Hello, I’m Dina. I’m a life and career coach to creatives and career changers.
I coach individuals wanting to find a fulfilling and meaningful job, and I help creatives level up.
It sounds like my job is a million miles away from what you do, but I’m here to argue for the other side. Your job and mine, have a lot more in common than you may think, but there are 3 coaching guide lines I live by that have saved me that you may not be aware of. But first, let me present my case for our similarities:
- Do you get paid by the hour?
- Do all clients you take on sign a contract?
- Do your clients also find you through personal referrals?
- Do your clients come in with a problem and your work is to get to a solution?
- Are your clients often going through an emotional time and cry in your sessions?
- Do you end up sometimes knowing more about them than their family or friends do?
It looks like coaches and Family Lawyers aren’t too dissimilar after all. Who knew?
That training has been incredibly useful. Unfortunately it’s reserved for therapists and coaching psychologists, but 121 sessions happen in so many other industries. Think about how much gossip and drama gets offloaded from clients onto hairstylists? Poor guys. The hairdresser chair may as well be Freud’s couch.
Without proper training, the provider in the 121 may be feeling emotionally exhausted at the end of the day. There may also be guilt and doubt about whether they did enough or not enough for when their clients got emotional, unknowingly taking on clients’ anxiety or even feeling frustrated with the client for making the ‘wrong’ decision.
However I’ve had considerable psychology and coach training to prepare me to be able to show empathy, provide psychological safety whilst at the same time being professional and ensuring we stick to the case at hand and don’t go off on tangents. Which long-term saves me from taking client’s troubles home or suffering from emotional burning out.
Why does this happen?
Having an hour of someone’s undivided attention is rare nowadays, so when it happens, it feels great…for the client. The client feels heard and valued when they have your attention. Multiple sessions across time builds trust and puts the client even more at ease. You become someone that’s reliable, consistent and dependable over time.
What happens when a client trusts you and is at ease? They bring more of themselves into the session.
This is when the boundaries start getting blurred. You’re friendly now, but you’re not their friend, but do they know that? Their expectations of your relationship and you may have changed, but these aren’t ever made explicit. So you’re navigating invisible rules. At times this closer relationship speeds up work, at other times you’re not sure what role you’re playing in their lives – friend, therapist, coach or lawyer? Either way it’s confusing what to do and can be emotionally draining.
Let me help. Here are 3 caching tips that you can use today and will hopefully make your professional lives easier and lighter.
1) Remember: For the alliance to work, the strongest relationship should be you as the professional, not as a friend.
You are far more useful to them as a lawyer than you are a friend. They have plenty of friends, but you are probably their only lawyer.
It can be tough because you’ve seen someone over a period of time, through maybe the worst times of their lives, and they’ve confided in you – you build a trust, rapport and a friendship.
But what happens in friendships and relationships over time? A lot is not talked about. As soon as there’s a friendship, there is a relationship they may not want to lose. They will therefore hold back on telling you critical things in order to keep the friendship.
They value your opinion as a friend and will start treating you as a friend first, lawyer second. Communication may get easier but your job will get harder.
How do you keep your roles clearly defined? With my next two points: by teaching them how to best use you and by contracting at each session.
2) Importance of contracting at each session.
By contracting, I don’t mean getting your client to sign a contact. Instead this is a verbal introduction to the session, like outlining an agenda for a meeting.
Starting the meeting with “Before we start, I wanted to outline how this session will flow and remind you, as always, that everything said here is confidential. I will be time-keeping and give you a 10 minute warning before the end to make sure we cover everything we need”
This gives them transparency and an element of control from knowing what’s ahead, which contributes to psychological safety.
Don’t hold back on repeating and reminding key things like confidentiality and session structure. People forget and sometimes that reminder is timely and unlocks something. This formality and set up reminds them that this isn’t a free flowing chat. It has a beginning and an end bookmarked by you. It makes them feel reassured that you’re on their side, you’re working collaboratively, but ultimately you will be steering the process. Setting yourself as the time keeper who will make sure you keep on track, gives you the permission to keep conversation to the goal at hand to ensure a timely end. Clients may be leaving something until the end, so the 10 minute prompt will make sure if gets covered within the hour.
Whilst you both know the ultimate goal of your work together, it’s good to outline the goal for the session. Coaching is client-led so we get the client to establish the goal “I wanted to ask you what main goal was for this session?” or “What is the best use of our time here?” . However, you can lead with setting the goal, but make sure to check in with the client to see if they’re happy with it and if there’s anything else they’d like to add. This reconnects them to the goal and gets their buy-in so they too will work from their end to make sure you get there.
3) Teach them how to use you
Never assume a client knows how to best use your services. This goes for most service providers. No one knows instinctively how to use a coach or a lawyer. I therefore scope out their experience when we first meet by asking if they’ve had coaching before and if so what their experience was. This conversation will save a lot of misunderstandings in the future – you don’t know what the lawyer was like before you. If they haven’t experienced coaching, I ask them about their expectations of coaching. This will get any myths and false assumptions out in the air. Once that’s done, give an outline of what your role is and what it isn’t, then follow up with an email so they have it to hand.
As your sessions unfold they may start using you as a friend or a therapist. As soon as you feel it venture into that territory, establish boundaries with phrases like “This sounds interesting but I wanted to check in to see if this relates to our goal for this session. If it does, we will give it the air time it needs. If it doesn’t, may I suggest we focus back on what’s important for us to cover in this session”. The first times you do this may feel like you’re cutting them off and being cold, but you’re actually showing yourself to be even more trustworthy and reliable. They’ll know they can’t push your boundaries, and therefore, other people can’t. Your consistent firmness in role and time boundaries will give them psychological safety and emotional calm. They know where they stand with you.
These 3 simple guidelines have been a professional lifesaver to me. Sticking to them has ensured clients trust me, come back to me and send me referrals, and most importantly, I don’t feel emotionally drained at the end of the day. I hope they will do the same for you too!
Dina Grishin – your straight-talking coach
LIFE & BUSINESS COACH TO CREATIVE MINDS | CO-FOUNDER OF CREATIVE COACHING COLLECTIVE.
TALK TO ME: +44 (0) 7930483660