Coaching skills you can use in client meetings
In the third article in his series Three Steps To Adviser Heaven, Chris Budd, managing director of Ovation Finance, outlines specific coaching skills that can be used in meetings with clients
In part 1 of this series we looked at the Coaching/Planning/Advice model of delivering financial advice. In part 2 we saw how this affects the practice. Next let’s look at some specific coaching skills that advisers can use.
Our objective when coaching is to help the client to understand themselves better. We focus our attention on the other person in order to explore their world, their values. Coaching therefore requires a clear intention to listen and observe.
This can be particularly hard for advisers who are trained to find a solution. It’s so often about us, about our knowledge, that advisers tend to find coaching particularly difficult at first.
From the moment we are born we go through a cycle that shapes our perception of the world. We have an experience, this shapes our view of something, which in turn creates values, which influences our actions, which creates new experiences. And round we go, over and over.
The result is that we all have very different world views. And thank goodness for that!
This can reveal itself not only in the actual advice that we give, but also in our line of questioning. If we have a clear intention to focus our understanding on the other person, without judging them, then our questions will not be leading nor contain our own values. This is known as ‘clean questioning’ – and is actually very difficult!
To highlight how difficult clean questioning can be, I have a challenge for you. Start a conversation with someone you know, but perhaps not too well. Ask them something about them. Your task is to see how long you can keep that conversation using only three rules:
1. You are only allowed to speak by asking a question
2. You are not allowed to mention yourself
3. You are not allowed to offer any sort of solution or suggestion
From my experience this can be quite a challenge for advisers, who are often used to the attention being as much on them as it is on the client. So do try it, and I’d love to hear how you get on.
Ask yourself this question – are you a good listener?
I’ve yet to meet someone – especially advisers – who would not answer that question in a positive way. But how good actually are we? How often do you formulate a solution as someone is talking? Or think of a similar story to the one they are telling you, and can’t wait for them to finish to be able to regale them with your anecdote?
A good listener will have that clear intention to listen and observe. It is not passive. Really effective listening includes asking questions that reflect back to the other person the fact that you have listened and understood what they have been telling you.
Advisers will typically be well versed in open and closed questions and when to use each. There are, however, many sub categories of question types both good and bad.
Take the multiple question, for example, that is favoured by interviewers such as Jonathan Ross. If you ask a question such as “What will you do when you retire, do you want to buy the boat you mentioned earlier or is travelling something you are interested in?” the client will almost certainly answer the last question and tell you about their travel plans. You have in effect limited the options they have for sharing what they want to do when they retire!
The general rule is to keep things simple. What is the information you seek? Ask the simplest question to gain that information or insight.
This is, of course, the merest flavour of some of the skills that coaches employ. Other areas include uncovering the clients’ deeper needs and motivation and building strong relationships and trust. The general theme for advisers is that we must reverse our approach, to focus on the client and resist solutions.
Indeed, a particular skill needed by advisers is when to coach and when to give advice, and even to flip between the two modes during one meeting.
I hope that during this series of articles about coaching for advisers you will have seen how the Coaching/Planning/Advice model delivers added value to the client and the advisory practice. It can also be rewarding for the individual adviser as you start to have a much greater impact on the lives of your clients.
In the fourth and final part of this series we’ll look at a case study where we helped a client using a coaching/planning/advice approach.
Chris is a Diploma qualified business coach.