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The Tyranny of Positive Psychology: Can Emotional Intelligence Save Us

Posted by Julia Stewart

Nervous Smile by Paul McDee Positive Psychology vs Emotional Intelligence.jpg

Can positive psychology actually be bad for you? Can positivity = tyranny? Is there an upside to your downside?

There's a trend in positive psychology, called the second wave, that says, "Hold on. Don't get over-positive. So-called negative emotions can be beneficial, too." That's where emotional intelligence comes in; it teaches us how to recognize and use all our emotions for optimal benefit.

People often confuse these two areas of psychology. Truth is, there is some overlap.

Among the important distinctions between them is that positive psychology focuses mostly on what individuals can do to experience greater wellbeing, whereas emotional intelligence focuses on how individuals can recognize their own emotions, positive or negative, as well as those of others, and how they can leverage them to develop more harmonious relationships.

We can all learn a lot from both positive psychology and emotional intelligence.

People go off the rails with positive psychology when positivity becomes aspirational to them, or when they assume that their thoughts and feelings must always be positive. I see this sometimes when my students take positive psychology assessments and are bothered that their scores aren't perfect. Or when people judge themselves for not always thinking and feeling positive, or when they blame others for being negative, or when they avoid people who have problems or illnesses, as if they might rub off on them. Notice the negative reaction in of these examples? Both positive psychology and emotional inteligence teach us to accept the reaction and learn from it.

Actually, positive psychology research has long since demonstrated that 100% positivity carries its own problems. Check out Barbara Fredrickson's work on positivity, for more on this, or take the Introduction to Positive Psychology for Coaches course.

I'm not sure where the 100% positivity distortion came from, but it's a good example of how a little knowledge can be dangerous and why in-depth learning is important, especially with a topic as vast as positive psychology. In any case, writers, such as Robert Biswas-Diener and Tod Kashdan, are writing about the benefits of recognizing and exploring negative emotions and recently, Susan David, co-founder of the Institute of Coaching, has written about integrating these two disciplines to create what she calls, Emotional Agility.

Emotional Intelligence is a great counter balance to positive psychology.

That's why we're adding a new course to the Certified Positive Psychology Coach program called, Emotional intelligence and Leadership Coaching, in early 2017. It'll be part of the new master-level Certified Positive Psychology Coach program. Watch for it.

Free Become a Positive Psychology Coach eBook

Topics: Barbara L Fredrickson, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Institute of Coaching, Positive Psychology, emotional intelligence

A Brief History of Positive Psychology and Coaching

Posted by Julia Stewart


Two fields, positive psychology and coaching, have radically expanded how we think about personal growth. They've taught us that human beings have far more potential for happiness than we previously thought. Both began in the 1990's, but until recently, they developed largely in parallel. Now they are directly influencing each other and a new profession, positive psychology coaching, has emerged. It's time to look back at how it all came about...

Both positive psychology and coaching reached back millennia for inspiration from western and eastern philosophies, as well as other ancient wisdom traditions, including some indigenous influences. In addition, 20th Century influences sought to describe what was best and highest in human beings and how more people could amplify their personal development, success, and wellbeing.

The most notable difference in the development of positive psychology and of coaching was that positive psychology always had a strong academic and research basis, while coaching had its beginnings as an innovative entrepreneurial service. Research into what actually works in coaching came later.

Positive psychology and coaching each have a "founder" or "father", respectively. For coaching, it was Thomas Leonard (1955-2003), a former financial advisor, turned coach, who founded what many consider the first professional coaching school, Coach U, in 1992. Thomas later founded the first not-for-profit professional association and certifier of coaches, the International Coach Federation (ICF) in 1995.

The recognized Father of Positive Psychology is Martin Seligman (1942- ). An address Seligman gave, while president of the American Psychological Association (AMA), is often cited as the official advent of positive psychology. Under Seligman's leadership, several initiatives proceeded over time, including the founding of the Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) at UPenn in 2003  and the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) in 2007.

This short blog post can't cover all the achievements of these two great men, nor does it include all the contributions to both coaching and positive psychology by many other brilliant pioneers, but you can learn more by clicking links throughout this article, which will lead you to my references.

