How to Coach Your Client (Into Being a Better Client)

Guest Author Holly McKissick | The Hughes Agency

Endeavor’s signature Getting Down to Business series recently featured Jason Blumer and Julie Shipp, co-owners of Thriveal, a community for accounting firm owners who want to run their companies like entrepreneurs. Given their experience with both corporate America and the startup world, they have a knack for problem-solving across the spectrum of organizations. It turns out, the root of many problems in the workplace stems from the way we think.

The duo presented a daring title for their lunchtime seminar – “How to coach your client (into being a better client).”  As a public relations account executive who manages a range of different clients, I was intrigued. Not that my clients need improvement – but why not add a new set of tools to my toolbox to help them achieve greater success?

Here’s what I learned:

A quick lesson on neurology: we focused on three different parts of the brain and how they affect our behavior. The amygdala, the basal ganglia, and the prefrontal cortex. The CliffsNotes version is that the amygdala is our emotional center; the basal ganglia is our movement and reflexes center; and the prefrontal cortex is our critical thinking center.

Effective coaching is about engaging the right part of your brain. The prefrontal cortex is the brain’s strategic wheelhouse. It’s where we envision the future, and it’s where our personality is developed. When helping a client solve a problem, that is the part of the brain we want to activate, because that’s the goal-setting mode. One of the best ways to do that is to ask specific questions. For example: “On a scale of 1-7, how would you rate the performance of your marketing initiatives this year compared to last year?” or, “What are the top three challenges facing your team this quarter?” When you have to evaluate based on specific questions, you’re isolating barriers so you can begin to think clearly about how to overcome them.

Be an ESOT. When working with clients, it’s important to be an Empathetic, Safe, Objective Truthteller. This is really about trust. If you’re going to get to the root of a client’s problem, it is critical that they can trust that they’re opening up to someone who will be nonjudgmental, confidential, and totally honest. We could all use an ESOT when solving a problem – not just clients and their coaches. These are good qualities for any human to embody.

At my next client meeting, I’m going to be intentional about asking questions to help solve problems – and who knows; they might just solve their own problem without even realizing it.