Mistakes… haven’t we all made a few?
As coaches, we learn early on that almost any error can serve as a powerful springboard for growth and evolution. We’re encouraged to embrace imperfections and tone down those unruly inner critics! To be human… ahhh, such a messy, complicated, beautiful thing. True as this may be, there’s still a few coaching missteps that we might be better off avoiding.
Let’s take a rapid-fire tour of “Coaching’s Dirty Half Dozen”, shall we? While we're at it, we’ll cue you in to each poison’s corresponding antidote!
Don’t: Give unsolicited advice
Coaching is not… we repeat… NOT about having all the answers. Let’s be real: that’s downright annoying. It’s also not what clients hire coaches to do. If you’d like to sweep into a room where you’re paid to pontificate… become a college professor. Need we go on?
Instead: practice being a good listener
Coaches help people navigate the process of finding their own answers. How do we do this? By listening deeply, and asking the right question… at the right time. We’re not talking “leading questions” either. You know, the kind where the person who’s doing the asking is nudging the other party toward a particular conclusion.
Before you even get to the question though, the magic starts by creating a safe space for your client. In a world full of noise, there’s a deep yearning inside many of us to simply be heard and understood. You can be that person for your clients. The experience of being genuinely heard will stick with them far longer than however many sage nuggets of advice you might otherwise dole out!
Don’t: Treat coaching as a hobby
This is one of the most frequent mistakes we see new coaches making, and it’s what ultimately distinguishes the dabblers from the pros. Sure, you might need to maintain your 9-5 for a few years yet. No shame in it.
We all have to start somewhere, and many coaches will straddle more than one profession for a period of time. You may only have one client at the moment. Again, we’ve all been there. There will be periods when you can only devote a few hours a week to building your business. Welcome to the club!
Now hear this: for that one client, or the modest audience that may be following you today… You ARE a coach. This IS what you do, so it better be a priority.
Instead: View it as a business, every single day
From the word go, it’s essential to adopt a professional mindset. Doesn’t matter if you’re in coaching mode 1 hour a week, or 40. You’re a pro, and you deserve to take yourself seriously.
Your first year or two is Prime Time for putting all your building blocks in place. Look into the licensing requirements for your area, and make sure you’re in compliance. Register your business. Set up your internal systems so that the process of scheduling and billing are seamless for your clients. Secure a business email address and phone number. Get a fresh head shot, or print up a stack of business cards if those things help make you feel more legit. Just do it.
If you aren’t certified, now’s the time to think about credentialing. A good coaching program will not only teach you essential skills, but can also support you in building your business. That’s why both JRNI’s Essentials and Signature training programs include expert guidance for discovering your “why”, help to uncover your coaching niche, and offer instruction on how to position your services in a way that will attract the clients you most want to serve.
Don’t: Get twisted over your marketing
Getting yourself out there is important. However, focusing too much on it in the early days of your practice can be counterproductive. We know coaches who have built thriving practices with no website. Others are cranking with full client rosters, and outdated social media pages. They’re just too busy working with clients to fuss with it.
You’re going to see a lot of guidance out there regarding how to build an online “presence” as a coach. And for some of us, this will be an important strategy. Just know there’s more than one path. More than one way to make a name for yourself. The most critical factor is figuring out what feels authentic to YOU.
Instead: Focus on providing actionable insights
Your brand colors and logo will never be as important as the actual substance of your work. Begin there. Focus on developing content that will make your audience think, review their choices, and take action. Share content that inspires people, wherever they are on their journey. Make it relatable.
What problems are you here to help people solve? Map it out - literally. What’s the transformation you coach people through? Fill in the blanks: “I work with people who are experiencing ______ so that ___________.” What’s their current status (Point A) and desired future state (Point B)? How can you uniquely help them get there as a coach? THIS is what your content and marketing needs to speak to.
Don’t: Pretend you’ve got it all figured out
Nobody’s got it all locked down. Permission is hereby granted to drop the pose, exhale, and get on with it already!
The majority of working coaches will never become recognizable household names. Few of us will be asked to endorse products, or use our platform to market a “lifestyle”. What makes for a good coach is someone who’s honest, sincere, and committed to growth.
Pssst - your audience knows you’re not perfect. And guess what? We don’t actually want to see someone who pretends they’ve got it all figured out. What they want is to know that you’ve Been In The Shit… and found your way through. They want to see themselves in your story, and in the solutions you offer.
Your clients aren’t perfect either. And if the image coaches intentionally curate is that we are, and that our clients should be too… well, how toxic is that?
Instead: Wear your own confusions like a cape
What if your own flaws, mistakes, and wrong turns are actually your superpowers? What if the hard things you’ve been through can actually make it easier for prospective clients to relate to you? Take them on that journey! There’s a way you can professionally do this. When done right, it is powerful stuff. So go ahead, make authenticity your superpower.
Don’t: Go it Alone
Many coaches are solo practitioners. As an entrepreneur, there’s a lot you’ll be doing on your own. That doesn’t mean you should be isolated in the experience. For some reason, a whole bunch of people think they must figure everything out for themselves. As a culture, we cling to the persistent “Bootstrap Myth”, and it’s a sham. Successful people never get there alone. They have a network.
Instead: Reach out for help when needed
It takes courage to ask others for guidance, support, or mentorship. And yeah, some might turn you down when you ask. But all that means for you is that those aren’t your people. There are plenty of ways that entrepreneurs in this business help one another. Mastermind groups. Coaching collectives. Alumni networks. Practice partners.
In any community, you’ll need to be prepared to make an equal trade of course - you can’t take without giving back in return. This may be an exchange of services or expertise. It could also mean hiring someone to coach or mentor you. Pro tip: most successful coaches have a coach.
Want to talk with someone who’s been where you’re at? You’re welcome anytime to book a free discovery call with one of JRNI’s certified coaches. Just jump on over to the JRNI coach directory. We’re happy to talk with you about where you are on your own career path, and help you map out your next steps.
Don’t: “Borrow” other coach’s content, approach, or techniques
Everything you see online that’s been posted by coaches you admire is intellectual property. The content they produce, courses they offer, books they write, and videos they share represent many hours of hard work. It’s the culmination of training, experience, intense thought, and careful planning. Don’t crib. “Repackaging” something as your own unique work is plagiarism. Quotes without attribution? Not cool, man!
If you want to repost, by all means… go for it. Sharing is a sincere compliment and supports fellow practitioners in the field. But for the love of everything that’s holy, ALWAYS give credit where credit is due.
And consider keeping your shares to a minimum. While sharing content might say something about your “taste”, it also tells prospective clients virtually nothing about your own unique style and point of view as a coach.
Instead: Share your original work
Awaken your creative genius! Make sure your content is almost entirely original if you want to gain a dedicated following and build a robust client base. How? Regularly set aside study time every month to develop your own deep thoughts, signature offerings, and coaching philosophy. If you’re not sure where to start… give yourself time to free write, and see what emerges. It all starts with knowing your why.
Hungry for more tools and tips to build your coaching practice? Consider giving “The Everything Life Coaching” podcast a listen. Hosted by John Kim (The Angry Therapist) and Noelle Cordeaux (CEO of JRNI Coaching), it explores a wealth of topics to further expand your coaching toolkit .