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July 13, 2006


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Great stuff. You've been working towards this kind of story for a long time and it shows.


Great story, if only if only, we could get people to follow the script. But there is hope. With Tracy and Peter enagaged there is hope.


Ah, but there are more players needed than Tracy and Peter. Who will build the tools? Who will hold the open space/the space open? Who will make the introductions? Who will facilitate? And are there other options for planning in our complex world of tangled relationships and mingled families?

Great story Phil.


The context, or scenes, are already set in many cases. The stories are already in medias res, and often there is no felt need for a new way to organize the process. The community events happen one place, the planning team meets in another, the charitable advisor or fundraiser intervenes in another place, and the scenes do not make one story. The client is caught among worldviews, business models, and "tribes" of advisors. There are others who do this work, and several organizations that provide training, although the majority of clients still are left wandering among the "silos" or islands of specific expertise.


This is a time for integration and cross-pollination. It comes slowly perhaps, in fits and starts, here and there. The models evolve and grow. More people come to the circle and join in. You don't know what you don't know, then you begin to see there is a gap. And as you see the gap, you want to shift it. Something else is possible. And it feels more aligned with who we are. But first, we must see it as possible.


Spin, Where would you ad the role of personal coach to the story above?


A personal coach holds the space for the conversation in private. A facilitator holds the space in the open. Both catalyze the conversation with questions and moderation. Both are best when they both challenge and support.

If you know there is a gap between what you have and what you want, but you don't see a clear path or face hard decisions to change the path, then who do you speak with? Who lacks a conversation warping agenda? Who has the skills to get to the core of it, negotiate conflict, set priorities, manage the process of change? And do so without putting their own values and needs in the fray? The coach.

Who champions the individual to bring out their best self, to prod them to take big steps for themselves, to cross-over their skills in one area, like business, to another area, like giving? The coach.

So where is the coach in the story? The coach is on the phone with Leo or with Charita at each turn, asking, "What do you want here? What will having that get for you? Is that really what you want? What steps are going to take to get what you want? When will you take those steps? Do they need to be chunked smaller? Is there someone who can do those steps better than you which you could ask for help or hand it off to? If you ask for what you want, will there be consequences you don't want? Is there another experience you have had like this where you managed it successfully? What strengths of yours can you apply here to help you on this path? How will you know you have what you want? What evidence will you have? What will that look like, sound like, feel like? If you can imagine having that, does it feel right to you? ... " The questions are not in order, they arise as the conversation requires. This is the beginning.


Thanks for the "ad" space. ;-)


OK, but if the client bonds with the coach and the coach operates only in private and interfaces only with the client, then the coach is maybe an obstacle in the eyes of the advisory team. Who is the coach to be raising these questions when so many of the answers may be based on a dim understanding by the client of the realities of her situation and of the planning engagement. Let us say the advisors are gravitating towards a recapitalization of the donor's business, setting up a number of trusts, and maybe a foundation. If the coach is whispering the client's ear, and knows nothing of the specific tools, will the conversation really go in a good direction? If you diagram the flow of info, then you have the coach as a greyed out box communicating off the record only with the client. Meanwhile, the client should have a trusted advisor on the team who is communicating with all the other players to nurture the process along.Thus, the client has a trusted advisor on the team and another confidant not on the team. If the two are not in conversation, the client may be caught in the middle.

Team play and team dynamics are critical in this endeavor.

Futher, how does the coach get on the team? Who recommended her? And won't that person want to stay in touch? (I can see a trusted advisor calling in a coach, or recommending one, if the client has difficulty following through on work only the client can do, but in that case, the trusted advisor would expect the coach to maintain open though tactful lines of communication so that the team could move forward together. Clearly the client decides who has permission to tell what to whom, but too many greyed out boxes and too many people not talking with one another can lead to dysfunction, delays, and ultimately higher costs and lower peformance.

If the coach already has the relationship with the client and encouages the client to get suitable advisors, then again the coach may not be able to operate totally in the shadows. She will have to know a good advisor for a very bad one, I would think, and to help the client decide on her team.

When the coach starts asking, "How should the process be chunked?" etc she may well be out of her depth when the process is one that involves high powered advisors who have their own processes. They will not relish being second guessed by somone they have never met, and who may not undersand what is really going on, since the client herself may be confused.

