changes is stressful and many of the
traditional supports that individuals have had in the past have
eroded. We recognize that people in today's world have fast-paced
lifestyles with higher demands on personal and professional time,
along with more single parent households and homes where both
parents must work. These elements severely reduce the time, energy,
and motivation people have to focus on their own needs.
Those seeking to improve
their health and fitness have a number of places they turn to for
support. Sometimes they turn to personal relationships with friends
or family. Sometimes they turn to professional relationships with
doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors or personal trainers.
But often, they do not have the time or money to continue the work
they began together.
Health and fitness seekers also turn to published materials – books,
magazine articles, etc. - that have been written by experts.
Unfortunately, very few of us are good at taking generic information
and actually applying it to the particulars of our own lives. Though
many people find printed materials helpful, such materials are
usually not sufficient to resolve the issues at hand.
Hummingbird Coaching Services (HCS) has developed a service that
adds to the range of supports for those wishing to make healthy
lifestyle changes. It is aimed at being a “gap filler” – more
personalized than generic information from experts and less
intensive and expensive than professional one-on-one counseling.
This service, MyHealthCoach.com (MHC) is personalized and efficient.
Unlike traditional counseling, it is focused on non-clinical
problems – the everyday challenges of
instituting positive lifestyle changes. Clinical issues are instead
referred to mental health and health professionals. HCS coaching
also differs from traditional counseling in the depth of analysis.
Counseling requires a high degree of thoroughness and analysis since
the stakes are very high. Alternatively, since the stakes are lower
with coaching a quicker methodology can be utilized.
In coaching, if a strategy doesn’t work we
simply circle back and try something different, whereas in
counseling a misdirected intervention can have more severe
consequences and therefore is more unacceptable. Further, whereas
counseling/therapy is often based in an “expert” model and advice is
often expected, in coaching an explicit attempt is made to avoid
advice–giving. Instead, the aim is to help individuals think through
issues and come to their own conclusions in a collaborative
problem-solving model. The coach
offers ideas for consideration and helps the people generate ideas
of their own. The coach helps an individual consider various ideas,
choose a direction, and then supports them
in the implementation of their decision.
HCS coaches aim to serve
their members well but to use as little of their own time as
possible in doing so. The more efficient coaches can be in the use
of their time, the lower the cost to deliver the service and thereby
the cost to members is kept to a minimum. Lower cost means greater
availability to a wider range of people.
HCS has developed procedures and technology to help coaches in their
quest for efficiency. It has developed its unique Human Touch
software (in its third generation) that enables
coaches and members to interact in meaningful and convenient
ways using the Internet. The software offers members a secure
personal website at which they can access their coach in real-time
or on a non-synchronous basis within 24 hours.
The site allows coaches
to hand pick topic-specific, user-friendly articles targeted to the
specific issue at hand and to deliver them to a member’s personal
library. It also allows coaches to help members set specific goals
and to support them through implementing these goals. And, the
software and program provide coaching support for the coaches
themselves. All in all, the software is efficient for coaches,
user-friendly for members, and capable of handling a large volume of
MHC services are based in
a collaborative relationship. The relationship formed between member
and coach not only enhances the quality of service but the
efficiency as well. The familiarity that a coach develops with a
member’s circumstances and significant relationships allows them
over time to more quickly offer useful ideas and assistance. With
traditional call-in assistance lines, such as a warm-line, the time
intensive exercise of getting background and contextual information
is repeated each time. Efficiency is lost.
Challenging the conventional wisdom that relationship formation
requires in-person interaction, HCS has found that members and
coaches can build sufficient relationships via internet-based
communication. Often HCS coaches utilize an initial time-limited
telephone conversation to establish a personal connection and then
proceed with computer-based interactions for the remainder of their
work with the member.
In looking to maximize
efficiency HCS has focused on minimizing the time used in live
interactions when the listener waits for the respondent to formulate
and express their thoughts. Non-synchronous interchanges via
computer eliminate these “inefficiencies”. HCS coaching does not
require a coach to be tethered to a member while the member
formulates and expresses their thoughts. Instead, coach time is used
mainly in reviewing member correspondence and formulating responses.
This strategy produces great timesaving.
Further, HCS has
developed a protocol based on key learnings from the field of
psychotherapy and behavior modification. The protocol is embedded
within a proprietary problem-solving model called Y.O.U.R.® This
model is based on the concept that too
often people act without a good understanding of a problem. Their
responses then complicate matters and often make matters worse.
MHC offers the
opportunity to step back and take a second look at what’s going on –
to try to quickly come to a reasonable guess as to what factors
might be influencing the situation. The Y.O.U.R. model organizes the
inquiry in a systematic way. Basically, it sequences the process of:
member’s thoughts, feelings, beliefs and expectations around the
issue (Y for You)
targeted Observations to make
understanding from the observations made Using well-established
concepts of human behavior, and then
Responses based on an improved understanding.
But, having an idea of “what” to do is very different from actually
“doing” it. People need help with the follow-through.
So, after figuring out “what” to do using the Y.O.U.R. Model, HCS
focuses on implementation. Here HCS builds on sound research and
experience from the field of behavior modification that has to do
with goal-setting and with implementation support.
People need additional supports to the array currently
available to ensure Healthy Lifestyle Change
Effective goal setting and implementation support greatly
increases the likelihood of behavioral change.
All problems involve negative emotions (e.g. frustration,
anger, guilt, disappointment, etc.) that must be
acknowledged and validated before rational problem-solving
Efficiency is the key to keeping the coaching service price
point low and thereby making it widely accessible.
Acknowledgement and validation via reflective listening,
positive re-framing and empathic responding are always
necessary and sometimes sufficient responses to a member in
need of support.