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Getting Started in Personal and Executive CoachingHow to Create a Thriving Coaching Practice
By Stephen G. Fairley Chris E. Stout
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-471-42624-5
Chapter OneDecisions, Decisions ... Personal Coaching or Business Coaching?
What Kind of Coach Are You? Personal Coaching Positives and Negatives of Personal Coaching Characteristics of Successful Personal Coaches Titles Personal Coaches Use Pricing Your Personal Coaching Services Business Coaching Positives and Negatives of Business Coaching Characteristics of a Great Business Coach Titles Business Coaches Use Pricing Your Business Coaching Services Distinguishing Coaching from Other Fields for Marketing Purposes Is Personal or Business Coaching Right for You? Self-Assessment Inventory Recommended Responses Action Step
What Kind of Coach Are You?
As professional coaching grows in popularity, it will experience an external struggle to define, refine, describe, and distinguish itself from other fields, as well as an internal struggle to create subspecialties. The field of psychology offers a typical model. In the early years, the primary struggle was to differentiate psychology from psychiatry (it struggles with this even today, as most lay people still don't know the difference between a psychologist, a psychiatrist, and a social worker). As time went on, the field began to divide into other specialties, with the first few being experimental, clinical, and academicpsychology. Today, the American Psychological Association recognizes over 50 major divisions with many other specialty areas.
Currently, there are two major branches of professional coaching-personal coaching and business coaching-but each is quickly gaining subspecialties. Each division goes by various names. For example, personal coaching is also known as life coaching, success coaching, personal life coaching, and professional coaching. Some of the more popular subspecialties include spiritual coaching, relationship coaching, coactive coaching, Christian coaching, personal development coaching, and career coaching, among others. This book uses the term personal coaching to refer to all of them, except where noted. Business coaching is also known as corporate coaching, management coaching, executive coaching, and leadership coaching, to mention a few, but some people define each of these areas as a subspecialty of business coaching. This book uses these terms interchangeably and refers to all of them by the generic term business coaching, except where noted. Yes, I do realize there are distinctions and separations between the many areas and even the specific names, but the differences are primarily not in the techniques coaches use, or in their ability, their training, or even their experiences, but in the particular populations served and the problems most commonly encountered during coaching.
In this chapter we will:
Briefly define the two emerging branches, personal and business coaching, for the purposes of this book.
Discuss the positives and negatives of both personal and business coaching.
Provide an overview of the characteristics of successful personal and business coaches.
List the job titles commonly used by people in each field.
Inventory the current prices of services and reported average incomes.
Present a map of how you can distinguish coaching from different fields for the purpose of positioning and marketing yourself.
Give you a self-assessment inventory to help you determine which field would be a better fit for you given your interests, experiences, and location.
As you read through this chapter, if you have not already decided which area you will focus on, please try to keep an open mind. If you have already decided, now is the time to start making yourself more aware of the potential positives and negatives and to develop a plan for maximizing the former while compensating for the latter. However, make no mistake: What title you give yourself and what field you see yourself in will largely determine what kind of clients you attract to your practice. There are some definite advantages and distinct disadvantages with both personal and business coaching. Let's explore each area in turn.
Personal coaches usually work with a wide range of individuals on a host of intrapersonal and interpersonal issues, such as coping with a specific problem or crisis, focusing their energy, achieving their dreams, making career transitions, living a happier, more fulfilled life, overcoming conflict, enhancing their communication skills, specifying and achieving their life goals, and building better relationships, to name a few. Clients may or may not be connected with a business, and their careers or jobs may or may not have anything to do with the focus of the coaching, with the exception of career coaching, which almost always has a professional connection.
Positives and Negatives of Personal Coaching
Every field has its positives and negatives. Personal coaching is no different. On the positive side, the target audience for personal coaching is fairly broad. It can include adolescents, college students, working professionals, people in career transitions, couples, business executives, and adults in general. You can focus on people who are in a crisis situation, adults in a midlife transition, couples with relationship difficulties, professionals who want to advance their careers, soccer moms who want more out of life, elderly people who are facing death-the possibilities are only limited by your imagination ... and a few other things. It's the "few other things" that can make personal coaching a difficult field to be in. Here are the top five negatives of personal coaching:
1. The market is so big you can have a hard time focusing.
One of the biggest mistakes new coaches make is targeting too large a market. In your desire to help all different kinds of people with all different kinds of problems, your lack of resources can quickly become a fatal weakness to your business, because no one has the time, energy, or financial wherewithal to effectively target a vast audience. It's easy to tell when a personal coach has fallen into this trap. Ask them who they help and what kind of problems they commonly coach around. If they list more than three distinct target markets or more than six completely different kinds of problems, it is very likely their business is hurting because they are unfocused. On one personal coaching web site I came across recently, the author listed a few typical clients:
Individuals who want to live a bigger life
Professionals who desire more from their career
Adults who struggle with personal relationships
People trying to balance their work and life
Adults who have elderly parents and are trying to take care of them
People in a midlife transition
Women who are going through a divorce
While their attempts at being comprehensive are laudable, their results are most definitely not. This gives the clear impression that they help everybody, which most prospects interpret as actually helping nobody. Personal coaches have to be very specific about who they help. You must be able to clearly and concisely tell who your target audience is. More about how to do that is found in Chapter 2.
