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Do Your Coaching Clients Dread Their Coaching Sessions with You?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Do your coaching clients dread their coaching sessions

Coaching with you is a wonderful experience, right?

We all want to believe our coaching is impactful and enlightening, even fun. But what if it isn't? Would your clients even tell you?

I'm asking because one of my advanced students recently mentioned in class that she terminated a coaching relationship with a well-qualified coach because every week, she dreaded her coaching sessions. There could be any number of reasons why a coaching client might dread their next session, some of them good. But every week? Not good.

Dread is a powerfully negative emotion. What was going on here?

5 Reasons your clients might dread your coaching sessions:

  1. You're a master coach who gives your clients big problems. Great coaches aren't afraid to challenge their clients, especially the clients who are committed to being their best. Thing is, if you do this too much it can be painfully overwhelming. Even clients can burn out. Balance big challenges with sessions where you help clients integrate what they've learned, appreciate their new growth, and feel like they are winning. That's masterful.
  2. You're a sledgehammer coach. Some clients will ask you to give them a kick in the pants when they don't perform. This is always unpleasant and rarely effective. Do tell your clients the truth, even when it's less than they'd hoped. But don't be mean. There are communication skills that will help you say anything to your client without wielding a hammer.
  3. You are nosy and rude. Clients will tell you anything if you know how to ask. But if you don't know how, things get super awkward. Fast. And if you don't ask, that could stunt their progress. Do ask, but don't be rude. Get permission.
  4. You coach like a boss. Or a parent. If you tell your clients what to do, they will react like teenagers and resist. They won't like it and neither will you. Don't be bossy. Learn to talk to your clients like the independent fully-functioning adults they are. Treat them with respect, even awe, and they will look forward to their sessions.
  5. You're a cookie-cutter coach. Some coaching schools will teach you to coach with a template, or a formula, or by the numbers. Your clients are smarter than that. They are also unique, which is why no one approach to coaching is always effective. Unfortunately, some coaches spend the time and money to learn a multitude of skills but, for whatever reason, they reduce what they've learned to a cookie-cutter. That's what my advanced student experienced with the coach whose coaching sessions she dreaded. The coach asked the same kinds of questions, in the same order, week after week. There was no customization, no surprises, no growth. Why would a coach do that? Were they lazy, distracted, intimidated by the client? Regardless, the client deserved more. Following the same pattern every week will drive any client away. That's why you need to learn all the skills and practice them until you can throw them away and just focus on what they client needs, moment to moment. To paraphrase jazz great, Charlie Parker, "Master yourself; master the skills; then forget all that and just coach."

What to do about this? Do what every great coach does constantly: Ask your clients. Check in with them at regular intervals, such as once per month, and find out what's working and what isn't. Make it safe and rewarding for them to tell you the truth. Then make the changes needed so your coaching is fun and effective. Or refresh your training with new skills. That's mastery.

Could your coaching use an upgrade? School of Coaching Mastery is one of the few, perhaps the only, coaching schools that offers advanced training in positive psychology coaching.

 

The coach who is constantly learning keeps their coaching fresh.

 

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Topics: coaching clients, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, masterful coaches, positive psychology coaching, advanced coach training

Is It Narcissistic to Hire a Life Coach?

Posted by Julia Stewart

narcissitic life coach client

Life coaching clients are sometimes accused of being selfish or self-absorbed. Does that make them narcissistic?

To find out, let's look at what narcissism really is. It's also helpful to understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy selfishness and being self-aware vs. self-absorbed.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is an unhealthy pattern of behavior that requires someone to think and act as if they're superior to others. They need excessive praise and admiration, lack empathy, and can be abusive in relationships. NPD is a serious disorder, but like any personality disorder, NPD is marked by a lack of self-awareness. If someone has it, they may be unaware how they come across, are unlikely to delve deep into their drives and vulnerabilities, to see their weaknesses, or to work to improve their relationships. In fact, they tend to think others are at fault, not them.

NPD is not the same as being self-absorbed or selfish, although NPD can include those qualities, which could be a reason why people use the term "narcissistic" to name-call people who make themselves a priority by working with a coach.

