Thursday 1 July 2010

Getting it Wrong

 One of the things I learned in my corporate life was that you can't manage what you can't measure, and so measuring (or "metrics") are an important management tool, especially where providing a service is concerned.

That's why I always send out a survey when I've delivered a service. If you've been reading my newsletters for a while, you'll get a survey. If you've been coached my me, you'll get a survey, and so on.

We all enjoy hearing the nice things about us, but really, they're an indication to keep doing what you're doing. The really powerful feedback is the negative stuff, because it tells you how you can change for the better. If you can get over the personal left hook (or even not see it in those terms) then this stuff is gold dust.

Here's a recent survey return from a lady I coached. She has given me her permission to use it.
Hi Chris,

I'm fine, thanks...

Please see [my survey] responses below in blue.

1. How do you rate this service - marks out of 10 - 10 being excellent?


2. How could I improve this service for you?
Each occasion felt a bit rushed.  Not necessarily because of anything said.  Somehow, having just 45 minutes to do the work needed, means that there's immediate pressure to achieve results.    Suggest offering a whole hour - that extra 15 minutes could make an important psychological difference.  Maybe reduce the content of newsletters (I do appreciate them, but don't always read everything) and pass the time saved on to clients.

3. What other services would you use if I made them available (indicate price where appropriate)?

I know coaching effectively relies on the coachee being focused and pro active in thier own sessions (leading sessions in their own way as they are paying for your services), however, I wonder if everyone who wants coaching is completely ready from the start.  For myself (looking back) - it could have been helpful to feel relaxed enough to explore & address those feelings of urgency a bit more.  Since this (counselling) is a job which requires a different, but just as technical, skill - price would need to be about the same.

4. What other comments do you have?

I am not sure that my 3 sessions have been as effective as expected.  Certainly, doing the work on values was very useful, but apart from that, I don't feel that I have a much clearer view of where I want to be looking for a different path.  I left our sessions with a some direction - to scan different career/new job paths and to get back in touch if I felt I needed to.  So far, I have not had the ureka moment I had hoped for, and don't feel I can justify the cost of more coaching.  I'm wondering if coaching was the right thing for me at the time I embarked on it.

Hope that's helpful....Elisabeth


Here's the dialogue which followed:

Hi Elizabeth,

Thanks for your time in completing the survey. I'd like to respond to give you my take on things and demonstrate that I'm paying attention, to show you what I've done to make things better and sometimes to invite further dialogue.

On the hurrying issue, I was very aware of this and I recall that we spoke about it. It crops up now and then, and usually a comment or two from me will fix it. But I currently have a client who I am struggling with in the same way. He won't get the hint. On the one hand, I want to give you what you want from the sessions, but I also want to give you value for money and in this connection, I note your later comment about not really getting much, which I'll come back to.

I've given this a lot of thought. I have added a note to the coaching agreement as follows:

12. A NOTE ABOUT TALKING: Your session is for you. You’ve paid for it, and you can use it as you choose. If you want to vent about your situation or roam freely through ideas then you’re welcome to, and it’s sometimes very useful. People often feel they are helping when they give me a complete background – a total brain dump. But please understand that when you do this, you have taken control of the session and disabled my coaching. If I try to interject to bring us back on track, people can take offence or feel rushed, which can and break rapport. You are paying more than a pound per minute; coaching works best when you listen to the questions and answer them with appropriate length. When you have answered the question – stop! If I need more I can ask for it.

On your suggestion of hour-long sessions. Firstly, I don't think it would solve the problem; people tend to overrun whatever boundaries they are given. Secondly, it would mean I could no longer schedule on-the-hour appointments - the chat about homework and next appointment would overflow to maybe 10 past the next hour. The main newsletters are all already written and in a database, so there is no ongoing effort for me in sending them out. I do voluntarily overrun sometimes - if I think we need to reach a point we haven't and there are no operational reasons to preclude the overrun.

I'm not sure I understand your second comment fully. I think you are proposing that I move into counselling mode if it becomes clear the client wants to speak reflectively at length. I am not a councillor, but perhaps the coaching agreement clause above might help. I can allude to it and tactfully and give the choice to the client.

On your third comment, I'm sorry you didn't find as much value as you had hoped. This is the cleft stick I'm in! I also wanted more progress for you, but I knew my "re-focusing" was seen as unwelcome hurrying, so I felt I had to let large chunks of our sessions go by whilst you spoke at length on things which I felt would not take us anywhere helpful.

Well, my solution (the agreement clause) is far from perfect. I'd welcome other ideas if you have them. IN the meantime I would be happy to give you a free session to try to get you some more progress if you like.

I would like to post this dialogue to my testimonials page, Elizabeth. (seems only fair - I post the good stuff!). Would you be OK with that? I'd change your name.

Best Wishes,
What you say makes sense - and confirms my thought that I sought coaching too soon.
I was looking for that moment when everything would just slot into place and I would just know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
The truth is that my situation is still too 'crowded' with emotion and my life remains 'on hold' for the present.  In my case, coaching was difficult for me because I had a need to talk through stuff and (I sense) frustrating (in respect of your genuine desire to help me find my solutions) for you.
Counselling - the completely opposite discipline to life coaching - whilst also client led, is concerned wholly with giving time and space to explore feelings.  The first things one learns about counselling are to keep quiet and not lead the client on to a subject they are not ready to discuss.
This is what I now know I need.
Your new note for your coaching agreement expresses exactly what it needs to.  I might not have used the term 'brain dump', and favoured something more like 'off loading'.
I'm a great believer in offering feedback when it is requested (and sometimes when it is not !), so I am glad if this helps others come to a decision about their readiness to have coaching.  Accordingly, I'm very happy for you to use this on your testimonials page - and don't mind if you use my real name (it is quite common after all) - unless it's your company's policy not to.
As for your kind offer of a free session - thank you very much, but can we take a rain check on it ? 
Can we agree, that if I haven't contacted you by the end of this year - we can assume that I won't need it or have procrastinated so often that my time will be 'up' ?  Either way, you can then be 'released' from your commitment to offer of a free session.
Every experience can be looked at in a positive way, and I continue my life's journey with some good stuff from being coached.
Best regards
So, this is a good illustration of how negative feedback is a really great thing - it's one of the dominant mechanisms for making things better - which is also known as growth. I also wanted to give you more insights into what really happens in coaching.

I invite you to ask for feedback often, and to take what you hear as the truth, and as the gold dust it really is.

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