The Devil is in the ... preparations - by Nicholas Wai


Like any relationships, both the coach and the client have an interest from the get go to find out if the partnership will work. From the client’s perspective, this may involve knowing the coach’s qualification and expertise, his or her methods and perferences, and also his or her background and experiences. From the coach’s perspectice, this may involve knowing the nature of the issues, the organisational context, and the readiness of the client for coaching. To this end, a chemistry meeting will usually be held before a coaching engagement, for both parties to not only find out the factors mentioned above, but importantly to see if they will be a good “fit” to work with each other.

I had the pleasure of being invited to one such meeting last week, which, despite having been to quite a few before, I still felt a bit anxious of. The meeting was with a prospect based in Hong Kong, but introduced by a coaching consultancy in the US. This is actually quite common especially for multinational clients, who tend to source their coaching needs via consultancies they are working with at headquarters, who in turn maintain a list of coaches in major cities around the world who share their values and practices.

No two chemistry meetings are exactly the same, and for this one it was different in that the prospect was a C-level expatriate who had not work with an executive coach before, and who would be meeting with a number coaches (who knew who each other were) before deciding on one. Depsite of those circumstances, what I have control of was how I prepare for such a meeting, which I have found to be both calming and reassuring, and helped me to focus on the task at hand, the client, rather than on my own internal dialogues. At the end, I think the meeting went quite well and we quickly established rapport and understanding  a few minutes after shaking our hands.  What we discussed included the client’s situation, my experience and view on coaching, how a typically coaching engagement is designed and managed, how outcome is being measured (which depends very much on the context), and experiences in living and working in different countries, which we shared some similarities. As the client would still be meeting a number of coaches before making a decision, the outcome would not be know for some time. Nevertheless, considering my objectives of getting to know each other and establishing if we would be a fit for going into a coaching relationship, I think the meeting was a success.

So what did I do to prepare for the meeting? There were five steps to my preparation:

1) I reviewed the coaching models and tools I learnt and highlighted those that might be relevant for this engagement

  • Although I was familiar with the coaching knowledge I have picked up along the way, it was still beneficial to review them in the context of a particular project.

2) I studied the profile of the client’s organisation and also the bio of the prospective client supplied by the consultancy (supplemented by other information I managed to find online)

  • This helped me form an initial understanding of the environment in which the client operated in and also the client’s past experience, which would have shaped the mindset and behaviours of the client. This was however just an initial view, as I would want to stay open-minded during the meeting.

3) I came up with different possible scenarios and prepared responses to each

  •  By running the different questions that were likely to be asked and possible scenarios, as well as my likely responses and reactions, I was not only more prepared but felt more confident that I would be able to handle them.

4) I visualised the meeting

  • This helped me familarize, with not only the scenarios, but become more aware of my likely thoughts and feelings, thus reduced some of the possible surprises.

5) I reminded myself both during preparing and before the meeting that this was a learning experience

  • Of all the steps I have taken to prepare for this meeting, I felt that this was the most important. By assuming a “learning” rather than a “fixed” mindset as detailed in Carol Dweck’s book Mindset, I was more able to keep an open mind and see options and learning opportunites rather than focusing on the “right way” and what I might have been lacking. I was able to just be myself and be confident in the meeting.

Although anxiety may come up again in the future, I know that with a plan of preparation, I will be able to centre and be ready for any such opportunties when they come.