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6 Requirements a Life Coach Must Meet to Coach Their Coaching Clients

Posted by Yvonne Box

Life Coach RequirementsAs a coach, you have both a fiduciary obligation and a duty of care to your clients, and those whom you come into contact with in the course of your work.  These are very important legal concepts that you may not have come across before. To the best of the writer’s knowledge, they apply in the same or similar way throughout the world.

The term ‘fiduciary’ (from the Latin trust and good faith), is a duty imposed by the law of equity (a branch of law relating to fairness), that relates to people who engage in a formal contract with others in roles such as advisors, attorneys/solicitors, coaches, consultants, partners, stockbrokers, etc.  (In the graphic above, the fiduciary obligation is represented by the smaller circle, because it only applies to people with whom you have engaged in a contract.)

It is designed to ensure that the client (who is usually paying for the service, although the client relationship also exists in unpaid situations), is able to rely on the advice, guidance and information given by the service provider (in this case the coach).

This reliance covers a wide range of issues, including the following rights of the client, which in turn form the obligations of the coach:

  1. to be able to rely on the coach acting entirely in the client’s best interests (to the extent that this may mean putting the client’s best interests ahead of the coach’s);
  2. to be treated entirely fairly;
  3. to maintain the relationship in strictest confidence;
  4. to have the coach disclose any conflict of interest that may arise during the relationship;
  5. to have the coach disclose any situation where the coach may not be able to fulfil their role effectively for any reason;
  6. not to have the coach take advantage of the client’s lack of knowledge or vulnerability to benefit the coach in any way.

Whatever you do in your client/coach relationship must be focused on the benefit for the client.  In the unusual situation where a conflict of interest between the client’s needs and your own needs arises, you must always put the client first.

While the fiduciary obligation is restricted to people who are in a contract of some sort, the slightly lesser duty of care applies to everyone with whom a professional or business person comes into contact in the course of their work, including people to whom you owe a fiduciary obligation.  (Duty of care is part of the branch of law known as the tort of negligence, and is also part of common law [that decided by courts].)  It is expressed as a moral duty to take reasonable care not to cause or permit ‘harm’ to any other person.

In the coaching environment, we have a duty of care to prospective future clients as well as current and past clients. We also have a duty to our colleague coaches, other professionals and people associated with clients, such as family members, employers, media, and the public at large.

Any assessment of whether a duty of care has been breached will usually take account of three specific factors:

  • In the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand (along with, I believe, many other developed countries), the basic test is the ‘reasonable person’ test. Would a reasonable person have acted in such a way, without first checking facts, or seeking further advice or information? 
  • What level of harm or damage has resulted from such action? (The higher the level of actual or potential harm that may arise, the greater the duty of care obligation.)
  • Were there any policy considerations or restrictions that should have alerted a person to a direction not to rely (partly or exclusively) on advice or information provided? (E.g. a disclaimer, warning, etc.)

Although these terms can at first seem quite confusing, they’re not actually hard to manage on a day to day basis.  Remember, if someone is your client, you have a higher level of obligation to them.  You must place their interests ahead of your own.  The duty of care is about not exposing people to risk.  Avoid this by using plain-language disclaimers or caveats, (both verbal and written, if necessary). 

This is a guest post by Certified Positive Psychology Coach® member, Yvonne Box. Yvonne_Box_-_headshot-1.png

If you would like to learn more about coaching issues like these, register for the upcoming Best Practices for Professional Coaches module. Click the big blue button to find this and other coaching training modules.

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Topics: life coach, coach training, coaching clients, coach

Coaching Success: The Path of the Wise Coach

Posted by Julia Stewart

Coaching Success Woods_Path_by_E_Bass_Creative_Commons_License-1.jpg

If you want to become a coach, you have a thousand questions, which add up to: Will I love being a coach? Will I really be able to help my coaching clients grow and reach their goals? Can I truly make it as a coach? Sometimes, even veteran coaches revisit these types of questions when they sense it's time to make changes in their lives or businesses.

And there seem to be thousands of experts who are happy to step in and provide answers to your questions, but do they really know you and your deepest dreams? That's why often a life, business, or mentor coach can be your greatest supporter, because s/he will help you find the answers that most fit for you, rather than convince you that you need to fit your dreams to someone else's template for success.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes you need information more than you need a coach, such as when you're striking out on a completely unknown path and have no idea where to start. At those times, an experienced friend, consultant, training program, or even a book, can be life-changing. But here's something you need to know...

Most of the time, what a coach really needs to succeed is personal growth.

What is personal growth? It's growing in the direction of your full potential (or potentials). Most people (probably all) who become coaches, have an inexorable drive to grow, as do the people who hire coaches. Our clients need us to be growing and they're naturally attracted to the growing coach who seems to have what they want.

Unfortunately, most coaches don't have as much personal growth as they need or they don't have the support they need to maintain it. We are most attractive to growth-minded clients when we are growing, ourselves, but growth is much more important than just attracting desirable coaching clients.

A Growth Mindset (Dweck, 2006) is critical to everything we do as coaches, so is Positivity (Fredrickson, 2009), passion and perseverance (Duckworth, 2016), and emotional intelligence (David, 2016). When we put these elements together intelligently, we get wisdom. In traditional societies, people rely on their elders for wisdom. In modern societies, they turn to experts, but most experts are in the advice-giving business. Which brings us back to coaching...

A wise coach will help you establish great self care, first and foremost, because getting our physical needs met, as well as our most pressing emotional needs, allows us to be present and open to growth (Maslow, 1962). From there, clients are ready to begin becoming who they need to be to realize their most heartfelt goals.

If being a successful coach and helping your clients reach their dreams is a heartfelt goal for you, you owe it to yourself and your clients to master the tools of self care and growth.

This Thursday, I'll be talking about the tools we need to succeed at anything in Success and the Gritty Coach, a deep dive into Angela Duckworth's surprising theory of passion and perseverance (a.k.a. Grit), as one of the most important tools for any type of achievement, plus how this theory integrates with the work of other thinkers and researchers and how to apply it in coaching.

