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Last updated on 6/12/19

Assess barriers and identify potential solutions

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If you’ve spent a good amount of time building your foundation with your client at the beginning of the session, now you want to get to the meat of the problem.

We do that through assessment.

What is stopping Alice?  

Alice is clear about what she wants. To create a healthy lifestyle startup business. But is anxious about presenting her idea to gain investment to enable her to get started.  She is also unsure about what resources are out there to help her to grow her business. As her career coach, how could you help her with this?

1) Reassure her that she has internal and external resources she can draw on.

2) Assess her barriers and things that are getting in the way.

3) Identify the resources that could help her overcome her barriers, the potential solutions.

This is how I reassured her
  • I recognized her for taking the first step in the right direction by seeking support. 

  • I let her know it is ok to feel nervous everyone does even experienced presenters.

  • I reminded her that through our work together I would give her strategies and experiences that would gradually help her feel more comfortable about rising to this challenge. 

Assess Barriers and Identify Solutions

This is how I helped Alice identify her barriers and potential resources and solutions to overcome them. I asked Alice a series of questions so that I could understand what was getting in her way of creating and presenting a great pitch to get investment:

Me: "What has stopped you so far?"

Alice: "I don't know where to start. I have not done much presenting and certainly never pitched for investment before."

Me: "Have you ever presented or pitched for anything else?"

Alice: "Yes, I guess so I have presented to my boss and pitched for some training that I wanted."

Me: "Great, did you get the training?" 

Alice: "Some of it, I went to the conference I wanted to go to and attended 3 of the 5 training sessions that were being held on the day." 

Me: "That is a fantastic outcome! And by the way, paying for training is also a form of investment...."

Alice: "Oh yeah! I guess it kind of is." 

Me: "Yes, an investment in you which is the most powerful investment someone can make.  Pitching to investors for money for your business is no different. Sure the stakes may be higher but the process is similar.  So what is it that is stopping you?" 

Alice: "Well, I don't know what information to include.  I don't know how to 'sell' the idea.  Also I am really nervous!  I just want this so badly!" 

Me: "Ok so now we are getting to something important. You have some research to do - how could you find out what information is needed in an investor pitch? Do you know someone who could give you insight into that?" 

Alice: Well, actually now you mention it we have a whole investment department at the company I work for. I know a couple of people that work there. I could ask them... 

Me: "Great when could you do that?" 

Alice: "Well I meet with a colleague every week for lunch from that department so I could start there. She could probably introduce me to one of the people that specializes in listening to pitches to inform clients of hot investment opportunities. I could then find out what the best pitches include."  

Me: "Fantastic!  And what about opportunities to practice presenting?"

Alice: Well my boss asked me to do some research the other day. I could practice by presenting my findings to her. I usually just send her a report but I could do it differently this time." 

What about other types of clients?  What if my client is looking for a promotion or wanting to update their CV?

The same would apply. Before you can coach them through the process of finding solutions you need to understand what is getting in their way. What has stopped them so far. This leads seamlessly onto how they can then fill any gaps in their knowledge or understanding.

It might be the case that you can fill those gaps or it might be that they need to talk to someone else.  What is most important is that you client identifies for themselves what they need and what they can do about it.

When you discover your client’s barriers, you’ll be able to understand and find solutions to their needs.

Every participant is different, so this all depends on the individual.

In this section, as you will see from the example conversation with Alice above, it is important to use open questions rather than closed questions

Why you should ask more open-ended questions:

Open-ended questions encourage detailed, deep conversation, builds rapport and is one way to make the participant feel comfortable. Closed-ended questions only achieve single answers, like as "yes" or "no.

Here are some great examples:

  • Where are you now in your career journey?

  • Where do you see yourself going?

  • What’s been stopping you achieving this so far?

  • What's standing in your way?

  • Can you tell me more?

  • What will happen if you don't take this step?

  • What does success look like to you?

  • Why is it important for you to do this?

  • How will you feel and know when you’ve achieved this?

Know when to probe gently. Probing helps your participant speak from a personal perspective, express how they feel, gets them to think and dig deep and find clarity.

E.g. If your client is unhappy with their job. The first question is a basic open-ended question but the second one is more in depth and a good example of probing the client for more info.

They might not know how to find a strategy straight away. Probing can definitely help and get them to expand on the question.

Here's how you could ask some probing questions:

  • What is it that you do?

  • Okay, can you tell me more about why you’ve decided to change jobs?

  • How did you know the job was making you unhappy?

Check the client is clear

If you are unsure of what your client said, clarify. If you have misunderstood or need to summarize what they’ve discussed, always clarify.

Here are some guidelines you can use for clarification:

  • Ask for more information if you are unsure about what your client means

  • Repeat what they said

  • Say it as you understand it, and check whether this is correct

  • Ask for examples

  • Confirm if you’ve got it right

Avoid misunderstandings!

Below you will also find examples of clarification questions:

  • Is this what you said…?

  • What resources were used for the project?

  • Did I hear you say…?

  • Did I understand you when you said…?

  • What criteria did you use to…?

  • What’s another way you might…?

  • Did I hear you correctly when you said…?

  • Did I paraphrase what you said correctly?

You can also use questions or sentences to bring feedback and clarity such as:

  • Paraphrasing the client “I work in the city, in the financial sector as a bookkeeping specialist", “So, you're a bookkeeper, working in the city”?

  • Summarizing  “To summarize you said that you were happy to retrain as a nurse”, “Just to finish

  • Checking feelings “You sound happy” “How does that sound to you?”

Let's recap

  • Take time to reassure your client in order to build their confidence and facilitate full participation.

  • Ask open ended question to identify potential barriers.

  • Always ask for clarity. This will help you avoid misunderstanding and focus on the right priorities.

In the next chapter, we are going to look at some important career coaching techniques; SWOT and GROW.

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement