It’s easy to get caught in a trap of ‘consulting’ with your clients.
Your appointment times are often limited, and you’re moving from client to client so quickly that it feels like you’re not getting the outcomes or seeing the movement forward, you would like. You can feel low in energy and lacking in empathy when you’re constantly trying to juggle targets, employer expectations and compliance reports, and the needs of your clients.
If you’re not in the right frame of mind, it’s easy to default feeling frustrated and simply telling your clients what they should be doing instead of helping them see a way forward.
Coaching is the key to better employment outcomes. If you can get your client to see their lives differently, you can engage and influence them to take control of their employment journey – and then you don’t have to do as much because you’ve empowered them to do the work.
Becoming a great job coach takes time and practice. Unfortunately, coaching skills aren’t something most of us are trained in, but by following the PEARLS System, you can become an outstanding job coach – you just need to develop these 6 foundational skills.
If you take just 5 minutes to plan before each client appointment, you’ll find yourself more organised and in control, and you’re more likely to get a better outcome from the catch-up. Review your file notes and set yourself an intention of what you want to get out of the appointment (don’t forget to write it down) to hold yourself and your client accountable for any actions.
How often do you find yourself low in energy or emotionally exhausted as you move from one appointment to the next? Your emotional state can have a big impact on how well your client’s sessions go, especially if it shows in your tone of voice, your body language, and the words you use. Give yourself a few minutes at the end of an appointment to do a quick body scan, breathe deeply for a minute and access a positive emotional anchor for yourself (e.g. something that makes you feel good). By doing this, you can give yourself a small dopamine hit to boost your mood, and it will ensure you don’t carry your negative emotions with you all day.
Anchors can be a very powerful tool to help clients feel connected to you in a positive way. If you welcome your clients into a space that makes them feel good, then they will associate the time they spend as beneficial. Anchors can be conscious or unconscious and can come in different forms by connecting with our senses and emotions. For example, sitting behind a desk with a computer screen between yourself and your clients could be experienced negatively by your clients. Move your chairs around and try meeting with your clients without anything between you. Put some motivational visual cues, like positive quotes or posters on the wall and think about how smells, sounds and touch can play a part too. Is it noisy? Are the chairs hard? Is the smell from the lunchroom distracting?
Rapport is often something that’s assumed we can do easily and naturally with everyone, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes building rapport with someone requires a conscious level of awareness and a commitment to overcoming initial perceptions. Using subtle cues like mirroring or matching body language, tone of voice, or keywords helps you graciously enter another person’s model of the world and experience a deeper connection with them, thereby building trust. When you have trust, you can nudge and influence behaviour change in more positive ways.
Job coaches need great listening skills. The best information comes when you stop talking and listen with intent – for the words being said and those that aren’t being said. We teach several key listening strategies in our PEARLS System course, and there are six listening patterns we actively want to avoid when coaching. Asking the right questions that help you understand more and give you information is part of the listening process. If you always start your questions with “Why…” you may find yourself getting answers that don’t lead to good outcomes.
The best job coaches create a space for clients to set achievable goals and for challenges to be overcome. The SMART system for setting goals has been around for a long time, but we’ve found it’s missing some key steps, especially for disengaged job seekers. We use a system called A.C.T.I.O.N.S, and it’s been tried and tested to get clients committed to setting and achieving their goals.