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Life and Business Lessons from my First Job

I was about 14 years old, in what we used to call Std 7 (now called Grade 9) when I started my first part-time job as a cashier.  It was FABULOUS to be earning my own pocket money, but the work was soul-destroying and I remember going home after every shift with an aching arm from pushing things along the counter to the packer.

I have ENORMOUS compassion for cashiers as a result, as I’ve been on the receiving end of a customer’s unnecessary rudeness when they’re having a bad day.

It was a weekend job at the OK Bazaars in the infamous Point Rd in Durban.  For those of you who don’t know Point Rd and its reputation, it was the notorious “red light” district in Durban and my eyes were certainly opened from a fashion sense during my brief experience.  There were times when I almost collapsed from the alcoholic fumes some of my customers breathed over me.

At the time that I started, GST (General Sales Tax) which was the fore-runner to today’s VAT (Value Added Tax) had just come in, but it only applied to certain items – just as we still have VAT-exempt items today.

As a schoolgirl, having NEVER in my life done a grocery shop for my own household, I didn’t actually understand the concept of GST, let alone which items were exempt from it.  It was just something that the adults in my life got really riled up about.

These were still the days before the scanners that would automatically read the price.  I had to manually enter the price of the item into the till and then press another button to add GST.  It was often a case of me going “Eeenie, meanie, mynie mo…” and I constantly had to call a supervisor to reverse one of my transactions because I had put GST on an exempt item.

I hated it.  I felt stupid and was made to feel bad by both the customers and the supervisors.  I was made to feel like I was really bad at a job that I was trying to do as best as I could.

When I think back on it now, I realise that the adults around me (the management and permanent staff at the shop) probably didn’t even think that I would not know which items were exempt and which weren’t. 

They worked in a retail environment every day, and so this was second nature to them.  They didn’t know what I couldn’t possibly know or not know, and they probably didn’t have the time to bother with any kind of briefing, training or on-boarding.

Sometimes, what we do professionally is so second nature to us that we don’t know what we DO know – we take it for granted – and it comes as a complete surprise when we’re talking to a client to find out that we lost them somewhere along the path of explaining about how or why we work in a particular way.

I know that I often have situations where I quickly do something and my client, watching me, will say: “How do you even KNOW how to DO that?” when to me, it’s quick, easy and quite simple to do.

Sometimes, it’s healthy to take a step backwards, and ask our clients if they are clear on where we are in the process and what is happening.  It’s good for our clients to feel free to ask questions, to clarify things so that they are meaningful, and it’s also vitally important that we take the time to on-board our clients so that they can clearly visualize their pathway or journey with us.

So, my question is: what does YOUR on-boarding process look like?

Do you clearly explain your client’s journey within the context of the goals and objectives that you’ve agree to? 

Does your contract explain your model and how you work with your clients?

Do you have a pack that you are able to send to your clients, with possibly an e-book or some references to article that you have written that showcase your approach?

How about a branded journal, or sending your client session reflection forms in which they can record their reflections and experiences during their sessions with you, as well as the commitment that they make?  Forms like this are easy to make and you can drop your logo and contact details in so that they are simply another way of re-enforcing your professional brand.

Once you’ve agreed to the number of sessions and the gaps between sessions (weekly, bi-weekly etc), you can also send your client Outlook calendar invites so that you constantly appear in their calendar and they have the dates that they have committed to in their diaries long before they take place.

Think of all the different ways that you can make sure that you remain top of mind with your client.

Consider building an on-boarding email journey that you send to them every day for a week until their first session, with a question to think about that is pertinent to their goals and objectives.  It will give you a great kick-start to your first session.

Some of the kinds of questions you can ask might be:

  • If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?
  • What is the one thing you would most like to change about your current situation, and what possible changes would you make if there were not obstacles?
  • What one thing would you really like to do that you have not done (at work or in your private life)?  What has stopped you from doing it?
  • If you just won millions, would you continue working or would you make some changes to the work that you currently do?  Give some detail.
  • Given the goals and objectives that you have identified for our coaching journey together, which goal would make the most overall difference if you achieved it?
  • What does success look like for you?  How would your life be different to how it is now?

If you’d like a checklist to make sure that your contract is robust and includes most of what you should have, you can download my free coach contract checklist here: https://bit.ly/2D1rEXl

You can also watch my masterclass on the subject on YouTube: https://youtu.be/B2krEoLYAZ0  If nothing else, you’ll learn how a coaching contract can actually be quite a good sales tool (bet you didn’t expect that!)

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