Coaching Profession

What is Enough ‘Positivity’?

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As we go through our personal and professional lives, we come across people with a variety of emotions; some can be very negative and some very positive and the rest are anywhere in between. But what is right blend? People who are overly negative can be “drainers”, sucking the life out of you; and then those that are all “sunshine and roses” are simply out of touch with reality.positive

In his book, “To Sell is Human”, Dan Pink quotes research conducted by Barbara Frederickson of The University of North Carolina as to what is the right balance between positivity and negativity is in order to be most effective. The results suggest, for optimum performance, there should be a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative emotions. You can do the test yourself at This is essentially saying that one needs to be positive most of the time but that some degree of negativity is appropriate. It might be akin to bringing positivity to what you do, but in a grounded way (e.g. challenge appropriately). This has tremendous implications to teachers, parents, leaders and indeed coaches.

In coaching, the objective is to facilitate a process that leads a client ultimately to where they want to be – a better place or outcome. Most coaches feel that by being positive there is a contagion associated with this that is good for the client; this is true and who’d want to be coached by Debbie Downer? Additionally, by having this appropriate blend of positivity, it can help create engagement, motivation and creativity in the process. It also builds confidence and likeability, on the part of the client, in the coach’s abilities. At the same time, there is accountability, which is challenging and sometime uncomfortable for a client; but its helps to get things done. These are key ingredients for success.

Most good coaches already have this, its part of their DNA and, most likely it’s why they became coaches in the first place. But for those who might struggle in this department, take the test and consciously begin to look more at the opportunities to succeed rather than all the challenges impeding you. Is your glass half full or half empty?

Coaching “Intrapreneur”

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Professional Coaching is growing at an exponential rate as the public awareness of its effectiveness grows and more suitably qualified individuals enter this relatively new entrepreneurial endeavor. New coaches see the opportunity to truly leverage their existing skills, experience and wisdom to be the catalyst in people’s lives and truly provide tangible value to clients.

What is also fast emerging is the “intrapreneurial” variation of coaching. This is where people are consciously taking the methodologies and affecting real meaningful change within organizations by creating an internal coaching capability. 41144838 - coaching word cloud, business conceptThough primarily viewed as a skill set that could enhance the human resource function, it is also emerging as a most effective way for supervisors, managers and executives to interact most productively with their reports.

Like most disciplines within an organization, Human Resources have had to adapt. Traditionally viewed as the department that problematic employees were sent to be “sorted out”, they also had the reputation for not being in touch with business realities. Progressive human resource functions have had to step up to the plate, become much more strategic in their thinking, earn their place at the table and establish much greater credibility in terms of their contribution to the overall organization.

Acquiring the skills of coaching has been a huge enabler in this regard. Front line supervisors and managers are now being confidently and effectively coached by their HR Partners on how best to handle difficult employees. This in turn provides the freedom to be much more influential throughout the organization which helps to enhance credibility. Indeed it is ultimately allowing HR to develop innovative support structures to ensure fully trained, motivated and engaged employees show up all the time.

In addition for the business, having this internal capability reduces the costs associated with expensive external coaches but, more importantly, is making coaching more accessible to existing and emerging leaders. One clear sign of the prevalence of coaching today is that organizations are now advertising for HR professionals that have a formal Coaching Certification.

Why Coaching Works – Happiness

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happiness 2Shaun Achor was one of the first researchers to purport that more happiness can be gained in service of others rather than helping yourself. Now more recent research by Michael Norton has viewed this from a slightly different perspective in that more happiness can be gained from having an experience rather than acquiring a product. So it might be fair to say that “Absolute Happiness” comes from providing a great experience to somebody else. What has this got to do with coaching, you might ask?

On the one hand you have a coach who is in service of somebody else. Because of this they are typically very happy with the work they are doing. In many respects this is the draw for why many people enter the profession in the first place; “I’m really happy and satisfied when I am helping others”, is the rhetoric you often hear from aspiring as well as experienced coaches.

