I’m always amazed by the wide range of experiences that can inform us about the excellent habits for practice-building and coaching perspectives that lead to success. I had one such experience that I will share with you here.
Late last summer, I traveled to Seattle, Washington, to work with a client and her team. It was a combo engagement ~ some executive shadowing, some brand communication training, a few one-on-one goal setting and coaching sessions. One of the highlights of our itinerary was an improv workshop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market area, a neighborhood known for its artsy and fun restaurants, coffee shops, book stores and street vendors.
One of the best-known destinations there is the Pike Place Fish Market famous for its edgy, fun-filled approach to selling fish. Yes, you can buy fresh halibut and salmon, but you will get so much more: dead fish being flung through the air, tossed by the wisecracking fishmongers to a very, very engaged clientele. Not your usual fish-buying experience! So special is the Pike Place Fish Market that it attracts tourists, sometimes as many as 10,000 per day.
When you order from their offerings, your request is echoed back and forth between the fishmongers, and your order becomes air-bound as it moves from display, to wrapping, to weighing, to your basket, all to the shouts and cheers of both the staff and crowds. High energy. Much laughter.
According to the “Fish!” trilogy, written by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, John Christensen and Philip Strand, the success of the Pike Place Fish Market can be attributed to four principles which drive how their staff conducts itself ~ be there, play, make their day and choose your attitude. According to the books, these principles are intentionally embedded in the culture and generally supported through systems and structures to ensure a unique buying experience.
My client and her boss invited me to become part of the show by climbing up on the makeshift stage and catching a flying fish. These were people I needed to impress. And I was in a business suit. You understand. Exactly!
Yet as I reflect back on that experience, the Pike Place Fish Market might be a wonderful laboratory to think about your coaching and your coaching practice: In what ways can we observe, learn and implement some of the lessons from that amazing place to more consistently and successfully deliver an extraordinary client experience? Let’s look at the principles that drive the Pike Place Fish Market experience and see if/how they might apply to us:
Choose Your Attitude. Sometimes we can’t change what happens to us, but we can always decide how we will think about it. Do you purposefully choose your attitude daily, or do you let circumstances decide how you will show up to and for your clients? When I was going through my sales days, the motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, shared that people will respond in kind ~ if you treat others with haughtiness or hesitation or fear, they will treat you likewise. I’ve tested that statement and have found it to be absolutely true: I like to greet people with, “Good morning!” regardless of the time of day. My non-scientific finding is that more than 95% of the time, people will answer with, “Good morning!” regardless of the position of the sun. Maybe it karmic, but we get what we give.
Be There. Are you fully in the present with your clients when you meet? I have to simplify my environment because I can get lost chasing bright and shiny objects (ideas, pictures, links, texts, etc.) when they appear. My clients know that I don’t have the computer on when we are coaching. Are you able to genuinely listen to what your client is processing in the moment, without becoming distracted by the red herrings that might be coming your way? How does your client know? In what ways do you ensure that your environment is free of the clutter that might get in your way of delivering amazing service?
Make Their Day. I have the pleasure of working with the most amazing persons and organizations anywhere. I find meaningful ways to let my clients know that I sincerely appreciate them. Do you deeply enjoy your client conversations and are you able to share those feelings with them, using humor, observation or other forms of gratitude? In what ways do you express your wonder and awe of your clients? Do they know ~ overtly ~ that you respect and admire them?
Play. This can be a double-edged sword: At the end of a session, your clients should feel lighter and uplifted, regardless of the content of the conversation. Do your clients trust that you take your work seriously, without taking yourself seriously? The Pike Place Fish Market has to create a certain amount of trust to get someone to agree to get on stage ~ in front of strangers, loved ones and clients alike ~ and take the chance that they might look foolish. Dead fish in the face is not a pretty sight! Do your clients know that they are safe when they share with you? Do you consciously create a space for them to play with new ideas and/or experiment with different roles, without fearing failure?
I learned a ton about coaching through my experience at the Pike Place Fish Market. Did I choose to be the target of a dead fish? Yup. Did I catch the monstrosity that they threw at me? Not the first time, but the funny, cheering fishmongers let me try again (and again,) gently lobbing a sloppy vertebrate in my direction. Eventually, I caught it ~ and all its squishy mess ~ all over myself, raising my smelly trophy in victory!
Do your clients feel equally triumphant after your sessions with them?
Dr. Lucía C.R. Murphy, also well known as “Doctor Murph,” is the Leadership Architect, acclaimed author and inspirational speaker. DoctorMurph is the author of the acclaimed book, “LeaderSpeak: 7 Conversations that Create Sustainable Success". For information, visit DoctorMurph.com.
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