In fact, criticism is one way people with NPD abuse others, so it's possible those who criticize coaching clients are the ones suffering from NPD.

Healthy selfishness is an acknowledgment that, like everyone else, you have needs that must be met for you to function at your best and you have more to offer others when you are at your best. That's also self-awareness. Healthy people express their selfishness in ways that are flexible and avoid either rigidity or chaos. They have strong boundaries but may sometimes soften them for the benefit of people and things they love.

To an unhealthy person, self-awareness may look more like self-absorption. The former requires depth and a willingness to go beyond one's comfort zone to grow. The second is superficial and obsesses over a carefully-crafted exterior self-image.

Becoming a coaching client requires a willingness to deepen self-awareness. It's about personal growth and responsibility. NPDs tend to think they are superior even without a coach, are uninterested in self-awareness, and think others need to grow, not them.

Modern culture encourages self-absorption, but most of us don't have NPD. Our willingness to grow can be our gift to the world and coaches can help us do that.

 

Want to develop your self-awareness and grow? A coach can help you. Find a coach here:

 

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Topics: coaching clients, Boundaries, FIND A COACH

Does Your Coaching Client Really Have All the Answers?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Client has all the answers

This week, a coaching student asked me about the old coaching cliche that the client has all the answers.

There are important reasons why effective coaches honor this principle and reasons why it's a coaching trap if you aren't careful with it.

Why is it a trap?

It becomes a trap when you treat it like a hard-fast rule. That violates the very nature of coaching, which is personal, customized, and flexible. Every coaching conversation and every client is unique and requires unique responses from the coach.

If you try to apply this rule to every coaching session, you and your client will sometimes get stumped and you won't know how to handle it. It's unfair to your client and to yourself to box yourself in with this belief.

How did it become a trap?

This phrase shows up in coaching books and training programs because, "The client has all the answers," is an attention-grabbing concept. It has often been used to distinguish coaching from consulting. But it is much too simplistic. Some coach-training schools still treat this as a rule rather than a guiding principle. They mislead coaches into thinking there is only one answer to the question,  "Who has all the answers?"

Why is it important to honor this principle in your coaching?

There are several reasons. Here are the top three:

  • When someone arrives at a realization or solution, themselves, they are far more likely to follow through on it. When you hand solutions to your clients you make it less likely they will do anything about them. As the fortune cookie says, "Ideas are like children. Everyone loves their own best."
  • Another reason is that your client's strengths, values, experience, and skills are different from anyone else's and the solutions that work for them will also be different.
  • Finally, when a client discovers that they usually have the answers within, it creates confidence and freedom from the constant need to hire experts to solve their problems. This feature has contributed to the mercurial growth of the coaching profession.

What's the alternative to, "The client has all the answers?"

Thomas Leonard treated this issue differently. He said, "The answer is somewhere," which is far more nuanced. He said it didn't matter whether the client has the answer, or whether the coach has the answer, or whether the answer was found outside the coaching session, as long as the client got the answer needed. I agree up to a point, but it really is true that people follow through on their own ideas more than those of others and without follow-through, clients usually can't succeed.

Here's an even more nuanced way to handle this:

If your brain, heart, or gut is telling you that "The client has all the answers," can't always be true, you're probably right AND it's still useful to approach your coaching from this perspective.

Ask yourself this: "If my client has all the answers, how can I help them find them?" You'll discover that asking open-ended questions which tend to begin with Who, What, When, etc... help your client gain awareness of themselves and their situations. Often this is all that's needed for them to discover the answers within. On the occasions when your client doesn't seem to have the answers, offer options, resources, and other helpful tools. But avoid telling them what to do. That just creates resistance and resistant clients are less likely to follow through to success.

Want to become a coach?

Learn what really works rather than rules that can become traps. The Certified Competent Coach Course is a great place to start. To learn more, click the button below or download the Become a Coach eBook here.

 

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Topics: become a coach, coaching clients, Coach Training Programs, Thomas Leonard, certified competent coach

Coaching Tourists Don't Get Coaching Clients

Posted by Julia Stewart

Coaching Tourist - photo by Elan Sun Start

Fifteen years ago, I found myself in a hotel lounge chatting with a group of coach trainers about our coaching students. We were all there as certifiers for a live coach certification event for the largest coach training school in the world and someone brought up an odd coaching phenomenon that we had all noticed...

