Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Coaching and the Stages of Change

There is a concept in psychology called the Stages of Change Model (SCM). The theory was developed by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente in their study of addictions. However, SCM is applicable to other areas including coaching.

First, let me explain the 5 stages.

Stage 1 – Precontemplation
In this stage, you may not be aware of a problem. Or you are aware of the problem, but have no desire to change or address the issue.
Stage 2 – Contemplation
If you are in this stage, you are aware that there’s an issue and you are seriously thinking about making changes
Stage 3 – Preparation
In this stage you are preparing to take action, and the action will happen quickly
Stage 4 – Action
In this stage you are actively modifying the way you are currently doing things to effect change
Stage 5 – Maintenance
In this stage the change has occurred, but you are engaging in activities that maintain the change.

So how does this apply to coaching?
The very act of coaching involves being able to identify what needs to be changed to cause the desired result. Most importantly, your client needs to have a clear understanding that in order to make it to the next level, they must change, be aware of what needs to change, take action to cause the change, and then identify mechanisms to maintain the change that has occurred.

The people who are not your customers yet in your target niche may not recognize they have a blockage that keeps them from reaching the next level. They are in the precontemplation stage. You should have such a clear understanding of your niche, that you can identify the blockages (i.e. thoughts, beliefs, actions) that keep your clients where they are, and in need of your services.

So your marketing efforts should be focused on identifying the blockages that your target client may not be aware is a problem, and how you can collaborate with them to make the breakthroughs they are seeking. This helps move your future clients from precontemplation to contemplation. You want your clients to seriously think about addressing the blockages that are holding them back.

For customers who are in the preparation stage, they are researching you to see how you can help fix their problem. You will be Googled.   So your reputation in the marketplace should be as pristine as possible. That means networking, getting testimonials from former clients, having good customer service, and engaging in quality collaborations that advance your own brand.

The clients who are ringing your phone are either in the prep or action stage. You should be able to build a rapport with the client so that they willingly hand you that nice check. We’ll address rapport building in another post. It’s important to verify that your client is in the action phase and is committed to change. One way of doing that is give them an extensive application to complete. There should also be a through interview that takes place. Your time is valuable and so is your client’s. If after the application and interview you sense that you and the client aren't  good fit or they may not yet be ready to take the steps to make it to the next level, let them know upfront. However, if the client calls and says “I’ll gladly pay your fee and do whatever it takes to get it done,” that’s a good indicator that he is ready to take some action. Be sure to note how they approach assignments that you give them. Are there excuses about why the assignment wasn't completed every time? Are they redirecting the conversation to focus on other issues, rather than the task at hand? You may need to reassess the client’s readiness for change. That happens sometimes. But address the issue when it first comes up, not 6 months later when the client still hasn't shown any noticeable results of the changes they are trying to make.  

In the course of helping your client, you will likely identify other blockages that you can help them with. Back to precontemplation. Bring it to their attention. But be respectful if they aren't ready to address it yet. You are planting seeds for future business because you want repeat clients. You may also identify an issue that is outside of your scope. If that is the case, then refer to another coach or in some cases a psychotherapist when appropriate. Other coaches appreciate referrals and in turn would likely return the favor in the future.

Depending on your business model, you can make money in the maintenance phase as well. This can be done by offering additional services or packages that help your clients maintain the change they were seeking.  In the process, you continue to add value, which is always a good thing.  

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