

Your Reflective Learning Journal will also help you to celebrate your development and successes as a Coach. It is just as important that you reflect on sessions that go well, by making a note you can identify useful, helpful patterns that you may want to develop further.

How do you write a Reflective Learning Journal?

There are many ways to do this. As a new Coach I would recommend you use a structure, while the experienced Coach may prefer to use a more diary like version. If you want to work with a structure there are many ways to do this, below are some suggestions you could use.

 

  1. Start with a very brief overview of the issue, outcome and approaches used. This can be just a few sentences to provide a context. You may want to also record if this is a first session with a client or a repeat session.
  2. Start by reflecting on “What went well?” Many people have a tendency to start with self-criticism so by focusing first on what went well you are setting up a positive mindset. This will help you stay focused and creative as you consider what you do want to change.
  3. “What would you do differently?” Now you can begin noting down things that maybe didn’t go as well as hoped or that on reflection might have been a better approach. Record why you might do it differently and how.
  4. Perhaps the most important section is “What did you learn?” You may have learnt both from successful approaches, things you would do differently or from other aspects of the coaching dynamic.
  5. Actions – Make a note of anything that you might decide to do as a result of the reflection process. For example, maybe you get a new idea about something to include in the contract.

 

Do you already use a Reflective Learning Journal? What has been your most valuable reflection so far? Do let me know how you are getting on with Reflecting on your practice.

 

 

Coach Family and Friends

Coach family and friends? If you are a coach, is it ok?

Get perspective
When you step back and look at the bigger picture new insights appear

At my monthly Supervision Group yesterday one of my Coaches wanted to know if it was okay to coach family and friends (ethically).

This was a great question and she was already pretty certain it wasn’t a good idea. In bringing this to Supervision she was able to clarify her thinking and also check on ethical practice.

This type of topic is just the sort of thing Supervision can help you with.

Here are some things to consider if you want to coach family and friends:

  • In counselling and therapy, there is a clear boundary against this in most disciplines.
  • If you coach family and friends you have to be super careful about your own boundaries. What if they start talking to you about the topic of coaching outside the coaching room? What will you do? How do you contract effectively?
  • What about your knowledge and opinions about the friend or family member? Are you sure you can put aside your own “stuff”?
  • What about other people in your circle? What impact could it have on these relationships if they know about the coaching? If they don’t know, what then? Are you certain you won’t let something slip that was confidential by mistake?
  • What happens if your family member or friend is unhappy with the coaching you offer?
  • Will you charge? If not, will the “client” value the coaching?

 

There are other factors.

The content or context of the coaching may also make a difference. For instance, if your family member wants you to coach them in preparing for a job interview that might work. However, your family dynamics may still influence how you approach this coaching. Your beliefs about this person may block how you work with them and could undermine them instead of helping them.

We often talk about this topic in my Accredited Coaching Diploma and also my Accredited Supervision Diploma. One solution I suggest to my students is to set up a reciprocal arrangement with other students. In other words, refer family and friends to a colleague and they refer theirs to you. This removes the issues that might otherwise arise.

So, should you coach your friends and family members? There is no firm answer, my recommendation for new coaches is to refer to a peer. Experienced Coaches may evaluate the topic and relationship before making a decision about coaching those close to them. Either way, remember Supervision is there to support you.

What do you think about coaching family and friends?