One of the phrases JRNI coaching students frequently hear our instructors say is “Your Story is Your Gold”. What we mean by this is simple. Your work as a coach is most powerful when it’s rooted in personal experience.
Your unique perspective is your secret sauce, and provides rich soil for growth and insight - for both you and your clients. But how do you talk about your life experiences in a professional context? What’s the most appropriate and effective way to “share your story” within your coaching practice?
In this article, we’ll dig into those questions, with tips on how to embody authenticity as a coach… without oversharing!
Trust is Essential to Growing A Life Coaching Business
According to IBISWorld’s Life Coaches in the US Industry Report, the market share for life coaches is expected to increase by 4.7% in 2022. If you’d like to successfully tap into this growing consumer audience, it’s important to establish both your voice and credibility as a coach.
Consumers are directing more of their attention (and buying power) to small brands because they’re looking for connection. People are seeking relatable, trustworthy, genuine voices, especially when it comes to the topics of personal and professional development.
The Forbes Coaches Council recently weighed in on small business trends to watch for 2022, and put “Emotional Intelligence and Empathy” at the top of that list. Influencer marketing on social media ranked not far behind.
So what does this mean for you as a life coach?
It means that understanding how personal branding works in the context of life coaching is essential. Which - no surprise - also appears on the Forbes business trends to watch list:
“Mastering not only business branding but also personal branding will be key. I find that small- and medium-business owners kind of hide behind the business brand and choose not to show who they are or show themselves as being vulnerable and human. The only loyalty you can get as an owner is through the emotional engagement that comes through your authenticity and being genuine, showing the human side behind your business and showcasing you and your employees.” - Sahar Andrade, MB.BCh, Sahar Consulting, LLC
So, How Do You “Show Yourself”
Let’s start by looking at how you market yourself as a life coach. How can you thread storytelling across your social media platforms, in email newsletters, on your blog or website, or other mediums?
1. Highlight personal experiences that changed you
Consider your life coaching specialty, and how that niche intersects with your own life experiences. If you are a business coach, tell stories from the trenches of your own leadership or entrepreneurial endeavors. If you’re a nutrition and wellness coach, what lessons have you drawn from your own relationship with food?
Whatever the topic, mine your direct experience. Challenges faced, successes, failures, and the lessons learned along the way. Do life with your audience - particularly those parts that relate to why they’re following you specifically.
2. Talk about the people, teachers, and philosophies that shaped you
Each one of us stands on the shoulders of giants. Who influences and shapes YOUR path? Sharing what you’ve gained from your own circle of teachers, mentors, coaches and guides helps people better understand the ideas, influences and lineages that inform your point of view.
3. Let your challenges be a learning laboratory
Perfection isn’t believable, or real. By sharing some of the challenges you personally face, you normalize the reality of being human. Again, this is about doing life with people, which extends beyond simply offering people general tips and strategies on “how to do it better”!
If you're a relationship coach, for example, consider sharing your own stories of communication breakdowns, overcoming conflict, or dating disasters. In other words, what hasn’t gone so well for you, and how you’ve worked (or are currently working) through it.
4. Share client success stories
Another opportunity that provides a window into who you are and how you work is through your life coaching client successes. Consider how you might weave testimonials, case studies, and other examples of the impact of your work as a coach into your personal branding.
What about in client sessions?
The filter for sharing personal anecdotes or examples in a client session is very simple. When the impulse to share something from your life or experience arises, just ask yourself: Who benefits from this share?
Sometimes, our own material comes up in a life coaching session. The client may be talking about something that triggers a memory for you. You’ve been through something similar and can relate. Before sharing it, consider:
- Will telling this story contribute to my client being seen, heard and understood?
- Does sharing my experience contribute to my client discovering something new about themselves or their current situation?
- Will my client gain a wider self-concept as a result of hearing this story?
- Am I trying to impart a lesson or deliver a solution?
- Does sharing this story meet my emotional needs, or theirs?
If it feels like your ego is in the driver’s seat, this share may be more for you than your client. That's OK! Just put a pin in it and refocus your attention on the client.
If, however, you believe the story does contribute to building trust, demonstrates empathy or understanding, or provides your client with something that can directly support their learning and self-discovery, go for it! Just remember to explore how it lands: asking for their reaction, reflections and insights on what you’ve offered.
For more on this topic, check out JRNI co-founder John Kim’s blog Authenticity vs. TMI as a Coach.
Ready to Become A Coach?
One of our values at JRNI is that we dare to be different. Our coaches ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and you’d like a partner in the process, come check out JRNI Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.