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Stephen Walker

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Working with the board – part two


In the concluding article, Stephen Walker looks at how to deliver genuine value when working with the board.

Read part one here.

Learning styles

First, the time pressures the clients face means they need to be able to access the coaching when it best suits them. We have all run workshops where one or two delegates are constantly interrupted by phone calls. Personally I think that just shows how much coaching is needed! But these busy people need to access the coaching at the weekend, evening or anytime that suits.

Guided thinking is a powerful technique for these clever clients. They have enormous capability already so have the mental ability to develop him or herself efficiently given some direction and assistance.

Thirdly to get over the 'why should I believe you' block, the coaching needs to enable self-discovery of the subject matter being coached. More to the point, the client needs to understand, intellectually and emotionally, what they have discovered.

Your job as coach is to shepherd the client along the right path to the discovery.


To be the shepherd you must understand the terrain. You must be a subject matter specialist.

I struggle to accept that anyone can be an expert in everything. Most clients do too, so you are better off specialising.

There are still people around who believe people development, training, coaching and mentoring is a 'good thing', so should be done for its own sake. In that case the generalist has a lure, a product position that brings clients to their door: people who want training and lots of it! I wonder where the return on investment is though.

If you set yourself up as a specialist, how do you get clients?


It is good if you have a hot topic specialism. There are fads in management. What would you think of a training provider that was a specialist in NLP last year, social media this year and crowd sourcing next year?

It makes sense if you are a specialist to stick close to your subject. So pick the subject wisely.

As a specialist you have to have a relevant brand, with all that entails. If you’re a search engine optimiser for vehicle repair shops, it is a good idea to score highly yourself for that search term. You need to exude a confidence that you can deliver what you are selling.

The brand will help you get found too. I had an example of an inappropriate name that implied an ability to do any training for anyone. Unfortunately an internet search came up with several companies trading under that name and I don’t want to be sued!

To build your specialist brand you have to show what you can do, what you know. One of today’s mantras is that 'people don’t like to be sold but they do like to buy'. To find you and your specialism you have to have a content footprint. Website, blogs, social media, webinars, videos and online publications all provide great opportunities to make your mark with your own specialist content.

Maybe you should write for an online magazine to expand your content footprint?


Working with the board is tremendously exciting. The difficulty of winning that business aside, it is an enriching experience for the coach. I always learn something myself from these very capable people.

Unless you have the marketing budget to compete with the big companies don’t try to be a one stop shop offering every possible topic.

Instead you should specialise. Find a deep niche in the market for which you have some experience, some ability and, hopefully, passion. Become a specialist in that narrow subject and build a brand to suit.

Whatever that narrow subject is, you will find a magazine that publishes in that niche. Usually you will find several magazines, online and print, which are advert rich and content poor. Write for them, get your expertise known.

You’re reading this, aren’t you?

Stephen is a co-founder of Motivation Matters, set up in 2004 to develop organisation behaviour to drive greater performance. He has worked for notable organisations such as Corning, De La Rue and Buhler and has been hired to help Philips, Lloyds TSB and a raft of others. A published author of articles and Conference speaker, Stephen delivers workshops across the country. It is all about “making people more effective by appropriate managerial behaviour” he says. You can follow Stephen on LinkedInTwitterYouTube and Blog.


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