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Helping a Client Find an Ideal Career

Professional Development Comments Off

A client has approached you with the following question: how can I make a living doing what I like? Terry Neal, LCI’s Master Coach, answers…
I believe that this question will be asked of you by clients more and more over the coming years. Many people are realising and acknowledging to themselves and others that the work they do each day is not what they would choose to do.
There has been much attention lately also of an activity called ‘downshifting’, where people exchange the ‘rat race’ and doing a job that either they don’t like doing any more or which they never wanted to do in the first place for a simpler and happier life.
Whether your client has just started working within a job or career or they’ve been involved in a particular role for years, being able to do what they’d like to do and make a living from it probably seems (to them) highly unlikely at this point. As their coach I suggest that you first determine if your client is aware of two aspects about themselves, what their personal values are and if they know for sure what they’d like to do.
If values are something that they have never determined for themselves then I would begin by asking them to determine these personal values. To do this you could give them a checklist of personal values in a worksheet that they could look through and decide upon in the session, or they could take it home and work on it for next time with you.
The other aspect that they need to determine is what “they’d really like to do” looks like in reality. There are a number of possible approaches to do this if they’re unsure or say that they’ve never really thought about it or just have no idea. You could complete the “What’s My Life’s Purpose” exercise with them to draw up a life purpose statement:

Exercise – What’s My Life’s Purpose
To begin, provide your client with 6 pieces of plain paper and a few pens and then ask them to do the following: “On the first piece of paper, list as many of your positive attributes as you can. This includes abilities, skills and traits that you know to be true about you and also those which a partner, family and/or friends have said to you as well”.
Encourage your client to not limit what they put on the list; encourage them to put down as many as they can think of; encourage them to be truthful and honest about themselves.
On the second piece of paper, ask your client to write down all the ways that they express themselves in the world; all the activities that they do like painting, gardening, reading, whatever they do on a day to day basis, that’s what they write down.
On the third piece of paper ask your client to list all the ways they would like to see the world, the qualities that they would like to see the entire world express as commonly held values. Once again remind them to write down as many as they can think of, to not limit the qualities that they’d like to see in the world.
Now ask your client to look at each of the lists on each of the pieces of paper and circle the three personal qualities, expressions and world qualities that “speak” to them the strongest and deepest. This will mean that your client has 3 items indicated on each page. Remember to remind them that this is the start and that the lists can be amended at any time to reflect a more accurate sense of what’s important in their life right now.
On a sheet that you have prepared with the following words, ask your client to complete using their lists of words.
The first sentence starts with: My life’s purpose is to express and apply my… Ask your client to write in their three most important positive abilities, traits and skills.
It continues with: through… Ask your client here to write in the three best ways that you express yourself in the world.
It ends with: to bring forth in the world… Ask your client to list here those three qualities that you’d like to see expressed throughout the entire world.
The final step is to ask your client to read out their life purpose statement to hear how it sounds to them. You could then ask your client how it feels to them and if they want to make any amendments to it.

This will give them a strong indication of possible areas of involvement that’s closest to their personal values and beliefs. You could ask them to imagine or to visualise what their perfect working and earning money situation would look like. You could do this by using a miracle question. Ask them to sit comfortably and to close their eyes if they’re ok doing so. Let them know that you’re going to write down whatever they say so they won’t have to remember it all.
Once they’re comfortable and as free of distractions as they can be you could then ask your question: “Let yourself imagine that you wake up tomorrow morning and you are in the work situation that you’ve always wanted to be in. What does it look like? Where are you? Who’s around you?” Ask them to provide as much detail as possible. Keep on asking them for any more details until they stop and say that they’ve finished.
Ask them to open their eyes and to listen as you read out what you’ve written down about what they’ve said. Ask them if there’s anything that they’d like to add or change about what they’ve said and you’ve written. Remind them that this is the first draft only of their future working plan. It isn’t ‘carved in stone’.
If your client isn’t comfortable with visualisation you could suggest that they create a collage or picture of what this plan of ‘making a living doing what they ‘like’ would look like – or they could write a letter from the future to define what this idea would look like.
Now if your client knows what they’d like to do already to earn money, ask them to state it and to write it down or use whatever means your client would prefer to create a visual image of how it would look.
As a follow on from this you could ask if they are already doing this activity or some part of this activity on a regular basis e.g. if they wanted to produce art to earn money, are they painting on a regular basis now?; if they are ask them if they’re prepared to commit time to continue to do this activity on a regular basis. If they haven’t done any of this activity at all before, check that this is what they would like to do to make a living and not what they think that they should do.
Essentially there are three stages that your client needs to be ready to do for themselves to start making their vision or plan an actual reality: (1) recognition and acknowledgement of what they’d really like to do; (2) clear statements or pictures or whatever medium they choose of the activity in its fullest possible terms and finally (3) a commitment to allocating time to be involved in this activity from this point forward on a regular basis.
This will assist your client to either begin or to continue to do the activity that they would most like to do. Making a living through their preferred activity can be addressed in another session and it’s been my experience that opportunities to do this arise more easily and naturally when a person is connected to their true passion in life.

