Stacy and Clinton, Communication Consultants
Openness and Trust
From Smooth Communications
By Amy Kay Watson
If you’re a fan of TLC’s What Not to Wear, you already know that Stacy London and Clinton Kelly know fashion. (If you’re not a fan of the show, bear with me – you may be surprised by the content of this post.)
Chances are, even fans haven’t given much thought to Stacy and Clinton’s other area of expertise: Coaching and Feedback. Stacy and Clinton demonstrate potent assessment, feedback, and coaching that effectively changes behavior. They show that mutual purpose, general guidelines, and checking in with the client’s thinking and emotions are the keys to coaching for behavioral change.
A communication consultant has the job of assessing current communication behavior and results, and then making recommendations for how to change those communication behaviors in order to achieve more desirable results. Those desirable results are the foundation of mutual purpose.
Here’s how mutual purpose is established on the show. In a recent episode, an average woman who is comfortable in her drab, shapeless work attire – and who is failing to get positive results with the professionals she needs to impress – was nominated by her friends and coworkers to be a guest on the show. Nominations are examined for the gap between current and desired results, and this gap becomes an important part of establishing mutual purpose.
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know that true behavior change does not start with identifying and resolving to engage new behaviors. If you’ve been successful at losing weight, you know that true behavior change begins with an insight akin to shock about how continuing your old behaviors will get you results you can’t tolerate any more.
A coach can induce that sense of shocking insight, as demonstrated by Stacy and Clinton:
- Hold up a mirror. A coach helps the client see what their behavior actually is and enlist people close to the client to offer feedback about their results. On the show, this is “hidden video” and interviews with friends and coworkers, and sometimes even a significant other.
- Ask the client questions to explore current behavior. What’s the thinking? Why do you do it that way? Fans of the show will recognize “the 360 mirror” segment in which guests talk about an outfit and why they like it, and the reality checks offered by Stacy and Clinton.
- Connect current behavior to current results. Sometimes we have a hard time seeing how what we do actually drives what is happening in our lives. I’ve literally heard people complain that they can’t lose weight despite their “diet” which they ignore regularly and which isn’t supported by exercise.
In the 360, Stacy and Clinton show their guest that their fashion choices are contributing to the undesirable results described by friends.(For instance, the guest doesn’t want to look fat, so they wear baggy clothes–which makes them look larger than they actually are.
Offer general guidelines within which to make new, effective choices
Mutual purpose firmly established, and the gap between current behavior and desired results clear to the client, it’s time to offer wisdom and suggestions for future behavior.
When Stacy and Clinton move on to coach for better results, they show their guest a sample, completed outfit and talk about some rules they believe the guest needs to learn and follow when they go shopping. They might suggest structured jackets, brighter colors, or certain lines. The suggestions follow simple criteria:
- Following them will lead to desired results.
- They are general enough to be applicable in a variety of circumstances and with varied resources.
Check in regularly to understand thinking and emotions
During the initial consultation in which mutual purpose is established, hidden thoughts and feelings can start to inhibit progress. It is the consultant’s job to uncover these obstacles and deal with them right away so the client can recognize what is inhibiting their ability to change and let it go.
Stacy and Clinton bring these hidden thoughts and emotions to light in the 360 through tentative checks for assumptions (“It sounds like you think ______”) and through a regular practice of empathy (“Do you feel ____ about yourself?”). These questions frequently explore their guest’s assumptions about their own capabilities, resources, and worthiness.
This emotional checking in is powerful, because the emotions are not only the source of the consultant-client rapport and trust, but the emotional information carries with it the biggest obstacles to changing behavior. In response to emotional information, the coach can offer a reality check about how the client’s thinking or assumptions do not lead to their intended results.
Even in the coaching stage, Stacy and Clinton follow up their specific, generalizable fashion rules by checking in in on their guest’s emotions. “How do you feel about this? Does this seem like something you could try?” This inquiry process exposes areas of resistance to change. The What Not To Wear hosts are compassionate and empathetic, but still offer different thinking to support a change in behavior.
Whether you are in training, management, consulting, or even sales–any profession where influencing another’s behavior is critical to your success–you can pick up important lessons from Stacy and Clinton’s example. Keep mutual purpose (the desired results) and general guidelines (the content of your coaching) at the center of every coaching session, and regularly check in with your trainee’s, client’s, employee’s, or customer’s emotions and thinking. This is information you need (and that they need to air) about their ability to follow your guidelines.
How do you feel about this? Does this seem like something you could do?
Posted on Janaury 10, 2011