Phone coaching – get with the program

In 2014 it’s all change. My UK clients are in London, Manchester, Glasgow & Aberdeen … and even one in a cottage industry on a remote Hebridean island. My overseas clients are in Ireland, US, India and Hong Kong. All bar 2 are phone or skype clients; and 8 out of 10 of my clients these days I’ll never meet in person for the weeks, months or years we’re in partnership.

The change in the perception of trusted, remote-location relationships has been hugely influenced by the last decade of social media culture. The population’s skill set to edit out people we don’t trust and filter in the genuine is evolving. We practice this with dating, with the websites we buy our clothes from, or the hotels we choose blind for our hot summer holiday.

Do we make mistakes with trusting online providers? Sometimes. But not as much as we benefit from having increased choices.

So how does it work when a client’s checking out my coaching services versus any other executive coach in the UK (or the world)?

Initial contact with me is almost always made by email followed by a quick, scheduled 15 minute phone call. Most execs are hungry for change so the faster the better.

On the initial call a prospective client will outline what he or she would like to see as result of hiring an executive coach – more money, more time, a promotion, a relationship, a career change, new leadership skills, a greater ability to influence, better fitness, more meaning and balance in their life.

I then brief them on my coaching style, how phone coaching works, explain the prep forms I’ll email out and the mindset required for an effective session. I book no more than 2 sessions in the first instance (because if you don’t see quantifiable results in that short a time, it’s possible I’m not the coach for (to be fair – this is rare)).

Phone sessions are 30 or 60 minutes, weekly or fortnightly. A review on the quality of a coaching conversation happens every session (takes about 30 seconds) because if it’s not 100% delivering, I want to change that.

With phone coaching anyone can access a great executive coach now whether that coach is in London, Liverpool or a sea-view barn conversion on the Cote d’Azur. It’s more affordable because I can work with many clients in a single working day, which brings my rate down.

If you haven’t already hired your executive coach in Aberdeen (or wherever). Get on with a decent Google search, fire some enquiry emails off and get fast-tracking to where you really want to be.

Executive coaching in the UK: happiness + satisfaction = profits

I’ve noticed recently that certain UK business cultures are more open to investing in their people’s ‘soft’ skills; the mental and emotional skills that enrich a corporate environment. They include the ability to effectively communicate, openly negotiate, embrace change, respect diversity and have active and versatile team dynamics.

The 2 company types most likely to encourage maximum release of potential in their teams are:

  • small businesses (50 people or less) with fast decision making abilities, ambitions expansion plans and the founder still at the helm; and
  • super-large corporates (1000 +) with products and services in demand in most countries on the planet.

Executive coaching makes sense for leaders in these 2 categories because:

  • it provides a confidential space to talk through the possibilities and to test how convinced an MD might be about the next 12 months of growth – and when they’re convinced, they’re convincing (streamlining buy-in from group heads and inspiring collaborative action taking)
  • the more aware their leaders are the more likely they’ll make a smart decision first time round – saving time and money
  • directors who are coached are generally more satisfied with work and life; and a business that invests in its talent is more likely to retain it
  • coaching creates clarity which in turn creates confidence – and confident people inspire others to question the status quo and to push the boundaries beyond those of the competition
  • it encourages leaders to question their assumptions and limiting beliefs and replace them with innovative thinking
  • a regular conversation about what’s going well and what could be going better means that issues aren’t left unattended long enough to gather momentum
  • there’s never a moment where a leader knows it all. Lifelong learning, with an aware and conscious coach, will expand knowledge, enrich communication skills and contribute to bringing out the best in colleagues and clients alike

You may notice that not one of these points directly has a dollar sign directly against it. And that’s because there’s an emerging new era for what defines corporate success. People come first. The money flows afterwards.

Executive coaching contributes to happy employees, who in turn do extraordinary work every day to satisfy clients and customers.

The knock on reward from happiness and satisfaction is repeat business and multiple customer recommendations. There’s genuinely no more effective a marketing strategy. From that starting point, you can (in the simplest terms) leave the financial bottom line to take care of itself.

An executive coach – your ROI

What’s the Return On Investment of working with an Executive Coach? This is such a juicy question. Ten years and over 1000 clients ago, as I tentatively opened my doors to my first incarnation of being an executive coach. I had very little understanding of the value I was bringing to my market. I charged accordingly at £50 to 100 an hour – where I could get that fee and I worked with some middle managers, some junior executives and many small business owners most of whom hired me out of their own salaries.

