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.

 

http://www.cc-chapman.com/2012/yes-im-going-to-sxsw/

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.

I’m grateful to be overwhelmed.

Anyone care to guess why I might be feeling a wee bit overwhelmed today?

Yes, my monitor sits on an old Webster’s Dictionary.

While I was blissfully chatting up like-minded people and crafting a nonconventional life for myself at World Domination Summit last weekend, artifacts, most representing to-do’s, have steadily accumulated on my desk, visual cues that I’ve got a crap-ton of piddly-ass shit to do. It’s not that everything is important; in fact very few things are meaningful “big rocks.” But I’m a girl who craves sparse minimalism and needs space, so this kind of visual clutter is overwhelming.

My post-conference modus operandi is to take the day after off to follow up with people I’ve met, review my notes and set action items for myself. And, of course, the desk gets cleared. This system works for me and is one of the methods I use to prevent overwhelm after attending events.

Enter the monkey wrench.

As you’ve probably heard, Chris Guillebeau and the WDS team found that not only did they make money at this year’s conference they were approached by an anonymous donor, so they decided to combine the money and invest it in this year’s participants to the tune of $100 each. Yes, you read that correctly. WDS returned $100 to each of this year’s participants.

So today I find myself overwhelmed. I’m grateful for the faith the WDS team has in me. I’m thankful for the opportunity to do something exceptional with this seed money. I’m gobsmacked at the prospect of so very many options. And I’m terrified of doing the wrong thing.

This is what overwhelm looks like today:

Social media isn’t as scary as the gurus want you to think.

Every time I attend a business event I am inevitably asked what I do. “My passion is helping small businesses connect with their customers online and off using social media, blogging,…”

Her body shifts uneasily. There’s a measurable distance now between us. We’re both uncomfortable. Continue reading

Not everyone should be client facing

Some people, no matter their stellar brainpower, impeccable work ethic and fantastic sense of style, should never be client facing. I’m not saying you shouldn’t hire them. You’d be crazy not to.

They’re great hunkered down behind their computers, doing research and hammering out strategy. Most of the time they’re the work horses of great organizations. But you don’t want them interacting directly with your clients. Continue reading

Doing It Right: Breaking Pointe

My pilates instructor, Kelly Recktenwald, is passionate about all things dance. So last week when I happened to catch the new show Breaking Pointe she was the first person I thought of, so I tweeted her. But, of course, by the time she saw the tweet the episode had finished.

Last night I happened to come across what turned out to be the second half of the second episode, so I tweeted her again. She was in allergy hell and missed the my message.

Aside: It just seems wrong to call or text to let a person know that a trivial reality show is on T.V. Ya know what I mean? I don’t know why, but tweeting seems a little less intrusive.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when I noticed this tweet from Allison DeBona:

How had she noticed my tweet, you ask? I had used the hashtag #BreakingPointe a hashtag she most likely regularly searches to find individuals conversing about her show. Notice she utilized the hashtag in her response as well.

Great job listening, Alli. I’ll be watching Thursday.

Revealing my story with help from Chris Martin

My hatred for being photographed is inordinate. I dread photo sessions like most people dread root canals. Remarkable, award-winning photographers have taken hundreds of photos that yielded only a few satisfactory shots.
So, when I scheduled a photo shoot last month, everyone asked why. They loved the old photo. The white pants. The candy-red patent Via Spiga pumps. (What’s not to love?)
I’d responded with, “It’s time…it’s been four years,” but I knew better. The lackluster photos had nothing to do with the photographers or the skills of the make-up artist or the number on the scale at the time. They had everything to do with me not showing up. The results portrayed my shell without my spirit.
So this time around I decided to focus on being present. And I chose to work with Chris Martin. Yes, the Chris Martin: documentary filmmaker, photographer, writer and speaker. I’d seen many exceptional examples of his art but had never had the opportunity to work with him. Chris’ relaxed manner and casual smile put me at ease. We drank coffee at Breken Kitchen and talked for about an hour. And then he said, “Let’s take a walk.” What’s scary about a walk? Absolutely nothing.
And so we walked and laughed. I soaked in the beautiful day, our surroundings and basked in the moment. With Chris’ guidance and exceptional skill he positioned me in the best light. Looking at the exceptional resulting photos, I find that Chris revealed the real me.
Do you need help revealing your story? Give Chris a jingle.

The importance of being different.

Even at 5:57 a.m. there’s an obscenely long line weaving towards security at for Gate D at Portland’s International Airport. Judging by their demeanor, few of then passengers have consumed their morning cuppa and they trudged like zombies through the maze on their approach to the TSA’s once over.

As a TSA agent approached the shuffling line, she loudly asked if anyone was in possession of chocolate. We all largely ignored the uniform’s announcements, assuming we’d memorized the TSA drill, so this question caught everyone’s attention.

Seriously?! Now they’re not letting people carry on chocolate? Oh, this can not end well. Continue reading