When clients are at the point of giving up on their aspirations and goals

A key theme in the executives and business owners I coach has to do with giving up. Many of my clients are involved in extremely challenging, ambitious ventures. It takes personal resolve for them to keep moving forward, especially when big setbacks and obstacles come up.

Sometimes, they want to quit. This leads to some very interesting coaching conversations.

There are times when it makes sense to quit. If a venture has hit its "stop loss" point for an investor — the point at which they decided they would give up if the venture didn’t achieve certain milestones or needed more cash — then there is a logical reason to give up. If an unanticipated risk or piece of information emerges that changes the outlook of the business, that might be a reason to fold.

However, some of my clients consider quitting before they have really invested the time and effort that’s required to make major results happen. They come up against their fears. They let extraneous thougths and feelings get in their way. They let their limiting beliefs about the situation and their capabilities stop them. They give up on challenging relationships, even if they need the other person(s) to achieve their goals.

Here is where the coach can be incredibly valuable.

Sometimes, what your clients need is what we call "Kick in the Pants Coaching." This is where the coach tells the client that they need to pick themselves up and keep moving forward. Sometimes clients needs someone like us to remind them that they have some big aspirations, they say they want to achieve them, and now they need to do what needs to be done. They need a drill sergeant to keep them on task. That’s why my wife and I work with a personal trainer; our trainer pushes us farther than we ever would if we worked out alone (assuming we would even make it to the gym without him!).

Sometimes, you need to do a reality check with your clients. If their behaviors don’t match their aspirations, maybe they aren’t really committed to what they think their aspirations are. Maybe they need to change their aspirations. I work with many executives who tell me they want to start their own businesses. However, when we really explore what it takes, many of them want to have their own businesses, but don’t want to do the work of actually starting a business. Their aspirations are not realistic, because they aren’t yet ready to do the work and accept the responsibility that comes with starting up a business. If they aren’t willing to match their efforts to their aspirations, they are living in a dream world. However, if they are willing to do what it takes to succeed, the coach can help them to keep moving towards their goals.

Often, we work with clients to reframe a belief or perception they have, that might be limiting them. When someone wants to give up on a worthy project, it is often because they are acting out of automatic beliefs and perceptions.  The Center for Executive Coaching uses an in-depth process, grounded in Cognitive Behavioral Psychology, to help clients reframe these beliefs, make more effective beliefs habitual, enjoy more freedom and flexibility in how they make decisions, and move forward with behaviors that get better results.

Coaches can set up a holistic process that looks at the entire world of the client: perceptions, behaviors, key relationships, personal domains, specific decision points, pressing challenges they face in their immediate situation, strategic issues, and the power dynamics in their organization. That way, when someone wants to quit, we can help them isolate what’s really happening, and help to find a successful resolution. We can also help them identify extraneous thoughts, distractions, interpretations that don’t follow from the facts, and behaviors that don’t get results. That way, we can be instrumental in helping our clients stay on track with their most important aspirations and initiatives.

Combine all of the above with a weekly meeting, distinctions to keep people moving forward, and tools to track progress and make mid-course corrections, and you have a powerful formula for persistence even in the face of internal and external obstacles.

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