What happened? My clients thrived. There’s no other way to say it. They were already good at what they did and since most of them had genuinely never had an agenda-free, them-focussed, you-define-your-own-success kind of conversation in their lives, the executive coaching conversations worked to massive effect. My clients were promoted, they got salary increases, some moved to dream jobs, others made huge personal changes and all of them thought thoughts and took actions that they wouldn’t otherwise have known were within their sphere of choices.

How did I measure these results? It just couldn’t be done on monetary terms. How do you measure clarity, reduced anxiety, increased courage, richer conversations and raised awareness? It could only be measured through lives lived out and success stories shared.

After about 50 clients and repeatedly seeing their huge shifts, I had to put my fees up. I continued to work for individuals – authors, publishers, editors, film producers – and then increasingly I go taken on by small then large corporates. I was seeing 2 – 6 clients a day and loving every conversation and every little light-bulb moment – of which there were many.

At this time – about 2004 – I was adding to my executive coach skillset with some further study around metaphysics. Thoughts become things. What we believe is what we see. Limited thinking produces limited results; courageous thinking creates extraordinary & fast-tracked outcomes.

How did I measure the success of this extra service? Again, it couldn’t be done on monetary terms. My clients were loving it though – doubling their sales numbers, launching (and closing) new brands and some even starting families where they’d previously given up hope.

Every year I reviewed my fees and reviewed my client results until I was working with MDs, senior directors and international business owners. At this level the fact that I charged £400 an hour and £2500 a day really wasn’t that relevant to an individual or a company. If a finance president had a breakthrough realisation, his company was the 7-figure beneficiary of that. If a marketing director left a coaching session with a richer strategy, her CEO and shareholders would celebrate those results and bank the bonus.

The money and the sales were never the point – they were the measurable outcomes. The point was (and still is) that a progressive professional could hire an executive coach to expose more of their potential and make their life easier, more meaningful and more successful.

When you hire an executive coach you believe your work life and your personal choices will change for the better. If you pick an experienced executive coach this will undoubtedly be the case. Your results can be measured by the improvements in your own life then and also in the lives of your colleagues, your family & friends, and those you’ll never even know that you’ve touched and change.

A worthwhile return on investment is not just about what’s released in your own experiences, it’s ultimately about what you give back –  your ultimate life’s legacy.

Keeping it simple

As an executive coach, I’m sometimes called on when a leader, manager or company has too much going on – people, projects, development, deadlines, decisions – and they’ve passed the tipping point of working to full effectiveness. It’s not a weakness to have said ‘yes’ to so many things (or, more likely, for additional responsibilities to have been given to you because there was no one else to take them on) but too much complexity never delivers effective business results.

A call for your executive coach is a call to streamline and to simplify.

Earlier this week I had a conversation with a writer and film director. There were about 8 projects he could easily invest time in – networking, event organising, putting together his next creative team – there’s always so much going on. I asked him – why do you do what you do? He said ‘I love to write. And I love to create.’ I asked him – knowing that, what are your priorities today? He said ‘To finish this script. To get the movie made.’ And even simpler than that? … ‘To finish this script’.

Sometimes there’s a really obvious right next move; often it’s one that only you can do. That’s why it’s on your list and no-one else’s.Everything else you’re investing time in is a distraction, or a subconscious procrastination because it knows that the things only you can do will create the biggest ripple effects – and that in turn will change your world.

There’s a classic story (which is worth repeating …) about a professor who held up to his students an empty glass jar. Into it he placed some large rocks up to the rim. He then help up the jar and said ‘is it full?’. The students nodded ‘yes’. Next the professor took out a bag of pebbles and poured them into the jar. The pebbles found their way in around the spaces of the large rocks. ‘Is it full now?’ he asked. The students nodded ‘yes’. The professor then took out a bag of sand. He poured the sand into the jar and it filled in the spaces around the pebbles. He held up the jar, ‘Is it full now?’. The students nodded ‘yes’. The professor took out a beaker of water, he slowly poured it into the glass jar. The water meandered its way around the spaces of the rocks, the pebbles and the sand until it reached the rim of the jar. ‘Ok, so now it’s full’, said the professor, ‘So, what’s the lesson’?

One student raised her hand and said ‘Is it that we can achieve more than we think – but sometimes have to find new ways to do so?’. ‘A good answer, anyone else?’ said the professor. Another student put up his hand, ‘Could it be that if we assume a question means ‘more of the same’ we’re missing an opportunity?’. ‘Another good answer’ said the professor, ‘And here’s the lesson I want you to take away from today: I could only put as much into this glass jar if I started with the big stuff. In any other order, this quantity of rocks, pebbles, sand and water could not be contained. Prioritise the big things into your life – health, fitness, a vision, connection – and all the rest will fall into place around it’.

As an executive coach, I couldn’t have put it better myself!

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci