School of Coaching Mastery

Coaching Blog

ICF International Coaching Week: Top 10 Lessons from Thomas Leonard

Posted by Julia Stewart

 

Thomas LeonardIn honor of the ICF's International Coaching Week, I'm sharing the Top Ten Lessons I learned from Thomas Leonard, founder of the ICF (and IAC) and Father of Professional Coaching. Studying with Thomas in the years before his passing in 2003, changed my life in profound ways. Perhaps you'll share how Thomas shaped your life in the Comments section, below.

Top Ten Lessons Learned From Thomas Leonard:

1. When changing career paths, it's always nice to have a role model: Thomas, philosopher and entrepreneur, has been one of my favorites (I'll mention a few more in this post). One of my original realizations, upon joining his first coaching school and receiving the famous 16-pound-box-of written-materials, was: "This guy is a lot like me, only he's much better at it. I can really learn from him!" 

Today, Thomas is practically worshiped by his former clients and students, so I want to emphasize that he was a lot better at it than I, but in discovering his content creation strategies (finer points below), I was able to make the shift from, 'smart person with lots of potential', to massive content creator, myself.

Thomas, an incredibly prolific creative genius, was frequently asked, 'When do you sleep?'. No one believed him when he replied, 'Eight hours every night.' I knew I was hitting my stride when people started asking me when I slept and I replied, 'Eight hours every night,' and knew it was actually true.

2. How to handle 'Too Many Ideas' syndrome: Creative entrepreneurs commonly suffer from an overabundance of ideas. The classic advice on how to handle that is: finish one project before you start another. That's creative suicide for some of us. Thomas' advice? To paraphrase: If you have eleven ideas, start all eleven and see which ones people respond to. Then finish those. The result? You're there with the right idea at the right time for the right people. Instead of arbitrarily amputating your own creativity, you've collaborated with your clients to create what they really want. Magic!

3. To focus those 11 ideas even faster: crowdsource them. Ask your best customers what they most need from you now and how they'd like it delivered, even how much they want to pay for them (Remember t's R&D Team?). Result? You learn faster what your market wants and can develop those ideas beyond what everyone else is doing. Caveat: you need to be extremely good at asking the right questions to make full use of this one.

4. To get more done faster: do what you want, when you want to do it. Nobody believes this one, either...until they try it. The first time I experimented with it, I went back to a week-old to-do list after doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to do it for several days. Funny thing: I discovered I'd finished most of the items on the list, without even thinking about it and I never felt 'busy'. How does that work? Instead of forcing myself to do stuff on schedule, I did it when the mood struck. Suddenly, TV time became business-building time (if I felt like it) and late-night downtime sometimes became creative inspiration sessions. So long as I got my 8 hours, I was able to crank out way more work without ever feeling overworked (See item #1 above).

5. To stop blaming people: Get that people are doing their very best even when they clearly aren't. This one hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. How could I have ever been unaware of this (paradoxical) fact? Once you get this, you're free of the the 'blame and be blamed' game. The challenge is to get it even when you're mad at someone. But that's the evolutionary part, as well as the secret to greatness.

6. To get that everything is perfect: Ask yourself, if everything is perfect, what's perfect about this? Spiritual teachers tell us it's all perfect. That's nice, but it sure doesn't seem that way sometimes. The trick is not to force yourself to believe this (or pretend that you do), but to stay curious. Okay. So what's perfect about this (crummy) situation? It's is not a Pollyanna exercise. If you look deeply enough, you'll find a perfection that heals the whole problem, if you allow it.

7. The ultimate coaching tool: is Values. Actually, Thomas never said this, that I know of, but he's the one who taught me about the value of Values. And it has become increasingly clear to me over the years. Tony Robbins has his Needs and Donald Clifton has his Strengths, but Values are what matter most to people and they are the key to what matters most in coaching. Apparently both the ICF and IAC agree, because their certifiers look for values-based coaching conversations in the coaches they certify.

8. The relationship between coaching clients and what they really want: is they've often never even met. That's why Thomas put so much emphasis on his Clarifiers, a list of 15 this-or-that questions that quickly uncover what matters most right now. Some coaches think the ICF violates this, because ICF certifiers look for evidence that the coach, not only asks what the client wants at the start of a coaching session, but that s/he checks in at least twice to see that they are on track, relying on the client to articulate what it. The IAC style is a bit different; they look for evidence that the coach is uncovering what the client really wants, even if that takes up most of the session. Contrary to popular belief, these two styles of coaching aren't mutually exclusive. When we take a both/and approach and integrate these two approaches, we upgrade coaching and enter the zone of master coaching.

