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I was interviewed about my journey to developing my coaching practice, thought I’d share this interview since some of the answers are relevant to anyone starting a practice today. I also think there is a lot of myth and misconception out there about what coaching is and what it really takes to build a practice. This is not a comprehensive how to, just some questions posed from pure curiosity and some honest answers.
Q: Who did you train with for your Coaching Education?
A: I began my training in 2003 with Accomplishment Coaching. When I began, I felt so far out of my league and completely confronted by the personal development work involved that I quit in month six of the program. Also at that time it seemed as though my classmates all came from healing disciplines, were therapists or had degrees in psychology. I felt like a fraud, an outsider with no business being at the participant table. After I left I watched the program and kept in touch with my former classmates, asking them how it was going. Secretly, I wished that I had the courage to face my personal demons and coach. I loved coaching and I knew deep down inside of me that coaching was my calling. Needless to say I rejoined the program again in 2006, graduating in 2007. It’s funny to look back on it now but I had never been exposed to self reflective work before and I was SCARED by what I found when I sat with myself and reflected on me. I’m a leader and trainer in that organization now and one of my soft spots is for coaches just like me… afraid of the possibility they see for themselves. Recently I’ve also taken a Diploma in Coaching Supervision taught by Colin Brett of Coaching Development and Tracy Sinclair, now President of the International Coach Federation as part of my ongoing thirst to learn more about myself and keep my coaching edge sharp.
Q: What would you say to those who are just starting out?
A: Ironically in light of the last answer, grow comfortable with doing your own deep emotional diving. Learn to listen to reflection and feedback even if you don’t like what you hear. Ask my coach… even I still struggle with this although I also love this part of our work. Don’t listen to gimmicks and ads promising that you’ll be an overnight sensation. I admit it… I feel protective of new coaches and don’t want people just starting out to become discouraged when they aren’t able to develop million dollar clients in the first few weeks of their practice like the ad says. I’m not saying that it isn’t possible if you have the right mind set, network and skill set, it’s just not the norm. Coaching is a profession that includes developing your skills over time, with practice, over multiple different client situations and personalities. You can’t rush that. It’s experiential learning at its finest. And… get proper International Coach Federation accredited Coach Training. There is so much to learn about how to coach, how to manage your client files, coaching vs therapy, ethics, confidentiality, liability insurance, understanding the 11 core competencies found in a session and also how they can be used to develop business. Yes they can! There is way more to coaching than I think people realize. Not to mention the ongoing requirements to maintain our credentials through continuous professional and personal development. If you think about coaching as you would any other professional pursuit, Lawyers, Dentists, Accountants etc. you’ll take your time to set a strong foundation. It’s an attractive feature for potential clients seeking support knowing you’re in it for the long haul. Oh and last but not least… hire a coach and surround yourself with a supportive community. More on that later…
Q: What might you suggest for networking in the field?
A: Allow yourself to be seen! I know… it’s a funny thing to say but what I mean by that is, there’s a coach for every client and a client for every coach. If you are transparent and authentic, you will attract who you’re meant to work with. Coaching is a very unique partnership and most of my clients have come to me specifically because they saw something in me that resonated with something in them. It wasn’t my flashy logo or my robust Facebook Page. I see new coaches (and other new entrepreneurs) spend money on the things they think will drive the business rather than just get out there and create business! Discomfort, fear and that feeling that we need things to make us look more qualified only distract us away from practicing the relationship building skills necessary to any entrepreneur. Take the money you were going to spend on those triple embossed, gold, extra thick business cards and hire a coach to work with you through that very thing standing in the way of you actually creating clients. Remember there isn’t an industry average as to how long it should take you to develop a solid practice, stay committed and resolve to do whatever it takes to get there.
Q: What do you feel created you as an independent coach?