There were two 20th Century giants who seem to have had an impact on both positive psychology and coaching. They were Abraham Maslow, 1908-1970, and Viktor Frankel, 1905-1997. Maslow, himself a former president of the AMA, is referred to as the "Grandfather of Positive Psychology" by positive psychology professor, Tal Ben Shahar. Maslow may have even coined the term, "positive psychology", which appears in his 1962 classic, Toward a Psychology of Being (highly recommended). More important is Maslow's theory of self-actualization, often referred to as, needs-based psychology, which states that all humans have physical and psychological needs and that as we meet these needs, we grow and develop. The ultimate state we can attain via needs satisfaction is self-actualization, which is characterized by authenticity, flexibility, and even humor.

Viktor Frankl was born in Vienna and became a psychiatrist and neurologist, but during World War II was interned by the nazis in a series concentration camps, including the infamous, Auschwitz. He survived the war under dreadful conditions, which he later wrote about in his best-selling, Man's Search for Meaning, 1946. Frankl concluded that those who survived the nazi camps did so because they had something to live for: the need to see a loved one again, the desire to help a friend, or in Frankl's case, the passion to write his book about Logotherapy, literally the psychotherapy of meaning. According the Frankl, one cannot become self-actualized without becoming self-transcendent, or growing beyond oneself and one's own ego, which requires that we find meaning by helping others. Seligman later identified "meaning" as one of the most durable pathways to happiness. Echos of both Maslow's and Frankl's theories can be found in Thomas Leonard's Needs and Values.

Maslow and Frankl were especially important in their time, because the second half of the 20th Century marked a turn toward identifying, diagnosing, and curing mental illness, almost exclusively. Psychology's original purpose included psychopathology, but also the psychology of healthy people, and the study of genius. Seligman and colleagues were intent upon rebalancing the field of psychology to include the positive, as well as the negative, and their ultimate goal is to do this so thoroughly that "positive psychology" becomes obsolete, as a separate field.

Positive psychology and coaching are a natural fit, because positive psychology researchers and coaches ask similar questions: How can people become happier, more successful, and enjoy greater wellbeing? In other words, how can people Flourish, as Seligman would put it.

Although it's likely that early coaches and coach trainers drew from research into human potential, such as positive psychology, they usually didn't reveal their sources, which created a "guru-like" image for some and allowed others to make unfounded claims. Eventually, this caught up with the reputation of the coaching field and it was time for coaching to grow up and become a true profession.

By this time, the positive reputation of coaching had also grown. Clients, organizations, and researchers we curious how coaching was changing lives. Research into coaching started to boom and the Institute of Coaching formed in 2008 to foster research into coaching, positive psychology, and emotional intelligence.

One particularly notable researcher is Richard Boyatzis (1946 -) of Case Western University, who is associated with coaching, leadership, and emotional intelligence. His books, such as Primal Leadership, offer sophisticated evidence-based tools for coaching.

In 2007, Robert Biswas-Diener (1971 -), of Portland State University, published the first notable book on Positive Psychology Coaching and he has become a leader in positive psychology coaching research, writing, and teaching.

Today, there are numerous university programs in positive psychology and some in coaching. There also are a few short positive psychology coach training programs. The Certified Positive Psychology Coach program is currently the only positive psychology coach training program that includes the full 125 credit hours required for the ICF PCC credential. It was launched in 2014 and 75-100 additional hours will be added for the new master CPPC version in 2017.

If you'd like to learn more about positive psychology coaching, download the free Become a Positive Psychology Coach eBook, below.

Free Become a Positive Psychology Coach eBook






Topics: Coaching, ICF, Thomas Leonard, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Institute of Coaching, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, Martin Seligman

What's the Difference Between a Professional Coach and an Entrepreneurial Coach?

Posted by Julia Stewart


What's the difference between a professional coach and an entrepreneurial coach and why does it matter?

I recently received a couple of emails from someone on my mailing list who asked questions such as these. He took issue with a lead-nurturing (a type of marketing) email he received from us in which I frankly advise new coaches to get good coach training and reputable coach certification.

The writer identified himself as an entrepreneur, who offers coaching as one of his services, so I answered him in language I thought he would understand:

I said we were very clear who our ideal student is and he probably wouldn't resonate with our messages, since they are targeted at people who want to become professional coaches, rather than entrepreneurial coaches. I wasn't interested in arguing the relative merits of professionals vs. entrepreneurs, so I neglected to add that I have a strong bias toward professional coaches, for whom training and certification are a must, as opposed to entrepreneurial coaches who generally rely their reputations, experience, and instincts, to coach. That, by the way, is why I started a coach training school that certified coaches.

