In my unique corner of the coaching world I am privy to the comings and goings of student and professional coaches and all those in between. While my position does not afford me a grand view of the entire coaching industry, it does offer a perspective on a question many coaches are straddling these days: Why isn’t my coaching practice taking off. Why it is still hard work to demonstrate the effectiveness of coaching? Why aren’t people lining up for the work?
When I teach coaching students I like to ask what motivated them to become a coach. Their answers usually run in one or two directions. The first sounds something like, “I am at crossroads in my life. My current work is no longer satisfying and I’m looking for more. Recently I came across coaching and I am so drawn to this. It’s a way of helping others to grow and make their lives better.” I enjoy hearing this answer because it signals that people are asking themselves two essential questions: Who am I? and What is my purpose, my calling, my life work?
Many, many people are called to coaching for this reason. It’s like there is a soul-felt connection with this field and they see the potentials for changing their own lives and for making a real difference in the lives of others.
The second answer I hear is more practical: I want to learn coaching because it will help me in my work. This is particularly true for organizational managers and leaders. Interestingly, few people come to coaching purely for this reason. Most students who say this also reflect shades of the first reason: a desire to do more meaningful work.
I share these with you because it’s important to know that people who come to coaching start out with a deep passion for its potentials. They come with stars in their eyes and a fire in their soul. However, it leads me to the next view I have from my corner, which is the fading of the twinkle and the dying of the fire.
Learning to become a coach is only the first step. Depending on the training program it can be a marvelous journey, one that can take you to the edge and encourage you to fly into your future as practicing, paid coach. It’s at this point that a certain reality kicks in which, for many coaches, signals the beginning of a slow descent into frustration, disappointment, and disillusionment with the whole thing. Clients do not come readily, business does not take off, marketing and sales and IT and blogging and networking and financials and all the rest of what it takes to “make it work” are a drag and detract from just being able to do the work. “I just want to coach!” they cry. Now, there is no shortage of business building programs in the marketplace to help book a coach solid, yet even after taking these programs many coaches continue to struggle to bring in clients.
This dynamic is problematic for our industry. People come in with passion and motivation and then when the reality hits that people are not lined up for coaching and that it is a great challenge to build a flourishing practice, it predisposes them to give up and walk away. For a relatively young industry, one that is growing but is not understood nor valued by the vast majority of the world’s population, the last thing we need is coaches walking away bruised and battered by their experience. Yet that is what is happening.
I know there is a larger conversation to be had around what can be done here, but I want to share a few views on it. I see many coaches who are not being coached themselves (big issue) and I see many coaches who are not doing the deep inner work that is needed to help them stand tall as a coach (bigger issue). Finally, there is a weak spot that needs to be rectified if we are to turn around the ‘crisis of disappointment.’ The weak spot is a coach’s own belief in the effectiveness of coaching while lacking a powerful vision of it as a game-changing program for planetary change.
If it was possible for all coaches to see how coaching contributes to the work of planetary progress and enlightenment most would roll over in glee. Coaches are thirsting for this kind of contribution! But there is still too much emphasis on the how: how to show its benefits, how to get clients, how to be successful. The barrier to growth in the coaching industry is not around the how but the consciousness level of the coach him or herself. There is tremendous fear within many that it can’t or won’t work, and so they naturally gravitate towards figuring out how to make it work. What many coaches need is an inner consciousness-shifting experience that plants them firmly at the vanguard of the planetary change process.
What I see is that we have to broaden our perspective on what it means to be a coach. It’s time to let go of the limiting idea that to be a coach means to have clients or a flourishing practice and embrace the idea that we can coach where we stand, in any community, family, or organization we find ourselves. We have to connect our personal motivation to the grander planetary change process that is unfolding and see how coaches are lynchpins in this process. We have to step beyond making it about ourselves and the clients we serve onto a much broader playing field of possibility.
A vision such as this for what is happening will strengthen our resolve to coach where we stand because that’s what a true coach does. If we can give all coaches this gift of understanding we will have created a cadre of willing and motivated souls ready to support the dawning of the new earth’s light.