A: I am headstrong and stubborn. Lol. If you tell me, “you can’t” I’ll show you how I can. It took me a while to build a solid practice and I’m not afraid to tell you that it was blood, sweat and tears at times. I fought a lot of my own personal demons and challenges along the way and of course as sometimes we do, made things a lot harder for myself than they really needed to be. God bless my early coaches. And ahhhh hindsight… it truly is 20/20. I know that my background in other professions supported me too. I had run several companies before launching into coaching and the unique combination of each of those experiences completely contributed to my success. I also grew up in a household where both my parents were entrepreneurs, we were immigrants and eager to make it in this new land of promise. My upbringing impacted me significantly. My parents taught me the value of relationships, excellence and outstanding customer service. They were a model of integrity and had impeccable business ethics. I was lucky to have grown up around the energy of “you can have anything you want in life if you just go after it”. If you find yourself reading this paragraph and the little voice in your head is evidencing the reasons why you don’t have what it takes in comparison to my background, knock it off. Your unique journey is the perfect journey for you and means nothing about the value you bring to your clients being exactly that. YOU.
Q: How did you create your clientele?
A: My clientele created me. I remember deciding what type of clients I wanted and what type of coaching topics I felt comfortable with. It was hilarious when exactly the opposite showed up and being scared to death when they called. Before my coaching sessions I wanted to be sick and I remember waking up on coaching mornings full of anxiety and angst. You know that saying, “this too shall pass”? Well it certainly did. I have to thank my coaches at the time, they saw something in me that I didn’t see for myself. I kept standing in their confidence that those clients were indeed who I was meant to work with.
Q: What part of your life was most impacted by coaching?
A: You’ll groan when I say every part but it’s true. If I were to focus on one part I guess it would be the shift I experienced in my perspective. I had no idea that perspective could be shifted! I was soooo right about what I thought I was right about. That was mind blowing. I remember the first time I discovered what I thought to be true about myself and how I viewed a particular situation wasn’t the way I thought. I was profoundly shaken, my mind blown. I’m pretty sure the ground moved and I sat in a puddle of emotions. It simultaneously sucked and rocked my world. I was going through a particularly nasty divorce and heart wrenching custody battle at the time and all of a sudden I gained access to peace and forgiveness. Say what?! Everything I had been fighting for became achievable in that moment. It was also absurdly hilarious that I then suddenly became pissed about all the wasted time I spent lost in the fight and then laughed hysterically that the way out was so simple and achievable. Insert a big swear word here. Lol.
Q: Why did you choose coaching in the first place?
A: I was fascinated by human behaviour and still am and I have a deep commitment to people transforming their own lives. In managerial positions I held and as owner of a multi generational legal business I marveled at how we could hire two people at the same time, give them equal amounts of training and attention and have two completely different outcomes. What the hell?! I began reading everything I could get my hands on regarding psychology, how to motivate others and how to become a better manager. I really was researching transformation but didn’t really understand this word or process yet. This was the early 90’s and the coaching world was a little like the Wild, Wild West. I was also influenced by a desire to parent better and took a local course called Life Seminars. It was a coach approach to parenting although I didn’t realize it at the time. Once I’d completed the course I wanted to be a facilitator but I lacked the self esteem and confidence to pursue it. It wasn’t until 2003 when a dear friend lovingly threw a business card at me and said, “go be this”. What he saw in me was that I was good at my job and producing results but I was even better at creating results in others. The card he threw at me was the business card of what would become my first coach, Rachel Fink Parks with Accomplishment Coaching. The rest as they say… is history.
Q: Do you have a coach yourself?
A: I love to joke that you may not love me if I didn’t have my own coach. I’ve had many coaches over the years. Several of them I’ve maintained for years. Coaching one hour per week, every week, four times a month for years. My current coach is strong and doesn’t let me away with my own bullshit. He does an amazing job of keeping me clean and clear of my clients’ energy and holding me to the things I say I’m committed to. I am a strong believer that if you are going to coach you should be coached. Yes… I know, should is a swear word. What I know is that I reach heights I wouldn’t achieve on my own without my coach. I have spent some time without a coach and the difference in my results was profound. That does not mean that I am not self driven. It’s the things we can’t see, the blind spots, the behaviours, habits and beliefs that my coach reflects that create the biggest positive impact for me. It’s a profound experience that is better experienced than talked about. Now, since becoming a Coach Supervisor I also subscribe to having a Supervisor. Two support structures I will not do without, ever.
Q: Why was creating curriculum important to you?