We could have just as easily called it, Coaching Success: The Path of the Wise Coach.

Classes like this one are usually not free, but this one is open to everyone at no charge.

Master the tools of coaching success. Register for FREE here:

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Topics: become a coach, Free, personal growth

Does Life Coaching Have Anything to Do With Politics?

Posted by Julia Stewart

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Posts about politics on the Coaching Blog are never our most popular, so I avoid writing them. And I plan to keep this one short. I usually try to stay "balanced" and non-judgmental when I do write about politics, such as when I wrote this in 2012 and invited my Republican colleague, Kristi Arndt, to respond. Also when I wrote about the three top 2016 US presidential candidates and why people voted for them, from a Spiral Dynamics perspective here, here, and here, I tried to avoid judgment.

Then I broke from my non-judgmental policy with this post on coaching intuition, truthiness, and judgment, because I believe one of our candidates is an existential threat to our country and possibly the world. Some values matter more than others and, in my book, Life on Earth trumps everything else. I also became blunt about what I thought in my Facebook time line, although generally avoided it on our Facebook Page. I got some push-back on it, as well as support, but politics being the hot-button issue that it is, some folks have misunderstood where I've been coming from.

  • First I heard from conservatives, who thought I was judging them. I wasn't then, but the worse the story gets, the more I wonder about their true values. Of course, some conservatives are bravely bucking their own party, because their country matters more. My hat is off to them.
  • Then I heard from coaches, who politely suggested I discern instead of judge. Great point. Except I believe in making a stand for what really matters. Again: Life on Earth.
  • Then I heard from entrepreneurs, who believe talking about politics publicly is counterproductive, because it scares away potential clients. A bit self-serving, no? Fortunately, I'm financially stabile, so I can afford to lose some business, although I'd like to believe I'd tell the truth, even if I were desperate. But here's the thing: daily traffic to my website immediately jumped by an average of 27% when I started speaking up. Increased traffic generally sifts down to increased business, so this supports my theory that people buy your services because of your values, not despite them.
  • Then I got political questions from potential students and I realized that I was unwilling to accept students who, after every racist, bigoted comment, every charge of fraud and/or treason, every incitement of violence; were still in favor of this one candidate. You know which one I mean....

Let me be clear: I don't care whether you are conservative or liberal, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Green; but if you still plan to vote for Donald Trump, please don't apply to join my school.

Why? Donald Trump's behavior violates so many well-established ethical principles for coaches that anyone who still approves of him is, in my opinion, an ethically incompetent to coach and I am unwilling for my school to give our stamp of approval, a.k.a. certification, to them. Does that seem a little harsh? Sorry.

Here are a few examples why:

  • Trump's flagrant inability to respect Mexicans, Muslims, people of color, women, or anybody who isn't 100% behind Trump violates one of the most basic ethical requirements of coaches, which is to treat all people with respect. The IAC says this well: "Coaches will treat clients with dignity and respect, being aware of cultural differences...and they do not knowingly participate in or condone unfair or discriminatory practices." Read entire statement, here.
  • Trump lies approximately 90% of the time, according to fact-checkers. This is an extremely high rate, even for a candidate seeking office. The ICF Code of Ethics says coaches, "Make verbal and written statements that are true and accurate...." Read entire statement here.
  • Trump University is being sued for fraud under the RICO Act, a law usually reserved for mob activity and he hasn't denied the business model that is at the heart of the complaint. It's a business model commonly used by fake "coaches" to fleece their customers. People's lives are ruined when they are ensnared by this type of predatory sales process. School of Coaching Mastery's Best Practices says. "Professional coaches never put profits above client results." Read entire statement here.

I could go on and on about conflicts of interest, sexual relationships at work, and issues that would never come up in coaching, such as plans to use nuclear weapons, refusing to keep our treaties, cozying up to dictators, etc. My point is that Trump is a special case, someone who would never qualify to be a professional coach and who does not deserve to be condoned by coaches, either tacitly or actively. And of course, politicians aren't coaches and have their own ethics, or lack of ethics, but this one's lack of character is so extreme, he's potentially catastrophic. In my opinion, coaches who still support him either need a serious ethical upgrade, or are trading their own values for some perceived benefit that he seems to offer. And though his main opponent is also far from perfect, any comparison of the two, particularly in terms of dishonesty or ethics, is a false equivalency.

Quite simply, this one candidate is different from any other and deserves to be treated differently by everyone, including professional coaches.

Coaching is a profession built on trust and values. It's about bringing out the best in others. We want our leaders to bring out our best, as well. Let's hold them to that ideal.

Are you curious about coaching ethics? That, and many other courses are located here:

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Topics: Values, coaching ethics, Trump

The Future of Coaching: New 2016 ICF Global Coaching Survey Results

Posted by Julia Stewart

ICF_Logo.jpgThe International Coach Federation (ICF) is the oldest (est. 1995) and largest (23,790 members, as of June 2016) not-for-profit professional coach association and certifier of life, business, and executive coaches (18,710 current ICF certified credential holders).

Periodically, the ICF, via PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, administers a global study of coaches worldwide (including non-ICF members), the results of which, comprise a snapshot of where the profession of coaching is, right now, and where it seems to be headed. These coaching results may be the most accurate available.

Here are some fascinating highlights...

  • Over 15,000 respondents, from 137 countries, took the survey.
  • The ICF estimates there are over 50,000 professional coaches, worldwide.
  • Coaching earns over $2 Billion per year in US Dollars.

How much do coaches earn, yearly?

  • Income varies widely, but then, so does purchasing power.
  • Other factors include number of years practicing and type of coaching practiced.
  • Globally, coaches average $51,000 per year USD.
  • The highest earners are in Oceania ($73,000+), followed by N. America (almost $62,000), and W. Europe ($55,000+).
  • Lowest earnings are in E. Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean ($18,000+ - $27,000+).
  • Most coaches (75%) expect their annual income to increase in the near future.
  • Some coaches (45%) expect their fees to increase in the near future.

