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You may be new to the coaching business. Maybe you have just completed a qualification, or you are an experienced coach wanting to take your skills and experience in coaching to the next level. Whatever your intentions, there is a handy companion to help you on your journey: The Coach’s Survival Guide by Kim Morgan.
This book is the perfect read for anyone with an interest in the potential of coaching as a way of bringing out the best in people.
The Coach’s Survival Guide is an easy to digest read that combines models of coaching, with how to set up your business, backed-up with real life practical examples and answers to common situations that those in the coaching business face every day.
The practical examples, or case studies, allow the reader to reflect on their own coaching practice and how they would handle different and challenging situations.
Due to the nature of the profession, coaches are in the business of asking the questions rather than answering them. This book, however, is a powerful resource for coaches as it helps answer many of the questions that they have about the development of their own coaching practice.
Each chapter could be a book in its own right, as the author acknowledges herself, and therefore this book should be used in conjunction with other text on the subject matter. Hats off to Kim Morgan for covering such a breadth of topic in less than 150 pages.
Building a coaching business
It’s probably fair to say that the actual business of coaching someone requires different skills to the skills required to building your own business. In a coaching situation, the emphasis is on the actively listening to the client (it’s all about them as client, and not about you as coach). However, when it comes to building your own business, you need to take the time to promote yourself to the market.
Kim advocates for coaches spending time ‘on’ the business as well as ‘in’ the business. She suggests that when it comes to business plans that a similar model coaching can in fact be used, including: goal setting; visioning; defining actions; and defining clear outcomes.
The ability to market yourself is critical. Setting-up a business can be costly, and it can be tempting to invest a lot of money on the ‘visual aspect’ of your business e.g. developing a website, advertising online and social media. Clearly this is useful as it helps to raise your profile, but it doesn’t necessarily equate to paying clients, which is what you need to survive.
You need to have a target marketing strategy in place. Part of this process can be about mapping out the types of clients you want to attract. In coaching this is tied into your ‘niche’ as a coach. For example, you may want to specialise in mid-career professionals who are looking to change jobs or career path. Therefore, you would consider who these people are, how old they are, where they live, what media they consume, as a root to targeting them with your offering as a coach.
Often coaches aim to attract clients who are similar to themselves as they feel they will be able to build a rapport quickly. There is a definite benefit to this, but coaches may also not want to limit themselves to their own mirror image if they want to attract a breadth of clients.
Once you have established some contacts with your potential clients, you should consider building a database of contacts that can be used to promote your business. This should be an integral part of your business plan.
‘Coaches have the best chance of success in a business. They already have all the tools available to them. Starting out with the end in mind and setting goals, with clearly defined action steps, is what coaches do. Why would you not apply all these principles to build your coaching business?’ – Antonio (case study)
Overcoming imposter syndrome
Imposter syndrome is a well-known phenomenon in psychological terms. And the coaching profession is not immune to this. Put simply, impostor syndrome describes the feeling of being a fraud, or fear of being ‘found out’ in the workplace. It is commonly experienced (but not limited to) people who are highly successful in their careers.
Kim Morgan’s view is that as a coaching professional you should look to overcome any feelings of impostor syndrome and build confidence, however it is actually better to be questioning your competence as a coach as this will make you a more reflective practitioner. You don’t want to over promise and under-deliver to your clients. Part of this is being about aware of the limits of your own skills and ability.
The Conscious Competence Framework comes in handy here. It’s based on the work of Noel Burch from the US-based Gordon Training International allowing us to move through increasing levels and awareness when we acquire a new skill:
- Stage 1: Unconscious competence – when we don’t know what we don’t know, and we don’t even know that we need to know it.
- Stage 2: Conscious incompetence – when we start learning something for the first time and we become acutely aware of our own lack of skill (trainee coaches are often at this stage at the start of their training).
- Stage 3: Conscious competence – we have been learning to do something and we now know we have the skill to do it, but it doesn’t come naturally yet and we are consciously aware of what we need to do.
- Final stage: Unconscious competence – we take it for granted we can do it, almost without thinking about it.
As a coach, enhancing your competence in training and professional development is one way of enhancing your confidence.
Many coaches are on a journey of lifelong learning and exploration. Supervision is another aspect of this. Like the counselling professional, it is recommended that coaches have regular supervision from another coach to allow them to reflect on their own practice and clients in a safe space.
For anyone interested in learning more in depth about imposter syndrome, I highly recommend ‘The Imposter Cure by Dr Jessamy Hibberd.
Habit changes can be as simple as committing to going out for a 5-minute walk every day to improve your health but for more transformative change to take place, you must look more deeply at your values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours.
Coaches must understand the psychology of change – what’s held the client back until this point, what blockers have they put in place to prevent them from moving forward. There are many tools and exercises in coaching use to overcome this.
Transformational learning involves changes in the feelings, values and attitudes which shape our thinking and behaviour.
Often such transformational moments take place outside the confines of the 1-2-1 coaching space between client and coach, but it’s the process of personal development and growth through coaching that has allowed this moment to take place.
Coaches often talk about limiting beliefs that has restricted the client’s potential. For me, as an example, as a youngster, I was always rubbish at sport and was told so by my friends. Getting into adulthood I had assumed (and always told myself) that I would never be any good at sport or exercise. It was only after some personal development work, and a bit of trial and error that I took up running seriously to improve my fitness. Coaches must help their clients realise the root cause of their limiting beliefs and how to overcome them.
For anyone interested in transformative coaching, Animas is one of the UK’s leading transformational coaching training providers and they have numerous online resources to tap into.
For anyone entering, or already in, the coaching business self-care is very important. If you cannot care for yourself what hope to you have for caring for your clients? Coaches are notoriously bad at looking after their own mental health, which is somewhat ironic given the business that they are in.
Taking care of yourself is something that Kim Morgan recommends all coaches take seriously. A bit like the safety demonstrations on an aeroplane that asks you to attend to yourself before others, in the event of an emergency. Coaches must do the same to enable themselves to not just survive but thrive.
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Mike Findlay is book review editor at Psychreg. He is a Glasgow-based writer and communications professional. Connect with him @MikeFindMedia.