Yes, you heard me right: whether I’ve been working with my client for years….or even if we are just at the very beginning of our coaching relationship and I don’t know my client that well yet…first and foremost, I am always going to love & honor my client.
Of course, learning new skills and techniques to use with clients is important and really helps you go deeper and stronger with them. You absolutely need that. But another thing that’s really helpful is simply asking YOURSELF questions that will take you deeper into your own inner wisdom, your own self-awareness, and your own understanding of your client’s situation.
Here are 3 questions I recommend journaling on after EVERY client session you have over the next week or two. You will learn LOADS from this and upgrade your work through it. Eventually, you’ll automatically start asking yourself these questions while you’re actually in session, and be able to fine tune and strengthen your sessions right then and there.
Just like every industry, the coaching and transformation industries go through different cycles and stages of evolution that are critical.
Right now, we are going through MASSIVE developments that are changing EVERYTHING about the industry. The more you know and understand what these developments are, the better equipped you’ll be to grow a business with staying power.
Just like everyone else, I’ve had some doozy client situations. What has really helped me become better and better and better as a practitioner is being willing to look closely and assess carefully client cases that aren’t working so well…even if it’s uncomfortable – almost painful! – to do so! (This is why in my coach trainings, we always have Client Case Clinics to look at the stuff that comes up).
I thought it would be valuable for you if I shared my Worst Client Case Study, and what I learned from it. Here we go!:
My first business coach, who in so many ways was truly a wonderful coach and mentor, taught me a lot about boundaries. She was the first person to really open my eyes to the dangers of over-giving and allowing yourself to be treated (or treating yourself) like a doormat.
I will be forever grateful for all she taught me in this area. I really learned how to respect my time and respect my boundaries because of it.
And this is a big “but”.
In lieu of a full blog post, I wanted to share with you a recent post I wrote on Facebook.
I was scared to hit post on it because I know it’s a little controversial….
and I wasn’t sure if it would trigger some people…
but I ultimately decided to post it because I feel so strongly about it.
It’s about coaching & coaching skills & ethics & so much more.
You’ll see it got some attention and a lot of folks commented very passionately on it.
Would love to hear your thoughts!
The first retreat I ever led by myself was 2-days long, and a massive learning lesson for me.
Before this retreat, I had led other retreats…but they had always been co-led. I hadn’t done them on my own.
It was the first retreat of five in a 9-month mastermind. 20 incredible women.
I wanted very much to serve them well. And if I’m honest with myself, I also wanted to impress them. I wanted them to like me. No, to adore me. And to think I was brilliant. And to feel they had made the right choice by investing with me.
So that meant that even though I was so excited about this retreat….I was also ridiculously nervous.
I spent weeks preparing like crazy for the curriculum and buying supplies. I put in hours to memorize parts of what I was going to say. And finally the night before the retreat came.
I crawled into bed at about 10:30pm so that I could get a good night’s sleep, and…didn’t fall asleep until after 5am. I was so nervous that my thoughts were moving way too quickly for my brain to settle down and let me rest.
I got about 90 minutes of sleep that night, ran out the door in the morning with barely any breakfast inside me, fueled by adrenaline.
I could feel my heart beating so strongly inside of me the entire subway ride to the retreat site. My underarms were totally sweaty. And I found myself wishing to be anywhere but on my way to this retreat.
I got to the retreat site before anyone else was there, set up the room, and then ran to the bathroom to hide in a stall and calm myself down enough to do the work I was there to do.
Sitting on the toilet, I practiced breathing, told myself all was well, and prayed a lot to be able to show up fully and open to be able to support the women in the room.
Still shaking, I emerged from the stall and walked into the retreat room, reminding myself to smile big and open my heart
In many ways, that first day went phenomenally well.
We created sacred space together, the women were open and engaged, the rituals I led inspired great emotion and breakthroughs. They were learning a lot and beginning to create trust and sisterhood with each other.
But…I didn’t give them (or me) much of a morning break. I didn’t eat or drink anything during that break.
We also paused way later than I had anticipated for lunch. After 1:30pm. I was still so nervous and so pumped with adrenaline that I barely ate or gave myself moments to rest.
And…I was exerting myself more than I needed to. Using all of my life force energy to hold the space instead of allowing the space to be held.
We continued on that day until close to 6pm.
And I was hosting a dinner for them that night at a restaurant across town.
All of the women left to rest and then head over to the restaurant. I stayed in the retreat room, cleaning up everything all by myself. I hadn’t made sure to have help with me.
I packed up my little suitcase full of all the items I had brought (we did a lot of experiential exercises), and running late, ran outside to try and catch a cab to the restaurant.
But it was rush hour in NYC and there wasn’t a cab to be found.
So I walked. It took me 30 minutes, lugging my suitcase, to walk to this dinner that I was hosting.
On the walk to the restaurant, my exhaustion hit me.