Do coaches need coach training and certification?

The future of coaching:

  • The largest numbers of coaches see the greatest opportunities in Increasing awareness of the benefits of coaching (38%) and credible data on the ROI/ROE of coaching (26%).
  • An amazing 84% of coaches believe coaching can influence social change (that's one of the reasons I started this school).
  • 54% believe coaching should be regulated.
  • 85% of those believe professional coaching associations should be the regulators.

Get 125 ICF Approved Hours of Coach-Specific Training Here:

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Topics: Coaching, coach training, ICF, life coach salary, Coach Certification, future of coaching

Life Coach: Intuition, Truthiness, and Whether Coaches Should Be Judgmental

Posted by Julia Stewart

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Most coaching schools, including School of Coaching Mastery, teach that judging your clients is counterproductive, because people resist being judged and reducing resistance is the first step in helping a client become resourceful. Even positive judgments can be problematic under some conditions. But being non-judgmental during coaching is a challenge for most new coaches and continues to create challenges even for many veterans.

Like most behaviors, non-judgment works like a muscle.

The more you work it, the stronger it gets. So many coaches regularly practice non-judgment in their lives to help them be more judgment-free during coaching. This is also a common spiritual practice and a form of mindfulness. I highly recommend it.

However, becoming perfectly non-judgmental, all the time, appears to be impossible.

For example, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, regarded as one of the wisest men on Earth, confesses that he doesn't always achieve it and the Bible includes a story of Jesus angrily evicting money changers from a temple, because they disrespected his Father's House. That last type of judgment, sometimes called, "righteous indignation", is considered a relatively okay form of judgment by many spiritual people.

Here's the problem with non-judgment: it sends judgment into the shadows where it can turn nasty.

The moment we embrace a belief, attitude, or judgment, we tend to disown its opposite. That creates a shadow, a "voice", if you will, that hides in your unconscious. If you're lucky, it'll manifest as a blind spot that your loved ones all see, but remains invisible only to you. Not so lucky? A shadow can drive destructive behavior that reeks havoc in your life.

Ever notice how arrogant and judgmental some spiritual people are? You're experiencing their judgmental shadows.

This sometimes happens to coaches, too. I remember when I was in coach training, for instance. In addition to non-judgment, integrity was an important concept at my school. It basically meant, in coaching terms, that a person lived in harmony with their own values. If you didn't behave in a way that was in harmony with your values, you were said to be, "out of integrity". Since your integrity is based on your personal values, it's fair to say only you would know if you were out of integrity, but since judgment was frowned upon and most of us were still pretty judgmental, at least some of the time, it became acceptable to say, "So-in-so is out of integrity," if we were feeling a little judgy. I did it too, until I caught myself in the act.

Plus, people who practice non-judgment can be really judgmental about others who are judgmental.

Well I caught myself being out of integrity again, recently. This time it was about not being judgmental enough! In the past, I've tried to keep my public opinions focused on coaching: what works, what's professional, and what's ethical. And like most professionals, I try to stay out of politics, because I don't want to offend my clients and colleagues. But some situations are more extreme than others.

Should I remain quietly non-judgmental while evil prevails, just so I can make a few more dollars?

Fortunately for me, I am financially secure enough and my email list (30,000+) and blog readers (20,000+ monthly) are substantial enough that I can afford to offend a few people, if it matters enough. But occasionally I feel a bit judgmental about coaches who stay mum when they could do good by speaking up. That's probably not fair. The fact is, my security puts me in a position to speak to a lot of people and make a positive difference and I can afford to do it.

Doesn't that also make it my duty?

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."

- Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who opposed the Nazi regime. He spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

What could be so threatening that I would reference a poem about the Nazi holocaust?

I will get to that momentarily, but first let me explain where I'm coming from.

My greatest strength is Learning. It ranks high on every strengths assessment I've ever taken. That's why, at an age when my friends are retiring, I'm writing my dissertation. The fact that I'm writing about values helps keep me honest.

So when it comes to politics, I do my research. A lot of it. That doesn't mean I know everything (far from it) or that I'm always right, but it does mean I take the time to look things up before I talk about them. What I've found (not surprising) is that the popular narratives in American politics are rife with "truthiness", a term coined by Steven Colbert, that refers to something that feels true because it's been heard so often. In other words, if you say something often enough, people will believe it.

Truthiness is that felt sense that something must be true, even if you can't explain why.

But isn't that what intuition is? No. Intuition happens when you are present, curious, free from fear and anger, and learning quickly. Your mind makes new connections and suddenly you "know" something, but can't quite explain how. It usually feels good.

Even though you know, it's wise to check the evidence, just in case your "intuition" is really just truthiness.

Truthiness occurs when you're not fully attentive and are feeling fear or anger. It comes from the primitive brainstem and limbic system and is the culmination of implicit biases, prejudices, what you think will keep you safe, and it's "what they say", especially if "they" include your spouse, your friends, or people who look like you. We all succumb to it, but can't quite explain it. And it usually feels bad.

Truthiness is what you hear when someone says, "I just feel that Hillary Clinton is dishonest," or, "I just don't like her." She may or may not be dishonest, but people who say so can rarely point specifically to why. They may mention something vague like Benghazi or emails, but they usually can't describe in detail what she did wrong and often haven't even checked, but merely accept "what they say." Jimmy Kimmel does a brilliant skit on this.

This article is not about her. This one is about Hillary Clinton.

This article is about that master of truthiness, or what he likes to call, "truthful hyperbole" (aka, lying), Donald Trump. I don't expect you to accept everything I'm about to say, but if you don't, I do expect you to at least look it up, not just at a biased blog site or cable news show that supports your current views, but at a site that's known for careful fact-checking and a genuine attempt at balanced reporting, before you express opinions. Otherwise, you're likely to be spreading truthy lies and not even know it. 

Is Trump Evil?

It depends on how you define evil. To me, evil is when you're only for yourself, even if you say otherwise, and you don't care who you hurt, or you have already hurt many people and have the capacity to do a lot more damage. Trump fits my definition of evil. It's appalling to me that good people are willing to overlook his immoral campaign, his complete lack of character, his schoolyard ridicule of vulnerable people, all for his own personal gain.

