Originally published on Forbes.com on August 23, 2018.
Part of coaching is understanding what challenges your clients are facing, as well as helping to identify and overcome their blind spots. Sometimes, all that’s required is giving teams or leaders a stronger system, so that they can build on what’s already there and working.
However, there are times when you’ll find people facing moments of quiet crisis. Maybe they’ve become waspish as things have progressed, or have gone unusually quiet. They may talk about trouble sleeping, or simply give off a sense of apathy to major moments or achievements at work — things out of character.
Part of the work you’re doing is to create a best-possible-version of people, individuals and teams confident in their abilities, and who possess the skills and perspectives needed to support that confidence. So what kinds of warning signs should you look for to determine if there’s a crisis brewing, and what are some approaches to helping guide people forward that work? Eleven members of Forbes Coaches Council have this to say:
All images courtesy of Forbes Councils members.
1. Lack Of Focus
Having a lack of focus is something that can affect the most adept entrepreneur. However, a major life crisis can cause people to get off track. When dealing with clients experiencing grief or loss, I advise them to write in a journal and connect with their feelings. Writing is often therapeutic in nature and helps some people purge negative feelings so they can focus on the tasks at hand. – Lori A. Manns, Quality Media Consultant Group
2. Significant Shift In Behavior
I had a client that completely changed the way they were interacting with me and others. What I found out was that they were going through a difficult time. I functioned as a sounding board and a coach. I know she appreciated having someone there to listen to her and support her through a difficult time. – Brad Federman, F&H Solutions Group
Clients who have too much on their plate, and tell me that they are fine as their voice quivers, is a denial flag for me. To break the denial, I ask my clients to imagine that I am a friend they care about and I repeat what’s on their plate back to them. Asking them what they would say to their dear friend in response, they inevitably tell me that I am carrying too much. This breaks their denial. – Alexandra Salamis, Integral Leadership Design
When clients of mine have trouble concentrating, are not able to focus and have issues that seem out of character, there is something wrong. Before I confront them and their behavior, I like to find out how they have been sleeping. They can’t break destructive thoughts and it shows in lack of sleep. I refer them for professional help and try to help them get rest by dealing with the issues. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
5. Feeling Stuck
When a person feels stuck or that they’re wading through mud, and that is consistent over a period, this is a clear sign for you, their coach, to sit up and take notice. To navigate this, reality check the truth. Are you telling yourself a story that may be different from reality? The way forward is to completely get involved in your core values, while building trust and your authenticity. – Frances McIntosh, Intentional Coaching LLC
6. Irrational Thinking Or Behavior
When leaders start making high-risk decisions based on emotions — not properly modeling options, not using strategy tools, isolating themselves, vacillating, second-guessing, reacting based on fear, blame, problem externalization, etc. — things are going quickly south. Change their perspective with third-party modeling. Ask them to critique recent decisions as if they were on the outside looking in. – Antonio Garrido,Absolute Sales Development
7. Apathy And Disconnection
In coaching executives and entrepreneurs for decades, the one sign that is conclusive is lack of desire or care. Apathy comes into play full force. Even when pointed out, clients will shrug it off or blame a symptom. Your clients must fully trust you, and be able to discuss anything at all with you. Nothing can be off limits. You must be able to effectively lead your clients out of their turmoil. – Stephynie Malik, ChiqueSpeak
8. Life Is Out Of Balance
Consider a stable life as a three-legged stool: Health, work and family. When one “leg” gets weak, the stool is out of balance and most people struggle. In time, work problems can create family problems, further weakening stability — a crisis. People in crisis often seek to change the one area (leg) that is still strong, because they still feel in control there. Work on shoring up the weak legs. – Jim Vaselopulos, Rafti Advisors, Inc.
9. Failure To Live Out Their Non-Negotiables
While working in the leadership coaching arena for the past two decades, I’ve found it’s difficult to separate one’s professional success from personal well-being. When I begin a coaching relationship, I have a client identify non-negotiables in their life. If they fail to live out their priorities, I begin a dialogue that is often challenging and necessary where we work together on a solution. – Lisa Marie Platske, Upside Thinking, Inc.
10. Visible Stress
Stress is visible. Their bodies are tense, they are unfocused and unable to hold a train of thought. There’s an unfortunate belief that emotions should not be welcome in the workplace. “Holding space” for a client to share their worries, their complaints and their concerns can be some of the most effective contributions a coach can make. Great managers do this, as well. –David Butlein, PhD, BLUECASE Strategic Partners
As the age-old saying goes — when children are quiet, you need to worry and investigate. The same is true with clients. Keeping close to your clients during times of silence will help you spot the life crisis coming and then support them through. I have had a client in a #MeToo situation; navigating this is a balance between ensuring they had the professional help they needed while taking the pressure off in their business to ensure they kept the wheels moving. – Penny Elliott, Penny Comins Coaching