Every so often I receive an email asking for advice about how to become a life or executive coach. The email usually explains that the writer, facing a change of career, is considering becoming a coach because he or she is the person in their social or work environment who everyone feels they can talk to, they love giving advice to others and they seem to be able to help people. They are interested in coaching as a career where they can earn money by doing what they seem to be naturally good at and which allows them to help people. These emails highlight some major coach about coaches and the coaching profession and it’s time those myths were busted!
Myth 1: A coach helps people
This is perhaps the most pervasive myth of all! While working with a coach may be helpful, coaches do not help their clients. This may sound like a semantic issue, and it is not; coaches do the very opposite of helping. “If a coach doesn’t help their clients, what do coaches do?”, I hear you ask.
A coach challenges; we invite a client to step out of their current comfort zone and change not only how they behave, but who they are.
A coach disrupts; we call on clients to question what they have long believed to be true about themselves and life and to adopt new ways of thinking, new belief systems, values, attitudes and behaviours.
A coach encourages; we trust emphatically the power and ability of the client to create exactly what they have committed to, even when the client cannot see the how, and demand of the client nothing less than bringing their best self forward.
A coach, therefore, at least temporarily until a breakthrough is achieved, sets up an experience of discomfort for a client while life as they knew it shifts and morphs into a new self-created life. To help the client at any point during this process undermines all the growth and hard work the client has done. Helping, by giving advice, solving a problem, providing an answer implies that the client cannot do it for themselves and needs us to rescue them.
To be clear here, there is nothing wrong with helping at all; it is perfectly appropriate in the context of other disciplines, for example, mentoring, advising, training or counselling.
The desire to be helpful is a very natural tendency (helping makes us feel needed and valuable) and one which must be tempered to become a great coach. This is one of the chief reasons I recommend that people undergo certified coach training prior to opening a coaching practice. To coach is to put aside the need to look helpful and to fully honour the power of the client to do it for themselves. A good certified coach training program, such as the International Coach Federation (ICF) accredited diploma will teach a delegate the distinction ‘help vs coach’ and support them to avoid helping behaviour with a coaching client.
Myth Busted: Coaches do not help people, they coach people.
Myth 2: A coach makes good money
This myth troubles me because of the many unscrupulous coach training providers out there who mislead would-be coaches with promises of fortunes to be made. It is true that coaching requires a financial investment on the part of the client. Although varying slightly from market to market, the investment per session or set of sessions is usually significant. However, despite the going market rate for coaching services, there are many excellent coaches who are flat broke!
There are a number of reasons for this, the biggest one being that the act of coaching and the business of coaching are two separate things. The business of coaching is the same as any other entrepreneurial business and as such requires a coach to market, sell and promote their business. It means that a coach must develop negotiation skills, networking skills, selling skills and general business smarts. Without these, no matter how brilliant your coaching skills are, financial success will elude you.
There are also other bigger issues at play; according to the latest Executive Coaches Earnings Report produced by Sherpa Coaching, per session rates for coaching have been declining over the past three years. While the report does not give precise reasons for the decline, market saturation is one of the reasons; as the coaching profession has become established, there are increasing numbers of coaches entering the marketplace. Compounding this, average rates are being driven downwards by coaches who charge below-market rates, for a plethora of reasons, ranging from desperation for work to low self-confidence when quoting and negotiating.
Thus, to be financially successful as a coach requires not only excellent service delivery but strong business ability too. Thankfully, business skills can be learned and I recommend that once a coach has qualified and is ready to open their practice, they hire a business/executive coach for themselves who will support them to grow the business side of their coaching.
Myth Busted: Being a great coach does not guarantee financial success, being a great business person and a great coach may.
Myth 3: Being a coach is rewarding
This is not really a true myth rather there is a caution to be issued. I have found few things in my life more rewarding than walking a journey with a client and being a partner with them in their growth. My soul soars when I see their light shining through and I know that they are going to go out and change the world without me.
I have also had some tough experiences with clients; one who attacked the coaching process when their resistance to change forced their levels of discomfort to become too intense. There was even the client who, having not met the objectives set and committed to in her employer-sponsored coaching, told me it was my fault that her employer let her go. Or the client who simply gave up in the middle because he just could not see what I could see; his enormous and beautiful potential. These unpleasant experiences are admittedly a tiny number in comparison to the awesome experiences I’ve had, and, they do happen.
Moreover, as I mentioned a coaching practice is a business like any other. To do it properly there is an element of record keeping, administration and financial management. If you do not enjoy these things you will find the business part of coaching to be tedious, and it is a side of the business that cannot be ignored.
To ensure that being a coach is massively rewarding as much of the time as possible I recommend getting yourself a good admin person (unless you love admin) and a good solid mentor coach with whom you can debrief when tough stuff happens and who will keep you accountable to the high standards of coaching that you have committed yourself to.
Myth Busted: Coaching is massively rewarding, except when it’s not.
Conclusion: Still wanna be a coach?
I am always excited to see new coaches who are successfully changing the world alongside me. There are more than enough coaching clients to go around and provided you are committed to doing both the internal work required as well as learning the business skills, there are few other careers that provide the financial and emotional fulfilment that Life/Executive Coaching does.
The entire coaching profession and its client base benefits from coaches who are confident and capable business persons as well as top quality coaches; it’s better for all of us if you are successful. Because of this, if you are a coach or are becoming a coach and could do with support with the business of coaching, I am offering a free coaching or mentoring free session just for you. You can book your free session with me by clicking here.
And, if there is anything else I can help you with, just let me know; we change the world together!