A coach used to be considered half professional and half entrepreneur, 15-to-20 years ago, and the Founder of the Coaching Profession, Thomas Leonard, was a perfect example. He started multiple coaching schools and professional organizations, in his lifetime, but was a classic entrepreneur who embodied the creativity, drive, productivity, and ongoing dialogue with his customers, that entrepreneurs are known for. That said, his major contribution to coaching was the turn toward professionalism and he embodied a stellar reputation for integrity, ethics, quality, and service that went way beyond profits.

The two photos above show, on the left, a professional coach who displays an openness and willingness to serve clients. On the right, shows an entrepreneur who's burning with his vision for designing a successful business. Both may be useful to coach with depending on what you want to work on. Neither is automatically better, but the professional coach is more thoroughly defined and has qualities that can be more easily recognized and evaluated.

Since Thomas' death in 2003, a leadership vacuum opened up. Much of it was filled by entrepreneurs who were focused more on marketing and sales gimmicks that drive profitability, than on helping clients grow and reach their goals. There are still a few good entrepreneurial coaches, but unfortunately they are increasingly outnumbered by scam artists and well-meaning wannabe's who may give bad advice.

I've known quite a few people whose lives have been transformed for the better by working with professional coaches. I also have known a handful of people whose lives have been ruined by entrepreneurial coaches. That doesn't mean all professional coaches are great, or that all entrepreneurial coaches are bad. Sometimes the opposite is true. It just isn't that simple, but over the years, I've moved away from the "half-professional/half-entrepreneurial" approach to coaching in favor of primarily being a professional and I advise my students to do the same, because it appears increasingly that professional coaches tend to deliver better results for clients and professional coaching is also a better model for coaching success. 

I've been clarifying the distinction between professional coaches and entrepreneurs with my Coach 100 students for over a decade and realized that it could be helpful to many of our blog readers too, so here goes.


Whether you are a professional coach or entrepreneurial coach isn't really an either/or choice; it's both/and. Because coaching is still not regulated, so there is tremendous freedom for practitioners. But at the same time, it's the professional side of coaching that is driving much of coaching's positive reputation.

If you're looking for a coach, you may want to use the above table to determine how professional your potential coach is. You have a bit more knowledge and power, because professional organizations define what you can expect. Also, if your coach is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF), you can file a complaint against a coach-member who fails to uphold the ICF's Code of Ethics.

Remember that lead-nurturing email from above, that advises good training and certification?

Recent research by the ICF found that coaches who get good training are more successful and less likely to quit the profession, while coaching clients say, all else being equal, they prefer to work with certified coaches. If you're new to coaching, my advice is that you get both coach training and certification to increase your confidence and success.

Get Coach Training and Certification

Topics: professional coach, professional coaching, coach training, Coach 100, ICF, Coach Certification, Thomas J Leonard, certified coaches, coaching ethics

5 Coaching Lessons Learned from Adele at Madison Square Garden

Posted by Julia Stewart


One week ago, today, School of Coaching Mastery quietly closed its doors for a much-anticipated event: Adele's last show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. My daughter and Office Manager, Jessie Stewart, and I had scored tickets last November for the sold-out show and traveled together to our former hometown for a little R&R and to see our favorite singer.

Adele did not disappoint!

As I made my way home from NYC I reflected on my takeaways from the event. Delightfully, there were many.

5 Coaching Lessons Learned from Adele at Madison Square Garden:

1. Be yourself. Adele models this better than anyone. She spent two hours alone onstage in front of over 18,000 people. No warm-up band, no spectacular floor show, no dancing, no pyrotechnics, just one woman in a modest dress and THAT VOICE. Her songs sounded just as sublime as all her records and between them, she told hysterical stories. As Jessie's friend, Meg, said after the show, Adele probably could have a career in stand-up comedy. She is enough as she is. So are you.

2. Hold out for what you really want when it matters, but settle for good enough when it doesn't. Researchers say that people who always want the best are less happy than people who settle for good enough. This probably is true most of the time, but in my experience, holding out for what you really want when it matters is key. Adele was what I really wanted. A fancy hotel room at inflated NYC prices? Not so much. As my mom always said, nobody stays in their room, anyway. So we found a hotel several blocks from MSG with fewer stars and better reviews, were perfectly happy with it, and spent the extra money on heavenly meals.

