My toughest client

This weekend I got fired by my toughest, and favorite, “client.” He’s my son Noah, and he’s five.

On Sunday he decided it was time to take of the training wheels and learn to ride his bike with two wheels. So my wife and I took turns giving him advice on how to balance and steer without the training wheels.

My wife has a nurturing style, and held carefully to his seat while he pedaled. I was a bit more aggressive, and let Noah go once he got up some momentum; when I couldn’t keep up with him, he took a spill in the grass.

When my turn to coach him came around again, he said to me, “I like you for baseball coaching, but I like Mom for riding a bike. I want her to show me from now on.”

The above story is not so different from how clients and coaches choose one another. We all have different styles. Sometimes your style isn’t right for what the client needs.

A good coach can and should adjust his or her style to be more effective for the client. But sometimes, there isn’t a good fit and the client prefers someone with a different approach and style. That’s fine.

Or, you can adapt.

In this case, I got “rehired” within the hour. The temperature outside was 85 degrees and humid, and my wife needed a break after round after round of running, crouching down, and holding Noah’s bicycle seat. Noah had to choose whether to go inside and stop practicing for a while, or work with me.

He chose to work with me again, emphasizing, “But don’t let go until I say!” I agreed to coach him like my wife did, and held onto his seat until he told me it was okay to let go.

In fact, as I write this from my home office, he is clamoring for me to go outside with him to work on his riding. Even the toughest “clients” sometimes take us back — as long as we know how to listen to feedback and adapt when appropriate.

POSTSCRIPT TWO DAYS LATER: After about a half hour with my wife and I, and then lots of practice on his own in the driveway, Noah is riding his bike around the block — as if he had been riding for years! It is absolutely amazing to watch how little kids can fall, pick themselves back up again, and quickly learn to do something they have never done before. As in executive coaching, our “clients” are often the best coaches of all.

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