We can pretend that he doesn't really mean the vile things he says, but that doesn't make his words okay. We can also choose to believe that his innuendos about black people, Muslims, Mexicans, women, etc. etc. aren't serious, or that his ignorance of governance, and disinterest in learning the law, isn't a major concern, or that his insults to our allies and praise of various dictators doesn't matter, or that his flagrant disrespect for the Constitution and the judicial system don't point to a dictatorial leadership style, but they do.

The only thing needed for evil to prevail is for good people to stand by and be polite about it.

Dubbed a pathological liar by virtually everyone who knows him well, Donald contradicts himself constantly. In fact the Pullitzer-Prize winning, Politifact, which tracks statements made by candidates, and wisely offers a range of possible truthiness, since most candidates are prone to stretch the truth or flat-out lie, says Trump's statements are Mostly False, Completely False, or Pants-on-Fire False a whopping 90% of the time. Clinton by contrast, makes statements that are Mostly False, Completely False, or Pants-on-Fire False 27% of the time (as of July 19, 2016). That means Trump lies more than three times as often as "Crooked Hillary", while the vilified Clinton has told the unvarnished truth more than any other candidate in this year's race. See Politifacts rulings on both Trump and Clinton, below.

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What's more,the ghost-writer of The Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz, who spent eighteen months shadowing Trump daily and interviewing his colleagues in order to write the book, claims he knows Trump better than almost anyone and considers Trump a sociopath who lies constantly to get what he wants, has no remorse when he reneges on his bills and his deals, which has ruined businesses and put thousands out of work, and that Trump's reputation as a great businessman, who has mastered deal making, is largely a fiction that Schwartz created in order to make his odious self-aggrandizing subject appear more likable. Schwartz is now horrified that Trump has used the false image created in The Art of the Deal to swindle America into making him the most powerful person on the planet.

“This is a man who has more sociopathic tendencies than any candidate in my adult life that I’ve observed,” Schwartz  told ABC News. “You know, it’s a terrifying thing. I haven’t slept a night through since Donald Trump announced for president because I believe he is so insecure, so easily provoked and not — not particularly — nearly as smart as people might imagine he is,” he said. “I do worry that with the nuclear codes, he would end civilization as we know it.”

Trump's biographers say it was Trump's father, Fred, who was the real builder and deal-maker and whose signature was required to cosign Trump's biggest deals right up to the time when The Art of the Deal was published, that Trump was worth "nothing" until his father died, leaving him an enormous fortune, and that within a few years, after a huge spending spree, Trump was worth negative $3 million (that's minus $3M). He filed for bankruptcy four times over the next several years, and instead of building things, he mostly made money off his name, which he has licensed to projects around the world (some of which employ slave labor), many of which are in bankruptcy now.

Trump praises Kim Jong Un and Saddam Hussein, even joked that Hussein's gassing of his own people, was no big deal. What will it be like when President Trump gasses the state of Vermont, because it's too liberal, or the City of Atlanta, because it's too black? You think that could never happen? Do you want to find out? Trump's stump speech style is a page out of Adolf Hitler's campaign strategy, telling the electorate that the system is rigged against them and certain people - outsiders - are to blame for it..

Is the system unfair? Yes. Is pitting American against American going to fix that? Of course not, but it does lead to rage, bigotry, and violence. We're already seeing the results. And Trump says he'll launch World War 3 when he becomes President. One of Trump's wives even claimed her husband kept a bound copy of Hitler's speeches next to his bed.

As Republican commentator, David Brooks, said earlier this year, Trump is addicted to attention and like all addicts, he is masterful as securing his supply. Trump's brash ability to grab the media's attention and to Brand himself is truly brilliant. That is the only brilliance he possesses. Everything else is a lie.

Clinton is a flawed human being. Trump is a moral catastrophe.

Coaches are influential and have a duty, I think, to speak up. You're welcome to disagree, unsubscribe, and unfollow. One former student suggested to me that it wasn't worth talking about politics in public if it meant scaring off potential clients. Clearly, I disagree, at least for myself. On the one hand, a lost client is survivable, while World War 3 probably is not. On the other hand, like-minded people are attracted to each other and, like Trump, I have a brand. A big part of my brand is speaking up, making waves, leading, and setting an example. Do I get judgy sometimes? Yes, sorry. It goes with the territory.

You're welcome to comment, below, or on social media, but flamers and trolls won't be tolerated.

Topics: life coach, Values, intuition, Clinton, truthiness

Life Coach: Do Coaching Clients Even Know What They Want?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Life Coach Clients CHOICE

One of the hallmarks of ICF coaching is that the coach establishes the coaching agreement (what the client wants to achieve) early in the coaching session. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it's actually one of the issues that distinguishes ICF coaching from, for instance, IAC coaching.

I taught the IAC approach for several years. Their approach tends to focus on establishing a trusted relationship first, then focuses on finding out what the client wants later, because...
  1. Clients won't share their dreams with us unless they fully trust us.
  2. Many, or even most, clients can't articulate exactly what they want without coaching.

So who's right?

They both are. The IAC is correct that the client needs to trust us completely and that they may not be able to articulate what they want from coaching until we've helped them clarify it. However, one of the weaknesses of coaches who've been trained in the IAC approach is that they sometimes never ask what the client wants from the coaching relationship, in general, and from the coaching session, specifically.

On the other hand, if a coach assumes they've covered this issue completely by simply asking, "What would you like to achieve, today?" the session will likely be superficial and the goals achieved may not get to the heart of what matters most to the client.

Why are these two approaches to coaching so different?

Each organization has written their coaching IP (intellectual property) to define coaching under specific conditions. The IAC Coaching Masteries® is intended to describe what happens in one masterful coaching session. The ICF Core Coaching Competencies® describe both the coaching session and the entire coaching relationship and can be understood at the competent, proficient, and masterful levels. At the masterful level, ICF coaching is remarkably similar to IAC coaching.