3. Take happiness breaks. I rarely take days off from work, except when I'm enrolled in a course. But if you want to do your best work, get out of the office occasionally and do something special. We went to NYC at the perfect time. The temperature was ideal, humidity low, no clouds. Our first day, we walked over six miles just enjoying the West Village, SOHO, NOHO, etc. The second day, we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. By then, we were walked out and took a cab all the way back to the hotel, exhausted but happy.

4. Step out of your comfort zone. As awesome as Adele's show was, one of the most unique few minutes came before we even entered MSG. One member of our party couldn't make it, which left us with an extra ticket for a show that had been sold out for months. I didn't know whether to give it away or sell it, but I knew if I sold it, I wanted to get at least as much as I paid, which was a bit over $100. As we approached the Garden, I heard a scalper yell, "Does anyone have tickets to sell?" I held up one finger and said, "I have one!" Next I knew, we were huddled on a dark corner. First we had to let him inspect the ticket for authenticity. That took some trust, because he could have snatched it and run off. He offered $60. I countered with $150. Then he came up to $100. I said I paid more than that. He offered $120 and let me feel his cash to be sure it wasn't counterfeit. That took trust on his side. I said, "Sold." We went into the Garden $120 richer, and me feeling a bit pleased to have just done something a bit risky that I'd never done before and I even got the scalper to come up twice as much as I came down. I spent all of the money on T-shirts and beer, just in case it really was counterfeit. By the way, Thomas Leonard's 28 Principles of Attraction includes the advice to be a little bad sometimes, because it gets us out of our safety zones and stops us from feeling superior to others.

5. Appreciate what you have. It was so much fun being back in NYC that I fantasized a bit about moving back, but my last morning was cloudy and rainy, which always makes the city look ten times as dirty, and I remembered an old rule of thumb: that when everything goes right, great weather, great food, cabs are easy to get, the scalper buys your ticket, etc.; NYC is the BEST place in the world, but when it doesn't go well, weather is dreadful, passing buses drench you, there are no cabs anywhere, somebody steals your wallet, etc.; NYC is the worst. I was ready to go home, enjoy the quieter, slower pace, and get back to work doing that I love. How fortunate I am to have found my calling and to be able to afford to play hooky once in a while.

So those are my chief takeaways from my quick trip to see Adele.

By the way, we have another Adele at School of Coaching Mastery, who is also delightful, and she's hosting our Positive Psychology Coaching Study Group, starting this Thursday. It's a perfect way to learn more about positive psychology coaching and it's free to everyone. If you'd like to join, click below.

Join the Positive Psychology Coach Study Group


Topics: Coaching, School of Coaching Mastery, Thomas Leonard, Attraction Principles, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, Coaching Study Groups

Top Ten Best Positive Psychology Blogs

Posted by Julia Stewart


If you are a positive psychology coach, then you need to keep up with the latest in positive psychology. Books, seminars, and research papers are wonderful for in-depth learning, but sometimes you want to understand a new concept quickly. That's when positive psychology blogs come in handy.

The best positive psychology blogs are updated frequently with useful information, often written by positive psychology researchers, themselves, on their latest findings. And there are also terrific blogs written by academics, positive psychology coaches, and other thought leaders. They can be wonderfully inspirational, or focus on practical applications of positive psychology findings.

This blog you're reading is written for coaches and often focuses on positive psychology coaching. The following are the top ten positive psychology coaching blogs that we like best.

Top Ten Best Positive Psychology Blogs

1. The Greater Good in Action: The Science of a Meaningful Life.

This is my favorite go-to blog for positive psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. It includes engaging article written by positive psychology researchers on topics like awe, gratitude, and self compassion.

2. Curious? Discovering and creating a life that matters.

Written by positive psychology researcher and author, Todd Kashdan, for Psychology Today. This blog is easy to understand and includes great information.

3. Just One Minute: One simple practice a week can produce powerful results.

By author and beloved teacher, Rick Hanson, these positive neuroscience exercises are easy to incorporate into your life.

4. What Matters Most? Using your strengths to impact well-being.

Written for Psychology Today by Ryan Niemiec, Education Director at the VIA Institute for Character.

5. Positive Psychology News

Written by several graduates of Masters in Applied Positive Psychology programs.

