Fed up fixing under-performance? 7 steps to winning business coaching high flyers
September 9, 2016 by Kevin Oubridge
Ever heard a coach say:
I always seem to end up coaching to fix poor performance. It would be nice to work with someone who’s on the way up.
Or perhaps you’ve said something similar yourself?
We can all understand the sentiment.
It feels good to help someone keep their job but there are more stimulating forms of coaching.
For example, you could work with high-performers, the people who make a real difference to the success of their organisation.
Coach the high-flyers, get great results for your clients and win more coaching off the back of it.
Wouldn’t that be great!
It’s a shame, then, if all you can get is fix-it / knock-into-shape type coaching, where coaching participants have been told they’re not good enough, with the measure of your success being that they achieve Satisfactory, rather than Needs to improve, at the next performance review.
Don’t get me wrong, this type of coaching can benefit the coaching participant but it generally involves only incremental improvement, with the distinctly modest aims of minimizing costs and scraping by.
“I help people be mediocre”
Not the most Inspiring marketing message you’ll ever hear.
If you work with high-performers, however, the chances for improvement and growth are exponential.
Instead of eeking out minor and localized changes to save a bit of money, suddenly your coaching is transforming behaviours, empowering teamwork and raising organizational performance for improved business results.
Here’s what some of our ICT clients have achieved through their coaching:
Buy-in for restructuring programme from global board and increased revenue of 20%.
Shorter sales cycle, better engaged and motivated team and increased revenue of £7.5 million per year.
Increased goal focus, new account wins, increased profit.
Global Account Director
Aren’t these the sort of results you want for your clients?
Not forgetting you and your coaching practice of course.
These sort of results would make it easier for you to sell further coaching to your client company, and you could build long-term relationships, where you win coaching business year on year.
And you could charge a higher price too.
All through targeting and working with high-performers.
But how do you do it?
Here are 7 simple steps that will set you on your way:
1. Develop the right approach for first contact
If you want to work with high-performers, you need to pitch specifically to them.
It’s no use saying you mostly help under-performers but would love the opportunity to work with high flyers too.
You need to tell your potential clients you work with high-performers. You need to let them know you understand the problems they typically face and the difference your coaching can make for them. Something like:
I work with high-performing leaders who want to transform their part of the business but are constantly hampered by issues of delegation, teamwork and communication. What they want is to be able to leave their team to get on with the operational stuff, freeing them up to focus on strategy and achieving their vision for their part of the company.
If leaders aren’t your niche, adapt the message to whoever you work with – high flying PA’s, managers who are going places, other employees making a real difference.
You need to speak directly to your target market. Your ideal clients need to hear what you say and think:
That’s me, I have those problems, I want those outcomes.
That’s what will grab their attention.
Then, having grabbed their attention you need to get them to do the talking. Ask them:
What are the challenges you face in your role?
What outcomes do you want?
It’s simple stuff.
Yet very powerful.
Most people are happy to talk about their work situation, particularly to someone who seems genuinely interested and a good listener.
2. Leave them wanting more
As you might expect, a sound bite and a couple of questions are not enough.
You need to continue to build the relationship, perhaps over a number of weeks.
Your aim should be to get your potential clients to agree to a more formal meeting, where you ask them about their vision for their part of the business and dig down into the challenges they face, the pain it causes them and the outcomes they want.
You’re covering the same areas as at first contact, just in much more detail.
Such meetings give genuine prospects time and head-space to step back from their day-to-day and look at their situation in the context of the bigger picture.
We have found that high performers who participate in these more formal meetings, which we call Strategy Sessions by the way, benefit hugely from them. At the end of the meeting they are clear about what they need to work on to raise their game.
They are also left wanting more.
More of you and more of your coaching.
We win all our business using Strategy Sessions, converting more than 90% of the leaders who agree to a session to paying clients.
A conversion rate in excess of 90% !!?
Sounds a far-fetched claim I know but, if you read on, you’ll see how this is possible.
3. Give your coaching purpose and direction
If you’re working with high-performers, you need to nail down coaching outcomes, tailored specifically to the coaching participant’s role.
Agreeing time limited outcomes maximizes the difference your coaching makes. You both know where you are with the coaching and where you’re trying to get to.
