Coaching 101: Guidelines for working with new clients

I’ll never forget the first time I sat down at my future in-laws’ kitchen table intent on learning how to play euchre. My (future) husband launched into a monologue about a new world order in the land of playing cards where jacks, renamed bowers, were the highest-ranking cards. The “right” bower was the jack of trump. The “left” was the other jack of the same color…

And he lost me. If I am to be perfectly honest, I contemplated feigning food poisoning after the second sentence. You can change the order of cards?! The highest card changes depending on trump?! {whatever that is} So how often and when does trump change?

Not only were all of the concepts new, the terminology was the equivalent of Czech to me. And the “explanations” only added to my confusion because with them came the introduction of even more new terms. Help!

Just because a person has information doesn’t mean that he is adequately equipped to relay the information to someone else. Simply put: not everyone’s a teacher.

Here the guidelines I use when I’m coaching new clients:

  • Begin at the beginning. To borrow from The Sound of Music’s Maria, it’s a very good place to start. You have to start where the learner is and move forward from there.
  • Break it down. Define all new terms in common language.
  • Explain the goals first then the basics. People want to know where they’re going. After that they only want to know enough to get them started and get them on their way to the goal.
  • Examples are key. Most people learn from observing. I know I do. They see an example and then they’re able to transfer the information gleaned from the example to their own experiences later.
  • There’s nothing like learning by doing. Talk is cheap; most people need to get behind the steering wheel and drive.
  • Strategy and exceptions can wait. There will be plenty of time for that later. Let them play a few hands first. A good student will pick up some strategy along the way.

So what happened with me and euchre, you ask? I sat at my mother-in-law’s elbow and watched her play hand after hand. Eventually, she sat at my elbow and coached me. Eventually, we played side by side, me with the occasional question. Now I love the game and play every chance I get.

If you’d like to hire me to coach you to use content or social media to connect with your customers, give me a jingle. Or if you’re up for a game of euchre. I’m game for either.

Like C.C. Chapman, I prefer smaller groups

networkingA couple of years ago when I read C.C. Chapman’s article, Yes, I’m Going to SXSW, But Not to Your Party, I nearly jumped for joy. He wrote that he prefers small gatherings where he can get to know people. It’s O.K. to admit that? If, C.C. Chapman can put that out there, so can I, and so can you.

When I first launched my own consulting business I was told that networking events were a must, so I attended most of the local events. And how many meaningful connections did I make, you ask? One. Noland Hoshino, with whom I’d conversed on Twitter, stalked me at an event, and we hit it off, the beginning of a wonderful friendship that even led to a business collaboration, SMO Books.

But the connection started on Twitter, and I found that if I invited my local Twitter connections to coffee, I’d be in my comfort zone, and we’d be able to have meaningful conversations. So that’s what I started to do. And I met a lot of amazing people that way.

So here’s what I’m saying: No matter what your personality type, there’s a way for you to connect with likeminded people. It may not be what everyone else is doing. Make it work for you.

It’s gotta make sense

You’ve seen it. The recent U of O journalism grad reporting “breaking news” at 11:00 from remote, long-since-deserted shooting locations. Shattered glass was swept up hours ago. Since the witnesses have tucked into their dinners, and probably even their beds, there’s no one to interview. Even the reporter appears clueless as to why she’s here.

Viewers aren’t fooled. Reporting from a location long after the fact doesn’t give credence to a news report. It’s just gimmicky reporting.

On the other hand, Today’s Savannah Guthrie reported from Charlotte this morning because reporting from this location, vs. the studio in New York City, is relevant. She’s in Charlotte to prepare for tonight’s opening of the Democrat’s Convention. Her producer wisely used Guthrie’s early arrival as an opportunity for her to interview Democratic contender Elizabeth Warren on the state of the economy.