How a High-Touch Partnership Will Make You An Indispensable Coach
I coach in a way that’s contrary to popular thinking. It’s contrary to the popular therapeutic model and it’s also contrary to how I was taught to coach.
In fact, when I described my process to Stephan (one of our two fearless Noomii leaders), he said, “Wow. That’s brave. You could lose a lot of clients that way.”
And I do. I know I lose clients and that’s part of my strategy.
What is a high-touch coach?
“High touch” refers to everything that happens outside of our sessions. All clients expect to have your focus and presence during sessions, be it on Skype, phone or in person. A high-touch coach goes the extra mile – providing notes after the session, and checking in between sessions. As we often say, “between sessions is when the work gets done” – that goes for both of us. Whether I’m reviewing resumes or logos, there’s work to be done that just can’t wait.
If you’re used to watching the clock and counting hours spent on clients as profit (after all, many of us bill by the hour), the “high touch” approach takes additional time, typically time that you don’t charge for directly, and lots of it.
I’m not a clock-watcher, I’m a coach and my job is to help my clients get set and achieve their goals. Does checking up between sessions move my clients closer to their goal? You bet. And so I do it.
Ask a lot of your clients even before they are clients.
I ask potential clients to complete a prep sheet the night before our first (complimentary) session. So you mean there’s homework before we meet? You bet there is.
The purpose of the homework is for my clients to think through what they want—from themselves and from me—before they walk through the door.
Do my clients get something significant out of this first session? Always.
Does this always convert to paying clients? Nope. Sometimes it’s intimidating. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. And some clients just aren’t ready for coaching. Yet.
My goal isn’t to convert every client, it is to find and work with clients who are ready to make significant change. I get as much out of this session as they do – I learn a new person, I try new questions, I see what works.
In fact, this intro session is as much about me finding a match as it is for them. Perhaps they’ll come back in a month, six months or a year. Perhaps they tell a friend. Perhaps they’ve decided to work with a therapist instead because insurance covers the cost of therapy.
That’s totally okay with me. My purpose in delivering a great intro session is simply that: to deliver great coaching. I want my client to gain something and have a remarkable experience.
Coaching is a partnership
I’m not a doctor. I’m not the expert. I’m a coach, a collaborator, a partner. We sit at a round table—I’m not behind the desk, I’m not wearing a white coat, and you’re not lying down in a chair.
We are on a team, together.
My clients work hard during their sessions. Their job is to think, my job is to ask questions. They’re figuring things out, making fresh connections. I’m repeating what I’ve heard, summarizing; often I’m up at the whiteboard capturing what they’ve said. Sometimes they take notes, but often they’re deep in thought—the hard work is happening inside their minds.
After the session, they’ll often snap a picture of my whiteboard or I’ll send them a summary—the thoughts they’ve had and the homework they’ve given themselves, plus information about the books, links and TedTalks we spoke about in our session.
Does that take a lot of time for me to put together? Yup.
However, I find it’s effective for my hardworking clients. They’ve got a recap, they’ve got their homework; they’re in motion.
And when I send them their homework and notes, they know I’m in it with them. It’s their responsibility to execute, but we’re keeping track together.
Sure, there’s value when they write their own notes and homework – there’s a kinesthetic learning component to it, but during a session they’re working, and after a session, they’re spent. The secretarial work is part of my coaching service.
If you don’t call me, I’ll call you
So many of us tell the clients that we’re accessible between sessions, but how many clients really reach out? Mine tend to be tentative—the open nature of “email me anytime” feels uncomfortable and they don’t want to intrude.
And so, I reach out. How is their homework coming along? How are they feeling about their goals? How can I be of assistance?
I’m their coach, after all! If I poke and prod, they can’t hide from me or themselves. We keep the momentum flowing between sessions in a significant way.
Does it take time? You bet.
Be an indispensable coach
But as I said, I’m not counting hours. I’m focusing on the goal and what it takes for my client’s to reach that goal. That is what’s most important. I might bill in sessions, but they’re not paying for sessions; they’re paying for results. In that first session, they’ve identified what sounds like a ridiculously difficult goal. It’s my job to move them toward it.
And what’s better at the end of a coaching engagement, than giving your client an engagement summary (Yes, I write that up too.) I look at all the notes from the beginning of our time together to the end. It NEVER FAILS to surprise me (or the client) to see just how far we’ve come, how much we’ve achieved in a relatively short period of time.
If you help clients achieve their ridiculously difficult goals, you’ll be indispensable.
Coaching isn’t therapy
A common complaint about therapy is that nothing “gets done.” I believe that part of the problem is that the therapeutic model is too low-touch. There’s no pre-work or post-work; it’s too clinical for fast-paced change.
But fast change isn’t the point of therapy; it’s the goal of coaching. To best do that, in a relatively short period of time, a coach must be present before, during and after the session. When a coach hold clients accountable in the space between sessions, those clients are prepared to share successes during the session, inevitably move faster and achieve results.
What’s Next for Coaching?
I believe that coaching, as an industry, is at a crossroads; we followed the therapy model in terms of regular sessions, paid-by-the-hour. However, in order to best service our clients, high-touch coaching is unparalleled in the results it delivers. The next step is to convey this to our clients in a meaningful way by revisiting our pricing model. Instead of a prohibitively high hourly rate, our model will shift to reflect the work put in between sessions, by the coach as well as the client.
But first, will you consider making this shift in your practice? Or are you already an effective high-touch coach. I’d love to hear your feedback on this model, and then work together to create a financial model that more adequately reflects the work put in and the resulting efficacy for our clients.
About Allison Task
Allison Task is a career, life and relationship coach based in Montclair, NJ. She works with high achieving people who want to squeeze even more out of life. Her clients are always surprised by how much they laugh during sessions. Connect with Allison through Noomii, her website or Facebook.
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