6. Authentic Happiness

Site for the Masters in Applied Positive Psychology program at UPenn, directed by the Father of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman.

7. The Happiness Project: My experiments in pursuit of happiness and good habits.

Written by author, Gretchen Rubin.

8. The Psychology of Wellbeing: Musings on the science of holistic wellness.

Written by Jeremy McCarthy with a focus on using positive psychology in spa settings.

9. The Happiness Institute Blog

Written by professor, Tim Sharp, a.k.a., "Dr. Happy".

10. Dr. John Blog: Guide to self.

The latest positive psychology tools by John Shinnerer.

There you have the top ten best positive psychology blogs.

Curious about becoming a positive psychology professional. Get the free Become a Positive Psychology Coach eBook:

Free Become a Positive Psychology Coach eBook

Topics: Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, free ebook, positive psychology coaches, positive psychology coach, positive psychology blogs

The Top 10 Worst Advice We've Ever Heard About Becoming a Coach

Posted by Julia Stewart


I truly love coaching. So much so, that I've devoted the last 15 years of my life to it (The last 9 years have been about helping life coaches, business coaches, and executive coaches succeed via School of Coaching Mastery).

Why? Because truly great coaching melds optimism, personal growth, relationship skills, and helping people be their very best. Plus, it's fun, inspiring, and a great way to make a living, unless you are one of the unlucky souls who get snagged by the wrong advice, like the poor sap JP Sears portrays in the How to Be a Life Coach (Not) video, above.

JP is playing for laughs. But here's the sad part: What he says and does in this skin-crawling satire of a life coach, is remarkably close (even identical, in some cases) to advice given by hundreds of self-proclaimed expert "coaches". You'll recognize them by the yachts, sports cars, and private planes they like to pose in front of, or in the opposite extreme, the spiritual, heart-centered props and rhetoric they used to sell their Law of Attraction "abundance" programs. Yuk.

These coaches are fake. Most don't coach at all (even if they call what they do "coaching"), or they use coaching skills to manipulate their customers into buying more and more products and programs, instead of employing those skills to help their customers succeed. This violates basic ethical practices in professional coaching.

You see, if you succeed, you won't need to buy any more advice from them, and that's no good for their bottom lines.

Here's a Top Ten List of Bad Advice for Coaches. Beware...