Positive Transitions

Personal Development, Professional Development Comments Off

Experience and the literature inform us that transitions or changes in life are inevitable. Life Coaches need to convey that message to all clients who experience difficulties and clearly explain them that people can fight changes, flee from them or preferably accept that they need to prepare for and adapt to the changes in some way.
It is certainly important to have confidence in being able to plan for and adapt to change, by having skills and knowledge that one knows will work, by building resilience and the emotional strength to problem solve and make decisions.
Coaches can work with clients to help them becoming proactive rather than reactive to change. It means that the clients are in charge, by creating and welcoming a change, not becoming a victim of transition.  Here are some tips how to help clients cope with change:
Anticipation of change – identifying factors leading to change and planning for change requires flexibility of mind, not rigidity. Davey (1992, cited in Dadds, Seinen, Roth & Harnett’s, 2000, 15) stated: “Outcome expectancy models of anxiety postulate that humans develop an expectation of outcome based on a variety of sources of information and existing beliefs.

Hence, existing beliefs in highly anxious persons tend to lead to an overestimation of threat and an underestimation of coping resources.” Having a clearer informed knowledge of change and what it may really entail can help to prevent exaggeration of the nature and consequences of change or transition.
Maintenance of friendships and social networks – to maintain or develop new interests and activities will stop your clients from stagnating. They might accept new challenges armed with confidence, skills and knowledge.
Physical and emotional health care – The strength of body and mind is necessary to meet the challenges involved in change or transition. Regular exercise, a good balanced and nutritious diet, quality sleep and relaxation and limiting stimulates like alcohol, coffee and other substances will help a person to feel energised and able to cope with stress.
Use of relaxation techniques – since stress is a natural part of life and adapting to change is stressful, learning how to relax a body and mind can be helpful. Activities such as yoga, tai chi, qigong (Lin, 2000), listening to relaxing music or relaxation tapes (from local bookstores or libraries), going for a bush walk or a walk along the beach, meditation, developing breathing techniques for relaxation and so on are some ways in which to cope with stress and restore harmony and balance.
Keeping an open mind – It is about staying objective and avoid jumping to conclusions too quickly without understanding the nature of change and its consequences. Your client may well like the change when at first it didn’t look too inviting.
Gather information for learning – fear of the unknown can be a great source for cultivating a cycle of distress and ignorance. Change or transition can foster uncertainty for many people. By understanding how change works and what the change may entail builds clients’ confidence to adapt to change.
You could advise your client to do some research on the internet or go to their local library and study what change may bring. Being prepared and having some knowledge can reduce the uncertainty and the fear of the unknown that drives anxiety and stress.
Gradually building the changes – ‘limit the pace of change’ – trying to tackle big changes all at once is a recipe for failure – it is just too stressful and consuming of your clients’ time and energy. It is easier to tackle and adjust to smaller changes at a time so that the clients can have control over what they understand and how they deal with the change.
Trying to tackle and adjust to big changes may become too overwhelming and they may end up becoming too stressed and develop depression or anxiety if they fail.
A support group – experience can be a great teacher. Other people who have experienced transition or change may be able to share their story or stories with you. The purpose of a support group is to assist with understanding and to support one another as they try to cope with change.
Sense of humour – we know that life should not be all doom and gloom. We all have the capacity to laugh and find humour in the craziest of things. Change can be stressful so having a sense of humour can break down the seriousness a bit and make change look not so daunting or tough.
Humour is good for body and mind as it releases pent up energy and reduces the build up of cortisol that is released during stress, especially chronic levels of stress where high levels of cortisol can be damaging to the body and brain and to fighting off infections and wound healing.