9. What coaches really do during coaching: is design environments that empower success. It's not enough to foster insights in the client. It's also not enough to plan client actions. Our real job is to co-design the client's environment to evolve them into the person they need to be to reach their goals. That's a big difference.

10. What marketing is really for: helping people learn. No, it's not about squeezing your list through a funnel. When people learn from you, they become more. That's irresistably attractive. No more squeezing. Help your followers learn the next thing they need to know, or help them become the next iteration of themselves. People want to be more. Both your marketing and your sales should help them with that. Some of them will pay you for a highly personalized version of it.

BONUS: To write content that is easy, fast and fun: Write in Thomas' favorite format, the Top Ten List.

Got a favorite lesson learned from Thomas? I'd love to hear it.

Want to get to know Thomas better? Sign up for the FREE 28 Principles of Attraction ecourse, based on his own notes for his signature personal development program:

Get Thomas' 28 Principles of Attraction Free eCourse

 

Topics: Coach 100, coaching clients, ICF, Coach Certification, Thomas Leonard, Tony Robbins, ENVIRONMENT, curiosity, master coach, IAC

5 Life Coach Reasons to Love The Voice

Posted by Julia Stewart

Life CoachLike millions of others, I've grown to love NBC's The Voice. For me, it stands head and shoulders above other TV talent shows for a whole slew of reasons.

I even like it better than So You Think You Can Dance and I'm a former dancer! After laboring for years in dirty loft studios and off-off-off-Broadway theaters in Lower Manhattan, I can only imagine how incredibly cool it is for those young dancers to be featured on television. But it's equally cool for singers to get their chance on The Voice and the format of The Voice makes it really special.

What's so great about The Voice?

1. Like Ceelo Green says, The Voice is full of positive energy. Unlike some other shows that will remain nameless, all The Voice contestents are good performers. None of them are up there to be ridiculed and laughed at. It takes guts to go for your dream and the show respects that.

2. The Voice is a supportive environment. It's a cosmic kitchen serving up great singing chops. The first cool feature is that the judges are competing along with the singers, so they are on the line, too. That makes each of them, great singers in their own right, both judges and coaches. The Blind Auditions that made the show famous, mean the judges have to choose their team members on voice, alone. When more than one judege turns their chair around, the singer gets to choose their own coach, giving the power to the contestents. Those constant shifts in power make the show exciting. Plus, every coach has a vested interest in each of their singers. The better the singers do, the better chance the coach has to win. It's a win-win-win set up, much like a strategic habitat designed by a great life coach.

3. High-quality performances every week. With great coaching, huge talent, intense competition and tons of singing challenges and opportunities to perform, the singers grow before your eyes. Each week, at least one performance gives me chills. Last night, both Amanda Brown with 'Natural Woman' and Trevin Hunte with 'And I'm Telling You', gave me chills, tears in the eyes and a lump in my throat. As every coach will tell you, there's nothing better than witnessing someone who is stepping into their full potential. Very cool.

4. Acknowledgments from all the coaches. The show spends A LOT of time on this. It almost seems like too much, but it's a cornerstone of why the show works. Even though the coach/judges are competing, they are generous with both their praise and suggestions for improvement to all the singers. They don't just hand out pats on the head. And it's fun when they admit how jealous their are of the other judges' teams.

The possible exception is Christina Aguilara, who has doled out faint praise for several singers from competing teams. Positive psychology coaches will notice Christina's use of Passive Destructive Response (PDR) when critiquing Melanie Martinez on three separate occasions, by changing the subject and praising the stage set instead of the singing. It's a well-researched method for subtly stealing someone's thunder. As a result, I grew to dislike Christina and her team by extension and wonder if that's partly why the public voted them out early. I hear Christina won't be back next year.

5. The show is just plain fun. This year, during the knockout rounds, when singers had to win by singing a great duet with their opponent (another example of winning via cooperation instead of straight competition), competing coaches got to 'steal' the losers. Amanda Brown was snatched up by Team Adam Levine and Ceelo is still lamenting her loss.

