The first time I worked with a coach, it was the end of a long journey. I reviewed and researched multiple coaches, looking for the perfect one. Burned out, run down, and unwilling to maintain a life I didn’t enjoy, I knew a good coach was an investment in my future as a solo practitioner. A friend’s “scholarship” and my own matching funds got me into a significant relationship with an excellent coach, and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, as a conscious communications strategist and coach for authentic businesses created by individuals who answer a spirit-rich calling to serve their communities, I find there are certain things newcomers to coaching need to know about coaches. Here are the four I think knowing in advance could make life easier.
1. Discovery or Strategy Sessions aren’t “free” work.
The purpose of a discovery or strategy session is to discover if you and the coach are mutually a good fit. Though many coaches don’t charge for these, many are crafted in such a way that the recipient enjoys a high degree of return on investment of their time. Entering into a discovery or strategy session opens the conversation about working together. The expectation is that you’re already committed to investing with a coach, that you’re close to a decision, and you need to make certain you’re making the right one. It’s actually considered insulting to a coach to take the “free” session, and then tell them you can’t invest in your business, then offer a trade.
2. The “Know, Like and Trust” Exception.
Yes, you should know your coach, his or her reputation and work. You should like and trust them as an ethical person. But their job is not to become your best friend. Their job is to become your best ally for growth. Sometimes that means they will call you on your “stuff,” raise the bar on your expectations, and hold you accountable. A faster growth trajectory for you or your business, accountability, and their expertise are really what you’re investing in. If you’re satisfied with your life remaining the same, coaching is not for you.
3. A Bit About Time and Money
When you choose to work with a coach, it’s very important to stay in integrity in matters of time and money.
First, where money is concerned, most coaches actually undercharge for the value of their programs. So what seems like a “big” amount to you is relative. Part of a coaches’ job is to get you to stretch your ideas about what you can do to improve your situation. A bit of a stretch where the fees are concerned shows the coach you’re committed, you respect the commitment, and you’re ready to grow your expectations. The amount of money is irrelevant. Oh, and many really good coaches won’t work in barter or trade, because they need to model the change their clients want to see.
Second, another hallmark of really good coaches is they no longer charge for time. They charge for their programs and content. The VALUE is in the benefits you receive from showing up and playing full out within those parameters. If you don’t show up fully, you don’t get full value. The way the program is designed places the accountability on you to keep moving forward toward your goals.
Because coaches look at time as a non-renewable resource, access to good coaches will be limited based on your level of commitment or investment. Their time is valuable. Therefore, most won’t take random phone calls. Assistants may answer basic questions by email. They frown upon scheduling changes of a non-emergency nature, and they expect you to follow up exactly when you said you would follow up. These distinctions fall under the heading of increasing your accountability for the way you spend your own time by mirroring a new way to work.
4. The Shadow Side of Gifting
Most coaches offer a high quality free taste gift on their website. I know I do, a really lovely e-book which give a real feel for what it’s like to work with me. And there’s an offer in the back of the book to do just that. To make an offer initiating a cycle of reciprocity is a spirit-rich way to build quality substantive relationships with clients. It feels good when my work helps someone, enough so that they know they want to work with me further.
If you’re bootstrapping it, it is absolutely possible over a long period of time (1-3 years) to cobble together enough freebies to figure out the basics to running an online e-business. But coaches behind the scenes actually understand it says something about a person’s character if they accept all the benefits of “free” over time and take no responsibility for reciprocating that energy in the marketplace by investing in a mentor. It doesn’t even have to be us. In this situation, the comparison may be made to the person who goes to the supermarket on weekends to make a meal of the free samples, then leaves without buying anything – and who purchases their staples elsewhere, too. It’s my belief that this shadow side of the gift economy, like that described in the popular sacred economics movement, is based on an underlying mindset of lack, not plenty, and is therefore antithetical to true personal and business growth. If this is you, you may want to rethink asking for that discovery session, unless you’re ready to shift your reality in a really big way.
Like most coaches, I like to help people grow, and I offer this basic information in that light. There’s got to be balance in relationships, including the relationship between you and your coach. Coaching is a relatively new profession, only coming to the fore in the past decade, and it’s still developing its own internal sets of best practices and protocols. But we’re far enough along to have a set of taken for granted assumptions that we share. Maybe it’s time for some of those expectations to be spoken and shared so misunderstandings don’t come up instead.