Even with a clear communication plan and format in place, your client may push the limits. Setting boundaries is a primary task for your peach of mind and your client's best coaching experience.
- Clients may keep you on the phone longer than you intended
- They will email you more than is allowed
- They might text you for non-emergencies
- They will send you messages on Facebook, on Twitter, on Voxer, or anywhere else that is convenient for them—regardless of your preferences
Does This Work Both Ways?
Are you tempted to reach out on the weekend to answer a question or schedule a call on a Sunday afternoon because that's when your client is available. You might think this is good business—after all, you're building a relationships.
The idea is not the best for you. The situation will lead to burn out because your boundaries are weak. You'll always feel like you must do more for your clients. Sooner or later, you'll lose touch with your own health and personal space.
Setting boundaries is the answer for both you and your customers. Establish from the outset exactly what your coaching package includes, and be sure to include when contact takes place.
For example, you might say:
Your coaching package includes one monthly, 50-minute phone call with me and one question by email each working day.
My workdays are Monday through Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm Eastern, and I'll answer all calls and emails during that time.
With this format, you are setting boundaries and have included
- What the client gets (one phone call and once daily emails)
- When she gets it (Monday through Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm)
You’ll also need to establish exactly how your clients should contact you, and what will happen if they do not follow the procedures. Setting boundaries includes specific email addresses and phone numbers or conference lines exclusively for your client use.
Another step is to create “planned responses” to send out when a client attempts to contact you outside of your established boundaries.. For example, if you receive a Facebook message (and you don’t offer this as a form of contact) you might respond with:
Thank you for reaching out, and I'm happy to help you with this big issue. For better organization of my client files, though, I do ask that you send all your questions to my email address at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A gentle reminder for setting boundaries creates a better coaching relationship for both of you.
To keep phone calls shorter, use a simple kitchen timer. At the start of the call, tell your client, "We have XX minutes today, so I'm going to set a timer for YY minutes to remind us when it's almost time to end. That will help ensure I can answer all your questions."
Then set your timer for 5 minutes before the call is to end. When the timer goes off, let your client know you have 5 minutes remaining, and ask if she has any final questions before you hang up. Following this simple system will prevent those endless phone calls that trample all forms of boundaries.
Resist the temptation to allow calls to be booked outside of your working hours, or to respond to questions on the weekend, or to book additional appointments "just this once."
Doing so will make it appear to your client that your boundaries are flexible, and will invite them to push the limits as well. After all, if you email on the weekend, it must be ok, right?
Exercise: Map Your Work Hours
Exercise: Craft Your Boundary Responses
How will you set the expectation at the start of a call, so it does not run too long?
How will you respond if a client contacts you outside your established system?
What will you tell yourself when you fail to respect your own boundaries?