And, if you’ve won the business via a Strategy Session, you’ve already identified the areas the participant wants to work on. So it’s just a question of agreeing desired outcomes based on what has gone before.
You can then refer to the outcomes throughout the coaching engagement to keep you both on track, and at the end to see how you’ve done.
High performers, in common with most people, love this approach – they can actually see the progress they are making through their coaching.
It also makes it easier to pick up where you left off in the previous coaching session, maximizing the value of your coaching.
4. Align your coaching with business objectives
You give your coaching even greater focus and direction if you link it to achieving your client company’s business objectives.
After all, that’s what the client company is paying you for, to help coaching participants raise their game for improved business results and, ultimately, increased revenue and profit.
This is a crucial difference between coaching to fix under-performance, which is about managing costs, and coaching to raise the game of a high flyer, which is focused on aspiration and growth.
It takes just two simple questions:
How will you know you have achieved this outcome?
What will be the impact on your business objectives?
You can go further too, if you involve the coaching participant’s line manager in a 3-way meeting to discuss these areas.
If you link your coaching to business objectives it maximizes its value, as well as giving it credibility in the eyes of your client company.
5. Make your coaching measurable
Clearly, if you’re going to agree coaching outcomes, it makes sense to link them to achieving wider business objectives.
And if you can link your coaching to business objectives, you can measure results using business metrics.
Get coaching participants to nail down the success measures you’ll use to assess exactly what they’ve achieved through their coaching. Ask them what existing metrics and KPIs (key performance indicators) will be impacted and to what extent.
They won’t be able to give you definitive answers but they can get close and, equally as important, in trying to do so, they’ll develop their understanding of what it is they’re trying to achieve.
And if you involve the line manager, they’ll develop that understanding too.
Simply by following these three steps, agree outcomes, aligning them to business objectives and nailing down success measures, your coaching becomes more tangible, more focused and of much more value to coaching participants.
It can be discussed with understanding and credibility in your client company’s management meetings.
It can even become part of the planning and decision making process.
6. Measure the difference your coaching has made
Of course, having taken the time to identify success measures, you must use them at the close of the coaching engagement to see how well coaching participants have done.
So always, always, always ask them:
To what extent have you achieved the outcomes we agreed at the start?
Get them to review their coaching outcomes, links to business objectives and any metrics and KPIs they identified. Challenge them on their responses, getting them to think through and justify their claims.
Then set up a meeting with the participant and line manager, and facilitate a discussion on what the participant achieved as a result of the coaching.
And don’t worry that you’ll be forcing yet another meeting on them and that they’ll resent spending time on this.
There is enormous value for both of them in reviewing performance and measuring results in this way.
Invariably, participants and line managers recognize this and readily participate.
7. Shout about your results!
You’ve got great results working with a high-performer in your client company.
You’ve followed a robust process, involving the coaching participant and line manager, to identify as closely as possible what those results are.
You have clear and credible evidence of the difference your coaching has made.
Everybody in your client company is focused on their own agendas and hitting deadlines – meeting upon meeting, endless phone calls, a deluge of emails, skipping lunch, working late into the night, the usual stuff.
No let up.
There is ZERO chance that any of them will be aware your coaching even took place, let alone know what it achieved.
You need to tell them.
Identify the key stakeholders in your coaching in the client company, such as the budget holder who paid for it, the decision maker on who gets coaching and human resources. Not forgetting the coaching participant and line manager – you may have been working with them but, due to pressures and complexity of work, they’ll quickly move on.
Then set up one-to-one meetings with each of your key stakeholders.
Go through the results of your coaching and, having demonstrated the value you bring and got their attention, ask them who else in their organisation could benefit from it.
And, of course, you can offer Strategy Sessions to the high performers they identify.
This is what we do at Accelerated Success, our coaching practice, which is why we achieve a 90% conversion rate from Strategy Sessions (remember back to point 2).
We build the relationship with just a few corporate clients and win further business year on year. We’ve been with some of our clients for over ten years now, always working with high performers and picking up further business and referrals via the key stakeholders in the coaching.
Try it for yourself.
It’s better for your clients and more satisfying and profitable for you than fixing under-performance.