So you want to coach? You want to be free, you want everyone to pay you because you’re so great and you are going to help them reach the next level, live the life they want, find love, find happiness or find their passions!
Sounds lovely, but unfortunately you’re often chained to your computer, people aren’t in it for you, and that goulash of promised ambiguity isn’t impressing anyone’s emotional palate.
Here are some more unfiltered lessons from my 3-year ongoing dive into coaching for all those who think they might want to someday.
Puppies and rainbows are not permitted…but you knew that already!
People Don’t Think They Need You
The inherent challenge with being a coach is that a lot of would-be clients are convinced they can do whatever it is they can’t currently do, once they choose to do it. They’ll do it when they have more time, when this project is over, when their kids go to college, when the world stops plotting against them, or when impediments a, b, c, d, and e magically disappear.
And then there’s you asking them to give you hundreds if not thousands of dollars for advice and insight they think they could get online for free.
You might have better luck getting Jack Bauer to teach an anger management class.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a version of this conversation:
Them: So what do you do?
Me: I help people finish shit.
Them: Oh I totally need that. I’m all over the place. Coach me right now.
Me: This is not a circus and I’m not a fortune teller.
People LOVE receiving help and advice, as long as it’s free and easy.
People Are Embarrassed About Having A Coach
When we’re kids we have parents, teachers, sports coaches, guidance counselors, mentors and the like. When we’re in college, we have professors, TA’s and all that. No Olympian has ever won a medal without a coach. CEO’s have coaches. We pay personal trainers at the gym all the time.
The only people who don’t have coaches are the people who need them most, i.e. everyone one of us trying to figure out how best to do the thing we want to do in a world where most people don’t know our name or care what happens to us.
Navigating your professional career (let alone an entrepreneurial one) alone can be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but we’ve been fed a heavy dose of “you’ll figure it out,” “it’s just he way it is,” “don’t rock the boat,” “fake it till you make it,” “things are great,” and “I’m crushing it” that the idea of hiring a coach to help navigate the everyone-knows-it-but-doesn’t-admit-it confusing waters of professional life, is seen as a weakness.
Hiring a life/business coach is like going home with someone not-so-good-looking. You might do it, just as long as your friends don’t know about it.
Isn’t your boss your coach, Bassam?
No, bosses are, first and foremost, interested in the company doing well, not necessarily you doing well. Parents, teachers, sports coaches, personal trainers, TA’s and mentors are 100% interested in you doing well.
You can’t be a coach and not understand that people who really need you, who really want you and who can afford you, might be too embarrassed to hire you.
Not Everyone Can Coach
I’m still nervous when I sign a client, wondering if I’m good enough or capable enough to give them insight that dwarfs what they can find on google, on a blog or in a magazine. Because if you’re just sharing Top 10 lists and shortcuts then you’re not a coach, you’re an aggregator of information. There’s nothing wrong with that but to be a coach, you have to see what isn’t shown, hear what isn’t said, know what isn’t told and react to what you didn’t prepare for.
It’s about understanding people’s impediments and motivations more than it is understanding your methodology or suggesting solutions you read in The New York Times Magazine.
The thing about coaching is that you can’t do something for your clients, something has to be done by them. They pay you up front and they still have to do most of the work. Coaching is not the “Set It And Forget It Rotisserie“ of professional services, whatsoever.
People Don’t Want To Change…
…they just want to continue being liked by their friends.
A coach will bring forth change and – like it or not – we sometimes don’t want to change because even the crap in our lives becomes part of the story we’re attached to, part of why we can’t do the things we want to do, part of our psyche that puts the world on one side and our hopes and dreams on the other.
It piles so high until we can’t see our lack of determination, our lack of self-reliance, or our lack of a backbone in the mound of excuses we’ve nestled against.
People aren’t rushing to pay you to admit their own shortcomings and inabilities. Weird, huh?
