I was speaking to a client of mine, a coach. We were just finishing our final session. Extraordinary things had happened for the client, in her life and in her coaching business. She said, reflecting on the power of the work, “I just don’t understand coaches who don’t have coaches.”
And I don’t either.
Because if there is one thing a coach can do to have the greatest positive effect on the success and impact of their coaching business, then it is to hire a coach for themselves.
And that’s what this article is about. It’s about how if you want to have a successful coaching business, then hiring your own coach will not only be the joyful, powerful, inspiring journey it has the potential to be for anyone, it will be singularly impactful on how successful you are in making this coaching thing your livelihood. Here’s why:
1) It is the Quickest and Easiest Way To (let's say) Triple What You Know About How To Sell Coaching
I was running a group supervision call with a colleague, supporting several new coaches with the challenges they were having in the first few months after completing their coach training. On this particular call, the challenges they brought were mainly around how best to enroll new clients.
This included everything from contracts to the actual mechanics of the conversations with prospective clients. I couldn’t work out why I found it so confusing that these coaches were asking these questions.
Where had I learnt this? Because only some of it had been when I studied on the same course – at the Coaching School – a couple of years before. And then I realised: the three coaches on the call had never, between them, hired a coach. Hiring a coach once - seeing what went through their minds as they made a decision about which coach to hire, seeing what the coaches did and what made the difference - would have shown them the answers to almost all their questions.
In fact, even from coaches they decided not to work with, they would have learnt so much of value.
While I was studying coaching, I read The Prosperous Coach, the fantastic book by Rich Litvin and Steve Chandler. One of the things they say in the book is: hire a coach. After all, who would – they say, memorably – trust a doctor who told you they didn’t go to the doctor?
So after I finished my training, I went out and I spoke to coaches. It was fascinating, and the lessons I took away helped me create ways of being and behaving in my business that I could believe in
That included ways I didn’t want to be.
And you just can’t learn all that from a ten-step webinar programme. You need to play in the real world.
2) It Will Make You a Much Better Coach, Fast
The section above is about the enrollment process, and there’s so much to learn there. But hiring a coach will gift you so much more than that: it has the potential to grow, change and inspire the way you work, the way you change lives every day.
So hire a coach who hasn’t trained in the same place you did. Hire one who has really developed themselves over the years. Hire one who’s better than you. And then learn from them. Because seeing people in action is inspiring and it is enlightening.
It gives you a feeling for how a different coach plays the game: how they lead, and when they follow; what questions they ask and when; how they play with exercises and assignments, and what it’s like when they do. It supports you to go through one of the most important shifts that a coach needs to go through to do their best work: the shift into trusting that you can create your own coaching style, as well as your own coaching business.
That shift partly comes from seeing how other people do things, and thinking ‘I could do that. But would I?’ What did it feel like when they said that, or sent you that email or assignment? What was the outcome? Would you do it like that? If yes, then start doing it. If no, then why not?
As another client of mine said to me recently, ‘There shouldn’t be any shame in copying what others have done.’ Absolutely. You’re here to serve your client, to support them as best you can, so borrow what other coaches have said and done in order to change your clients' lives. I heard someone say once: there’s no new wisdom in the world, but when you share the age-old wisdom, you give it your flavour, and that makes it new. So use what your coach uses, to serve your clients as best you can, and give it your flavour.
3) It Will Guide You Through Your Money Issues
I’ve spoken to many coaches, and most (if not all) of them have at some point in their life had this thought “Is my coaching worth £X?” Often, this challenge – working through our resistance around charging for our time – is one of the things that holds coaches back from running a successful business, from having the money which they need, the money that is the life blood that enables them to change the world.
Now hiring a coach doesn’t always resolve that – although it can, if you focus your work there – but it can answer a bigger and often underlying question, “Is any coaching worth £X?” Because once you have paid a coach £1,000 or £2,000 or £10,000, and seen and felt what you got in return, you will know this. It will be a part of your experience. Was it worth that money? If yes, why? If no, why not?
One of the most important, though, for this story, was this one. When looking for a development opportunity in 2017 I came across a programme I wanted to do: Brené Brown’s Daring Way Certification. It was in Houston, Texas, and cost $3,000. Plus, of course, I had to go to Houston. This seemed like an enormous amount of money, until I shifted my perspective to look at it as an investment in my business. I did this almost by accident, by asking myself this question: how many extra clients would I have to get to make this investment in my business – of about $4,000 including the travel – worth it? I was charging £1,500 for my typical engagement at the time, so the answer was easy: three. Then I thought, ‘Would being able to say I am an accredited Daring Way facilitator lead to me getting three extra people, ever, to work with me?’ That bold, italicised ‘ever’, there, that’s important. I can add that in there because I’ve made a commitment to coaching, for the long term. And with that commitment - and making the commitment is important if you want to make a success of your coaching business - the answer came: to me, it was a pretty obvious ‘Yes’.
