Last fall, I began coaching Marion, a successful small business owner who wants to strengthen her ability to maintain balance in the occasional conflict situation with a client. Since Marion’s business is seasonal, we agreed to take a coaching hiatus during the winter months, when she has little contact with clients, and gear up again in March, when business also begins to gear up.
When we left off a couple of months ago, Marion had outlined some work she’d continue on her own during the hiatus. And now, as we get ready to pick up our telephone coaching conversations again, I want to fill you in on the stopping off point and Marion’s recent update for me.
When we last talked, Marion had a few great insights from her good reflective work and from experimenting with a few simple strategies for regaining her balance during confrontations. She told me she’s realized that when she can anticipate a dispute or conflict situation, she’s able to keep her balance, and manage both herself and the conflict pretty well. Anticipating allows her to plan a response, while getting caught off guard knocks her sideways for a moment or more.
I also learned that Marion has never let a client go, even when things get dicey. While this speaks well of Marion’s interest in her clients and tenacity for serving them well, there are times that clients have stepped on her in ways that don’t serve her personally or as a business person. In one instance we discussed, a long-term client had been side-stepping payment for months and repeatedly put Marion off when she visited their place of business to talk about the overdue bills.
We decided to use that situation as an opportunity for Marion to try out effective ways to confront the client, communicate her concerns, and plan a payment strategy that resolved the overdue receivables. Together we strategized ways Marion could approach the client successfully and invite the client into a few minutes of earnest discussion. We played out several possible scenarios that could unfold so that Marion could anticipate, to the degree possible, what might happen and be ready to navigate those waters.
Marion visited her client and filled me in later. Because of the way she approached the conversation, she learned information about the client’s situation that she hadn’t been aware of prior, and she was able to use that information to suggest a strategy for payments getting made without Marion having to trek repeatedly to the client’s doorstep. Yay! I asked Marion how she felt about having had the difficult conversation with her client, and she responded that she felt great. She was also surprised it went as smoothly as it did, since she had created “nightmare stories” in her mind about what could go wrong…a common trap and worth avoiding!
Marion did terrific work and really impressed me with her follow-through…she’s got both commitment and courage. When I asked her what learning she’s had about engaging conflict effectively as a result of the coaching experience so far, she told me:
- “I found it really helpful to figure out what the client might say and how to respond effectively.” So, the act of walking through the anticipated conversation together made a difference.
- “That I can do this, that I can get better at it, that I don’t have continue doing it the way I’ve always done it.” There are few things someone can say to me that can make me happier than that one!
I also asked Marion if she’d be willing to write a short note I could share here, and I’ll share what she wrote in the next post.