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The Now, The New & The Next in Careers

Telling Clients What To Do Doesn’t Work

30 Dec 2015 10:32 AM | Anonymous

By Susan Whitcomb

If you are (or have been) the parent of a teenager, you are probably very mindful about your parenting processes. Like all good parents, you want continued growth in your child’s capacity to problem solve and make decisions. It struck me that some of the skills we try to develop in ourselves to be better parents are also skills that can be used with our clients.

Here’s a three-step process, gleaned from my personal parenting insights, that can be used with clients:

Involve the client: Avoid the “master-and-commander” approach and adopt the “supporter-and-collaborator” approach. Rather than, “You need to do x, y, z” it might sound like this with your client:

  • “Jane, let’s brainstorm this together.”
  • Or, “John, what are your thoughts about how to develop contacts at your target companies?”
  • Or, “What have you done in the past that’s worked well?”

This approach engages the client’s thinking to have ownership in the process.

Develop options: I am personally working on seeing more options than what is in front of my nose, and I want the same for my clients (and my daughter!). Options make us feel like we have choices. Choices make us feel empowered. No options, no empowerment!

  • Ask your client, “What are three different paths to get there?”
  • Or, if mindset is more germane to your conversation, ask, “What are three different perspectives on that situation?”
  • Or, if you’re looking to expand the possibilities, substitute the word “possibilities”: “What are three different possibilities for this?”

Let the client choose: How many of you have had fantastic success with telling your teenagers (or spouse, family member, or friend) what to do? Probably not much! The same holds true for the people we coach. Though our clients may enjoy asking for our advice, they are rarely as eager to follow it! So remember to leave the final choices up to the client.

  • Ask, “Which of these options would be the best choice?”
  • Or, “Which of these would stretch you in a good way?”
  • Or, “How will you know which is the best choice?”
  • Or, “What option would you be willing to experiment with this coming week?”

Finally, don’t try to mitigate potential consequences for your clients, or bail them out, or do everything for them. The learning that comes from the doing is just as important as the doing!

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