Of course the banter between the judges is priceless, including Blake Shelton's dumb country jokes, like his comment last night that he thought that big violin-thing was called a Ceelo.

The Voice has everything that I love as a life coach: positive energy, supportive environments, great performances, acknowledgment and fun. As Oprah proved years ago, TV can reach for the highest common denominator and still succeed - hugely.

Curious about becoming a life coach?

Click me

Topics: life coach, Coaching, become a life coach, become a coach, free coach training, OPRAH, ENVIRONMENT, The Voice

Why Online Coach Training is Better Than In-Person Coach Training

Posted by Julia Stewart

Online Coach TrainingIf you're thinking about becoming a coach, then you're probably wondering whether you should get online coach training or in-person business and life coach training.

It's an incredibly important issue for you, because it impacts your career, your passion and your ability to make a great living. So be sure to get this right.

I may be biased, but I've experienced coach training in virtually every possible format, so I have a useful perspective to share with you and I've concluded that online coach training is best for the following reasons...

REASON #1: MONEY. Most professional coaches-to-be are concerned about the money they spend on coach training and rightly so. However, ultimately you also need to be concerned with your Return On Investment (ROI), which refers to how much more money you'll make as a coach and how soon. Because depending on your training, your life coach salary could range from zero to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. That's huge.

In person coach training almost always involves travel and lodging costs in addition to the training itself. And because hotels and classrooms are expensive for coaching schools, in-person coach training almost always carries higher tuition costs, as well, sometimes as much as $20,000 or more.

Plus, in-person business and life coach training tends to be offered in short workshops and seminars, that last as little as a weekend or even one day. The event itself may be great, but if you've ever gone to a seminar, workshop or conference, learned fabulous new stuff and were certain that it would change your life - only to go home and find yourself living your same old life one week later, then you understand the 'extinction principle' which says that even great training wears off massively if not followed by systems and environments that support change. Which means your $20,000 coach training may leave you inspired, but with no viable coaching business. That's bad ROI.

By contrast, online coach training usually costs less, involves no travel, time off from work, lodging costs, traffic jams or other delays. Just show up for class from where ever you are. And since online coach training is usually ongoing, you'll have supportive systems and structures to help you succeed, built right into the process. You're likely to spend less on training, start making money as a coach sooner and make more money overall. That's great ROI.

REASON #2: TIME. I just touched on time, above, but here are some more time-related issues to think about: While it's important to optimize your training time, your brain will absorb what you learn better and you'll learn to apply what you learn more quickly if you spend a couple of hours per week in class and then apply your lessons to your own coaching business during the week.

It would be great if you could just go to a weekend seminar and walk out ready to be a successful coach, but as a smart savvy person, you know transforming your life means changing a myriad of old habits to new ones. That takes time.

A few dedicated learning hours per week, stretched out over a couple of months - or even a couple of years - will allow you to take what you've learned and begin applying it in your life and business, especially when your coaching school includes reinforcing structures, such as study groups, mentor coaching, online forums, and most of all, live online classes with homework. (By the way, that's exactly how effective business and life coaching works: you have a live conversation with a client, who experiences life-changing insights with you. Then they go out and apply those insights to their life or business and report the results to you. Rinse and repeat.)

As Aristotle said, “We are what we habitually do. Excellence then is a habit, not an act.”

REASON #3: LEARNING. I mentioned the learning issue above, but here's a deeper look at that. Most folks assume the they will learn more in in-person training, but that's usually because they haven't experienced high-quality distance learning. I'm not talking about turning in written papers online and I'm not talking about audio CDs and MP3s. While those can be helpful adjunct tools for training, nothing beats live, conversational classes for learning coaching. Let's face it: coaching is live in-the-moment conversations, followed by strategic action. That's what effective coach training is, as well.

I'm also not talking about teleclasses, which are still a popular training format in some of the older coaching schools. And I'm not talking about standard webinars, which usually involved little or no conversation in a class. Today's technology allows us to do everything in what I call a 'tele-webinar' that we can do in person, except shake hands (or get stuck in traffic).

Tele-webinar training is perfect for learning business and life coaching, because it allows you to join from anywhere, using your iPad, computer, and/or telephone; and have a highly interactive conversational class that allows you to learn in whatever learning style works best for you: audio learning, visual (in the form of slides, live demos, co-browsing, videos, etc.), questions and answers, live practice and feedback, downloading materials before, during or after class, move your body, take notes, take an instant test, go out and apply it along with class colleagues, whatever learning strategy works best for you. Little by little, you learn new habits of excellence and get inspired by your own, and your classmates' successes. Together, you succeed.

