By | Dr Marshall Goldsmith | #1 Leadership Thinker, Exec Coach, NYT Bestselling Author. Dartmouth Tuck Professor Mgmt Practice
Nearly 40 years ago, when I first started coaching, when the organization said you needed a coach, it was not a good sign. Often executives were assigned an executive coach or a life coach because they had a problem or “issues”. So, the payment method that we use in Stakeholder Centered Coaching – being paid only for results –let people know that we were either crazy or that we really believed this process works.
And, we are very successful! How do we do it? It’s all about client selection. One of the most successful coaches I know, Chris Coffey, shares his take with me on selecting clients in this excerpt from our recent interview.
Marshall: You know, Chris, when you get paid for results, bottom line is you have to have choose great clients. This is an important challenge for us. When we pick the right clients, Stakeholder Centered Coaching always works. When we pick the wrong client, it never works. What are some of the criteria you look for to make sure that, as a coach, you select great people?
Chris: This is such an important question for each coach to ask himself or herself. I’ve evolved over the 20 years I’ve been doing this. On one of my early engagements, I took a bad engagement. I was warned against it, but my ego had to took over!
I worked so hard with that client. I refused the money at the end. I said, “No, we don’t get paid unless they improved. This person didn’t improve.”
That was the best learning experience I’ve had. I haven’t done that again. Today, right in the interview process, I tell prospective coaches that this process takes courage, discipline, and humility. It takes courage to tell people what you’re going to do. It takes discipline to follow an action plan. And it takes humility to admit you’re not perfect and that you can get better.
There aren’t a lot of people who can go through this process. I challenge the client. I ask them, “Are you up to this?” I tell them I won’t get paid unless they improve. I don’t turn down anybody at the beginning and if I sense after a few weeks that they’re not serious, I just walk. I don’t bill them. Just let them know this isn’t going to work and walk.
If someone isn’t serious, I won’t get paid because they won’t get better. I’m not interested in that. I’ve got a family to support, so I let them go and move onto someone who does want to change. I think that’s a real advantage being able to let a client go.
Marshall: That’s a great explanation of the pay for results method, Chris. Thank you!