The Power of a Testimonial

“Tackling something when you are not sure what it is exactly, is both daunting and challenging, Michael’s self-belief that he is going to be the best coach helps overcome the difficulties that arise on that journey, and when he is in the zone his words and delivery are powerful.”
– CFO, West of Ireland

To share time and space with a person is a privilege.

To share time and space with somebody whom you believe has a depth to them that goes far beyond what you can even imagine is a joy and an honour.

When I first met this man, he requested coaching, having read and viewed all there was to see publicly on me.  That was new to me at the time – knowing that somebody had actually heard about me and then taken the time to research me and connect with me on the strength of that.

We met on two occasions, I coached him and when we began to discuss his long-term requirements, he paused the conversation and told me, I’m not ready yet . . . but I’ll be back.  It wasn’t quite like the Terminator statement, but there was a certain sense of authority and integrity to it.

That said, I was a little sceptical that I would ever see him again.

But then a strange thing happened!

About 18 months later, I received an email in my coaching mailbox with the subject reading simply, “I’m ready.”

I read the sender’s name and it didn’t register.  I went back on my notes to see if I could shed some light on this mystery sender and it was only sometime later that it began to dawn upon me as to who this person was.  You see, in his world, he had never stopped.  He had continued his journey of self-discovery.  So the email made complete sense to him. I had moved on.

Well, fast forward a few weeks later and this man has signed up for my 12-month intensive coaching program, a bespoke program tailored specifically for each individual.  Normally we meet every two weeks except for holidays for 90 minutes each and 24 times throughout the agreement.  In this case, we met every month for 150 minutes for the first 8 months and then reverted to shorter, more frequent sessions for the remaining time.

To say this man challenged me as a coach is an understatement of the highest order.  Some days I would come away from our sessions totally exhilarated and other days, totally dejected or exhausted.

For anybody who thinks like me, this is the arena I want to be in – being challenged and being stretched. Mastery demands it and I demand it. That said, be careful what you wish for. The pursuit of mastery can be a lonely, demanding mistress.

Then something happened to change everything.

It was coming up to Christmas.  Our sessions seemed to be achieving little (which is not unusual in itself in deep work) and I felt the reason was my client was not fully committed to the process. I felt he was avoiding something and acting in a contrarian way so I arranged for a short conversation outside our scheduled sessions.

It was the best thing I did. We had a no-holds-barred type of conversation where both our frustrations were put on the table.  Afterwards, I realised in that moment I was serving him at my very best. I’m his coach and when I see something, I say it – simple as! Only that I had been saying it, but he wasn’t listening or couldn’t grasp what I was saying. So by creating the environment I had opened a space for us to connect at a deeper level. When you see coaching described in books it looks like a slick, process-driven type environment. In reality, there are times when it can be messy and scary for both the coach and coachee.

That conversation did change everything.

From that moment on, we began to connect in a different way. For this article, it doesn’t matter what that looked like.

So, why this long article?

Well, to say I respect this man is an understatement. You could say I’d say this of all my clients, and it would be true. It is one of my prerequisites to working with somebody.  In this man’s case though, it is a special respect characterised by our time together and the particular journey we were on.

As our agreement was concluding, I asked him for a testimonial which he was agreeable to, but like everything else in our relationship, there was a discussion about what that might look like.  In the end, I sent him a few questions I had drafted to help focus his mind.  I seek testimonials for two main reasons, to help my future clients make up their minds on whether to work with me or not and secondly, for my feedback.  I even offered the option of him recording his testimonial but he declined that option.

In the end, what he sent me was short and precise.  I didn’t fully understand it.  And it hadn’t followed the format I was expecting.

Our final coaching session was a face-to-face session in a beautiful setting in the west of Ireland. He had requested it be light with no life-altering questions (as if I would) as his mind takes these on board and really gets to work on them.

I never turn up with an agenda.  And that day was no different.  That said, I felt a certain responsibility to serve my client, even in the context of what he had asked.  I needn’t have been anxious.  We had one of the most powerful conversations of our entire time together. We reflected on different parts of the journey and discussed our viewpoints and what not and then he asked me what I thought about the testimonial.

Truthfully, I said, I don’t understand it.  So he explained where he was coming from.

There are times when you want to write what you’re hearing, but you know that’s not the time nor thing to do, to record the audio so you can listen back, but it loses the moment also.

His testimonial appeared to him in a flash and it appears to reflect a single moment in his mind’s eye.  He explained to me that when I step into my power, my tone and delivery change. There is a certain undefinable (my word) power to what I say which lands it differently – with more meaning.  He spoke to my own self-belief, the sheer power of my own belief that I will be a world-class coach as creating a meaning which goes beyond.  These are my words as I understand the essence of what this man was telling me.  He asked me to amend or adjust the testimonial to suit, but I simply refused to do so. Even this interference may be undoing something which is perfect.

You see . . .

. . . I’m not an ordinary coach.  If you ask me what’s so special about me, I can’t tell you. As far as I can tell, it’s in my own self-belief that there is something great within me. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I show up to serve the person in front of me in the most powerful way I can. It’s not about fancy questions or majestic statements. It’s not about how I present myself and it’s not about my agenda or my processes.

And it’s all about all of them and it’s about how I listen, my presence, my capacity to hear and see. It’s about the nuance of the moment, what’s not said as much as what’s said, what’s not heard as much as what’s heard, what’s seen as much as what’s not seen, what’s felt as much as what’s not felt. And, of course, there’s intuition.  Our ability to know when we apparently don’t know.

My friend in the West, I salute you and your own greatness and generosity!

Thank you!

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