Hear, hear! These are excellent points, Rhonda, and you present them so clearly. I've been there, done that with every co-dependent move I could make with clients. When I stopped, my business grew and my clients got better results. Amen!
Strong Business Boundaries Set You Up for Success
Are you a coach or a care-taker? Do you find yourself making concessions for your clients that leave you frustrated and frazzled? Then it is time to set strong boundaries. You can do this with the Five Sacred Coaching Boundaries.
In my first few years as a coach I was a care-taker with my clients. It was in my nature and I thought it was the kind way to coach. I thought it was better to serve the client no matter what the cost to me. Do you relate to that?
I continually made concessions that jeopardized my success:
- Offering a second or extra long sample session.
- Reducing fees because I sensed my prospect was struggling financially (even though I was too).
- Set session times when I didn't want to work.
- Leaping at any opportunity before looking at the possible return on investment of time.
These situations always ended up being lessons learned, sometimes painful ones.
And then one day I committed to stop all of that and I set strong business boundaries. A remarkable thing happened:
1. Suddenly, my coaching was in high demand.
2. Clients stayed longer and made greater progress.
3. My income significantly increased.
4. I had time to create products and design new programs.
It was as if I freed myself to be more professional in my business and that, in turn, raised the perception of my value and the way my clients invested in themselves. It was empowering!
Before you get caught in another good lesson, set up your business with strong boundaries. They create a friendly and ethical structure that allows others to find their place with you. Good boundaries speak volumes about your professionalism and keep both you and your clients on track.
Here are the Five Sacred Coaching Boundaries:
1. Want only as much for your clients as they want for themselves.
If you find yourself feeling frustrated about your client's results, you may be wanting more for them than they want for themselves. In effect, you may be energetically taking on their success as your job.
Challenge your clients to do what they say they will in alignment with their goals and let go of the outcome. If you can't let go of the outcome, you may need to let go of the client.
If you find yourself emotionally affected by your client's lack of progress, consider setting criteria for your prospective clients. In my own business as a mentor coach, to avoid getting started with someone who isn't ready to make significant progress, I pre-qualify possible clients by asking:
"Are you committed to creating your own success and ready to invest your resources (time, energy and money) to make this happen now?"
I may even go further to inquire about how much time they can dedicate and how many months of coaching they can budget.
I've found this puts clients on notice that positive results on their coaching goals is largely up to them. It also raises the perceived value of my coaching services because they see that I don't take on just anyone.
2. Let your clients do their own work
Oh, I know, it's tempting to offer direct support when you have an expertise in something. Say your client is conducting a job search, they need to create a resume, and it just so happens this is one of your many skill sets. Resist the temptation to do it for them or to put your hands on their projects. Give them tips, cautiously offer feedback if they ask for it, but don't do their work! If you do, you move from co-creative coach to consultant.
Think about what you're saying to your clients if you do their work for them. It might convey a lack of trust in them and their development. It asserts a tremendous amount of influence on their life -- you may not be prepared for the liabilities of that influence. If your advice or handiwork does not produce the results they expect, they may blame you and the co-creative relationship may be irreparably damaged.
If you have tremendous expertise in an area that is valuable to your clients, offer that expertise through ezine articles, fee-based teleclasses, workshops and products. If you feel in your integrity that it's right to offer hands-on help, contract for separate consulting fees. But beware; the dual relationship could injure your coaching role. Coaching ethics advise against dual relationships.
3. Stand firmly by your chosen fees and terms.
Set fees that pay you well for the time it takes to market and administrate your business, as well as coach and manage your clients. If you discount your services because a prospective client won't afford your fees, in essence you've discounted the value of your services. So will your new client. The coaching won't be as effective because the client is depending on you to take on some of the burden of their financial limitations. This forces you both out of the co-creative relationship. (See Disempowering Clients - An Unintended Result and The Co-creative Relationship)
Consider developing group coaching at about half your monthly one-on-one retainer fee for individuals on a tighter budget. This way you offer them something of value without taking on their financial problems as your own. Once your practice is well developed you can have a client or two on partial scholarship where they pay at a reduced rate for a limited time, say two to three months. Then the fee goes up to your full rate. You'll want to be sure they'll make a strong commitment to doing their own work. And never call it a discount. But remember, you have a fiduciary responsibility to your own business first. As many other professionals do - create your own prosperity then give back to the community generously.
4. Hold time boundaries.
If you're like me, it's easy to run over time in sessions. I enjoy my clients and used to forget to focus towards close in the last ten minutes of the session. I've learned to value my time and energy by holding myself to the time boundary more and more.
Occasionally, giving a client an extra five minutes makes sense. Now I only give extra time to clients consciously. I note it by saying: "I'd like to give you a bit of extra time today. Let's plan to end at 1:10 instead of 1:00. Will that work for you?" This affects my client three ways:
a. The client understands that I've loosened the time boundary consciously instead of just being sloppy.
b. By my asking permission, they see I care about their time boundaries.
c. They perceive additional value in my services.
If you're running over 5-10 minutes or more every session, you are decreasing your profits, by reducing the time that could be spent with another client or making improvements in your business. And, you may be sending a message to your client that you don't value your time or run your business professionally.
Either raise your fees and session length or train yourself to end on time. One way to train yourself is to schedule sessions with only a small margin in between -- 15 minutes max. That way, there's time to stretch, use the bathroom, and finish notes before the next client -- but not much more.
In addition to client session time, watch your time when answering inquiries. Let the caller know you are available for a specified amount of time. This is a courtesy that will also keep you on track.
5. Say 'yes' only to opportunities that will return your investment.
When asked to do something -- take on a role, task or project -- give yourself time to thoroughly review how well it:
- Fits your interests. (See Managing Your Time Like a Professional)
- Aligns with your business purpose and niche.
- Provides a good return on your investment of time.
Say no, unless it will pay off for you. This applies to non-business opportunities as well. If you're overcommitted, you will not be able to dedicate enough time and energy to satisfy any of your priorities, especially your business goals.
Turn down work that isn't ideal. If clients are not a good fit, refer them to another coach that fits the client's interest, values or price range better. It will make room for the right opportunities and your ideal clients.
Enjoy the structure these boundaries bring to your business. You'll find yourself feeling more professional, and your clients will want to emulate the standards you demonstrate. You'll also see how positively it affects your bottom line.
Learn more about the author, Rhonda Hess.
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