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Client patterns?

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18 Mai 2009

This month of May 2009, Metasysteme Coaching has just finished delivering training to our eighth Romanian Coaching Fundamentals promotion.  Another group of motivated participants are off to practice coaching as a trade and/or to use the acquired tools in their personal and professional lives.

If we count an average of twenty participants per promotion, at a rhythm of two to three promotions per year, that totals some 150 people who have profited from our coach training program in the last few years.  Granted, that number is still very small and not all these people will decide to become professional coaches.  But that is a good start.

When we look back on the learning curve that a large number of participants have experienced over their four sessions, we have a few observations to share.  Some of these observations concern their development process as coaches, which is the main objective of the Coaching Fundamentals course.  But the course also delivers a number of other very important benefits that are, in our perception, just as important.  This why we will first share observations on how these participants have developed as clients.
 
First note that the training architecture and learning process of the Coaching Fundamentals course invites everyone to experiment coaching first hand from several different angles.  Not only does each participant learn how to coach but they all also experience being real clients. The training process offers numerous opportunities for all to coach each other.  Consequently, participants also learn about the coaching relationship by being authentic people, offering to work on real personal and professional issues.

Time and again during the Coaching Fundamentals course and within supportive learning peer groups, all the participants have been each other’s coaches and each other’s clients.  Of course the usual focus during the training process is on how each grows and develops as a coach but it is just as interesting to observe how each has grown and developed as a client. 

Client bottlenecks

Observing 150 people evolve as clients during the Coaching Fundamentals training process can also provide a few cultural insights as to patterns one may also find in the much larger population: the real Romanian market, if not the more restricted one in Bucharest.

Repeatedly, for example, we have observed that the first client difficulty or hurdle is to proceed beyond the description of their project,  issue or problem.  For a large number of clients, there is a strong belief that after describing in detail, and sometimes over-analyzing their past and present situation, issue or goal, they have done their job.   Whether the tone of this descriptive approach is humorous, dry, emotional, factual, or presented in a complaining mode doesn’t make a real difference to the pattern.  Clients expose the situation with detailed illustrations, anecdotes and sometimes emotions and then expect miracles from their coach.

These clients seem to believe that after presenting the details of their concerns, they have done their share of the work, and it is now for someone else to pick up the tab and do something about the issue.  If nobody takes that responsibility, then the client often continues to re-describe the issue in a more detailed and circular way, waiting for a solution to come from elsewhere.  When that doesn’t work some will try anger, to provoke their environment or their coach to assume responsibility for proposing options. 

Indeed, numerous clients do not spontaneously move past the description of their concern or issue to begin looking for their own options and solutions.  That is the first habitually observed client hurdle or bottleneck in the coaching relationship.

When and if the client does move past that circular descriptive process, it is usually to begin a search for options.  For the coaching process, this is considered more useful.  Indeed, options are more focused on solutions and can help clients focus on change and how to plan for their future success. 

At this point, however, the second client hurdle often appears.  The client will explore several options, sometimes time and again, also in a very similar detailed and circular pattern.  The exploring process of hypothetical options may often continue on and on.  It will sometimes stop when the client is out of ideas or energy.  But as long as the coach or client environment does not intervene, the client may never consider making a decision to choose his or her preferred option.   It often seems the client is just expecting someone else to decide which option is best.

That moment is the second most commonly observed client hurdle or bottleneck in the coaching relationship.

Market patterns

These and numerous other cultural observations of common client processes can be made within the micro market represented by participants in the Coaching Fundamentals courses.  Of course, this smaller and more restricted coach-client environment of budding coaches and clients could very well be enacting patterns that also exist on the larger Bucharest or Romanian market. 

If we consider our market sample to be significant, it can be expected that numerous clients on the larger and real market will also prefer to describe and analyze their situation in a circular fashion and for a very long time, before ever moving on to search for their own options.  If they do move forward and begin a search for practical solutions to deal with their issues, it can be also expected that they will then lengthily describe possible options in a very similar circular pattern before ever risking to make a personal decision. 

Of course, other slow circular patterns and similar bottlenecks can be observed a little later as the coaching process unfolds.  This often happens, for instance, when clients proceed to design and implement their action plans.  Considering all these habitual circular patterns and bottlenecks, it is no wonder personal and professional change can sometimes be so low.

