A smooth onboarding process is a coaching tool that will make or break the start of any coaching engagement. How have you systematized AND personalized your coaching onboarding process?
We’ve used the past two posts to discuss how to scale your coaching business. We explored coaching tools in the first post and tech solutions in the second. This post is about optimizing your coaching client onboarding process to help scale.
Well, it felt like a disaster anyway. We had just landed a new client, coaching six executives over a long-term engagement. All of whom were new to coaching.
We were extremely responsive during the proposal process.
We moved quickly to meet the client’s near-term start date requirements.
360 feedback review session…shit!
We’d run 360-degree feedback reviews forever. I can’t even count how many. Along the way we’ve learned some valuable lessons on how to make the 360 feedback process go right.
But this one caught us by surprise. The client thought we were going to filter the written comments instead of having the rater verbatim comments included in the online 360 results. The merits of the client’s cause are debatable, but it doesn’t matter. We disappointed our client. And they literally used the word “disappointment” to describe their experience.
We ate some humble pie on this one, and it almost cost us our relationship.
Almost nothing could be more important than having a smooth coaching client onboarding process. Here’s what we learned and what we are doing to improve.
What We Learned
Systematize AND personalize the onboarding process. Making your onboarding process repeatable is critical to scaling your business. After all, the things you do to start a client engagement are likely very similar across all of your projects. Systemization allows you to do what you love most – coach your clients! While systemization is important, it’s not sufficient. It has to be balanced with a personal touch – one that lets the client know that they are valued, important and unique.
Meet your clients where they are. When clients are familiar with coaching, less handholding is needed. Others, like the example client in this post, need more step-by-step attention. In this particular case, the client’s culture was highly analytical, literal and tipped with low trust. We made assumptions we shouldn’t have made, moved quickly at the client’s request and should have mapped out some of the specific steps in more detail (slow down to speed up).
Make the intangible…tangible. We all know that coaching can produce incredible results. But sometimes clients need something they can grasp and hold onto at the beginning of an engagement. Fear and anxiety come from the unknown. Making the client deliverables more tangible would have created more clarity for our client.
What we are already doing well
We’re already doing a lot of things well with our coaching onboarding process. For example…
- We use coaching technology tools to anchor the administrative aspects of onboarding. Of course we use Coachmetrix! We created a START HERE: WELCOME KIT “collection” that includes the following information:
- A welcome letter and our coaching agreements
- A detailed PDF/overview of the coaching process
- A visual map of the coaching process
- Information about the 360 process, a template to upload rater information and a sample rater “heads up” email
Utilizing Coachmetrix to systematize the onboarding process allows us to ultimately spend more time making the onboarding process more personalized. I once heard that improv comics are some of the most rehearsed actors in the world. The rehearsal provides structure, which in turn enables the improv comic to be more spontaneous. The same happens with Coachmetrix. For us, Coachmetrix does the heaving lifting of the administrative aspects of the engagement, leaving more time to provide a personalized experience for the client.
- We conduct monthly pulse checks with our clients (and/or the executive sponsors) to review observations and recommendations, measurement data and to gather client input. The pulse checks are conducted monthly, are scheduled at the very beginning of the program and enable us to stay close to our clients and make adjustments as needed.
What we will do more of
To get better and to personalize the process even more, we plan to…
Check in with the client to understand what they are experiencing emotionally. If we truly grasped the anxiety our clients were facing, we could have helped alleviate the tension. Lesson learned – seek to understand our client’s concerns not just at the process level, but at the emotional level too.
Use visual roadmaps and examples of deliverables. Showing a tangible deliverable always brings the conceptual to life. While we did a good job of displaying a visual of our coaching roadmap and approach, we could have shown a sample 360 report at the beginning of the project to ensure the client had clarity on what they were getting and how the process would work. Providing this extra visual would have helped alleviate the anxiety and doubt about the process.
Help draft corporate wide communications. If everyone impacted by the coaching and/or 360 process better understood what was coming in advance, there would have been fewer questions afterward. In the future, we’ll more specifically outline how rater feedback will be captured and displayed.
How to Apply These Tools in Your Coaching Business
Improving your coaching onboarding process will only help you scale your coaching business.
For those operationally minded coaches, you may need to focus on the personal aspects of the engagement.
For the more intuitive types, you may have to focus on the systemization aspects of the engagement.
Either way, get ahead of the game, knowing that both personalization and systemization are important.
And – look for ways in which Coachmetrix can help, so that you can ultimately do more of what you love (hint: coaching people).