Thousands of people have fun dabbling with coaching, but never fully commit. That's fine, but most of them seem to think they are seriously building businesses, but they don't make much progress. It reminded me of a recent trip to Hawaii that I'd taken where I noticed how different a tourist's experience of the islands was from a Hawaiian resident's.

I said, "Yeah, it's like they're coaching tourists."

There is nothing wrong with being a tourist, but it gets expensive and it rarely builds a real business. If you want to get coaching clients, it's important that you know when it's okay to play (and for how long) and when it's time to get down to business.

So I designed an assessment that'll give you an idea whether you're just a tourist in the land of coaching or whether you really live here. I hope it helps!

The scoring key is below. The higher your score the more you're acting like a tourist rather than a coach who is building a successful business. Learn what to do about this and get on the path to success now.

0 is a perfect score. No problems here!
5-15% is very good. Why not upgrade to great by working with a coach?
20-45% is okay if you're just getting started with a good coach or training program. But don't delay.
50-100% You're definitely are a tourist. Unless you're independently wealthy, you probably should either do something else for a living or get more serious about building you coaching business.

Take this free life coach assessment:

Are You a Coaching Tourist?

 

Topics: coaching business, coaching clients, coach training school, coach training instructors, how to get coaching clients, coaching tourist

COACH: Step Away From That Webinar!

Posted by Julia Stewart

Coaching webinarFree webinars (also tele-summits, teleclasses, teleseminars, teleconferences) are an incredible way to learn amazing new stuff from top-notch leaders.

Most new coaches and a lot of not-so-new coaches love to spend time on fantastic webinars. The reasons are 5-fold:

1. Webinars are a cheap, easy, and convenient way to connect with like-minded people from around the world to talk about stuff your family and neighbors may not give a hoot about.

2. As a new coach, you have a lot to learn. What better way to learn it than to listen to the experts tell you how they did it and how you should do it.

3. Practically everyday, another not-to-be-missed webinar series is launched that you simply must attend. Often, these webinars are free, so how can you say, 'No'?

4. You can sit in your bedroom, wear your underwear, pet the cat, drink coffee, and answer email; all while you learn from the world's greatest thought leaders!

5. (Biggest reason) As long as you're taking webinars, you're moving forward on your path to becoming a successful coach, because you're learning and growing, right?

If you're like thousands of other coaches, probably not.

Free webinars are the heroin of coach training: Cheap, available everywhere, trendy (for a while), and incredibly easy to get addicted to. That last point explains why they are so available: Because people get addicted to them, they make  perfect marketing vehicles.

The reason I say you are not moving forward with your business when you are watching webinars, is for one simple reason: You can't build your business that way. You just can't.

And if you're like many of the newbie coaches that I know, the real reason you spend so much time hanging out on webinars is that taking steps to build your coaching business is scary, uncertain, and you are afraid of making mistakes.

Webinars are the coach's favorite excuse for procrastination.

Sorry. The truth isn't always pretty. What can you do about your webinar addiction? Well, until they come with Surgeon General's Warnings or alarms, red flags and flashing lights, you need a plan. And you must stick to your plan. Here are a few points that might help:

  • Figure out how many client hours you want to be coaching each week.
  • Double that number and you have the number of hours each week you need to spend on building your coaching business.
  • Mark those hours off on your calendar and use them to actively build your business. Daily.
  • None of those business-building hours should be spent in webinars.
  • Consider time spent on webinars as entertainment time. Make that time a reward for genuine business-building.
  • Limit your hours in webinars, just as you would limit a child's time watching television.
  • Don't worry if you miss a webinar program. If one coach/guru/marketer is doing something cool this month, you can bet another will do it next month. You'll never miss a thing. Seriously.
Some webinars will benefit you more than others. Prioritize those that are part a progressive (usually paid) program that actively teaches you how to do something you need to know, gets you into action, and gives you feedback on how you're progressing. Also prioritize those programs that you lead, yourself, those that you actively participate in, and those that teach you something you need to know this week, because you are applying the lessons right away. 

