When I launched my coaching practice a few years ago, I hired a business coach for 6 months to help me focus on building my brand. I’d spent years as a department director of a major museum, so I entered the coaching relationship knowing a few things about marketing but was by no means an expert. In my initial consultation with the coach, I told her I wanted my primary focus to be on identifying the best marketing platforms for me and putting together a strategy for implementing them. I added that I really needed accountability, because I was transitioning from having been part of a large team to being a solopreneur. I’m a disciplined, motivated person, but I needed someone to stay on top of me as I attempted to build my platform.
What did I receive for my investment in this coach? One hour of phone coaching per month with zero check-ins and little to no accountability. Looking back, I should have been proactive in telling her I would benefit from brief weekly emails. I also should have asked how often she touched base with her clients, so I take full responsibility for not having done more research before hiring that coach and for not having been clear regarding my needs. I ask this of my own clients and potential clients.
When it was time for our coaching relationship to end, we never celebrated my accomplishments. I never received a card or an opportunity to evaluate or provide feedback to the coach. It just… ended. To this day I have not received any further communication from her, although I wrote her a letter thanking her for her time. In the aftermath, I felt as though I had made a not-so-beneficial investment, and I thought a lot about how I wanted to invest in my own clients. I decided that my clients would hear me say-through all my communication- “I’m here for you!”
As a former nonprofit fundraising professional, I know about “touches,” those ways we interact with donors and potential donors; and while I am not one to use a lot of industry lingo, I have experienced the many benefits of “touching.” Frequent touches help nurture growth, whether in the nonprofit world or with coaching clients, and they keep the lines of communication open. I now incorporate this practice in all my coaching relationships, considering myself a “frequent touch” coach but with established boundaries.
Being hired as someone’s coach is no small thing! Our clients place their trust in us as qualified professionals who can guide them to clarity and results. We’re also voices of accountability and encouragement. As coaches, we must be fully present during sessions, but it’s just as important to be fully present before and after sessions, in those in-between times when our clients are taking action. In other words, we must be fully present at all times for our clients. We should be cheering them on and holding them accountable!
What does this mean, and how does it look? How can we be fully present while respecting our boundaries and personal energy? Those in-between times are when the real work gets done, so I think it’s important for coaches to be as present as possible… to be frequent touch coaches!
Here is a list of 10 ways you can “touch” your clients between sessions and with minimal time investment. By implementing a few that work for you (key phrase!), you can be a frequent touch coach without investing a lot of time.
*Send a brief recap of the coaching session that includes a bullet list of action items, encouragement, and a celebration of successes.
* Set aside a special planning time each week to go over clients’ action plans. This helps you stay grounded in what your clients are working on.
* Write (Yes, really write... in ink!) occasional cards of support and celebration to clients.
* Call or send cards to clients on their birthdays, work and wedding anniversaries, Halloween, winter holidays... any occasion, really!
*Send a monthly newsletter to clients. This can be your regular newsletter or a shorter one that is geared specifically to your clients and former clients.
*Send “touch” emails a couple times a week with relevant articles, quotes, videos, or questions.
* Send clients a “How Am I Doing?” evaluation form to provide you with feedback on how you’re doing as their coach. You can also include this as a question in their weekly self-assessment forms.
* Send a motivational video, blog post, or group email to all clients (BCC, of course!) at the beginning of the week. This will help them start their week on a positive note.
*Continue to check in with former clients through emails, calls, cards, and monthly newsletters. They may want to work with you again, and your “touches” will help keep you on their radar screens.
*Make it a part of your morning routine to mentally check in with your clients. This might involve meditating or praying, but the point is to be still and really think about your clients and their goals.
* Hold a celebration for your client at the end of your coaching relationship. Give a couple of small gifts (tax-deductible!), and write a personal note, celebrating the client’s accomplishments. This doesn’t fall into the “in-between” category, but it does show you have been invested and are proud of them.
Which of the above practices do you already do? Which do you think will best serve your clients while respecting your personal and professional boundaries? Choose 3 or 4, and put them in action. Watch how your clients grow when they know that you- their coach- are fully present and invested!
It’s an honor and a privilege to be someone’s coach. Don’t just show up once a week or once a month, and disappear the rest of the time. Be present for them, and let them know it. Let your actions shout, “I’m here for you!”
Amy Walton is a speaker, writer, and women’s life coach residing in coastal Virginia. A charter member of ICF-Virginia- Hampton Roads Region, she specializes in Christian life coaching and enjoys working with midlife women to help them create balance and purpose. Connect with her at www.amywaltoncoaching.com.