Here’s a glimpse of a coaching session I had yesterday with a client wanting to find their motivation around launching a new project and getting over the ‘stuck’ feeling. [aka when you want to do something, but your inner voice and/or subconscious mind is pulling you back out of fear, like in this case]
Case Study Summary
Subject: Starting a new project
Perceived Issue: Feeling stuck about to start it or not and not clear on the motivation behind it
Coaching session time: 10-15 min
Coaching angle: helping the client understand where the feeling of being stuck is coming from, what needs reside behind the idea of starting this project, putting things into perspective.
Applicability: starting a new project, get clear(er) on your WHY, removing psychological barriers and start taking action, etc.
! A coach’s job is to help the client explore their inner universe with open questions and broaden their viewpoint, so that the client can see things from different perspectives and ultimately find their own solutions and have their ‘aha’ moments while doing so. As a coach we should not give our own opinion about the client’s issue or mention what are the best solutions from our experience – as our experience in only relevant to our live.
The client is the expert of their life and the best answers lie only within them; a truly transformational experience through coaching happens only when we allow the client the time and the space they need to do the inner work by themselves.
Here’s an excerpt dialog between myself and the client:
-I’m thinking of starting a marketing blog, but I feel kind of stuck. Do you think I should do it? [we are not in our first session, so I knew some details about the client.]
– Yes, indeed. You’ve mentioned that before as well. Do you want to talk about it?
– Hmm, yeah.
– Ok, tell me more about it. Where is this idea coming from?
– Not sure, I feel like it would help me create a personal brand. I will have more visibility and a place to voice out my opinions and talk about things that I’m passionate about, like marketing. I feel like there is still a lot of room in this industry.
– Ok, and what’s your goal?
– I just told you. To build my own reputation, personal brand.
[the client understood my question, but he is stealing some time because my question puts him in a discomforting zone. I was asking about the end goal and he did not think about this before, so the first instinct was to repeat the answer]
– Yes, I heard you, but let me rephrase that: If you get your personal brand on and your blog running, what is that you want to achieve with it?
– Well, I don’t know.. [always the first answer a client gives. I remain silent, so he can have the space to reflect a little, search through his motivation folders, through his values, through any motivators that made him want to start a blog.]
– Well .. I think I have a lot to say and I can educate people about marketing and raise the bar a little bit in our country as well. Educate future generations about what quality marketing really is. I was talking the other day with a person from HR and she told me the new generation coming in for marketing roles is very poorly prepared and has high salary expectations [bingo, we’ve reached an interesting point as this might be the potential motivator].
– Ok, I understand. How is this connected to you?
-Well, I want to help, I want to educate them through qualitative content. Of course, I’ll write long and well research articles, as I always do [hint about who he is and how he identifies himself – as a professional, with high standards] not like those click-baiting articles, where you don’t learn anything new.
-Interesting, it’ll be very much appreciated, I am sure. But am I not very clear – do you want to keep this blog to raise the bar at the interviews for marketing positions? Or.. what is your motivation? [the same question as before, only in different words, to help the client get clear on what’s the need behind this project idea. the client gets defensive again.]
-Well, I don’t know, how should I know? .. I’ll just do it and see where it goes. I don’t have a purpose yet.
[this is a belief many of us have. it’s something that we apply to our lives, and sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn’t, and it’s definitely a slippery slope, as this mindset has high chances of getting us disappointed. When developing a project where you invest a lot of time, resources, we tend to attach some emotions and expectations that won’t probably materialize. Getting clear on the goal, on what we expect to happen, for whom we are writing for/doing it for and for what purpose is crucial for every project we develop, be it life – a job, a child, a vacation, a business, etc. or be it in our careers. Motivation is key to our success. Motivation is what we fall back onto when things start to go south – it’s what will help us power through obstacles. Having a strong WHY is what will ‘save’ us when all signs indicate that ‘this is not going to work’.]