A: First of all, it was a way to express my ideas and I love writing. Second, I could never quite find the right book or article to give my clients when I wanted to. I think it may have been my drive to provide excellent customer service that started it all. Lol. And then, I began to see a correlation and connection in the articles. Next, I was approached by an organization with a particular challenge and decided that I’d take my articles, write a few more and produce a program just for them as a pilot. It was so successful that I’m still using that program (The Emotionally Intelligent Leader Program) and still getting incredible results from it. I’m able to tweak it to fit the particular needs of an organization providing them with an affordable, tailor made program that is completely relevant to their needs. I felt as though settling for a generic program wasn’t embodying excellence and I think there was also a part of me that liked the challenge and creativity it sparked in me. I also watched organizations sink thousands of dollars into training only to have their people walk out of the training room and only apply a portion of the training. I saw combining coaching and training as a way of ensuring organizations and businesses get a return on their investment and for some Scottish reason became fixated on that.
Q: How do you get your personal message out?
A: In the beginning I attended at least one or two networking meetings a week. I was an active member of BNI, holding director roles and subscribing to the “givers gain” way of doing business. I met lifelong friends there and those relationships brought me business. Because of the personal work I took on as I trained as a coach I was profoundly different and I found myself in conversation with strangers everywhere. Starbucks, spas, elevators, line ups at the grocery store. It was obvious that the changes I felt inside were showing up on the outside. My energy was attractive, loud and shiny and people wanted some of that for themselves. In those conversations I was edgy, getting and giving business cards but never in that salesy, smarmy kind of way… just a girl, happy to share and contribute to others. Doing as her parents had done in another time and place, developing relationships. I also heard and saw things for others, like wearing xray glasses, it was craaaazy how much my intuition honed and got stronger the more I took on my own work. I wanted everyone to have the experience I had so “getting my personal message out” never occurred to me as something I had to do. I was a walking personal message. I also was disciplined about follow up and customer service. I took on a wash, rinse, repeat type of action in keeping lists of contacts, clients, referral sources and read many books on the matter of “sales” disguised as “relationship building”. Never Eat Alone being one of my favourite to this day. I also created many speaking engagements for myself, in the beginning sometimes throwing up before I went on. (Sorry to be graphic but it’s true). My determination to succeed kept me going.
Q: What has been the most difficult part of your journey?
A: Staying power and at times feeling completely alone. Due to life’s circumstances there were times where I honestly thought I was wreckless and crazy for sticking with something that most people had never experienced nor could imagine they would ever need. “If I had a buck for every time I heard someone say, who the hell needs someone to tell them how to do life” I’d be a freaking millionaire. (Remember… we’re talking about early 2000). My kids were both teens and I was alone. I had no other money coming in and no savings. It was the worst and the best of circumstances. The drive to create an amazing life for my kids kept me going even when well meaning people in my life yelled at me and told me I was being selfish. I lost friends who thought that coaching was similar to the old degrees you found in matchbox covers. If you remember that, I salute you. If you don’t remember that think snake oil salesman. They just thought that I was choosing some crazy form of self punishment when I refused to step back into something that would suck my soul dry but provide for my kids. They just couldn’t watch the torturous journey any longer. Along the way I met with all kinds of resistance and backlash in developing my practice. In addition, I was unprepared for the profound loneliness of the profession. I got cabin fever and at times felt like a crazy woman who wore pajamas for days and forgot the last time she showered. My inability to provide for the kids and succeed as fast as I wanted to caused me to turn on myself time and time again. I had strange questions that only a coach would understand and not really any where to turn to ask them. Thank god for my Accomplishment Coaching community.
Q: What has been the most satisfying part of your journey?
Watching how far coaching has come and simultaneously how far my practice and the people I’ve worked with have come. It’s incredible to receive emails from people who still produce results they knew they never would have years after our coaching relationship has completed. Coaching has taken the world by storm and is being credited with having the very components necessary to take the people of this planet into the challenging new future we face. I think it was Peter Hawkins who once said, “Coaching, supervision, team coaching, mentoring, consultancy, leadership development and organisational development are all part of the bigger joint purpose, to co-evolve human consciousness, both individual and collective, to be fit for our one shared ecological niche.” To be part of that is what I live for.