Coaching Can Be Exhausting
Yeah, it sounds easy. Just get on the phone with someone during the middle of your climb of El Capitan or right after your Samba dancing class and hear about all the successes your client has made in the past week and offer up the timely slight tweaks they need to make. Hang up, continue your summit climb or chatting up the Argentinian beauty you were dancing with.
Errr, not exactly.
Your clients won’t always work as hard as you want them to and you can’t make anyonedo anything, so more times than you’d like to admit, you’ll find yourself in your badly-lit apartment, on a Skype call with someone who has paid you, so you bring 100% of you even if you aren’t really jazzed about their project or their individual path at the moment.
You’ll hang up the phone, exhausted and confused that one 60-minute call, one bout of one-on-one focus can take so much emotional energy out of you.
The bubbling reality is that you can’t really coach well and just go through the motions. And plus, your next client needs all of you all over again.
Ready? Say cheese!
Coaching Can Be Lonely As Hell
Imagine having that call I described and then finding yourself in your office (aka, by yourself in your apartment) with no agenda for the rest of the day? Heads up for the Mini Depression Session coming your way! Woohoo! Yeah you get to be anywhere when being a coach but when you are anywhere by yourself for too long, you’ll start dreaming of being part of a team at a big company so that you can bounce stuff off other people again.
If you’re a coach, people presume your oracle-self has it all figured out.
Have human outlets.
It’s Not About You
You are not the hero, your client is. You are the mentor who helps them get to where they’re going.
But every coach thinks that s/he is the hero at first. I did. When I first launched Colipera it was “I, I, I” and how impressive I was because who the hell actually was I? I needed to talk about me to prove to you (and myself!) that I belonged here. But through time it ended up being my writing, my experiences and my vantage point that connected with people (more on that later), not any self-proclaimed accolades of mine.
When it’s all about you, then we’re pretty sure you’re not sure what you’re doing. If you’re defending yourself before anyone’s asked, then you’re dead in the water. Imagine a salesman who comes to your door and tells you all of the great things they do or have done without having uttered how their product is going to help you? We shut the door on those people.
If you love what you’re selling so much that you assume everyone else does to, then you’ll believe that everyone will want what you have once they hear of it.
But that’s not how it works.
Your audience demands to see themselves in a new light. You’re just the one holding up the mirror. If they like what they see, they’ll think, “I look goooood,” and you’ll be on the right path.
So your website, your copy, your message has to be all about them, them, them. Sadly for the people you’re trying to convince, closing a url is much easier than shutting the door on someone. (Thanks for the harsh reality, Bounce Rates.)
What Can’t They Do Without You?
Any life coach is behind the 8-ball to start because your deliverable is non-tangible (happier, more fulfilled, more weeeee!, etc) and that is hard to guarantee or quantify.
Since your ROI is emotional you have to hit someone’s feelings.
The question is: what can’t your client do in his/her life before you came along and how does that make them feel?
What is it worth to feel like their old self again?
What could they do in a new self?
What is it worth to finally finish what they start or to let go of what’s been dragging them down?
What is it worth to not tell that same story over and over, that one of perpetual wan’t-s and can’t-s?
How do you, as a coach, fit into their hero’s journey?
You’re Not Selling Your Coaching, You’re Selling A Connection
As a coach you ultimately know that you will have to get your clients to be vulnerable for them to get the results they want. But you have to walk across that wobbly branch first. There’s no way your hopeful client will be the first one to risk being left in the cold underneath a splintered tree.
How you take that step is that you get them to hear their own voice inside their head when they read what you write.
When that happens, it’s that unparalleled connection between two people who share a story, who share the same values. It means you have the same realizations and reactions to how things are, how they’re supposed to be and what you are going to do about it. You identify a similar “Weltanschauung,” a world view.
They’re not hiring you because they believe that you harbor the 7th fleet of coaching info, they (the hero) are hiring you (the mentor) when they feel so comfortable with you that the emotional gain of a coaching relationship is worth far more than the economic outlay of it.
And it’s that connection and all the possibilities that lie within it that may be the greatest joy that comes from coaching.
But like everything that’s worth it, first you have to earn it.