I was asked three times today to identify my “ideal” client – twice by prospective clients and once by a coach trying to figure out how to market their business.
When I think of the clients I most enjoy working with, they have several characteristics in common – they’re leading big organizations or big ideas, they see incredible possibilities in their business and their lives, they are committed to their own ongoing growth and learning, and they stay in excellent physical condition. But the one attribute that shines above the others – that may, in fact, be the foundation of the others, is the vibrantly positive attitude that pervades everything they do. They are optimists.
Make no mistake – these people are not blind to adversity – quite the contrary, they see everything clearly, including obstacles. Rather, they see adversity as an opportunity to learn something new and to solve a problem creatively.
According to Dr. Martin Seligman, a pioneer in the emergence of the field of Positive Psychology, the difference between an optimist and a pessimist boils down to the way they explain events. Optimists see all events, both bad and good, as temporary or situational (“The competition got out ahead of us this time”), specific to an incident or time (“We didn’t get the results we wanted”), and influenced by a combination of their own efforts and efforts of those around them (“Let’s figure out how to avoid that in the future”). Pessimists, on the other hand, see incidents as permanent (“We can’t win”), universal (“They always beat us”) and internal (“I messed up”).
While the above short course doesn’t do the science justice, I do know that as far as coaching is concerned, the optimist is the most coachable, most rewarding, and most open client. They believe that they are in control of their own success, that they are resourceful and creative and capable and that anything is possible if they commit to their goals.
Identifying optimists as my ideal client doesn’t really help the coach who wants to know where to advertise, but it absolutely helps the potential client know whether or not we’ll be a good fit – we optimists recognize each other pretty easily.