Have a big vision for your coaching business and actively create it in reality.

Unless your big coaching vision is of you sitting in your bedroom, wearing your underwear, while you pet the cat, drink coffee, and answer email, step away from the webinars!

If you truly love to coach and have the courage to build a business, but need a plan that doesn't require endless webinars, consider Coach 100 Business Success. It comes with some webinars that will teach you how to fill your coaching business with clients, but you'll spend most of your time coaching and getting clients. 87% who complete the program have full coaching practices! Download the Coach 100 free eBook here.

Fill Your Coaching Business with Coach 100

 

Photo by jerine at flickr creative commons.

Topics: become a coach, Coach 100, coaching clients, make a living as a life coach, Free, Coach Training Programs, coach, teleclass, how to become a coach, coaching businesses

Coaching vs. Consulting: What's the Difference?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Business Coach If you're a business consultant, then you may be wondering if you should get some coaching skills.

Or you may wonder if you're already coaching, now. Many people wonder what the difference between business consulting and business coaching really is.

The truth is, the difference depends on the coach, or the consultant. Both professions are about as varied as the individuals who call themselves coaches and consultants. Here are some differences, from my point of view...

1. Coaches ask more than they tell. Savvy consultants also ask a lot of questions, but they usually are in the "information gathering" mode. A good coach is just naturally curious. This is one of the reasons coaching is so effective. Even though your client hired you for your expertise, they will probably feel uncomfortable sharing their (or their business') problems and weaknesses with you. Chances are, they'll cover up what's really going on. But the same client will open up with a coach who is naturally curious.

2. A Consultant's expertise is usually the main thing they share with clients. Coaches have expertise too, but it's usually the last thing they share. That's not to say that expertise isn't important. Sometimes it's the thing the client most needs. By following their curiosity and the curiosity of their clients, coaches find out what's really going on and what the client really wants. Then they can share expertise in a customized and targeted manner, providing exactly what the client needs, when they need it.

3. Consultants often do a lot of measuring and testing. They then have metrics to share and specific recommendations about what to do. A coach may administer assessments, but they are less about the raw data and more about the meaning behind the data. Sometimes what a client really needs is the hard data. That's when they need a consultant. Other times a client needs to get clear about where they really want to go and what they really value. If that's the case, the data may be extraneous and they are better off with a coach.

4. Consulting is mostly a "left-brained" activity. It's about taking linear steps toward a specific goal. Coaching is predominately "right-brained". It's about growth and evolution. That said, consultants and coaches, use both sides of their brains!

5. Consultants usually offer training to their clients. So do coaches.

6. The truth is, most consultants do a little coaching and most coaches do some consulting. Both professions require practice to master. Good training can speed that up.

If you're a consultant and want to add coaching skills to your business, the Certified Competent Coach Course is perfect for you. Learn more...

Become a Certified Competent Coach

Topics: business coach, Coaching, coach training, coaching clients, business consultant, coaching skills, consulting

How Group Coaching Can Grow Your Coaching Business

Posted by Julia Stewart

Group Coaching

Group coaching is an ideal tool for attracting coaching clients and growing your coaching business. Because every group you coach knows more people who need your coaching. Client attraction is easy when your coaching clients do the work for you! So if you've ever wondered how to get coaching clients, this blog post is for you...

How to Grow Your Coaching Business with Group Coaching:

  • Client referrals are coaching gold, but you won't get many referrals if you're only coaching a few clients. By adding a group coaching program, you multiply your client roster exponentially!
  • Client attraction gets a huge boost when you coach groups, because more coaching clients rave about you to your friends and that gets the word out about you, effortlessly.
  • Group coaching clients pay a bit less than personal clients, but because they're in a group, their fee is multiplied per hour and you make more money.
  • Increase the number of people who can afford your coaching by offering coaching groups.
  • Use your coaching specialty to attract clients to your coaching groups. Your clients know who else needs your coaching, often better than you.
  • Don't forget to ask your group coaching clients to refer other clients to future coaching groups. They'll be glad to help.
  • Give away something of value, like a case study, or video, so referrals want to share their email addresses with you. Then notify them when your next coaching groups are open for new coaching clients.
  • Perfect your group coaching tools to produce amazing results, so others naturally want to join your groups.
  • Get group coaching training to learn quickly how to master group coaching, because group coaching can be challenging and uses advanced techniques. Make sure any coach training program you take is ICF approved.
  • Learn how the ICF Core Coaching Competencies are applied to group coaching (Scroll to the bottom of this post to get a free handout on how to do this.)
  • Become a Certified Group Coach to stand out from the crowd quickly!