-Have you done this before? I feel like you have applied this logic in other projects or other areas of your life before.
-Yes, I used to have another blog, similar, in the past, about a specific area of online marketing. I had a lot of traffic and many people wrote to me back then. [hmm, interesting. like in an investigation, I feel like we’re getting close to the reason that keeps him stuck right now. He wants to write again, because probably the needs were not met in the first attempt, but the subconscious mind (which is the part of the brain where we associate events with feelings) is letting him know that this is a risky move on his side and might get hurt again.]
-Oh, interesting. Tell me more, what happened, are you still posting?
-No, I stopped many years ago.
-Why, what happened exactly?
-I got disappointed. [bingo, this is probably what is holding him back now]. I was writing for people in the beginning of their marketing career [just like the current idea], but I felt like the people who I was writing for were never reading my blog.
-But you’ve mentioned you had traffic and people responding. Who were they?
-They were small business owners who wanted to learn about how to market their business. I was very surprised to see they were writing me, they even offered me money to consult on their marketing efforts, but I didn’t want to. It was not my goal at that time. [hmm, so he had results, but not the ones he was expecting. Managing our expectations and being flexible to changes and new possibilities is also very important to our success.]
-So, if I am hearing this well, you had a lot of traffic and potential clients writing to you for help, but it was not what you were writing for and felt disappointed?
-Yes, exactly .. [small pause, as I saw him reflecting on what I just said.] But now as I talk to you I realize that it was not that bad, I had some traction after all, from some people who needed my help. [bingo again, this is the moment the client shifts its perspective from ‘I am writing and nobody reads me, it’s ‘useless’ to ‘actually, it was not really like that, I had some traction and success, but from other type of readers’.]
-Yes, it looks that way. What did you do? It looked like you had opportunities to close them as your clients and make some money out of your blog.
-Yes, but I didn’t want that at that time. I was not interested in money, I never was. [ok, so we now know he is not interested in monetization, but more after satisfying emotional needs.]
-Ok, that’s a good thing that you know you are not interested in money. It can help you get clearer this time around. Regarding this experience, what did you learn from it? [forcing the client to see the positive sides and turn what is perceived as a ‘failure’ into an experience.]
-Well.. at that time I didn’t know how to close a deal or to nurture a lead or to turn readers into clients. But now I know and if I’m thinking about it, I want to be the source of marketing knowledge where people turn to to read about quality marketing and to be an authority in the field; after so many years of being active, I think I have enough knowledge to share and maybe at some point I’ll become also a consultant. [the client expressed here the needs to be seen, appreciated and to contribute to the world – which are all very important human needs that help us feel successful, fulfilled in life and that we’re living a meaning life while contributing to a cause.]
We had to end our discussion as the coaching session was over, but not before I pointed out that is a great starting point and a mission to have for his new project and asked the client to write down all the reasons and the motivation behind his project and all the steps required to get where he wanted as an exercise for the next time we meet.
This discussion was only brought up in the last ten-fifteen minutes of the session, so we didn’t have a lot of time to explore it. As a rule of thumb, in any situation where the client is stuck, my job as a coach is to help the client get clear on why they’re stuck, where they are now, where they want to go and what needs to be done to get there. I will do this by applying some of the coaching models available, the one I used here being the GROW Coaching model (Goal, Reality, Options,Ways to).
- Exploring the current situation – description as detailed as possible
- How the client got here
- What is getting him stuck
- What happened last time – in case there was a similar situation in the past; it usually is.
- What can you learn? What can you change? What can you let go of?
- How to apply this to the new project / situation
- What are the costs of the change? Is it sustainable?
- What is the first step that can be done and when?
After this point, me as a coach, I will try to keep the client accountable for all the action points he needs to take to make this project come to life – especially if they say they need someone for this, but also to address all the obstacles that might come along.
In this case study, we didn’t finish the whole process of course, and we’ll continue to it in the next session.