If you'd like to get started learning to be a successful coach and get life coach certification quickly, using the tele-webinar format, try Coaching Groundwork Advanced.

 Click me

Topics: business coach, coach training, life coach salary, ENVIRONMENT, coaching schools, teleclass, Life Coaching, how to become a coach, In-person coach training, online coach training

Coaching Tip: Enlightenment Can Be Bad For You

Posted by Julia Stewart

Coaching TipHow do coaching, personal development and spirituality cause dysfunction?

If you think coaching, personal development programs and spirituality are all good, think again. The tools that coaches use and that personal development gurus and spiritual teachers also may employ are usually great when used in the right situations by people who are ready for them. Try using most of those tools in every situation, though, and you can get yourself in a whole lot of trouble.

 

Which tools am I talking about? Well, many. But here are a couple of examples that are closely related to each other:

  • Seeing the perfection in every situation
  • Eliminating the ego 

I've coached a lot of people who were 'highly evolved'. They were very spiritual and always saw the beauty, opportunity, learning, etc. in everything and rarely let their egos get in the way.

Their lives were a mess. And they were tough to coach, because they felt good and they thought they were supposed to think that way. People who feel good aren't motivated to change. People who feel good when their lives are a mess are in some ways a little bit crazy.

Come to think of it, I passed through this stage years ago when I first started meditating. Suddenly, things that used to bother, hurt or anger me, didn't anymore. It was very freeing. It felt good. I loved it.

And my life started falling apart. Why? I'd lost my boundaries. I got into dysfunctional relationships, because my former warning system, pain, had shut down. I was very forgiving, had but lost the ability to say, 'Hey, this is not okay with me.' Fortunately, I learned to grow past my 'enlightenment'.

Coaches who have drunk too much of the Coaching Cool-aid, sometimes fall for this. They will quickly reframe every challenge as an opportunity. Or they will coach everybody they meet, as if their own needs never matter. They lose critical skills when they try to show up 'like a coach' in every situation.

Skills like:

  • Discernment
  • Engagement
  • Commitment

Procrastination, complacency, and cluelessness may set in. Because after all, everything's great, right? So there's no need to make changes. People may start to avoid them. Relationships, careers, health and finances begin to fall apart. But all the while, they feel GOOD, because they're stoned on their own endorphins. And like all opiate addicts, they've lost the ability to notice and respond to their environments. Not pretty.

In addition, by choosing in advance to respond to everything in the same way, they are limiting possibilities, rather than expanding them.

Worse yet, they may create shadow behaviors that are acted out out unconsciously. 'No ego' becomes arrogance ('I'm more enlightened than you!'). 'Seeing the perfection' becomes passive aggression (Got a problem? 'Just see the perfection in it!') 

One of the many things I value about Zen Master Genpo Roshi's teachings is that he takes this problem head on. He calls this level of enlightenment, dysfunctional and says a zen  master's job is to push you through this stage as quickly as possible. Because otherwise you can get profoundly stuck. Feeling good all the time is very, very seductive.

Not many teachers even recognize this problem. In fact, some of them are actually stuck here, themselves. Many teach that this stage is desirable. Don't get sucked in by that.

Remember the saying, 'When you're going through Hell, keep going'? Well the great thing about Hell is that it feels so awful you want to keep going.

The awful thing about Enlightenment is that it feels so good, you want to stay there. And as soon as you try to hold on to it , you're not enlightened anymore. Keep going.

When you fully engage with life, experiencing pain, resistance and yes, even your ego, you are fully alive, highly functional and - you're enlightened in a mature way. Then you've got the makings of a great coach. Yes, get your ego out of the way and see the perfection when you're coaching your clients. That's your job and it's a huge value to the people you coach. But when you're not coaching, be fully human.

And keep going.

Topics: Coaching, ENVIRONMENT, Coaching Tip, Genpo Roshi, personal development, spirituality

New Coaching Niche/Specialties for 2009

Posted by Julia Stewart

professional coachIt's that time of year again: When bloggers make predictions for the coming year.Seth Godin trumped us all by whipping out a fake list of prediction for 2008. Guess what? He was right about everything!

