As coaches, we don’t give advice to others – but that doesn’t stop us from giving advice to ourselves! We chatted to a bunch of experienced coaches and asked them what coaching advice they would give themselves at the start of their coaching careers; what good habits they wish they’d bedded in from the get-go, or what bad habit they wish they’d never gotten into!
From the practical to the philosophical, here’s the benefit of their hindsight. How many of these resonate with you? And are there some of these you can put in place to sharpen your practice right now?
Log hours and get permission in your contract (so GDPR isn’t a headache)
This is a practical one to start off, relatively easy and pain free to set up – but a huge pain if you don’t. When you’re just starting out, there can be enough to think about with the actual coaching. The admin side of things can feel cumbersome, onerous or just plain pointless. But if we don’t set up great systems from the outset, then the small task becomes a big one, and then it never feels like quite the right time to tackle it because it feels so big…and on it goes.
Then, a few years down the line, you fancy going for professional credentialing and guess what? Hassle. Retrospectively logging hours and getting clients’ permission to submit their emails as part of your credential feels like hours of your life you won’t get back.
So, do yourself a favour: log your hours systematically (the ICF has a template here), and include wording like this in your standard contract from the start:
‘As part of this contract, the Client agrees to allow the Coach to use their name and contact information as part of the International Coach Federation certification processes. No information on the nature of the coaching discussions will be disclosed.’
Master the bookends!
Coaching is an art. There’s something really magical that happens when we hold space, give attention and really attend to the person in front of us with close listening. And, it is also a craft. And nowhere does the craft of coaching show up more than in the session bookends, ensuring we start and end well.
Mastering the craft of the session contract can make all the difference to ensuring that the responsibility for change within the session remains with the client. Questions that might feel a bit repetitive or onerous – actually, they’re helping the client to really direct and own the session.
Similarly, the highly structured ending gives the client the chance to articulate what they’re leaving with. Mastering the close of the session, giving it time and space, honours the client’s process, inviting them to begin sense-making, even as they’re possibly still processing and landing all that they’ve uncovered during the session.
Get familiar with the ICF PCC markers
As Ross Nichols mentions in his excellent article on credentialing, if you’re positive, motivated and strategic, it’s possible to achieve credentialing relatively easily. Some coaches shared that they hadn’t initially thought much about credentialing, but wished they’d had it in their sights earlier as building some muscle memory into their practice would have helped. As one coach said:
Get coached by lots of different people
It can be tempting at the start of your career to focus on all the stuff around coaching; trying to get clients, getting a website, maybe doing some business mentoring, networking, creating content, etc. The list goes on. But the thing that many coaches wish they’d made more time for? Getting coached – and more importantly, by lots of different people.
There’s something deeply instructive about being coached by other people; it helps us to really zero in on how it feels to be a client. But more than that – the kind of client you are tells you a lot about the kind of coach you are. There is so much potential data available to you:
All of this data will help you to get clearer on your approach and style, and sharpen your messaging to your own ideal clients. Win win.
Get lots of different kinds of supervision
Supervision is vital to a coach’s developing practice – if the coach is a diver, the supervisor is the air tank, allowing us to go deeper, explore for longer! Coaches we talked to expressed how they wished they’d made time for both more, and more variety, of supervision earlier in their practice, including trying one to one and group supervision, trying different supervisors out to experience different approaches or styles, getting peer supervision.
Master the art of reflective practice
Building on this point, there was a recognition that at the start, coaches might have talked about being ‘reflective practitioners’ but didn’t always have a structured framework for reflection in place. One coach shared:
Coaching advice to self? Remembering that useful reflection is grounded in the practice not the performance. That it is more helpful for us to reflect on where the process was useful or not as opposed to where we as the coach were effective or not.
Don’t take responsibility
At the start, it can be so seductive to want to ‘get it right’. We’re bouncing around in that uncomfortable place of conscious incompetence so can overcompensate in a bid to get that stroke of a job well done. But this can lead us to overstepping the mark…which might frustratingly have the opposite intended effect. Minefield.
Many coaches we spoke with wished they’d adopted a ‘less is more’ approach from the outset. From over-doing it with the helpfulness – such as writing up lengthy session notes to send after sessions – or racing ahead of a client in a session to pre-empt the ‘solution’ to their ‘problem’, time has proven that great coaching always comes from a place where the client takes responsibility. Every time.
Bring all of you
Coaching is a marriage of learning plus experience, and all of your life’s experiences inform how you show up as a coach. When we start out, it can be tempting to almost hide behind the learning. Coaching advice from our experienced coaches to their earlier selves?
Get out of the way
And herein lies the rub of coaching, a profession that seems made up of contradictions and paradoxes. Because just as we do well to bring all of we are to the space, coaches also gave themselves coaching advice on staying out of the space. Another minefield!
Coaches have learned the hard way that:
How to tackle this?
It’s a learning journey
Reflecting back to how we were connects us to how we are now…reflection, once invited, works in all directions. One reflection that feels like a soulful, pithy and elegant way to end came from a coach who simply said:
We couldn’t agree more.
Whether you’re just starting out or have been coaching for years, here’s to the on-going learning journey that is the adventure of coaching.