How do coaches need to handle this?

First of all, the ICF emphasizes the importance of a trusted coaching relationship as much as the IAC does. Second, asking specifically what the client wants and how they know they have achieved it, early in the session, helps increase trust by demonstrating that the coach wants to know the client's goals and intends to help the client get there. In addition, tremendous clarity is created when the coach asks these questions and follows up by thoroughly exploring what the client means. And yes, sometimes the client's initial goal changes as greater clarity is achieved.

Why don't more coaches do it this way?

To honor both the ICF's emphasis on articulating the client's goals early and the IAC's emphasis on relationship building first,  clarification of goals second, requires tremendous finesse. That's what makes it masterful.

New coaches who study the IAC approach, may be hampered by the language of the Masteries, because they are written for coaches who understand the nuances of coaching. While the ICF approach, when studied by newbies, may result in stilted and shallow coaching sessions, unless instructors guide students toward the masterful use of the ICF's Competencies.

Takeaways:

  1. Sometimes clients know exactly what they want, but not always.
  2. All clients need a trusted environment before they will share their cherished dreams with us.
  3. Masterful coaches can establish trust while creating tremendous clarity, but it requires finesse.

If you'd like to coach with the finesse of a master, you might want to join the following program. Advanced placement is available for coaches who qualify. Learn more below...

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Topics: life coach, ICF, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, IAC

Top 12 Secrets: How to Write a Coaching Bio that Sells Your Coaching

Posted by Julia Stewart

coaching bio

For a new executive, business or life coach, writing your first coaching bio can be pretty scary, because you don't have tons of experience or credentials yet, so you don't feel powerful when talking about what you do. Even for experienced coaches, writing a coaching bio can be daunting and you may be looking for help with it. My friend and colleague, Barbra Sundquist, MMC, wrote a great post for this blog on How to Write a Coaching Bio in Twenty Minutes and it has become one of our most popular posts, because who wouldn't like to get this uncomfortable job over and done, quickly?

But what if your coaching bio could actually sell your coaching for you?

Bios are a powerful form of marketing and as you grow your business, you want to get even more power out of everything you do. In fact, it's ideal if you marketing brings you plenty of potential clients, especially if those clients are sales-ready. In other words, you don't want emails, texts, and/or phone calls from everybody on the planet, just they ones who are dying to hire you, right?

The following secrets, employed by search engine optimizers, copywriters, sales people and savvy coaches can help you attract potential coaching clients who may be ready to buy even before they talk to you – or who are ready to buy after a short conversation. You don’t need to use every secret in every bio, but great bios usually contain 3 or more of these secrets…

SECRET 1: Use the right words and phrases. The world’s greatest bio is worthless if nobody finds it, so your first job is to write for search engines, like Google, Yahoo and Bing, because people find coaches with search engines. Search engines change their search algorithms periodically and don’t share exactly what they are, but marketers have found that certain basic SEO (search engine optimization) practices can help you get found online. For example: Use keywords (words and phrases that people search for), especially long-tail keywords (very specific phrases), in your title, first and last sentences, as well as any highlighted lines (titles and bold text) and in hyperlinked text (text that you click to get to another page). An example of a long-tail keyword might be: “Life Coach, Jane Smith, White Plains, NY”. While you wouldn’t use exactly this phrase throughout your bio, with some creativity, you can use variations on it enough to get a search engine to send a searcher who just typed, “Life Coach White Plains NY” into the search box. People tend to search for coaches in their hometowns, so you can stand out quickly by including yours. (Bonus tip: People hire coaches, not companies, so list yourself by your name, not your business name.)

SECRET 2: Tell them what they want to know. Stop thinking of your bio as a biography of you and your experience/credentials and understand the only thing potential clients really want to know about you: "Can you help me?" Mostly share details about you that they want to know, i.e. Do you understand people like me? Have you been in my shoes? Have you helped someone like me? If your bio has lots of room, or if it has a second ‘details’ page, add more details about you further down. But for a short bio, just tell people what they most want to know: “I can help you reach your goal”.

SECRET 3: Write for your ideal client. Stop writing for everybody and write for just one person, instead. How? The simplest way is to pick an existing ideal client and write just for them. Before you do, ask that client what they most wanted to know before they hired you. Then show them your bio and ask them to critique it, so it says exactly what they would want to know. Does that sounds pushy? It's not, because your best clients are grateful to you. They are also high-functioners who love to give back. Don’t hesitate to give them that opportunity. And don’t worry that you’ll be excluding potential clients who are different. Most bios fail to grab attention from anyone because they are simply too vague.

SECRET 4: Use the magic word. While we’re talking about grabbing attention, here’s the simplest way to grab your reader’s attention: Use the word, YOU. Because our brains are wired to focus attention on what is most pertinent to us, personally. When a reader sees the word, "you", in a line of text, their brain naturally pays more attention. Think about it: the word, "you", probably grabbed your attention, just now.

SECRET 5: Customize it. One bio probably isn’t enough, so think of your website as more of a hub than a store front. I’ve had clients hire me without even a phone conversation, because they found me on specialty websites and memberships that mattered to them. The fact that I was interested in what interested them was enough to for them to say, “She’s the coach for me.” Use social networks, coach directories, and special-interest memberships as an opportunity to send potential clients to a landing page on your website to sign up for your coaching – but do give them a chance to talk to you, because usually they’ll want to do that before hiring you.

SECRET 6: Create curiosity. Great copywriters say that each sentence you write has but one purpose: to make readers want to read the next sentence. There are many ways to do this: Ask questions that your potential clients need to ask themselves. Use visual imagery. Use emotional words, or high-intensity words.

SECRET 7: Create trust. Multiple bios at several locations help your clients to research you. Create a consistent image, while tailoring your bios to each site. This also helps people to find you. Add your most important credentials, if credentials would matter to your potential clients. Graduation, certification and memberships from well-known coaching schools, or associations, can give you an edge. Someone who’s reading your bio on a coach directory, for instance, probably is getting to know you for the 1st time, so share what a stranger, who is searching for a coach, would want to know. On the other hand, someone visiting your website, probably already knows a little about you, so share a bit more. (Critical tip: Lying about your qualifications and credentials creates mistrust that can destroy your business, so don't claim credentials you don't have.)