In the end, I didn’t go for that training, but that opened something new up for me in how I looked at investing in myself. It was the final push that opened the door to: ‘If I do things differently, I can create more money for myself’. It was the final nail in the coffin of ‘There is a scarcity of money available to me.’
For many of you, entrepreneurs and business owners especially, this may not be new, but for me it was, and the shift was important.
4) It Will Teach You – Deep Down – What It’s Like To Be a Client
The sales process is not the only part of working with someone that you will learn about from receiving coaching. You learn more about every stage of the process.
About three months into the Prosperous Coach Salon, I was getting worried. I hadn’t made as much money during the programme as I thought I would. My thoughts were all over the place: Is it working? Will I get the value I want? Am I doing it wrong? Will I regret taking part in the programme? Has this all been a terrible mistake?
And until I wrote down my worries to try to process them, I wasn’t able to see how funny it was. When I looked down at it in writing, I laughed out loud, because this is something I speak to my clients about all the time.
From my earliest clients I had begun to see how it happens for people, often about one third or half way through their coaching. They worried about it, they felt like enough progress wasn’t being made. It’s the period in the middle of the Hero’s Journey – and that’s what a commitment to changing your life, changing yourself, is – that Joseph Campbell calls in the belly of the beast, where you most want to give up, where it feels most hopeless. I had seen this, so I often shared that this might happen with clients near the start of our work. I had felt it before myself, but this time, with more money on the line, more money than I had paid for almost anything ever, I felt it so much more strongly. And after I had had the felt experience of that during the Salon, I was able to notice it even more with my clients, and develop extra compassion for them at that stage in their journeys.
I was also able to learn from how Rich prepared us for it, and then how he worked with the members of the group (including me) on our concerns. I was also able to see how that stage is sometimes a necessary part of the process, as Campbell, Steven Pressfield, and so many others tell us. From that moment, that realisation, things really started to shift for me in Rich’s programme, and my growth and engagement accelerated.
It’s not just that, though, that you learn about what it’s like to be a client. It’s about all stages of the process, the journey. You learn about the beginning of engagements: how do you set them up to be powerful? You learn about the ends of them: what kind of ending serves youwhen you’re a client? How can you make the way you end your engagements even more you and gift your clients a powerful ending?
And you learn about how a coach manages and supports and works with their clients throughout the process. Then you can reflect: what would you want more of, or less of, and how can you deliver it to your clients at each stage of the process?
5) It Will Transform Your Belief in Coaching
"What do you actually do, Robbie?" said a friend of mine, to me, a couple of years ago."As far as I can tell for your articles you just listen to people and reflect back what they say?" It wasn’t said with malice, but I felt at least a dash of scepticism.
My stomach dropped. It played into my doubts: is coaching even a thing? How can sitting and listening to people and reflecting things and asking questions make such a difference? Why do people pay money for this? Is this a real job? Am I about to get found out?
But, inside me, something was different to how it had been a year before that, when my confidence and my belief in coaching was far more fragile. I was more confident. I believed more. Some of that came from seeing the results for my clients, of seeing my income go up and reading the feedback people had given me.
The belief came from the feeling I felt every time I left sessions with my coach, and seeing the things I achieved with that energy and momentum, things I didn't think myself capable of. It came from understanding the value of making a months-long commitment to work with someone, and to work on myself.
6) It Will Keep You On the Path
Coaching is hard. Being an entrepreneur is hard. It isn’t for everyone. It has downs to go with the ups, struggles to go with the successes, stress to go with the joy. I’ve spoken before about how important it is to make a long term commitment to coaching – indeed, I believe that’s true of any venture – because committing to the long term will free you in the present.
Making the commitment frees you to do so many things - to make investments in yourself, to create long term relationships, to not be chasing the next client desperately - but making a commitment only works if you can stay committed.
There’s a reason that we do what we do, that we love coaching. It’s because it’s an incredibly powerful way of developing yourself, of meeting challenges, getting through struggles, relieving stress. I remember thinking, early on in my business, ‘Wow, this coaching I’m getting is so valuable. Even if all my business does is pay for this, it’ll be worth it.’
Having a coach will keep you invested in coaching, it will help you keep your belief and your faith, and it will help you stick at this thing, even when you’re doubting, even when you feel like giving up.
And there you have it. I hope this article has opened up your eyes to the many, many ways that investing in your own coach will be the most important investment you make in your business.
Hiring a coach is an investment in yourself and your business. Like me, you can do the maths: how many extra clients does a coach need to support you to get – ever, if you’ve made your commitment – for you to be able to pay for the coaching? Do you feel that they can help you with that? And, of course, it’s coaching, so it will come down to you: are you ready to take action around your business to create those clients?
Then you have to take the plunge: you have to find the coach who you trust to not only develop you and encourage you and inspire you, but also to support you as you raise your fees and create more clients. And if you find that person, you have to leap.
So make the commitment. Back yourself, and back your coach.