2. Personal coaching is highly discretionary, so it strongly depends on the economic situation of your target market.
Simply put, when the economy is good and people feel like they have a lot of extra spending money, personal coaching can be a relatively easy sell, but when the economy is bad and the future is grim, people are focused on surviving the layoffs, not obtaining their dreams. This is a simple principle from psychologist Abraham Maslow, in his "hierarchy of needs" (Figure 1.1). People are most concerned with safety and security needs and can focus on the needs above, like self-esteem, only when the needs below are satisfied. Self-actualization is characterized by being solution-focused and possessing an appreciation for the fullness of life, concern for personal growth and development, and the ability to have peak experiences. Sounds like a great coaching client!
3. You cannot charge nearly as much for personal coaching as for business coaching.
Most people do not go into coaching, or any other field, just for the money. Many people are making the transition into coaching from other professional fields where they were very successful, held a 9-to-5 job, and had a steady paycheck and benefits; they have also built up a certain lifestyle they would like to maintain. In addition, many people move into coaching because of what it stands for-balance, fulfillment, happiness, self-control, increased freedom, and an inherent promise to have a completely portable business, allowing you to set up and live anywhere you want-even on the beaches of Hawaii. However, self-employment can be a hard taskmaster. There are the regular bills to pay, your lifestyle to maintain, and all the start-up costs of a new business. In order to cover expenses, coaches have to charge what is often seen by the average consumer as an extremely high amount per hour. Yet this same amount in a business setting is viewed as a normal expense.
There are two primary reasons why the average business coach is able to charge significantly more per hour than the average personal coach. First, the number of experienced business coaches is much smaller than the number of personal coaches. The entry bar into the world of business coaching is set much higher than that of the personal coaching world, where literally anyone can set up shop and many people believe they become qualified as soon as they open their doors for business. This problem will only be compounded as thousands of personal coaches enter the field every year. Second, regardless of the economy, individual clients are much less inclined to pay monthly fees of hundreds or thousands of dollars than are companies and organizations that are used to paying high fees to consultants, lawyers, investment bankers, and accounting firms.
4. With a potential audience so vast, it's hard to find truly effective ways to reach it.
In some ways, the potential audience for personal coaching is vast, especially if you think you can help everyone with almost any problem (which is not true). However, in order to actually make a living from coaching, the challenge becomes developing a niche that you can effectively target and finding enough people in that niche who can afford your high hourly fees. The typical client of a personal coach has a family income of at least $60,000 to $80,000 per year. That leaves out about 80 percent of the American population, and in many geographical areas of the country, it leaves out almost everyone. People in the upper income brackets (more than $80,000 a year) have many, many products, services, and companies vying for their time, attention, and financial resources. If you wish to be successful in personal coaching, you have to find effective ways to reach people in your target audience. This book will help you do that.
5. The biggest danger of personal coaching is how easily it can become confused with or used as a replacement for counseling or psychotherapy.
This one issue has the potential to totally reshape the field of personal coaching and is something you will begin to hear more about in the near future. Here is the situation I believe will quicken the pace of this debate: There is a small but growing number of coaches currently specializing in coaching various forms of mental illness, such as attention deficit disorder (ADD) coaches and coaches who purport to help people through periods of depression, grief, or life transitions. While this may be the attempt of some psychologists or mental health therapists to be creative in packaging their psychological services, I have personally met several "coaches" who have neither the professional training nor experience to help people with serious mental illness, either from a coaching or psychotherapy perspective. Yet they are targeting people with various diagnosable mental disorders such as ADD, depression, and anxiety and implying that they can help them through coaching. I believe this opens them up to all kinds of litigation, lawsuits, and charges of ethical violations. In my personal opinion, it is only a matter of time until someone accuses a personal ADD coach or someone "coaching" a person out of their depression of illegally practicing psychology without a license and initiates a lawsuit. In addition to this overt problem, many psychologists and mental health clinicians charge that regular personal life coaching looks like, sounds like, and has goals similar to those of a clinician's psychotherapy practice. With the field of psychology crushed under the weight of managed care, there are many people in the field considering possible alternative streams of revenue, including consulting and coaching services. I believe within the next two to four years there will be a movement at the state level in several jurisdictions to regulate and restrict the practice of personal coaching through licensure. If psychologists, social workers, and mental health counselors band together, they could try to subsume personal coaching under the rubric of mental health and restrict entry into the personal coaching industry only to individuals with graduate degrees and licensure, much as the field of psychology is regulated today. This has already begun in Colorado, where the state professional licensing board has taken a stance that although business coaching does not fall within the purview of the regulatory board, personal coaching does. While I am not aware of any current litigation activity, it is simply a matter of time. Helping the psychologists' and professional licensing boards' cause would be their well-developed lobbying groups and the persuasive argument that the coaching field could become another source of taxable revenue for cash-hungry states.
Excerpted from Getting Started in Personal and Executive Coaching by Stephen G. Fairley Chris E. Stout Excerpted by permission.
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