That's why I'm not predicting. I'm just asking (and suggesting). So here goes. Please post your suggestions, questions and yes, even your predictions in the comments area below.

1. Personal Branding Coach. This is career coaching for anyone who has a job or a business, from Millennials on up (but especially for folks under 30 - or maybe I should say especially for folks over 30). Resume writing and interview skills are still nice, important even, but if you want to land the job of your dreams without working your way up the ladder for oh, 50 years or so, then you've got to cultivate your Personal Brand by blogging and participating in social media, etc. 
 
Coaching issues: Integrity: When are you working for the company vs. when are you working for you, Public vs. Private, Adding Value vs. Fooling Around. 
 
Resource: Me 2.0 by Dan Schawbel. Sorry, it's not released yet, but I predict it'll be ready for shipping from Amazon in April. ;-)

2. Simplified Life Coach. This has always been attractive to Yuppies and other affluent folks who are just plain tired of all the stuff they have and now that we're officially in a recession, it's becoming really trendy (just as it always does during a recession), only now that the Polar Ice Caps are melting at break-neck speed, there's an urgency to it, as well. 
 
Coaching Issues: Thrive vs. Survive, Being Enough vs. Having It All. 
 
Resource: January 2009 issue of O Magazine. See: Back to Basics: Living with "Voluntary Simplicity"

3. Smart Tech Coach. When I tried to describe the smart house/appliance/grid of the future to my older sister, who is a retired teacher, living in a small Midwestern town, she got that deer-in-the-headlights look, cuz there is no way that she's ready for today's technology, much less tomorrow's! I got a premonition of her 9-year-old brainiac grandson having to help her turn on her coffee maker every morning. Not pretty! Boomers and older folks are going to need a lot of help adjusting to the changes that are coming to virtually everything they use. There will be consultants for this - A whole new profession is forming AND we all know how effective consulting can be without coaching skills. There's an opportunity here for techy coaches. 
 
Coaching Issues: Resistance vs. Incompetence, Overwhelm vs. Off the Grid. 
 
Resources: Hot Flat and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman, and the Oprah Winfrey Show 12-26-08

4. Green Business Coach. Sustainability has been a buzz word for a few years, but not everthing called Green is making a difference, either to the environment or the economy. If it was, people wouldn't be so nervous right now. However, there has been a genuine sea change in 2008 and all predictions point to a totally new way of doing business in the future. What about the business that wants to survive the downturn and thrive in the new economy (That would be every business)? A coach who has an eye on what's happening now and what is coming in the near and distant future, can add incredible value to the business client (from solo-preneur to Fortune 500) of 2009.
 
Coaching Issues: The Bottom Line vs. The Triple Bottom Line, Leading vs. Following. 
 
Resources: See the three specialties above, since all three are relevant to the needs of the Green Business.

Well there you have four possible hot new specialties for coaching. What have I left out?

Oh! And on a related note, it seems appropriate to mention new delivery systems for coaches here, as well:

  • What about the Texting Coach? Seems like that would be pretty hot for the Gen X client, or younger and more laser than Laser Coaching. Is anyone doing it? Please share your comments.
  • Then there's Video Coaching. Now that we can video IM with Skype and Macs, etc., this seems like a natural fit. Or is it? Will the old-fashioned telephone continue to the professional coach's favorite tool?
  • And what about Webinar Coaching? With desktop sharing, doc sharing, video sharing and more, isn't coaching via webinar a bit of a must, especially for groups?

What are your thoughts? Favorite tools, trends, and more? Feel free to comment, below. Alternatively, there's already a great conversation going on this at our Find a Coach website.

Copyright, Julia Stewart, 2009

Topics: Coaching, Seth Godin, ENVIRONMENT, FIND A COACH

    Subscribe for FREE: Learn About Coaching

    Follow Us

    The Coaching Blog

    If you're a professional Business or Life Coach or you're interested in becoming one, the SCM Coaching Blog covers topics you may want to know about: How to Become a Business or Life Coach, Grow a Successful Coaching Business, Get Coach Training and/or Business and Life Coach Certification, Become a Coaching Master and Evolve Your Life and Business. 

    Subscribe above and/or explore by tag, month or article popularity, below.

    Browse by Tag

    Top Career-Jobs Sites Living-Well blog