SECRET 8: Let others do the selling for you. Most of us loathe bragging about ourselves, but hiding what’s great about us is a disservice to your potential clients. So let others do the persuading. This is what today’s consumers are already comfortable with anyway: reviews, ratings and testimonials. If you have the space, include some of your best testimonials in your bio. Even if your bio has to be short, try adding a short comment from a happy client. Coach certification can also help do some of the selling for you, because it's a stamp of approval from a trusted source.

SECRET 9: Be easy to find. Not only do you want your bios to be easy to find, you want your clients to be able to find YOU. Always add your webpage and contact information to your bios. Because a link to your website is SEO gold. This is reason enough to join every directory you can. It helps search engines find you and your website, which in turn, helps potential clients find and hire you. Coaches who work from home are often conflicted about how much contact information to share online. If this is a concern, here are some possibilities: Rent a post office box for your physical address. Get a business phone number or even a toll-free number. They’re inexpensive. In addition to your web address and email, share your city, business number and PO address, but never your home address.

SECRET 10: Be easy to see. Definitely add a photo of you, if you can. Don’t use your logo, except as a secondary image. Because people hire people, not logos. The best photo is a headshot of you, smiling. You don’t have to be young and beautiful, but in most cases, looking professional works best. It’s worth getting your photo professionally done.

SECRET 11: Let them know how easy it is to work with you. Most people have never hired a coach, before. They naturally feel a little confused about how to do that. Confused people don’t buy. Spell out a couple of easy steps, such as, “If you think you’d like to coach with me, contact me by email to set up a phone conversation. In your session, we’ll talk about your goals and how you can reach them. Usually, it’s a lot of fun. If I can help you further, I’ll tell you how, but there’s no pressure.”

SECRET 12: Tell them what to do next. This is critical. Tell people specifically what to do next to get started with you. In marketing, this is called a ‘call to action’. If that feels too directive, think of it as an invitation. Depending on where your bio is located, your call to action might be to visit your website. Or it might be to fill out a short form and email you, or simply telephone or text you. Decide what mode of contact would appeal to your ideal client and don’t be afraid to make a prominent call to action. You might even want to offer something of value to them, just for getting in touch. Examples: “Email me to receive a copy of my ‘Top Ten Easy Ways to Instantly Stop Procrastinating and Get Everything Done On Time’”. Or “Call me at this number to schedule a complimentary coaching consultation and, if you decide to continue, I’ll discount $50 from your first paid session.”

Want to see this approach in action? View a few listings on our new coach directory and notice which coaches grab your attention and make it easy for you to hire them. 

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Topics: Coaching, Life Coaches, social networking, Google, Coaching Bio, SEO, FIND A COACH

Should Business and Life Coaches Ask "Why" Questions?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Coaching Questions The_Forgotten_Jetty_by_Daniel_Sallal_CC.jpg

Coaching questions are the stock and trade of professional life, business, and executive coaches. Knowing what to ask, when to ask, and how to ask coaching questions is a major part of becoming an effective coach. But there are certain types of questions that tend to be frowned upon, because they often yield poor results.

Those include "leading questions" that back clients into corners, as well as "closed-ended questions" that reduce curiosity, and then there are "Why questions" that slow down the process.

The ICF Core Coaching Competencies encourage a different type of question, what coaches sometimes call "powerful questions", or "awareness-building questions". These can often be spotted by the words they start with: What, When, How, Who, If.

Some powerful awareness-building questions:

  • If you had everything you need, what would you do?
  • Who would you have to become to succeed?
  • How could you do it?
  • When have you been in a situation like this, before?
  • What does this mean to you?

Questions like these help to open up a client's awareness of who s/he is and what's really possible. They take coaching to a higher level and help clients expand their impact in more ways than just goal completion. They also make coaching more fun.

So why shouldn't coaches ask, Why?

Sorry, I couldn't resist that one. Here are some reasons:

  • Why questions encourage analysis of the situation and you'd be surprised at how little analysis helps in coaching.
  • Why questions often lead to interpretations that may or may not be true, but more importantly, usually aren't helpful.
  • Why questions can turn the client's focus on the past, rather then the present and future, where the action really is.

I used to discourage Why questions until I listened to an advanced coaching session in which the student-coach asked her client several carefully-worded questions that focused on analyzing and interpreting the past, but avoided the word, Why.

Example: What do you think the reason is that you have this problem? Which is gobbledygook for: Why do you have this problem? Not surprisingly, the session wasn't successful.

That said, I've heard dramatic turning points in coaching sessions when coaches asked Why questions. As I tell my coaching students, if it works for the client, it works for me, because ICF coaching may be powerful, but it's not the only way to coach. So if you feel compelled to ask Why, just ask Why.

What makes some Why question work in coaching, instead of just slowing things down?

Ah, I thought you'd never ask! Here's why: 

WHY matters more than anything else in coaching!

You read that right. That poor little much-maligned word, WHY, matters more than all the Who, What, When, Where, and Hows. Those still matter, but not as much.

“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

Viktor was an incredibly wise man. As much as I love How questions (and I truly love How questions) they are pointless until you get the Why. In fact, What, When, If, and even Who don't make total sense without the Why.

Here are some Why questions you MUST ask:

  • Why does this matter to you?
  • Why is this important, right now?
  • Why does this mean so much?

Powerful Why questions uncover what the client most values.

Values are the Why.

Our most important personal values are the driving force behind everything we do. As sociologist, Paul Ray says, values determine our behavior more than anything else. More than demographics, education, strengths, needs, you name it.

Values are what matter most. 

Asking about values in a coaching session is like asking Google an important search term. Within a few moments, you get a useful answer. But invite Google to analyze and interpret the past, and it might reply, "Well I was going to answer, but I wasn't feeling well, plus my boss is mad at me and I had an argument with my wife, plus, plus, plus... Not useful.

