The Center for Executive Coaching had an amazing group of professionals attend this past weekend's executive coach training seminar, from a former leader of a healthcare system to internal coaches in a Fortune 500 company and in a national family-owned business, to many talented professionals growing their coaching practices. Our next in-person training is April 23-26 and I hope you will attend. Space fills up fast and is limited, so please contact me immediately if you have interest:
Meanwhile, here are 19 lessons, in no particular order, that came out of this seminar, and that might be of value to you:
1. You can take almost any strength you have and apply it to a target market. Example: A pastor is targeting technology companies. How? By focusing on the inter-personal issues that keep technology professionals from working well on teams. With his strengths and background, he doesn’t need to know about the ins and outs of technology. There are plenty of people at tech companies who know about that. He brings a unique skill set that can have impact through his coaching skills and past experience.
2. Having a focused target market will make you exponentially more valuable and powerful as a coach. There are at least five types of target markets, and you don’t have to spend 100% of your time going after a single target market. You can be flexible, experiment, and let the market guide you towards your ideal client. We show you how.
3. If you are internal and your company is new to coaching, start with a pilot. Suppose your company has the “old” view that coaching is a probationary or disciplinary tool. You are tasked to introduce coaching as a leadership development program. Start with a pilot program. Enroll a mentor who supports you to sponsor the pilot. Create a small program to coach some high-potential employees to the next level. Set specific goals. Have an application process. Make the program seem exclusive. Then celebrate the results and roll it out. That’s how to build credibility.
4. Create a coaching methodology that you can brand. We spend time on how you can do this in our program, because you cannot be a “fly by night” or “wing it” coach like so many others. The market has no patience for this kind of coaching any more.
5. Brand yourself by knowing who you are as a coach and via: educational marketing, leadership roles in your target market, simple online marketing (e.g., LinkedIn groups and an educational website), and knowing how to have solid referral conversations. These types of business development cost little or nothing and are effective.
6. Get grounded in a variety of coaching methodologies, including behavioral and perceptual coaching, and a range of situations that executives face: resolving conflict, engaging employees, influencing, communicating powerfully, building strong professional relationships, leading change, setting strategic direction, developing organizational capacity, creating high-performance teams, changing the culture, managing and leading up, overcoming overwhelm, developing leaders, and many more. Avoid academic topics and fads, and focus on practical solutions that get measurable results.
7. Coaching is a practice, not an academic theory. Keep practicing, and measure results to assure that you are getting better. Don’t just collect hours, but find ways to confirm improvement in your ability to have impact and help leaders improve results.
8. Do the work to improve yourself, too. Get great at overcoming your own limiting beliefs as a coach. For instance, one coach felt that she was unable to be credible with male executives vs. female executives and we helped her reframe that belief. It was a powerful experience to demonstrate how perceptual coaching works and also to model how to reframe a belief. By doing the work on yourself, you have more confidence doing it with clients.
9. Get support from other coaches. Create your own team to keep you on track.
10. Create your own intellectual property as a platform for success. The coaches in our program left confident and competent with the ability to create their own frameworks to write books, brand their own content, and create valuable substance in the market. Fewer than 10% of coaches know how to do this. However, this is the work that will set you apart in the long term.
11. Focus on being a trusted advisor to clients. That way, you are at the top of the food chain. Coaching can be one of many services you offer.
12. Master the “what,” the “how,” and the “who” of coaching. The “what” are the conversations you have as a coach to get results; there are a few of them you need to know how to have. The “how” is your coaching process to show the client you have an effective and efficient path to results. The “who” is who you are as a coach and how you show up; we introduce 7 orientations that you should have when working with the highest level clients.
13. The client will have plenty of content and process experts. You don’t need to know the answers to content and process questions for this reason. Instead, focus on the context – which means how people are relating and showing up as leaders. This is a huge area of opportunity for many leaders to learn, grow, and have more impact to get results.
14. Get visible to the people in your target market. Do not hide out. Don’t waste time perfecting your website, brochure, or soon-to-be best selling business book. Instead, have lots of conversations with people to educate them about the problems you can solve. That has been, and always will be, the way to get coaching engagements. It is easy to do once you know how.
15. Don’t sell. Instead, coach people to help them know whether there is value in working with you. That way, business development is natural, and not awkward. You are a coach, so why not coach people to hire you?
16. Stop being so smart. Stop trying to know the answers. Listen and let the client do most of the work. They will appreciate you more, even if you are doing less – especially if you know how to have the right coaching conversations for results. It works every time. I know this because I used to be the smartest guy in the room, until I got really smart and learned how to let the client come up with the answers. It sounds counter-intuitive, but by letting my clients do more, I came across as smarter and more valuable, and clients ended up implementing more of what we discussed.
17. Always bake value and results into your coaching. There are two magic questions to answer before and after every coaching session, and one key question to answer before every engagement, in order to do this.
18. Let the problems come to you, rather than telling potential clients about the problems they have and the solutions you offer. Executives, leaders, and managers have all sorts of problems and challenges. If coaches would spend less time talking about the latest coaching fad and spend more time listening to the issues that potential clients care about, they would have full practices.
19. Find a small opening with a client, and go from there. One small engagement can lead to a multi-year relationship if you are patient and savvy. We show you how.