FREE: Find out how to apply the ICF Core Coaching Competencies to group coaching. Click the button, below, and you'll be taken to the Become a Certified Group Coach page. Scroll down to get your free handout.

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Topics: group coaching, coaching clients, get certified, how to get coaching clients, client attraction

Should You Become a Coach in the Age of Disasters?

Posted by Julia Stewart

How to Coach Photo credit - hurricane by kakela.jpg

On September 11th, 2001, all my New York City clients canceled. My coach, in California, also canceled. I canceled a cardiac stress test, because all day my heart was pounding. My coaching school continued classes.

Like everyone in the US, my thoughts were primarily about the calamitous attacks on NYC and Washington DC. Although, as a New Yorker, the World Trade Center attack loomed larger for me,

At the time, I was studying to become a coach while running a busy personal training business. After 9/11, I wasn't sure ideas like "live your best life" made sense, anymore. I was afraid I would lose my personal training clients and that nobody would want to coach with me, because the world seemed completely different. What mattered before seemed utopian. What mattered now was a much uglier side of life.

I was wrong.

After we rescheduled, I told my coach I was thankful my coaching school continued classes on 9/11, because for one hour, on a perfectly horrific day, I did something normal. God, that felt good.

My point is this: Don't assume you know what people will want, in this world of disasters, because what they want will surprise you.

My coach gave me an assignment: to get my first coaching client. Geeze, in this environment?

Gradually, my business got up and running again. My clients told me harrowing stories that had happened to them. One, who worked near the World Trade Center, had had to walk down forty flights of stairs to escape. Another, who worked further away, watched as people jumped from the blaze. Everyone had lost someone.

To my surprise, they all told me they were more committed than ever to working out, because they realized, in this new normal, that they needed to be fit to survive. One of them asked if he could be my first coaching client.

I didn't even need to market; my first coaching client volunteered. He stayed with me for seven years.

Millions of New Yorkers changed after 9/11. In the most capitalistic city in the most capitalistic country, people started putting values ahead of profits and family ahead of achievement. They turned to coaches to help them define their callings and life purpose, and to designed their legacies. Coaching boomed, because there was a new need for it.

Today, I teach coaches from around the world via webinars. Many are from North America, where this summer, the northwest is aflame with hundreds of forest fires, while the southeast is hammered by monster hurricanes and biblical floods. Some of my students complain in class about smoke, while others share fears about finding clients in devastated cities, while still others leave class early to evacuate their homes. Now that Climate Change is well underway, this is the new normal. Terrorism probably won't go away, but it has epic competition.

Can you coach in this environment? Yes, you must. People need you more than ever.

Give people time to get back into their homes and to restart. They're not ready to coach while they're in shelters and hotel rooms, or hospitals, or funeral homes.

This is not a suggestion to capitalize on misery. It's a reminder that coaching helps people, so don't pull back, thinking they won't want you. Don't bombard people with sales offers. Do be willing to listen. Do be willing to help, if you can. Be willing to waive or lower a fee for some clients.

One helpful way to reframe a disaster is to focus on the people who help, because they inspire us. Coaches can also be helpers when people are ready to think about what they want the rest of their lives to be like.

In this age of disasters, coaching is needed more than ever. You're needed more than ever.

Get a free Become a Coach eBook here.

 

Topics: Coaching, coaching school, become a coach, coaching clients, 9/11, reasons to become a coach, free ebook

ICF Credential vs. IAC Life Coach Certification

Posted by Julia Stewart

certified_coach_goldribbon.jpgI interviewed my friend and colleague, Donna Steinhorn, IAC MMC, ICF PCC, on the difference between ICF and IAC life coach certification. Unfortunately, the recording was no good, which is one of the of the many reasons that attending live is always the best policy.

