Coaching, Not Telling

Posted on 4 May, 2018 at 13:10

I was once asked for advice on whether someone should set up as a freelancer, a limited company or another type of business model. I said that I didn't know.

The questioner was slightly miffed, as they wanted a quick answer, for me to tell them what to do. "But you coach people on their businesses, don't you?"

Yes, I coach, but I don't tell. I don't hand out ready made checklists of things to do. For one reason, that isn't my training and for another, the solutions my clients find for themselves are far more inventive and interesting than ones I could come up with.

Let me clarify the process with a real example:

A client was discussing a forthcoming meeting with a retailer. She didn't know what to prepare, what they were expecting from her, what sort of deal they might offer...

She was completely on the back foot and approaching the meeting as a "junior partner", almost as a supplicant.

Now in that situation, I could have given her a checklist (portfolio, CV, business cards, testminonials) which would in its' own way been helpful as she would have arrived at the meeting with a stackful of information.

And it wouldn't have changed her mindset. She would still have gone into the meeting hoping to be thrown some breadcrumbs.

As a coach, I asked her a question:

"What do you want to get out of this meeting?"

For a moment, she stopped dead. It had never occurred to her that she could set her own agenda, that she could have some control over what happened. She thought it through and identified three things she wanted to achieve as a result of the meeting. (These revolved around building a connection, discovering joint aims and collaboration.)

I followed up with:

"And what will you bring to the meeting?"

Because we had moved to a different mindset, she thought not of business cards, but her networks, reputation, social media profile, expertise...

She realised that she could go into the meeting as an equal with as much to offer as the retailers. (In her case it was a retailer, but it could have been a gallery, a publisher, a director, an interview panel.)

And this is what coaching is about. If I had given her information, I would have been taking control of her meeting. But by developing her own answers to the questions I put, she recognised her worth, took control and went into the meeting motivated and confident.

Categories: Coaching