writing space

Ashlee and Sue’s Story

This case study should be read in conjunction with the article entitled ‘How should we understand change fitness coaching?‘ If you haven’t read that article yet, we suggest reading it first.

Sue is a business coach in Sydney, Australia. In her 20’s, Sue began a business providing secretarial services to other business people. Although she was a skilled secretary, she soon discovered how difficult it was to build a business on her own. She didn’t know how to market her services, how to price them, or how to negotiate with prospective clients.

But Sue was adaptable, fearless, and quick to learn. Eventually she attracted some regular clients and built a successful business. Now in her 40’s and a qualified coach, Sue wants to help other young women seeking to launch a start-up business. She has recently acquired a new coaching client called Ashlee.

Ashlee is 26 years old and wants to start a business providing Virtual Assistant (VA) services to businesses. She has had experience in this type of work and likes it, but she has never tried to build a business before. She wants Sue’s help to get her business off the ground.

Sue tries first to understand what change projects are on the table. She discovers that Ashlee wants help with marketing her services and with writing content for her website.

Sue knows how valuable content marketing is and sees the connection between content writing as marketing and how this links with website content. She suggests to Ashlee that she should help Ashlee learn how to write a good piece of content. Ashlee agreed and was enthusiastic.

Sue understood that for some people writing good content was not easy to learn. It can be very challenging to thoughtfully plan out an article and get the logic right. It is not simple to write in a style that flows and is easy to read. It is difficult to write content that others would find interesting and engaging. And it’s even harder when you must include certain keywords and think about how google will look at what you have written.

Sue had no idea of whether Ashlee possessed the writing skills necessary for the task, or how difficult she would find it to learn them. However, she knew it was important for Ashlee to find success and not to become overwhelmed and discouraged. She knew it was important to assess Ashlee’s change fitness. If her change fitness was strong and she already had good content writing skills, she should make good progress with some guidelines on what to do and what to avoid. However, if her change fitness was weak and her writing skills needed considerable work, the road ahead would be more difficult, and Sue would need to provide lots of support, encouragement, and time to get a good result.

Considering these challenges, Sue suggested to Ashlee that she take a change fitness assessment. She didn’t insult Ashlee by saying, “I think you might have low change fitness, so I’d like you to take a test.” No, she said, “Ashlee, the way I work with clients is to get them to take an assessment at the start. This helps me understand how I can best help them, so we get the maximum benefit from the time we spend together. Is that okay with you?”

In Ashlee’s case, her change fitness assessment produced a score of 40%. This is at the extreme low end of the ‘normal range’. This score provided a warning sign to Sue. It suggested that Ashlee could have real problems with changes that were difficult for her to navigate. She would likely become easily discouraged, lose hope, and give up if the task became quite difficult. She saw the benefit of having Ashlee undertake the Personal Change Fitness Program (PCFP), but before suggesting that option, she wanted first to check out Ashlee’s writing ability.

She asked Ashlee to write an article entitled, “The Benefits of Hiring a VA”, and suggested she write about 4 benefits only. When she read Ashlee’s article, Sue was not impressed. There were no glaring spelling or grammatical mistakes, but the writing style was flat, the 4 points were neither discrete nor convincing. When she asked Ashlee what she thought of the article she had written, Ashlee said she liked it and thought it was a good article.

Sue could see that Ashlee had a long way to go, and she didn’t have much change fitness to take her there. So, this is what she said to Ashlee, “I am excited to be working with you and getting your business off the ground. I think you will make a lot of progress and once we nail the content writing down, you will be able to write great copy that your prospects will enjoy reading. But before we get onto learning how to write great copy, I think it would really help you if we spend some time working on how to change and how to succeed at change. You are embarking on a big change in your life and it’s tough starting a business from scratch. Many people fail because they don’t know how to handle all the changes a new business brings, and I don’t want to see that happen to you. I am going to recommend we spend some time over the next few months helping you become good at change. I have no doubt this will help you succeed, and it will be great preparation for writing and all the other things you must do as a business owner. Are you willing to spend the next few months working on this?”

Ashlee willingly took Sue’s advice and they spent the next 3 months working on the PCFP. The result was that Ashlee came to understand herself much better and came to see some of the limiting beliefs that affected her and held her back. She engaged with program content and Sue not only came to understand Ashlee much better, but she was also able to use her written work to improve her writing style.

Ashlee grew in self-confidence and learned to trust Sue. She felt that Sue had cared for her as a person, not just as someone who needed help with her copy writing ability. Ashlee’s developing change fitness enabled her to stick with the challenges of business writing and to find success.

She was so impressed with Sue’s ‘holistic’ approach that she told others how much Sue had helped her, and some of these people came her way.

NOTE: What you have read is just one possible way this story could have progressed. Had Ashlee scored 80% instead of 40%, Sue might not have recommended doing the PCFP and progressed straight onto improving writing skills. Even with a score of 40%, the way it played out might have been different if Ashlee already had strong writing skills.

The point is this – the more difficult the change is likely to be, the more change fitness the client needs. It is easier for the client to develop their change fitness than it is to engage in change that’s too difficult for them.