It wasn’t a normal exhaustion. It was the most tired I had ever felt in my life. A worn-out-ness that took over my entire body and mind.
I arrived to the restaurant late, sweaty, totally drained….and in no shape to hold the space for everyone, let alone even stand up straight.
So instead of enjoying this celebratory dinner that I had worked so hard for, and instead of getting to connect with these new women I was serving….I let all of my clients know that I was tired and I hopped in a cab back to Brooklyn.
All at the same time, I was so relieved to get into that cab….but also I felt like I had failed by leaving early.
And within 2-3 minutes of being in that cab, my stomach started to feel extremely queasy. I wanted to tell the cab driver to stop and to jump out immediately, but that wasn’t an option because I didn’t even feel strong enough to say a word out loud.
It was somewhere on the Brooklyn Bridge that I began vomiting profusely. I just vomited all over the back seat of that taxi. The driver, rightfully so, was not too happy.
We finally arrived at my apartment, and Jon had to come downstairs and help me up. I collapsed onto our bed, weeping, not knowing how I’d make it to the retreat for the second day.
Somehow, though, after a nice warm bath with Epsom salt, and a hearty meal, I slept that night. And stepped into a beautiful, powerful and transformative second day of the retreat.
That retreat was a potent learning experience for me. Here are some of the biggies:
- Always make sure you eat enough and that your body is nourished before, during and after a retreat.
- Take actions to calm down and balance your nervous system before, during, and after retreats.
- Get enough sleep.
- Get support for setup and clean up at retreats, even if it feels easy-peasy to do on your own.
- Take lots of bathroom breaks, eat during snack times, break for lunch at a reasonable hour.
- Give yourself and your participants plenty of open time.
- Be fully present, yet don’t fall into the belief that you need to hold the space all on your own.
- Serve because it is your mission and passion, not because you want to impress.
It would be a lie to say that I don’t still get nervous before retreats (& I’ve led dozens and dozens since that first one!). Nervousness is more than OK. It’s how you handle the nervousness and prepare for it that counts.
Would love to hear from you on some of your retreat tales of woe and what you learned!
Here’s a coaching, facilitation, teaching (and marketing) tool that I live by:
It is vitally important to reveal yourself, your imperfections, your not-so-great outcomes, and your not-so-happy qualities to your clients, students and community.
The transformational industry is FULL of gurus who seem picture perfect. They have “perfect” businesses; they apparently learn their lessons very quickly; they apparently don’t make mistakes; they apparently don’t really have sh*t happen to them
This is damaging to their communities – and specifically to their clients.
Because as a coach or practitioner, if you don’t consciously reveal your imperfections to your clients….they can make the mistake of believing that things happen perfectly for you.
And that essentially means that you become, in my opinion, a very, very dangerous role model.
Because no one is perfect, no one’s business is perfect, no one’s health is perfect, etc.
But your clients believe that if you – their coach or leader – don’t have frustrations, don’t have obstacles, don’t have hardships, that they should be able to attain it too.
And that’s a setup for failure, for frustration, and for unhappiness.
When I am with my clients and students, I never hesitate to share about my not-so-great moments, my not-so-great launches, my not-so-pretty feelings (yes, I get jealous and negative sometimes!), and my sweaty armpits (always happens when I facilitate!).
Of course, I share only when appropriate and only as much as is necessary to make the point: that I am human, just like my client is human, and we are bound to have imperfect lives and businesses. And this is as it should be.
When we are coaching or facilitating, we need to remember that when we show that we struggle with some things, that things don’t always go according to our plans….we are giving permission to our clients to not be so hard on themselves, to not be so self-judgmental, and to not think something is very wrong with them because they haven’t achieved enough.
This is the ONLY way real growth can happen. And this is the ONLY way real movement towards goals can happen.
And quite honestly, this is the only way real self-love can deepen (& I believe that at the core of ANY coach’s or practioner’s job, this is one of the most sacred).
When I train practitioners in Sacred Depths Coach Training, we spend a full module just on how to support clients through the Myth of Perfection. In addition to the inner work tools I share with my coaches on this, I also always share this important principle:
Remember that when you are someone’s coach, teacher or facilitator…you also bear the responsibility of being their role model. And being a role model doesn’t mean showing up as an image of perfection.
A colleague of mine recently confessed something that truly shocked me. She is a hardworking professional, someone I respect and admire, someone who exudes competence, authority, and wisdom – yet she told me this unbelievable story:
She had just agreed to work with a new client, and to begin their partnership she was to attend a training to familiarize herself with the client’s policies and procedures. The meeting took over three hours, and at the end of it, she examined the contractor’s agreement that the client had drawn up. In it, the terms of payment were outlined clearly, but nowhere was there any indication that this training session was to be paid. The client expected to not pay her for the training, and to never let her know upfront. Stunned and speechless, she signed the document, and that was that. She said nothing to change that expectation.