On the other hand for clients, their actual experience of coaching is typically very positive and something they look forward to. Clients have the opportunity to engage in real meaningful experiences for themselves to advance whatever is important to them. This is not to suggest that these activities are easy, but the growth and the insights that emerge are very often great sources of satisfaction and happiness.

Recent research coming out of Harvard (Beer, Finnstrom and Schrader) also points to the importance of coaching. Their argument that training is a total waste unless there a leadership buy in as well as business context, and also suggests that good coaching helps create a vehicle for learning integration and therefore meaningful change; one where everybody is happy.

In summary, as coaches the role is to facilitate positive, forward moving experiences for clients. This in turn leads to a sense of happiness which becomes both the fuel, for continued growth, and the reward, for real change.

Lean Coaching

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coaching 3Lean Manufacturing has been an attribute of progressive production systems for many years. It was initiated as part of Toyota’s manufacturing process to eliminate waste and ultimately boost productivity and reduce costs. In a recent edition of the Harvard Business Journal, contributor Steve Blank, discussed the use of lean techniques in entrepreneurial start ups. Again within this context of lean, the argument is made that there are quicker more efficient ways of navigating the start up process that can lead to better outputs and ultimately speedier success.

To use the term “Lean Coaching” might almost sound like heresy to some coaches. There might be fears of expediting the process, being insensitive to people’s needs and just being more concerned about a result rather than the process and people involved. However these thoughts stem from a lack of understanding as to what the concept of lean truly means and for that matter, coaching.

Lean Coaching considers all aspects of the coaching engagement. It’s not just the sessions where coach and client converse; it’s also about the activities in between that emerge from these sessions. But more importantly it has to do with the agreement between coach and client as to how best to affect a solution. Coaching is often driven by the supposed “tried and tested” processes of so many sessions over a period of time. Lean Coaching is solution driven and involves helping the client achieve a solution in an efficient manner, with consideration to both costs and time.

In order to be effective in this method, coaches need to be the following:

  • Solution Oriented – start with the end in mind and get to challenge quickly
  • Skills Mastery – become masterly proficient at using coaching skills and tools
  • Multi Facet Communication – utilize all forms of communicate (text, e-mail, phone, etc) to build and maintain momentum
  • Measure Success – be able to demonstrate achievement

This may appear mechanical but don’t forget this is about the client who is at the core of what coaching is all about. It offers an effective way of helping clients realize solutions in an efficient manner; what client’s wouldn’t want this?

Potential and Coaching

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In a recent HBR article, author Claudio Fernandez-Araoz proposed that talent management in the future, particularly as it pertains to leadership, is less about competencies and more about potential.  He argued that due to the ever changing business landscape, having leaders who could adapt is much more advantageous than those who came with already proven successes.  Though a track record is much more tangible and, in many respects a safer bet, you cannot drive a car forward by looking in the rear view mirror.

16086661_blogSo if potential is key, what are some indicators?   Fernandez-Araoz argued that there are five primary characteristics that can help illicit the true potential of an individual.

1. Motivation – commitment to excel
2. Curiosity – a penchant for seeking new knowledge
3. Insight – ability to see new possibilities
4. Engagement – connect with people effectively
5. Determination – strong resolve and ability to handle adversity

Although developed with recruitment in mind, potential is a very significant component within an effective coaching engagement.  By evaluating clients relative to these five traits, it can present numerous opportunities that a client may not have previously considered.

Coaching is all about moving clients from functional to optimal.  Potential, as in the scientific definition, is the energy that lies within to power such a transformation.  By having a better understanding of a client’s “potential”, realistic goals can be created and ultimately met.

As you assess your clients (or reports at work) and what the possibilities might be, try to assess them relative to these characteristics.  Once fully understood they can become the ultimate drivers of realizing ones true potential.