Observing and understanding these common bottlenecks in the coaching process can help maturing coaches quickly perceive the exact moments when their coaching presence, comments and questions will add value.  The coach goal is to help clients change their problem solving and project management patterns to become more effective.   To do this, coaches learn to accompany clients to very rapidly move through their individual and cultural hurdles and bottlenecks. Objectives of the Coaching Fundamentals learning environment are to make sure that coaches acquire these skills to become professionals.

Learning coaching as a client

A related observation that regularly strikes me is that within months after beginning their learning process in the Coaching Fundamentals, a large majority of the participants start actively making major transformations in their lives.   As clients, they learn to move beyond their personal hurdles and bottlenecks with startling speed.

Indeed, within the first few months of the course, some participants change jobs, others reconsider their personal or professional partnerships and still others radically modify their lifestyles.  Some start major projects while others decide to eliminate useless activities and redirect the focus of their personal or professional lives.  Some participants even do all of the above.  Basically, most of them actively define what they really want to achieve, and then go on to achieve it.

As a consequence, not all Coaching Fundamentals participants confirm that they really do want to become coaches.  Some just decide to use the newly acquired skills within the profession they already have.  This is the case for a majority of entrepreneurs and managers.  In the Coaching Fundamentals, they learn to change their professional lives by doing the same thing, but in a completely different way  Why indeed change your profession when you have learned to do it much more effectively and with a renewed motivation?

The reason for the observed changes in our sample market are very simple. As clients in the Coaching Fundamentals course, each participant rapidly decides to face important personal and professional issues and projects and then actively searches for options.  These are then followed with action plans.  Not surprisingly, their results are quickly measurable, in every dimension of their lives.

It is no news that coaching can help people change their lives.  That is coaching’s purpose.  If the profession did not help clients to achieve more performing results, it would not grow so rapidly worldwide.  The surprising observation during the Coaching Fundamentals training process, however, is that budding coaches ensure all the coaching sequences.  Indeed, all the participants are stumbling and testing neophytes while they coach each other, especially in the first half of the course. All are still learning.  They do not yet master much of the finer subtleties of the coaching process.  

In spite of this, participants in the Fundamentals course rapidly achieve very important personal and professional client results.  Coached by beginning coaches, these clients either fundamentally change what they do or fundamentally reconsider the way they are doing it.

•    On the one hand, one can conclude that these participant-clients are very motivated.  They get involved, and rapidly reap the benefits of their personal learning commitment. 
•    On the other hand one can confirm that coaching is a very effective process for change.  Even when a coach has very few tools and a beginner’s coaching stance, client change will happen.

Observation of coach and client evolutions during the Coaching Fundamentals course points to one obvious conclusion.  There are no really significant differences between business coaching and existential or life coaching.  Coaching is coaching.  That is why the spectrum or range of perceptible changes is so wide.

One can only imagine the multiplied effectiveness of all these coaches as they acquire more experience on the market.  This coaching community will be very useful for Romanians and for Europe in the very near future.

VERY SOON

To change subjects, please accept a quick reminder of my activities in Romania before this summer:

In Timisoara, on June 19 and 20 (that is a Saturday), we are offering a two-day Metacoach workshop on “Individual, Team and Organization Diagnosis”:  On what personal leadership competencies can you rely, what are your team’s intrinsic resources, and how can your organizational culture help you through these times of uncertainty?  Two days of intensive and very practical work that will give you a clear picture of where you stand and of what you need to do.
For more details on this workshop from our website
For all our dates and prices
In Bucharest on June 22 is the next Coach Supervision day in the ongoing process.  If you are engaged in developing yourself in that profession, this is the ideal collective environment to increase your skills and develop individual and team coaching competencies.  The group is limited to fifteen participants.
For more details on supervision from our website
For this year's dates and prices

AND ON A PERSONAL NOTE

We are still in Bucharest for a week.  Our next longer trips for work and play in Romania will be from September 9 to October 3, (just in time for the music festival) and then again from November 4 to 28.  But we’ll tell you more about those plans just after summer.

Which brings us to our summer vacation plans, which so far are no real plans.  We are staying open and available for a number of ongoing projects (such as moving to Paris) and to seize opportunities so as to take time off for R&R (Rest and Recreation).   We will probably stay in southern France, Go close to Blois (on the Loire valley) for a faily reunion, go to Barcelona to visit one of my two sons, go for long walks in the mountains, and all the rest is unexpected.

So unless we meet again very soon, have a excellent, very healthy summer.

Sincerely

Alain Carddon