Does this sort of thing ever happen to you? Do you find yourself allowing others to eat up your time in ways that don’t feel right to you?
So, how can you help others to recognize that YOUR time is sacred? To RESPECT it? The key here is to address it head on. When you establish rules & boundaries for your time, you make it clear to others that it is valuable.
Each group of people in your soul-centered project and life needs to be educated in different ways so you can honor and protect your time:
How to Protect Your Time with Clients:
Once you realize that your schedule isn’t working for you and that you want to change it, (see Part 1 of this article on how to determine this) you need to communicate that to the people in your community. This can make even the most confident of us quail a bit, but take heart: I have never lost a single client due to changing my schedule. The key is to let clients know that your schedule will be changing with integrity and in a way that’s aligned with your energy. The new schedule will benefit both you and your client because with a schedule that TRULY works for you, you’ll have even more energy to serve them.
Let your clients know that your schedule is changing by sending an email that says something like this:
“Dear X, I’m excited to let you know that as of October 1, my hours are changing. My new hours are [insert new client hours here]. This schedule will allow me to focus even more fully on you, and serve you in even stronger ways than I have in the past. If you have any questions at all on this, please don’t hesitate to contact me.” This is a simple, fuss-free way to create new boundaries with clients.
How to Protect Your Time with Clients in Session-Based Appointments:
With session-based appointments, it is easy to run overtime, and if it happens once, it tends to continue over and over. It’s easy to get annoyed at clients for this or to get frustrated, but the truth is that it’s on YOU to end your sessions at the appropriate time.
Here are some tips:
- Five minutes before the end of the session, directly tell the client that the session is ending and it’s time to wrap up
- Lead them to this with some wrap-up questions or instructions
- If the issue persists: Send clients an email letting them know that while you’ve been giving extra session time until now, that starting immediately, you’ll be honoring your session time. Let them know that this will help you serve more effectively, and will help you act as a model for them.
How to Protect Your Time with Team Members:
I hear from many folks that there are sometimes team members who haven’t been taking on responsibility, or are doing something the wrong way over and over, and those mistakes are costing time & money. If you have trouble setting boundaries, you might feel awkward, uncomfortable, or guilty about rocking the boat and letting that person know they have to take responsibility. But in your heart, you know that saying nothing will never solve it. The process here has a few steps.
- Get clear on what the team member hasn’t been doing or has been doing incorrectly – both for yourself and for the team member. I highly suggest doing this in person or over the phone – NOT over email.
- Let them know the consequences or repercussions of this: for example, “Every time you make a mistake with scheduling, it costs me time and my clients are not happy” or “I am up all night worrying that such and such did not get done; I am exhausted from it.” It is important that your team members understand exactly how their mistakes are affecting you, your clients, and your business.
- Ask what support they need so they can do it correctly and in the right time, and give them a clear timeframe by which the issue needs to be resolved.
- If the problem is a recurring issue then it may be time to acknowledge that the job is not a good fit for that person, and you need to let him or her go.
How to Protect Your Time with Partners Around Childcare or Household Duties:
If you’re taking on more responsibility at home than you want to, get clear on your need. Then get clear on why your need is so important. For example: I’m very busy with the kids and the house, and in all my extra time I’m working, but I really need time to exercise. If I had time to exercise 3 times per week, I’d be more relaxed, more energized, and not feel stressed and cranky all the time.
- Set a time to speak with your partner – springing these conversations on people is never conducive to success! Make sure you have enough time and space and no distractions to have this conversation about your needs.
- Speak from your heart lovingly about your need and why you need it. Ask your partner to either take on the task or to help find an alternate resolution. The key here isn’t to blame, but to make an aligned request. You might need to tweak or negotiate or brainstorm together from there, but the important thing is to make the request.
When you show others that your time is valuable by setting boundaries in these ways, you create a paradigm that fosters your ability to work efficiently, and promotes success in all your efforts.
More and more women who come to me start by saying they don’t really trust the coaching industry.
They share that the marketing they see feels really glitzy and sales-y, as if celebrity coaches are inflating what’s possible as well as what’s really happening in their own business.
They tell me they’re scared of needing to have “Hell Yeah” attitudes in order to succeed, or being inauthentic in order to attract clients. They also admit that they feel pressure to spend what feels like a bazillion dollars in order to receive “formulas” that they sense aren’t really for them.
Hearing all this saddens me greatly.
Because I know that there are some not-so-pretty things happening in this industry that I love so dearly. And I also know that those not-so-pretty things are damaging women more than supporting them.
The coaching “noise” is everywhere — over social media, in your inbox, spoken from colleagues. It’s hard to know what’s Truth and what’s not.
If you’ve been part of my community, you know that over the last few years, I’ve spoken out more and more about what I call “glamour coaching” and why it is dangerous.