So should coaches ask Why questions? YES. 

Focus Why questions on values, not analysis, interpretation, or the past. My 2 cents.

Positive psychology coaching tends to focus on strengths, which are the HOW of coaching. At School of Coaching Mastery, we focus on strengths and also emphasize values, because we are all about making coaching as powerful as possible. Two modules that will help you master values are the Psychology of Values and Coaching Values, Needs, and Strengths. Both are included in the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® program.

Curious about positive psychology coaching? Get the free eBook:

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Topics: Coaching, executive coach, Business Coaches, Life Coaches, coaching questions, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, positive psychology coaching, Strengths, Values

Life Coaching and Post-Healing Society

Posted by Julia Stewart

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There is a broad assumption in our society that many, if not most people need to heal, as in restore health or be made whole. And while healing is a phenomenal process that can restore life to millions of people, and for which I am most grateful, I believe we are increasingly moving into a "post-healing society" and I'm not alone.

Post-healing is itself an extraordinary milestone in human evolution, which deserves to be talked about and clarified, so we all know when we are experiencing it and so we can have more of it.

I'm sometimes surprised by people who are unaware of even the possibility of a post-healing society.

So what am I talking about when I say, "post-healing society?" I'm calling it "post-healing", because at the start of something that is this complex and revolutionary, it's helpful to make a distinction between newly emerging conditions and that which went before, gave rise to the new, and is now distinct from it. Over time, I believe a different name will emerge that describes more fully what "post-healing" really is, but for now, let's look at how it is different from healing society.

Post-healing society and healing society currently overlap and will do so for the foreseeable future.

I'm talking largely about psychological healing here, but body, mind, heart, and spirit are so entwined that that distinction may not be altogether important. In fact, appreciating the inherent wholeness and interconnectedness of body, mind, heart, and spirit is a feature of post-healing.

From a psychological perspective, healing society arose and reached its zenith in the second half of the 20th Century when defining mental illnesses, cataloging their symptoms, and finding effective treatments for them became the primary focus of the fields of psychology, psychoanalysis, and psychiatry. As treatments became more effective, the impact on society was seismic. People started to understand their own differences and difficulties, as well as those of others, learned to ask for what they needed, began to experience wellness, spoke up for their rights to be treated equally and with respect, and for many, to a large degree, suffering was diminished.

When there is less suffering, new possibilities emerge.

But by the end of the 20th Century, many professionals seemed to believe there was something psychologically wrong with us all. I heard one psychologist say that everyone had something, either a neurosis, personality disorder, or psychosis; or else they had addictions, brain damage, or other neurological disorders. Another told me that in therapy, neurotic is what you want to be, because everything else is worse.

So what is healthy if everyone is ill, including apparently (since everyone has something), the therapists, themselves?

I wasn't the only one wondering about this, because positive psychology officially emerged in the 1990's as a sub-specialty of psychological research. Positive psychology is specifically concerned with studying people who are doing well, who enjoy well-being and are flourishing, so that others can learn from them and enjoy greater well-being, also.

The pioneers of positive psychology, notably Martin Seligman, went so far as to declare that the goal of positive psychology was to render itself obsolete. In other words, that the larger field of psychology would return to its original intent and cover the entire range of human behavior, rather than just focusing on what was wrong.

Here's a real-world example of post-healing. Seligman was asked by the United States Armed Services to help returning servicemen and women who have developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a debilitating illness that is particularly difficult to heal. After surveying a large number of soldiers, Seligman's team found that a small percentage, who had been exposed to many of the same horrors of war as those who developed PTSD, actually seemed to grow through the experience.

The key to growth rather than illness? It was the story they told themselves about it, in other words, the meaning they attached to the event. If a soldier told him or herself that they were at fault for the deaths of their buddies, or that they should have been able to save a friend, they were more likely to develop PTSD. If on the other hand, they told themselves that they must have been spared for a reason and that now they had an important purpose to serve with their lives, they were more likely to experience what Seligman calls, Post Traumatic Growth.

Now there is training for soldiers that can help them grow through trauma, instead of being damaged by it.

We could call this pre-healing, since it precedes the need for healing. I call it a post-healing intervention, because it comes from a mindset that sees the limitations of healing and, instead of allowing a problem to continue and then waiting to heal people from it, it has found a solution that eliminates the need for healing (An even more advanced post-healing society would eliminate the need for war.)

As an aside, I want to mention that 20th Century psychology has focused, from a scientific and medical standpoint, on many of the same issues that were once thought to belong to the realm of spirit, spirituality, and religion. Afterall, its name is derived from the Greek, "psykhe", meaning soul, spirit, or mind.

Today's "spiritual-but-not-religious" movement focuses on healing almost as much as the psychological field.

But modern spirituality also focuses on the transcendent, trans-personal, upon enlightenment, and other lofty states. Like the field of psychology that is envisioned by Seligman, spirituality focuses on the full range of human behaviors and experiences.

An example of post-healing spirituality is Zen Master, Genpo Roshi's, brilliant integration of voice dialogue therapy with modern Zen, called Big Mind. The goal of Big Mind isn't healing, but Buddhist enlightenment. It begins with the assumption that the student is already whole, complete, and perfect; including the parts s/he would like to eliminate!

An example is what Roshi calls a "disowned voice", a part of us that we judge negatively and may want to eliminate and that can become a problematic shadow. One such voice is what he calls, "The Damage". Most of us who seek out healing would love to eliminate what we consider damaged in ourselves. Some of us go from therapist to therapist, spiritual healer to spiritual healer, for years hoping to finally be healed.

Don't go to Roshi for healing, though. Instead, he completely reframes the role of The Damage. He will tell you that you are already whole, complete, and perfect, including The Damage, which is perfectly damaged. It's perfect, because it has accepted all the slings and arrows of your life, so the rest of you can remain undamaged. No more, no less.

What would you call someone who took a bullet for you? Your hero?

