Coaching: Five Ways to Help People

Coaching - Help People

What and How

As experts and consultants we often spend a lot of time thinking about what we do and not what the buyer experiences from us. I wrote about this previously here: ‘Why Experts Fail Too Often’.

Recently I’ve started to review my business coaching material as I rewrite and upgrade this website. And, I came up with a really useful and obvious question:

How do I help people?

Notice, I didn’t say ‘what do I help people with?’ That’s a very different conversation. ‘What’ you help people with is a great question for marketing purposes and lead generation. In contrast, the ‘how’ question forces you to consider your specific approach or method for helping someone. This becomes more of a branding and perhaps an operation question.

[Tweet “Brand Building Tip: Focus on ‘HOW you help’ rather than WHAT you help them with”]

How I help people

In my business coaching I realised that I typically help or support people in at least five distinct ways.

1 Content

I may be asked to help someone with a specific idea, the actual words or the latest thinking on a particular topic. For instance, when helping a client write a book I might suggest they read a particular blog post or watch a specific TED video.

2 Design

If I’m working with a client around a design project then the support may be to offer my thoughts, opinions and advice about what works or looks best. For instance, when helping a client upgrade their branding on their website I might suggest a particular design style or an example that of another website that I like.

3 Process

Often I’m asked to help people work out a problem. Sometimes I give them my solution (content or design) and sometimes I’m able to offer a process to help them work it out for themselves. This often takes longer and typically produces a better result. For instance, in working with a client to plan a product design I often suggest they gather three examples they love and then analyse them to work out why they love them. Sometimes gathering three examples of what you don’t like works equally well. This provides learning for the client to then define their own solution and to develop their own distinctions about what they want.

4 Accountable

A lot of coaching is about this and this can be super important. Here, your job is to keep your client on track by managing tasks and due dates. This is a limited part of what I do. It’s mostly about follow-up and that’s not something I’m interested in – and I don’t believe I’m good at it either. Whilst this is always included at some level in a bigger project, if this is the only thing you want me to do then I’m probably the wrong coach.

It’s good to know what help you don’t provide too!

5 Support

Finally, I help people by supporting them. For instance, as someone to talk to, someone that will listen and someone who can comment on situations and responses. Sometimes a comment is useful and sometimes asking questions is what’s required. Again, whilst I don’t promote this part of my work, I do feel I’m capable in this area and I do expect it to come up from time to time as a natural requirement of working closely with real people on important projects.

How do you help people?

So, how do you help people? In particular, step beyond the subject area of what you do and describe the nitty-gritty specific way you help people.

It might be one of these five modes that are typical around business coaching or completely different. And, I think it’s valuable to be really clear about the difference you make so you can build a consistent brand to attract your ideal clients.

If you want some food for thought, then consider this article from zenhabits.


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