  1. You can't make a living as a life coach. Oh really? Why then, has coaching been one of the fastest growing professions for the past two decades? The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says professional and business services, such as  coaching, is one of the one of the fastest-growing sectors, right now. If anyone tells you that you can't make a living as a coach, ask yourself why they said that. Did it come from your sour-puss brother-in-law who pours negativity on every new idea? Maybe get a second opinion. Or does it come from a friend-of-a-friend who went broke trying to become a coach? Probably they took some of the following advice. Read on...
  2. Quit your job. If coaching is growing so fast, why not just quit your job and start coaching? Because, unless you are hired by a company, like Google, to coach their employees, you probably will be starting your own coaching business. And no business, no matter how successful it becomes, is profitable on Day One. And nobody is going to cut you a full-salary paycheck two weeks after hanging out your shingle. It takes time. Either keep your current job, or work part-time to cover your bills, while you build your awesome new business. Otherwise, terror over not having enough to cover the mortgage will make you desperate and that's when you'll become vulnerable to the following scams...
  3. Learn internet marketing. Internet marketing is a seductive hotbed of get-rich-quick schemes. Self-proclaimed million-dollar-coaches, seven-figure-coaches, wealth coaches, and gurus of every stripe will offer to teach you how to "Explode Your Profits!!!", "Live a Life of Abundance!", and more, with free webinars, cheap products, expensive workshops, and incredibly high-priced "coaching", "mentoring", or "personal advising" programs. Coaches who have been ensnared by these snake-oil salesmen have gone bankrupt, lost their homes, and more. The only people who get rich quick in this world, are the people selling the products and often even they are faking their own "success". Avoid their advice at all costs, especially if it includes...
  4. You must have a niche to succeed. I was lucky. I studied coaching with Thomas Leonard, the Founder of the Coaching Profession, who taught his students, flat out, that you don't need a niche to succeed with coaching. It's fine if you don't have one, especially when  you start out. If you develop one over time, that's fine too, but don't sweat it. Why do "experts" keep saying all coaches must have niches? Because new coaches, by definition, don't have niches, and once they "discover" that not niching will prevent them from getting clients, they go into the same fear-fueled panic that plagues coaches without enough income - and then they are ripe for all the hype internet marketers throw at vulnerable new business owners - and they start buying workbooks, seminars, and "coaching programs" that will help them discover their niches. I just talked to a former student of mine, a smart, talented, accomplished coach; who says she spent the last year taking classes and doing exercises to find her niche. It was both expensive and time-consuming and none of it helped her get clients. She's feeling a bit bitter, just like coaches who follow this bad advice...
  5. Get a web site immediately. If you're a web developer, this is the advice you'll give every new business owner. But many businesses, including most coaching businesses, don't get clients via their websites. What? Nobody will take you seriously if you don't have a web site, you say? Tell that to the thousands of successful coaches who didn't get web sites until after they'd been coaching for two or three years (including me). In the meantime, use a directory listing or Facebook page, or LinkedIn profile as your web address. You'll save time and money and will have more flexibility in developing your web presence over time. Plus, a successful coaching site needs thousands of visitors and in order to get them, you will either need to become a search engine optimization (SEO) expert, or you'll have to hire one. Then again, you'll need a web site in order to do what internet marketers say you must do in order to make millions...
  6. Sell products. These can be information products, such as audio and video recordings, workbooks or eBooks, anything to build up multiple streams of income, because you can't make a living as a coach, right? I fell for this for about a year and made much less money than I had when I just coached one-to-one. If you enjoy creating products, that's good, but unless you have thousands of people on your email list, you'll hardly sell any of them. Not nearly as good a return on investment as coaching one-to-one, which according to the most recent ICF coaching survey, pays over $200 per hour. Avoid the "products" stream at least until you have a stable full practice and you'll never have to fool with this advice...
  7. Get a sales funnel. This is another tool that only works if you have a big email list (it took me years to build mine), or fantastic SEO. Big companies often do use sales funnels effectively, but if you're a new coach, it's unlikely that a funnel will do anything but waste your time and money. Good coaches make most of their income coaching their clients and may supplement that with other services, and perhaps later on, a few products. If you're a new coach, studiously avoid this one and definitely the next...
  8. Max out your credit card. Or raid your daughter's college fund. Take out a second mortgage. Or sell one of your cars. This is the kind of bad advice fake "coaches" give when a customer tells them they aren't succeeding and are too broke to buy a $15,000 - 40,000 Platinum Program to get the information they really, really need to succeed. Again, if you're getting desperate, you will be more susceptible to this underhanded sales scheme. In fact, economic behaviorists have discovered something they call the "sunk-cost fallacy", in which people who are losing money, will continue to spend in a desperate attempt to recoup what they've lost. You see this all the time in casinos. And it's one reason marketing funnels work. The more someone spends, but doesn't quite get what they need, the more likely they will keep spending on the same stuff. I thought I was too smart for this, until I caught myself doing it, once. I was feeling a little desperate at the time, which is one reason why the following advice is so terrible...
  9. Don't get coach training. There's an old coaching guard out there that never got training, because there was none when they started coaching. Coaching scammers and internet marketers point to those veteran coaches as proof that nobody needs coach training. Why would they do that? Because a good coach training program will give you confidence, teach you what works, and warn you about what to avoid. Not good for those who want to prey on you. By the way, the ICF has found that coaches with training become successful more quickly, make more money, and are less likely to get discouraged and quit the profession. Good training is a lot less expensive than losing your shirt. And that brings us to our final bit of terrible advice...
  10. Don't get coach certification. Again, some coaches will angrily fight the idea that they need any type of credential. I suspect the anger is a cover for insecurity and more than a little paranoia. Because, once you're certified by a reputable organization, that fear tends to vanish, and because you've got a stamp of approval from a trusted source, that says you've got the right stuff. Will your clients ask you about it? Some will; some won't. Why lose even one client, because you didn't bother to get certified? According to the ICF, 84% of actual coaching clients say, coach certification is an important consideration for them. In some parts of the world, that percentage is even higher.

So there you have the worst possible advice for new life, business, and executive coaches.

If you don't have the training and certification you need yet, the ICF can point you to where to get it. And you can also get it here:

Check Out Coach Training Programs Here.




Topics: executive coach, coach training, Business Coaches, Life Coaches, Coach Certification, Thomas Leonard, becoming a coach

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.

Upcoming Coach-Training Courses

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


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

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