The Damage is a hero who accepts all the damage we would otherwise endure, allowing the rest of our selves to remain whole, complete, and perfect. It deserves to be honored and embraced. Instead, we cause suffering for ourselves by framing it as imperfect, not good enough, broken, or sick. When we go through life believing we need to heal, we sometimes keep old wounds open, we feel less than, we sometimes give away our power to healers, or we may use our condition to be less than fully responsible for ourselves.

Once you embrace that you're whole, complete, and perfect, there are no more excuses.

I'm not suggesting that these two examples of what I call, post-healing, are what everyone needs. Remember, both the healing society and post-healing society will exist side-by-side for quite a while, if not forever. I am suggesting that healing has opened the door to post-healing.

I'll use myself as another example. As someone who grew up in the proverbial dysfunctional family, I worked with a number of therapists over the years, believing there was something wrong with me. They made a big difference. But one of the most dramatic shifts that I made with any therapist was with the last, who at one point said, "Read my lips, you're healthy." Accepting that there was nothing seriously wrong with me was like waking from a dream. Suddenly, so much more was possible. I felt confident and believed in myself.

Of course, I wouldn't have gotten there without the help of some wonderful healers. And that's my point. Therapy got me ready for post-healing. And it got me ready for coaching, too.

Life coaching is, as far as I know, the first and perhaps only profession that is completely post-healing.

Life coaching and its siblings, including business coaching, executive coaching, and more, don't focus on healing clients, but rather assist clients to shift into more resourceful, and some would say, transformative mind-states that help them see solutions to problems and pathways to goals, while inspiring them to take action and create the outcomes that are best for themselves and others.

We see our clients as whole, complete, and perfect. We believe in them from the very start. We help them reframe limiting beliefs, integrate disowned voices, and experience their interconnectedness with others. As a result, they become more confident, believe in themselves, evolve into who they want to be, and create valuable changes for themselves and others. It's both an honor and an interdevelopmental experience to work with people who are discovering their true selves for the very first time.

They step into their greatness and go on to change the world for the better.

Imagine a world where all people not only heal, but reach their full potential and are inspired to transform the world. It's not a dream. Because of the good work done by healers, clients are becoming ready for post-healing and coaches go on to make transformative possibilities real everyday.

Would you like to join the post-healing society?

Find a coach here. Or become a coach. Your first step toward professional coaching would be to explore the following course for new life, business, and executive coaches:

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Topics: Genpo Roshi, Big Mind Big Heart, Life Coaching, Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, post-healing

Should Life and Business Coaches Give Advice?

Posted by Julia Stewart

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Most people assume that life, business, and executive coaches give advice, because that's what most professionals do: give expert advice. For instance, if you hire an attorney, s/he gives you legal advice. If you hire a broker, s/he gives you financial advice. And if you go to a hair stylist, you expect some advice on your hair. But coaches really aren't advisors.

By the way, this answers the question posed to me years ago by one coach wannabe, "How do you charge for free advice?" Most new coaches ask some version of this question when they first set up their coaching businesses. The answer is, "You don't." Free advice is everywhere, but that's not what coaches do.

Huh? What do coaches do then, if they don't give advice?

Well, here's one of the most succinct definitions of coaching, from David Rock, who pioneered brain-based coaching. He says, "Coaches help people think better."

"Why would anyone pay hundreds of dollars per hour to have somebody help them thinking better?" you might ask.

That's certainly an understandable question. Because Rock's definition is so simple, it doesn't even hint at the power of coaching. In fact, most coaching definitions don't. Here are two coaching definitions I borrowed from the blog post, "What is Life Coaching?"

School of Coaching Mastery (SCM) definition of coaching: Coaching is a customized conversation that empowers the client to get what s/he wants by thinking and acting more resourcefully.

International Coach Federation (ICF) definition of coaching: Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

These definitions get closer to what really happens in an effective coaching session, but if you've never been coached, it's still hard to imagine the value, so it's no wonder untrained coaches tend to give advice and then wonder why they don't have more paying coaching clients.

If your "coaching" is really about giving advice, you're not coaching; you're consulting. Sometimes the client needs consulting, so if you're qualified to consult within your specialty, go ahead and consult. But don't call it coaching, because your clients won't know what they're buying.

And don't ever call yourself a coach just to get around the fact that you don't have the credentials to do something else. Coaching is unregulated virtually everywhere, but If you're not qualified to be a counselor, psychotherapist, financial advisor, legal advisor, or health professional, etc.; it's unethical to advise people under the heading of "coach", because coaches don't advise and because calling your service one thing, when it's really something else, is false advertising. And finally, because these specialties are usually regulated.

What coaches really do is shift their clients' mind-states. This is pretty profound, requires skill, and it results in dramatically better outcomes. We don't heal our clients, but we do bring out their personal greatness, which has in common elements from Presence, Flow, Love 2.0, and more.

In short, coaching clients think better. Way better.

When clients think better, they see solutions to problems and pathways to reaching goals. They sometimes realize they don't even have problems (or maybe what they have are really good problems) and they even become grateful for what they already have. Sometimes, they find strengths they'd forgotten, or values they truly treasure that pull them forward. Sometimes they realize they already have the people and resources they need, or that they know where to find them.

And occasionally, they discover a gap that needs filling.

There may be a gap in knowledge, vision, plan, or relationships. In these rare cases, the coach may prompt clients with a few possibilities they didn't know about. The coach might say, "I've seen others try X, Y, or Z in this type of situation and it was effective for them. What do you think?" But a great coach will never say, "You should do X." The first is offering options; the second is giving advice.

Even offering options is ineffective unless it's really needed, which is pretty rare.

Do you know how to help people think better? Do you how to shift people's mind-states so they think and act more resourcefully? Do you know how to elicit people's personal greatness? And when and how to offer options?

If not, or if you're unsure, the upcoming Coaching Groundwork Advance course may be perfect for you. Find out more and download the face sheet, or even register, below.

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Topics: business coach, life coach, executive coach, Coaching Groundwork, consulting, Flow, coaching definition, coaching advice, personal greatness, coaching presence, love 2.0

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