Optimal vs. Non-Optimal Clients

Business Development Comments Off

Many business people, particularly in the early stages of their business, are so intent on getting a customer that they accept anyone. But not all customers are created equal. Generally only a small percentage of your target niche are customers that are beneficial to your business.
It’s most often the case that your optimal customers, which may represent only 20% or less of your customers, actually subsidize the service you provide for non-optimal customers. In other words, if you didn’t have your optimal customers, you would lose money. Or conversely, if you only had optimal customers, your profit would skyrocket.
Here are some attributes of optimal and non-optimal customers. Maybe when you look at these certain customers will come to mind!
Optimal customers: 

  • Pay on time;
  • Pay a higher price;
  • Spread word of your good service;
  • Stay a customer for a long time;
  • Purchase frequently;
  • Are easy to deal with.

Non-optimal customers:

  • Demand a lot of your (non-billable) time;
  • Are delinquent payers;
  • Don’t appreciate your service;
  • Shop around based on price;
  • Are unpredictable and difficult to service.

The challenge then becomes how to attract more optimal customers and less (none!) non-optimal customers. Here’s a 6-Step Plan to maximize the number of optimal customers you have.
STEP 1: Clearly DEFINE the characteristics and attributes of your optimal customer.
Firstly you must know who your optimal customers are. You need to know as much as possible about them. Only by defining their unique characteristics can you then a/ explore ways to get more like customers; and b/ exclude customers not exuding these characteristics.
STEP 2: TARGET your optimal customers.
Your optimal customers may only comprise a small sub-section of your niche. Generally though, they’re harder to convert, but much more loyal and lucrative when you do.
Now that you know their characteristics, you need to target them. You need to know information such as: 

  1. Where they physically reside/work;
  2. What journals, papers, websites, etc they read in common;
  3. What their common problems, challenges, motivations are;

STEP 3: Structure a unique sales process to CONVERT them.
Your optimal clients often require: more information; more credibility; more time; more trust to convert.
To land the big fish, you need special equipment. The sales process you use to attract and convert your non-optimal customers most often will not work to convert your optimal customers. That’s why your optimal customers only comprise a small percentage of your customers.
It’s most likely you’ll find optimal customers slow to convert, particularly early on. You’ll need to dedicate 80% of your marketing time and effort to converting them. And your follow up process may extend across numerous contacts over several months.
You need to be an expert in your niche to convert and retain optimal customers. This means becoming an expert; espousing that you’re an expert; and delivering as an expert. And to augment this process you should strive to constantly DELIVER MORE than your prospect is EXPECTING.
You can do that by providing an extra service at no cost; giving away a voucher for a free session with another professional that you might have a JV agreement with; or providing valuable information that will assist them tackle common obstacles that relate to their lives.
STEP 5: Create impetus through ENDORSEMENT.
The point here is that if you want to light a rocket under your sales, you’ve got to go beyond selling products and services. You’ve got to sell a social identity.
Use your existing optimal customers to attract others. People of similar stature, trait and status gain credibility amongst their peer group. Use testimony and endorsement from existing optimal customers to build your credibility and trust with prospective optimal customers.
Many businesses chase the big fish, but only a very small percentage actually work with them. One of the main reasons is lack of persistence. If you want to be successful you have to be more persistent than your colleagues chasing the same target.
Everything you do reflects on your service and brand. To attract, convert and work with optimal customers, you need commitment and consistency. Remember how to apply the Rule of Commitment and Consistency: 

Once someone has made a decision they stubbornly defend it. You can use this self-validating process to up-sell and cross-sell additional products and services.
Soon after a sale, ask for referrals. Have a structured, automated system to ask clients for referrals within a short timeframe of them buying.
Carefully structure your selling strategies and scripts to invoke incremental “yeses” to taking up your service.
Act consistently. Everything you say, do, deliver and imply must be consistent. The moment you deviate in consistency you’ll lose credibility.
Once you finish running a session with a client or group of clients, be sure to reset a date and time for the next session before you finish. Clients will be far more committed to your services at time of delivery, and this is the best time to ask for future commitments.

Finally, every single piece of communication you have with them needs to be of the highest quality, consistently exuding your high quality service and brand.