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On Client Engagement

I once presumed that, within coaching, client engagement could be taken for granted.  After all folks are paying good money for the experience, and it’s a way for them to grow and prosper in ways that are important to them.  So of course they’re going to keep up with the materials, heed coach’s advice, complete all assignments and follow through on action plans, right?

If you’ve been coaching a while you’ve probably had a handful of such A-students of the process: those who put in their work as though the quality of their life depended on it, and were accordingly rewarded for their diligence with the results they sought.

But not everyone who is coached has all of the will, the wherewithal, and the confidence in the process to follow your guidance with such high fidelity.  This is just as true for individuals who undertake being coached of their own volition as it is for individuals participating in some form of company-mandated training program.

We could say that the success of coaching is the product of how good the direction is (expertise, content, fit with the client) and how engaged the client is with that direction.  This probably makes intuitive sense: you can have the greatest coaching methodology in the world, and if the engagement is nil or negligible it won’t make a difference.

One way to look at client engagement is that it simply lies within clients themselves: some are sufficiently motivated and in a good place to take advantage of the process, and others just aren’t.

But building CoachAccountable and helping hundreds of coaches over the last two years has given me evidence that there’s more to the story.  The degree to which a client engages with a given coaching program is actually quite malleable, and is intimately tied to how the program is structured and the ways by which a client can participate.

Client engagement, then, becomes another dimension along which coach can improve his or her coaching offering.  When clients are engaged, they are doing the work, getting the results, and in turn more apt to be satisfied with the process (and perhaps most telling of all: more likely to stick around for more).

Yes, there are the gimme clients who are rip-roaring-ready-to-go without much effort on our parts.  But the others are by no means a lost cause.  If you lose clients after a week or a month because their enthusiasm to keep up simply peters out in a predictable fashion, it isn’t necessarily that they were a misfit or that your coaching is no good.  It may be just a failure to keep clients sufficiently engaged in a process meant to ultimately benefit them.

So if client engagement is something that can be caused, how to cause it?  There are three main rules for doing this that I’ve sorted out, rules which have had a large part in the design (and success) of CoachAccountable.  They are:

1. Keep the results tangible.  “Am I getting anything out of this?”  If your clients are ever left to wonder this on their own, your prospects of keeping them engaged have already taken a big hit.  To avoid this you’ve got to be doing things like measuring results, keeping a scoreboard, or making a game which enables them to see where they are and how far they’ve come at every turn.  This sort of tracking prevents the weeks from blurring together, and replaces that sensation with one of being on a path that’s leading somewhere good.

2. Make the process fit in their life.  Coaching is intrinsically tough because it’s the stuff of expanding outside of one’s usual habits, performance levels, and comfort zones.  Anything you can do to remove friction to their participation and get them fitting it in with minimal hassle is a win, especially considering that they’ve got enough to manage as is just acting on your coaching.  Make the experience of being coached go down more smoothly by sending reminders for appointments, making their action plans and progress readily visible, providing session notes that are always accessible, and sharing resources in a way that makes them easy to retrieve and easy to revisit.  In other words: give it to them on a silver platter.

3. Make the experience responsive.  If your client’s only opportunity to experience being coached is during your weekly session, that makes a lot of days during which they are on their own.  This time in-between presents ample opportunity for life to come up and derail plans made in coaching, even when derailment is as simple (and easy to overcome) as forgetting.  Sending little reminders to follow through on action plans goes a long way to maintain forward momentum.  Proactively reaching out with a simple “way to go” for progress made makes clients feel cared for, and moreover imparts in them a real sense that following through matters, by the simple fact that someone else is paying attention and cares.  Any way that your coaching presence can be gently felt between those times when you’re actually present makes your coaching a more immersive experience, rather than just a fleeting once-a-week time that stands largely at odds with the rest of life.


My personal experience combined with that of many other coaches reveals that to abide by these three rules provides a major advantage in causing client effort, and thus client results.

One of the reasons CoachAccountable works so well for coaches is because helps them follow these three rules with minimal effort.  To wit, last week I was favored with kind words from CoachAccountable user Nicky Roberts.  Here is an excerpt, a tidy report from the field which illustrates the pivotal role that rule #3 of causing client engagement has played in elevating the success of her coaching practice:

Before I used CoachAccountable I noticed that around the 6 week mark clients usually hit a slump in their coaching. They lost momentum and the sparkle and shine of coaching had worn off.  Since using CoachAccountable there is no slump.  I think this is partly because I have a better sense of when the slump might be starting because I notice a reduction of their use of CoachAccountable and can head it off immediately, and also because we stay in touch so much more, they enjoy a better overall experience of coaching.

Before using CoachAccountable about 40% of my clients stopped coaching after their first 6 weeks.  Now 0%, yes zero, of my clients end their coaching after their first 6 weeks. In fact, as of this writing I haven’t lost a single coaching client in over a year. I believe that CoachAccountable has been part of helping me achieve that success.

 

3 Comments »

  1. David McQuarrie said,

    June 16, 2014 @ 11:40 am

    Great testimonial and suggestions. As a new user of CA I am still in the discovery phase of making the best use of the features and functionality of the system. I am very impressed with CA, and from my perspective, it is exactly what I my clients and I need.

  2. Nicky Roberts said,

    June 16, 2014 @ 11:51 am

    Great post!

  3. John said,

    June 16, 2014 @ 12:37 pm

    Thanks you guys, David for your fandom and Nicky for your contribution!

    More up my sleeve on this front, a post with tips for getting your clients more engaged coming tomorrow!

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