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Choosing Effective Materials and Tools

Put together the right stuff to meet your own needs and those of your clients.

We have covered a lot of territory in the three previous installments of this series, from identifying your target clientele to creating a lesson plan to organizing a client’s first experience with coaching. Now that you have established these sound practices, it’s time to pick materials and tools to make your coaching efficient. Investing the time now to select what you want to use in your sessions will make your job quicker and easier. First prepare, and then deliver great coaching.

Identifying the Essentials

We are bombarded daily with information and opportunities. Our challenge is to identify the materials and tools we need each year to do our jobs well and to live our lives simply and successfully. Since each person/business is unique, your goal is to identify the essentials that you need, organize them and make them readily available by mail or e-mail.

I have spent many hours over the years evaluating what I need and what can be tossed. Below I’ll discuss the materials and tools I am currently using to make my job manageable and organized for me and fun and successful for my clients. To continue your progress in carving out your coaching niche, consider what has worked for me and adapt it to meet the needs of your own business.

Tools and Materials for the Coach

I feel the best about my job as a coach when I am prepared, but it took me a few years to have a system in place that worked well for me. After much trial and error, here are the items I am currently using:

Client Folder. Whenever a new client starts, I immediately create a folder. On the front, I put the client’s contact information. On the inside, I put a copy of the table of contents from the client’s coaching notebook (see “Tools and Materials for the Client”), copies of homework done and my notes from sessions.

Table of Contents From Client Notebook. I spent hours going through the dozens of assessments and forms I had at my fingertips through CoachU and chose the ones I knew I would want to use with most clients. After determining what forms and assessments I liked most, I devised a list of what I would make available to clients. The list becomes a table of contents in each client notebook. I keep a copy so that I can readily see what forms a client has and check off items when we have worked through them.

List of Assessments and Forms. In addition to creating a list of the forms included in the client notebooks, I made a list of other assessments (not included in their notebooks) that I might want to use. In total, I use 20 or so forms with my coaching clientele (e.g., Top 10 Goals, Clean Sweep, Values, Needs, Irresistible Attraction, New Business Start-Up, etc.), mostly from CoachU. Make sure you have a printed form of each document, and also store each document in a file on your computer. If your clients are computer savvy, you ideally want to be able to e-mail them all your forms.

Computer Files. My files include “Client Notebook,” “Articles,” “Assessments” and “Tools.” If most of your documents are in Word or PDF format, store them in a “Coaching” folder on your computer. Then, when you need to print or send a document, it is right where you can easily find it.

Lesson Plan. My lesson plan is a document I’ve written to guide my coaching practice. (For more on developing your own lesson plan, see the September 2007 issue of IDEA Trainer Success.)

Life Wheel. The Life Wheel is a wonderful visual tool I use to help clients evaluate each area of their lives on a 1–10 scale, 10 being great. It helps us quickly identify where clients might need to work first.

Priority Square. This is a great tool devised by Stephen Covey and talked about in his book First Things First (Free Press 1996). It provides people with a visual understanding of how to prioritize everyday activities and life goals.

Personal Coach Notebook. My own notebook includes the client notebook table of contents, the list of additional assessments I use, the assessments and forms themselves (so that I can see them when clients and I are talking about them), my lesson plan, the Life Wheel, Priority Square and personal notes to myself about what to work on to improve my coaching skills.

Use my list of materials and tools as a guide to help you develop and determine what you want to use as a coach. You may choose to generate all your own forms and tools or use very few. What’s important is to set aside enough time to think through the items you need, and then to create a plan that will serve you well.

Tools and Materials for the Client

During my coach training, I learned that providing a coaching “notebook” to clients was an easy and professional way to present them with the forms, agreements and assessments we would use during our weekly sessions. It also gives them a place to store their own notes during sessions and to record the extra assignments they have completed. Following is a list of the items I include in each client notebook:

Welcome Letter. I wrote a letter welcoming clients to the process of coaching. It explains the frequency of coaching, the benefits of coaching and how the coaching process works (frequency and length of calls, homework, cancellation policy, etc.)

Coaching Agreement. This simple one-sheet document outlines the length of the coaching package, its expiration date, the fees, who calls whom and the first month’s session dates and times.

Coaching Expectations. I developed a document that explains what clients can expect of me as their coach (confidentiality, encouragement, etc.) and what I expect of them as coaching clients (being on time, accomplishing intended work each week, honesty, etc.).

Client Notebook. The coaching notebook I present to clients provides them with concrete tools to see and use during coaching. It is like providing a tailored “workout” for personal training clients. It can include assessments, forms, articles and anything deemed useful to new clients.

Personal Data. This page gives clients the opportunity to provide you with their addresses, contact numbers, past achievements and education, etc. Create a page that gives you the information you need to coach them well.

Promise Log. One of the most important pages in the notebook is the “promise log”—what clients promise to do by when. It acts as a reminder and accountability partner in accomplishing what is important to them. Clients list a goal, the start date and an intended finish date.

Some of my coaching clients did not use their coaching notebooks at all. They were not “assessment” and “paperwork” people. However, they achieved the goals and personal work that was important to them. Adjust your strategies to match the personalities and learning styles of the clients you work with. Be prepared, but accommodate their unique needs.

Ready for Coaching

Having the appropriate materials available before you start coaching clients will supply you with exactly what you need when you need it. Providing the right assessments and tools will also allow clients to see and choose what is most helpful in their personal journeys. Take the time to organize all the materials you need, and then you’ll be prepared to deliver fun, challenging and flexible coaching. n

The Life Wheel helps us quickly identify where clients might need to work first.

Quick List: Coach Materials and Tools
  1. client folder
  2. table of contents from client notebook
  3. list of assessments and forms
  4. computer files: “Client Notebook,” “Articles,” “Assessments” and “Tools”
  5. lesson plan
  6. Life Wheel
  7. Priority Square
  8. personal coach notebook

Quick List: CLIENT Materials and Tools
  1. welcome letter
  2. coaching agreement
  3. coaching expectations
  4. notebook or folder with assessments
  5. personal data
  6. promise log

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