Trustworthiness and Coaching

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In a very interesting HBR article by David DeSteno, he challenged our ability to assess “trustworthiness” and claimed that, in general, we place too much emphasis on reputation and perceived confidence.  We have all had the experience of going into a high end store and being wooed by a very confident sales person that made us feel special.  Yet something about it did not feel right though we could not quite place our finger on it; perhaps it was trustworthiness (or lack of).


DeSteno contends that there are four factors to consider when assessing trustworthiness.

14815619_blog1. Integrity can vary – just because somebody was honest and fair in the past does not mean they will be in the future, because circumstances change.

2. Power does corrupt – research from Paul Piff at Berkeley suggests that increasing status and power go hand in hand with decreasing honesty and reliability.

3. Confidence often masks incompetence – people can be lured by a false confidence so it is important to ensure it can be backed up and demonstrated.

4. It’s OK to trust your gut – although I have been a strong proponent of “in God we trust, all others bring data” there is great validity to use your intuition.  However it’s advisable to use it in tandem with the above.


So how does all of this play into the coaching process?  Interestingly I am not viewing this from the perspective of you selecting the right clients to work with.  On the contrary, I am advocating that this might well be how potential clients are viewing you.  Trustworthiness is a key to a successful coaching engagement.  Relative to each of the above, and though it may seem obvious, they are worth a little further elaboration.

1. Ensure you stay absolutely consistent and do not waver relative to integrity or you’ve just lost a client and potential referrals.

2. As your business expands and you take on bigger clients, don’t get carried away and remember where you came from.

3. Rather than exude confidence, be empathetic.  This helps the client focus on them rather than on you, and not feel inferior.

4. Trusting your gut is an important coaching skill but use it carefully and test it relative to the facts.


Trustworthiness is at the core of getting clients and also maintaining them.  This is not about confidentiality although that is very important.  Rather it’s about the quality of conversations, the willingness to trust the coaching process and ultimately the courage to face unchartered waters.  You must be able to trust your coach!

Coaching – Health and Wellness

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Do we really want to lead healthy lifestyles? The answer to this question would be most likely greeted with an overwhelmingly positive response.  Yet we live in a world where unhealthy lifestyles have led to obesity of epidemic proportions and likely to get worse.  Possible solutions appear to suggest either the extreme level (surgery or Biggest Loser) or the basic level (pills, weight watchers, etc) but neither of these provides a sustainable solution. Physical wellbeing is only possible with some psychological preparedness.  For meaningful change, behavioral modifications relative to one’s health are essential.

What do we mean by psychological preparedness?  This is a sincere and authentic assessment as to what a person really wants to do and why; this speaks to their true motivation and desires.  By fully understanding these two elements, individuals will be much more receptive to tackling their physical wellbeing head on.  As the old saying goes “readiness precedes change”.

Professional coaching, executed properly, is an enabler of this.  Effective coaching speaks to the wants and whys, long before any action is taken.  Once these are clarified, they become the impetus, the energy and the motivation for change.  Coaching is also about working with the “whole” person and where a challenge exists in some other aspect of one’s life, it can compromise healthy lifestyle decisions.  For example, if your partner is not in sync with your dietary needs or doesn’t acknowledge the fact that you lost say 20 pounds, then what’s the point?  Behavioral modification can only be affected by ensuring that there is a balance maintained in all aspects of one’s life.

The key to this type of coaching is working with somebody who really knows how to COACH.  Having knowledge about fitness and nutrition are helpful but not essential.  Sustainable change is only possible when it’s been done for the right reason, when somebody is psychological prepared to modify previous behaviors.  It is only through new behaviors and actions can you achieve new results.

The Coaching Pricing Model

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Many people new to the profession of coaching often find themselves, from the outset, unprepared for the challenge of how much to charge clients. This is largely due to the intangible nature of the service and whether one should use the traditional “Cost Plus” or the “Value Added” model of pricing. Let’s explore both.