Your note raises lots of issues. You can see how team dynamics are a mission critcal element to all this. If coaches could advance the group effort, they might find a role. If they operate only in a dyad with the client, it seems to me they will have to find the client or have the client on board. Advisors aren't likely to recommend someone who keeps them in the dark. (Therapists may be the exception to this, but the most successful psychologists in this field actually are those who do family counseling and team building. Often they end up hosting family meetings or sitting with family and advisors as facilitators. So they have a real place at the table.)


Interesting conversation. I think part of the difficulty may lie in our mental images of what a coach does, if we expand that a bit it may be helpful.

There is a sense in which the coach is not an active participant. When the game is on the coach is off the playing field, and in some sports may not even communicate with the player. A personal coach has many fewer restrictions, which makes it all the more important that they have a strong ethical foundation. The action that only a few people on the team can take is to make decisions. Delegation can move decision points into the team, but ultimately the delegation comes from very few points.

In this model, there is no reason the coach would be separated from the team. In adition to the softer skills, a good coach should become familiar with the financial and legal instraments involved. Depending on dynamic, the client and coach may interact together with the domain experts, getting briefed and taught the ins and outs of tactics and strategy.

That's a different diagram. The coach and client are closely interacting (privately for personal work and just friendship), and they are often communicating together with the rest of the team. The client is deciding, but can call on her coach at any time for any reason. The rest of the team might as well treat the coach as another family member or personal friend of the client. To question their right to be present in conversations is rightly seen as divisive.


Just thought of another way to break down the dyad structure and connect the coach with the rest of the team. Instead of being a personal coach for the client, the client hires a coach for her giving team. Now the coach isn't just working with the client but individually and in groups with the entire team.

I wonder if Spin could write more about a coaches role in helping the whole team be successful.


You added one critical component, Gerry, missing from Spin's account. You said, in passing, "In adition to the softer skills, a good coach should become familiar with the financial and legal instraments involved." Well, that is 3 years of full time work to get that expertise even at the "semi-competent" level. Very few coaches have that, or are in a position to pay those "dues."

If this is a team game, and the coach only knows her own position, she really can't help the client with the handoffs with the other advisors - or can she?

The role would have to be defined very clearly, with clear limits. It might involve clarifying goals, dealing with dilemas, working through a pre-arranged fact-gathering process, putting together a "dossier," writing a cover memo re: goals, and helping the client interview advisors. The role in some ways is like that of a para-planner in a financial office. "Data and goals and current documents."

My concern is that once you start collecting data about financial instruments and legal instruments that clients immeidately have questions, "Is this my IRA statement? Or is it a TSA? What block do I enter the number under on the fact-finder?" "What do they mean by "S-Corp," here?" It is hard to keep the specific financial stuff out of an interview about money and life, even if the focus is "values," or goals and objectives. The conversation tends to veer from one to another. Insofar as the coach is involved, and insofar as there are lines that cannot be crossed over into planning, which is a regulated activity, you do wonder who is supervising the coach, or keeping her from doing inadvertent harm. You also wonder how she gets paid. If the client coughs up the money, fine, but if anything goes to her from the advisors, then you have potential conflicts of interest and regulatory issues. Finally, a good advisor will want to be the trusted advisor. Clients bond to advisors during the goal setting conversation, and through the fact-finding. If the coach takes that over, or does too much of it, she may end up as the "leader," in the eyes of the client. And she may just not be able to fulfill that role, since she will not understand how the data will be used, what the legal docs say, or what the planners are creating.

The role of giving coach is somewhat less vexed, but truth be told, a big part of the conversation may be about what is to be given, when, and how much, and how it will affect the donor's life, her children's lives, etc. Those are all planning questions.

There are giving coaches out there, some very good, who are not conversant with finance, but they restrict themselves to working with the current giving budget, rather than repositioning the client's money, and mapping out an overall plan of which the giving plan is a piece.

It would be nice is coaching skills and technical skills were more often found in the same body.


The thing is that the client isn't expected to be expert in any of it and has to make the final decisions anyway. I'm imagining client and coach being tutored by one or more trusted advisors as appropriate, and helping each other through that part as equals. The coach will grow in financial knowledge with the client, and will be largely dependent on having good and trustworthy advisors. As you say they might help the client form the team, but then they would let the technical leaders lead where they are competent. The coach will need human communication skills to know who is and is not trustworthy more than any specific technical knowledge.


The blind leading the blind?


I was thinking more like Wilder and Prior in "If You Could See What I Hear". If the client isn't very good at the technical side then maybe the coach needs to be better. I'm guessing that neither the client nor coach got where they are being naive about all of that.

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