November 17, 2014
Working with enthusiastic customers
As a coach you may, from time to time, be confronted with what is called involuntary clients. These are clients who do not fully agree with the fact that they have to talk with you. They are there because someone else, for example their manager, wanted them to be there. They feel coerced, or otherwise talked into, being there but they do not feel very motivated to collaborate. In the progress-focused approach there is a way of working with these types of coachees which makes it likely that you will be able to quickly develop a good collaboration with them. In the article The tilt intervention for working with involuntary clients you can read about how this approach works. For a progress-focused coach there will generally be no objection whatsoever to work with these types of clients.
In training courses it may also happen that one or more of the participants do not feel motivated to participate because they feel coerced into attending the course. In this type of situation the tilt intervention usually comes in handy, too. It often will help to engage these participants and to work well with them. However, often, this type of lack of motivation can largely be prevented by making attendance to courses voluntary. I argue that this will nearly always be a better idea than making them obligatory. (I hope to write more about this, soon).
Working with less motivated clients and training course participants will usually be quite doable for progress-focused professionals. In both cases you will have previously come to some kind of agreement with your paying customer/client about what progress your coaching or training should lead to. And your client was specifically interested in you and (hopefully) your approach. Things are different when your cusomter, the one who is supposed to hire you, does not seem to be very motivated to work with you.
When there is not yet an agreement or, to put it a bit more formally, a contract, and the person with whom you are talking expresses negativity or distrust about you or your approach, it is, as far as I am concerned, probably not a good idea to proceed in the collaboration. It may sound odd but sometimes, as a coach, you are invited to provide a coaching or training course, and in the intake conversation it turns out that the person who is supposed to be hiring you is outright critical or skeptical about how you work (or how he or she imagines you work). For example, I have experienced that I was friendly invited to come and talk about providing a training course. However, once I sat there talking with this person, there did not seem to be any enthusiasm on his part. This person tried to manouevre me into a position in which I should convince him why he should work hire me. Leaning backward into his chair, he (nearly) commanded me: "Okay, go ahead and explain to me why I should hire you ..."
When I replied, with a smile, that I did not think he should, he responded suprised. It was like he could not imagine that I did not want to convince him. Yet I didn't. I think that when the person who takes the initiative to approach you does not have a reasonable degree of enthusiasm, it will usually be not very likely that a good collaboration will follow. When you, as a client, view the person you invite and his or her approach with distrust, isn't it a better idea to invite someone else in whom you have more confidence? I think it is important to work with enthusiastic clients. They can, of course be critical and ask skeptical questions. That is indeed important and valuable. But without a basis of enthusiasm you might just as well not proceed.