The feedback from coaches who attended the interview has been awesome. So I'm going to add a few highlights here, in case you missed it.

The two organizations, themselves, are of course, the ultimate authorities on what they do and they change their policies from time to time. So if you're looking for highly detailed info, visit their respective web sites. The ICF's is coachfederation.org and the IAC's is certifiedcoach.org.

Donna has been deeply involved in coach training and certification for many years and is one of only a handful of coaches who have both ICF and IAC coach certifications, which is why I chose her for this interview ~ that, and the fact that Donna is fun to talk with.

Both Donna and I have been on the coach training and certification bandwagon for eternity (Donna is a member of SCM's Board of Advisers) - and we're both rebels, so we have a shared skepticism, as well as support of these two leading professional organizations and their respective credentialing processes.

We began our conversation by noting that there are limitations to both ICF and IAC coach certifications. Each has its own coaching competencies (or masteries, as the IAC calls theirs). Each definitely has its own coaching style, which you need to be able to demonstrate. Neither style encompasses every possible way to coach brilliantly; they're just doing the best they can.

So why are there two professional coaching organizations and certifications? Actually, there are zillions of them - some completely bogus - but these currently are the most respected. Oddly, the same man, Thomas J. Leonard, the 'Father of Professional Coaching', founded both the IAC and ICF. Thomas founded the ICF in 1995 and later, the IAC in 2003, just before he passed away.

ICF credentialing, as it's called, emphasizes coach training, mentoring and experience, as well as an online test and demonstration of coaching skill. Thomas sought to streamline the process of certification with the IAC, which emphasizes the results of coach training, mentoring and experience, rather than the documentation of it. This makes the IAC certification process a bit simpler, but it's by no means easier, because coaches need to demonstrate masterful coaching skills. Only about 25% of coaches who apply for IAC Coach Certification pass on the first try.

The ICF has three levels of coaching credentials: The Associate Credentialed Coach (ACC), The Professional Credentialed Coach (PCC), and the Master Credentialed Coach (MCC). The IAC currently has only one certification, the Certified Coach (IAC-CC), but from what I've observed, the level of coaching skill required by the IAC is roughly comparable to the ICF MCC. (UPDATE: the IAC added another 'intermediate' level of certification, as well.)

Finally, the ICF has two pathways for credentialing: The portfolio route allows you to get your coach training anywhere and the accreditation path requires you to study at an ICF accredited coach training school. The IAC doesn't require demonstration of coach training, just the results of it: masterful coaching skills. I know most IAC Certified Coaches and I believe all of them have had substantial coach training and/or mentor coaching. Donna says there may have been one coach who passed without being trained.

I asked Donna if there were any hidden costs to getting certified by either organization. She mentioned the mentor coaching requirement by the ICF, which would cost you about $350 - 400 per month, but Donna doesn't consider that a hidden cost, since all coaches need to have their own coaches at all times. Personally, I don't think anyone needs a coach every minute of their life, but coaches are foolish if they don't work with successful coaches of their own. I worked with two excellent mentor coaches while I prepared for IAC Coach Certification.

What, in Donna's opinion, is the best benefit of getting certified? She considers the coach directory on the ICF website, which only lists ICF credentialed coaches, to be by far the best benefit, because it brings her a steady stream of potential clients. We agreed that the IAC would do well to offer such a benefit to its own membership.

Finally, which coaches need certification most? Donna says corporate coaches and perhaps executive coaches, since companies usually want to see credentials. She doesn't believe life coaches need to be certified, but I've seen anecdotal evidence that clients are screening life coaches more carefully than they used to. Even new life coaches are telling me that potential clients ask about training and certification.

School of Coaching Mastery's Certified Positive Psychology Coach® program prepares coaches for ICF credentialing.

So there you have the Readers Digest version of the ICF Credentialing vs. IAC Life Coach Certification interview.

Join a program that prepares you for ICF credentialing. Get started with this FREE fact sheet:

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Topics: certification requirements, coach training, coaching clients, ICF, Coach Certification, Thomas Leonard, certified coaches, Donna Steinhorn, IAC, certified coach, coach credential

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

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