For Coaches (and anyone who serves clients)

Yesterday, I received an email from someone in the coaching industry who proposed to answer a community question about the dilemma of having a need to “over deliver” to their clients. The questioner went on to say that they felt controlled, giving into various demands in an attempt to not disappoint their clients. In the age of a multitude of easily accessible information, it can feel overwhelming to keep up with what we might perceive to be client demands. As professionals in our industry, we take on the extraordinary task of consuming large amounts of information in an effort to keep up, stay sharp and bring the latest modes of support to the people we serve. In our quest for knowledge, we can create an internal pressure to keep delivering new information and services. I know I’ve found myself there. I still struggle to maintain the balance of keeping my work within a core structure and updating my offerings in a way that might serve humanity best. While the answer might lay within any advice given, such as a childhood need for validation and acceptance from others, it might mean something else entirely.

Today’s Love Note…

We do our work because we love it, our work is an extension of our love. To feel not accepted by our clients might mean that there is more going on than not “loving ourselves enough”. It may mean that we are not sure that what we value is being valued by our clients. If there is a feeling that we are not doing enough, it could be because we are not sure we are delivering what our client perceives as “enough”. What do our clients seek? Is what we deliver enough for our clients, from their perspective? The only way to know for sure is to ask them. Become very clear on what they expect versus what you expect them to receive. Like in any relationship, insecurity comes from not knowing the value we bring. Are they feeling the same about us as we feel about them? Are they giving us the feedback we need to feel confident in our relationship with them?

Many times we attract clients and relationships based on what we want to do or offer for them from our own perceptions of what people “need”, but if there are grey areas, there can be an expectancy from you that you are not meeting.  Many people either are not clear themselves on what those grey areas mean, or are not willing to talk with you about it. The only way to really know is to be very clear on what you do and what you don’t do, and clear on what exactly they expect from you.

I was, and still am to some extent, in the web development space. Web development means a lot of things to different people. When I helped people blog or write content for their website, it used to mean that they expected me to support them with the technical aspects of their website, such as formatting posts and overall design. Even though I am capable of doing some of those things, those are not areas that I specialize in – nor do I want to. I found myself jumping through hoops to do things for my clients that I really did not want to be doing. I may have set that expectation that because I knew how to, I could just magically make that happen – and ultimately I took on the role of that being part of my client satisfaction efforts. This ended up being a cycle that burned me out and put me in a losing position.

Later on, I took on partners to support my clients with those areas and it ended up being a decision that was not in my, or my clients, best interests. I did my best at the time, but looking back, I realize that it was because I was trying to play to the expectations of my clients regarding what I actually do. These were ancillary things that I tried to package in to make the experience better and easier for my clients. A learning process that ended up biting me in the end.

Being an entrepreneur is not an easy road. It takes many hits and misses to hone your craft, especially in intangible areas such as coaching. What exactly do you offer? What specific outcomes you deliver? Oftentimes, we think we know what’s best for our clients based on our own experiences, but the best way to stop feeling controlled by your clients is to work within clear expectations, from both sides – yours and theirs.

Many people in the coaching industry believe that our job is to keep someone accountable to whatever they said they would do or to take them through a structured process. This is not necessarily what everyone who enrolls into a coaching program expects. I know that I have found myself enrolled in a few courses and programs that just were not the right fit for me. The benefits sounded great and I obviously was attracted to what the content provided, but the structure was too rigid, and dare I say, controlling, for my personality. I fare better in environments where I have more opportunities to participate in my own development process. Does this put the well-intentioned, yet ill-fitting program facilitator in a position of needing to do more to fulfill my expectations? Yes and no.

I have been privy to many programs that were not the right fit or the timing was off and I felt as if the facilitator did not attempt to discover what might best serve my needs.  This could have been prevented had both parties been clear in their expectations. As I mentioned before, we oftentimes think we know what’s best for our clients based upon our own life experiences, challenges, learning styles and the ultimate message we are attempting to convey.

The world of coaching and training is changing. Our clients know more than they think they do. As coaches, it is our job to lovingly support our clients into finding their own answers, to discover their own paths, and to be there as a guide and support for them as they make their own choices (and even mistakes) along the way. Oftentimes, what they think they want to get from your program is quite different than what they end up experiencing. Only your experience and a lot of understanding will help you become very clear about your expectations. Being open to discovering how to best serve your clients and meet their expectations from the beginning will help ensure that both of you remain on the same page during the duration of time that you work together.



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