This is a guest post written by Mindy Jo
Imagine hearing the greeting, “Welcome to Life Coaching 101: Why Client Customization is Key” when learning how to differentiate the life coaching experience for your clients.
As a life coach, planning a one size fits all client approach is not feasible-nor should it be acceptable when working with the multitude of expectations, experiences, educational backgrounds, skill sets, and talents each of their clients possess. Clients deserve a coach who has taken the necessary steps to understand and apply differentiated instruction into their practice.
Whether a life coach has researched these principles extensively on their own or engaged in coursework similar to a Life Coaching 101: Why Client Customization is Key, clients need differentiation to be provided the ultimate customized coaching experience.
Tomlinson’s Differentiation Recommendations Serve as a Guide
Now more than ever throughout a child and adolescent’s academic career, K-12 educators are expected to differentiate the content and/or resources used based on your individual needs in the classroom. Teachers are asked to routinely review and revise their curriculum, in order to meet each student where they are with the learning targets taught in their state.
Carol Ann Tomlinson, a university professor & leader in the area of differentiated learning in the educational field has described differentiated instruction as taking into account an individual’s learning style and readiness level prior to the teacher’s design of their lesson plans.
How can students truly learn what is expected of them in the classroom if (a) what is being taught is communicated in a manner that is not understood, and (b) all the resources presented are cookie-cutter and perceived as bland?
Dr. Tomlinson stated teachers can differentiate instruction via four ways when working with their students; these four ways are through (1) the content itself, (2) an individual’s learning style, (3) learning environment, and (4) expected product or results. Dr. Tomlinson’s differentiation recommendations can also serve as a guide to life coaches and their clients.
Incorporate Differentiation into Life Coaching Practices
If applying Professor Carol Ann Tomlinson’s educational research to the life coaching profession, there are four ways a life coach would incorporate differentiation into their practice.
1. The Content
When referencing the content, this is beyond typical templates used in life coaching practices. Even in the education field, there are standard templates presented to students similar to the introduction and in-take forms presented to clients within the life coaching field. The content being referenced in this post is related more so to the resources used to help the client progress forward in their journey.
The life coach should be taking the client’s interests, experiences, and level of understanding into account prior to recommending books, articles, classes, exercises, and any other tools to be used as content for the client to study for their life coaching experience.
For example: if the client has shared a specific area of interest, it would not be wise for the life coach to suggest reading a book that does not pertain to the client’s specific area of interest; perhaps, the book was suggested because the life coach feels comfortable discussing that particular material and not what has been presented by the client as an area of interest. It is imperative for the life coach to listen and learn from their clients to ensure high client engagement to promote maximum growth potential.
2. The Individual’s Learning Style
How an individual processes information that is communicated to them will vary from client to client. This may be based on preference, but it may also stem from necessity. If a client struggles with processing information when listening to the information presented, their likely learning style is either kinesthetic/tactile or visual. The life coach would customize their approach when recommending resources and activities together.
If learning style is more of a preference for the client, and the processing style they have chosen simply feels more comfortable, the life coach should also consider this when planning how to deliver the content to that particular client. For example, if the client has made it clear they would prefer to listen to material over actually reading it, it would not be wise for the life coach to suggest reading a book that does not have audio access available. It’s in each client’s best interest to learn and grow from the most engaging communication methods.
3. The Client’s Clarity Environment
When referencing learning environment in the education field, this typically pertains to the classroom environment. Educators must evaluate if their classroom design is conducive to the student learning process. When applying this concept to a client’s life coaching experience, a life coach should encourage their clients to find locations of clarity that allow them optimal focus, learning, and development.
If a client has shared that it is difficult to concentrate inside their residence, the life coach could recommend stepping outside to a quiet space, such as: a porch or patio in the backyard. Clients have even stated their car is a preferred space for a virtual meeting or journaling for reflection. The client’s clarity environment is unique to them and a key ingredient to the life coaching experience.
When working with children as a life coach, considering the client’s clarity environment can provide even greater results. As an example, Life Coach Richard Quisenberry has implemented his own customized approach when working with children and adolescents on the autism spectrum. After factoring in where his clients listen, learn, and collaborate best, Mr. Quisenberry (a former public-school principal and athletic coach) will invite some of his clients to join one of his scheduled basketball training sessions. He started this practice to foster further rapport with his clients while modeling his own leadership skills in a team atmosphere.
4. The Expected Product or Results
Every client’s life coaching journey will appear differently. It may be the life coach’s responsibility to encourage and make suggestions, however, it is up to the client to set their own goals for growth. These goals may be personal or professional; these goals may be light-hearted in nature or intense. The heart of the matter is—the desired product or results expected by the client are based on what the client deems worthy. The product or results may be tangible or intangible, and as long as the client is satisfied with their progress and growth, the life coach is supporting them fittingly in their life coaching experience.
Develop Customized Client Growth Plans
Since each client’s journey is different from another, the life coach should consider including the following information in their client notes to encourage and promote optimal client engagement and satisfaction.
- Profile. The profile would include the client’s interests, learning style, fulfillment desires, and background. The background notes are based on any pertinent information shared by the client; if the client volunteered trauma experienced or childhood
- Goals. These goals can be personal or professional and are based on specific client interest. The goal itself may be light-hearted and/or intense and is best when realistic and measurable.
- Objectives. Objectives are basically a breakdown of each specific goal set and how it will be achieved. Objectives are less overwhelming if limited to no more than 4 to 5. Objectives can be timeline driven (i.e., the first objective to be accomplished in 3 months; the second objective to be accomplished in 6 months; the third objective in 9 months; etc.). Objectives-like their associated goal-are not ‘fixed’ and can be adjusted as needed.
- Accommodations. Accommodations are applied if the client has a specific need for learning and/or progress. For example, an accommodation could be ‘chunking’ if the client needs further clarification of the resources presented by the life coach. Or if the client needs visual aids or graphic organizers to support their growth, the life coach can make note of the accommodation.
Present Clients with Unique Challenges
As discussed throughout this article, clients benefit from differentiation and a customized coaching experience. Life Coach Shanelle Boyd recommends presenting clients with their unique challenges based on their individual needs. This challenge does not necessarily relate to a personal or professional goal or qualify as an objective for that goal; instead, the challenge is created from the client’s profile and background. One example of this could be having the client dedicate 15 minutes each morning to meditation for greater clarity and peace within their day. The life coach is setting unique challenges to encourage growth, as well as, building a stronger relationship with their clients.
Make Closing the Gap a Priority
Everyone wants to be looked at an individual; their personalities, interest, skills, and talents taken into consideration. Life coaches have an amazing opportunity to differentiate the coaching experience among their clientele while they make closing the gap a priority. When meeting clients where they are at in relation to where they want to be in their personal life and/or professional life, life coaches support and encourage their clients to close those gaps. Differentiation which can also be known as customization, can help support closing the gaps, thus leading, to the ultimate coaching experience for clients.
Imagine if all life coaches applied this principle to their practices, and treated differentiation as an important concept when planning for the ultimate client experience. Then, Life Coaching 101: Why Client Customization is Key would be a core concept to develop and thrive in our ever-evolving field.
Mindy Jo is a certified Life Coach, blogger, and the Founder of Worry About YOU TODAY; she is also a proud mother of four children, a middle school teacher, and an introspective social butterfly. In addition to her passion pursuit of education from Antioch University Midwest, Mindy Jo has over a decade of experience in corporate management and previously earned her M.B.A. from Franklin University. She became a life coach to encourage others to proactively & positively manage their mental while becoming the best versions of themselves. Connect with Mindy Jo via her Website, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.