Cost Plus

This is very much the model that is used based on the costs incurred by the provider, in this case the coach. Traditionally the legal, consulting and accounting profession, calculate an hourly rate based on the direct costs of labor consumed in addition to some calculated overhead allocation. The trouble is within the coaching profession you could hear anything from $50 to $500 per hour. With such a disparity it is small wonder that new coaches are very unsure what to charge because there really is no benchmark. In addition this can be very limiting relative to what a client might actually be willing to pay; aka leaving money on the table. The client might feel they got a good deal but leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of the coach which is never good in the long term.

Value Added

A more favorable model that is emerging is using pricing based on the potential value to the client. This of course begs the question as to how one might determine value. The answer lies in putting considerably more effort in up front to determining what the client wants or what success might look like. In pursuit of this information, one’s coaching abilities will be clearly demonstrated, affordability of client will be better understood and relationships get developed thus aiding the overall selling process. All of this leads to being able to make a better assessment of how the individual / organization could truly benefit from the coaching service. The consequence of this approach is that, more often than not, a price is arrived at that very adequately compensates the coach while at the same time providing the client with a clearer sense of value for money.

So the next time you, as a coach, are faced with a quandary of how much to charge, spend more time upfront coaching them, better understanding the need, building the relationship, demonstrating your abilities and ultimately closing the deal.

Coaching and Choosing a Niche

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Professional Coaching can be applied to almost every facet of life.  This is so because it is essentially a process through which you, as a coach, can effectively leverage your own talents, experience and wisdom to help somebody else.  The uniqueness of this individual approach is what drives coaches to carefully choose a niche.

niche targetVery often people get confused or are simply unsure of what their niche should be.  There are the classical ones such as Executive, Business, Career, Wellness or Life but even within these there are areas of specialty.  What is becoming more apparent is that, in an attempt to create differentiation and also demonstrate some expertise, coaches are getting to a “Core Niche”.  This can be defined as the area of specialization most helpful to the client that strongly leverages the unique capabilities of the coach.

This in turn drives business development potential for the coach.  By playing to the unique strengths, selling becomes easier and clients are going to be more drawn to somebody who knows what they are talking about.  By having marketing materials and communication reflect something different allows the coach to separate themselves and have a unique selling proposition.   So differentiation facilitates getting more clients!

However once you begin to service a client, this is where the expertise in the coaching process kicks in.  By its very nature, coaching adopts a holistic approach to people’s challenges; it looks at them in the context of the whole life because nothing happens in isolation.  As the coach looks at the whole person, they help identify these inter dependencies and really help seek the appropriate and sustainable solution.  It’s truly about getting impactful results.  So coaching facilitates servicing clients at the highest level!

However you view it, your niche, as a coach, should define the authentic you.  When it does, selling and coaching becomes exponentially easier and more effective.

The Essence of Coaching

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Shaun Achor was one of the first researchers to purport that more happiness can be gained in service of others rather than helping yourself.  Now more recent research by Michael Norton has viewed this from a slightly different perspective in that more happiness can be gained from having an experience rather than acquiring a product.  So it might be fair to say that true happiness or the “happiness factor” comes from providing a great experience to somebody else.  The outputs of these two pieces of research could therefore point to the overall effectiveness, or essence, of coaching and here’s how.helping coach

On the one hand you have a coach who is in service of somebody else.  Because of this coaches demonstrate positivity, are good role models for their clients and typically very happy with the work they are doing.  In many respects this is the draw for why many people enter the profession of coaching in the first place.

On the other hand for clients, their actual experience of coaching is typically very positive and something they look forward to.  However where the rubber meets the road is when clients have the opportunity to then engage in real meaningful experiences for themselves to advance whatever is important to them.  This is not to suggest that these activities are easy but the growth and the insights that emerge are very often great sources of ultimate happiness.

In summary , as coaches the role is to facilitate positive experiences for clients.  The real value of coaching is not only what happens during a session but what the client subsequently does in between sessions.  It is through the experiences that emerge from the coaching engagement that the “happiness factor” kicks in and this serves as both the fuel and the reward for real change.