You know that feeling you get right before a coaching session?
Especially if you’re a new coach or wanting to become one, you know what I mean.
The angel on one shoulder says you’re going to lead a successful coaching session serving your client the best possible way possible.
Meanwhile, the devil on the other shoulder is not so sure; calls you an “imposter” and challenges your expectations.
Sadly, for me, the devil was clearly winning.
It was April 2012 when I was fresh out of my coaching intake weekend, ready to take the world by storm.
I was ready to coach new clients and change lives.
Fast-forward a week... 15 minutes before my first coaching session with a lady named Karen, I secretly prayed, “Please make her postpone. I can’t deal with this right now…”
Of course, the session went on as planned. Did I stuff up? On a few things, of course. Was it helpful for Karen? It sure was.
It’s been a while since then and I’ve gotten much better at coaching.
But I still experience those butterflies before a session. I figure that is good. It says that you’re stretching your comfort zone.
And here’s the thing…
This can happen to the most experienced coaches – not just when you’re new at it.
The only way to combat that feeling is to practise coaching and course-correct any mistakes as you go. You get better at it. You find out what’s working (sensory acuity), take the feedback and apply it the next time (behavioural flexibility).
Because mistakes happen with all coaches at one time or other. Let’s see what they are so you don’t have to learn about them the hard way.
Your story is what makes you, you. As a coach, you’ll have many opportunities to share insights and advice from your personal life. Each one of us brings unique personal experiences that can make a huge difference during a coaching session.
Many new coaches make the mistake of filling their bio with credentials and qualifications. Although helpful, it does nothing to connect with your future client. Touting your own greatness and accomplishments usually means you’re putting your coaching systems, products, and service on the pedestal. This alienates your client and it doesn’t give them the confidence to replicate your success.
Instead, be human and show your own vulnerabilities. It’s OK to emphasise what you’ve learned along your life path and show them how they can replicate it too.
Life Coaching has become hugely crowded and anyone can call themselves a life coach. Although it widely opens up the channel for passionate people who want to make a difference, it also has its repurcussions – for starters, how do you differentiate between two life coaches?
It’s simple – if you’re in it half-heartedly, tinkering with the idea of coaching on the side, between your busy job, family and social life, then maybe, maybe this won’t affect you.
But if you’re someone who wants to coach full-time, even though you cannot at present, you have those plans for your future, then this is for you.
Niche-ing (as marketers like to call it) or specialisation is finding what makes you different from the coach next-door.
You’ve probably heard of the formula to find a niche – it usually goes something like this:
“I help [your demographic] who are [struggling with something] to find [a solution to their problem] so that [gain a benefit]”
Example: I help new entrepreneurs who are juggling multiple clients in their business to find the balance and manage their time so they can attract a lot of income without the burnout.
The good news? Your niche is usually in front of you – it's your own story. For example, if you’re a relationship coach who went through an abusive relationship and overcame the hardships, you can speak about your experience and carve a niche out of it.
Remember the devil in my story from above? In retrospect, he was a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to gain some real-life coaching experience. I didn’t “wait” until I submitted my papers and gained a certification. I dived straight in.
This can sound counter-intuitive to #2 but it’s not. Let me explain...
Nothing (and that’s nothing at all) should paralyse you from going out and coaching people – whether it’s paid or pro bono. As you’re starting out, your biggest weapon is to gain coaching hours. No amount of theory can replace that. And if you’re still unsure of a niche, that’s OK. Sometimes, a niche finds you before you can find it.
The point? Don't wait until you’ve gotten the business cards printed, the website ready or your niche decided. The ducks will line up when you “do the do”.
Let’s face it – as a coach, you’re not “responsible” for anything your client does or achieves.
That means if they achieve a breakthrough, they are responsible for it, not you. If they fail to work on their goals you set together, it’s still their responsibility.
Give your clients the gift of 100% responsibility because that empowers them to realise change happens within.
By the same account, you’re not “fixing” them. There is nothing to be fixed. Once you relinquish the need to control sessions and become free of taking responsibility of their actions, you won’t feel the need to fix anyone.
New coaches make this mistake – they try way too hard to “make things right” in their client’s life. This is a classic example of how a new coach unintentionally disrespects a client’s perspective and their map of the world.
Coaching does not mean fixing. It means empowering. There’s a difference. You can’t fix anyone, unless they decide to change. Even then, you can only be a facilitator – not the cause – of change.
Not everyone is ready for coaching. At times, you’ll have to dismiss a client (and vice versa) because you’re either not a great match for them, or they are better off going for counselling or therapy.
Some clients, though, are simply non-coachable. Usually, your intuition will warn you – so don’t ignore it like I did.
A few years ago a man named Simon called me to arrange a coaching session. He wanted to boost his income and seemed very determined to do so. After the first phone call, he sent me a bunch of emails about his bio and life history (which was totally unnecessary at that point, but he insisted and I played along).
The problem became obvious during the first session – Simon was a control freak. He had already set up an agenda of sorts for the session. As the session progressed, I found that Simon wasn’t open to any new perspectives and ideas I bounced off him.
He also knew a bit about coaching and tried to “dodge” the questions, making it a game of “I win, you lose”. In coaching, you're not to be judgemental of a client’s old habits, so I decided to brush my intuition aside and agreed to do a second session. Same story repeated – and guess what happened when I gave him stern feedback? Simon lost it and felt threatened that he was losing control.
I had to fire him because he wasn’t ready for coaching yet.
Personally speaking, being connected with a community of like-minded, driven, passionate people has probably made the most difference for me.
I still am connected to such communities where coaches support each other, share new industry knowledge, refer clients and give genuine feedback. It's been a great journey so far.
If you're not a part of a community yet, I'm really curious why not? It's the simple yet most effective descision you'll ever make on your coaching journey. If you're still looking for the perfect match, I totally understand.
Come along, hang out with us at The Coaching Institute's community page and tell us what you think. (Warning: We're super-passionate about coaching and don't do "beige"!)
There you go – 6 common mistakes that new coaches are most likely to make. Now that you know this, don’t be one of them!
What are your thoughts about coaching mistakes? Let us know your own experience in the comments!
You Best Year Yet is your opportunity to gain the clarity and momentum to propel you forward in the direction of your dreams and create a career of passion, purpose and meaning as a coach.