Periodically I get calls about people wanting to purchase a coaching package for a spouse, sister, child, father or someone who is struggling. My first question is always the same: “Did they ask for this as a gift?” The caller generally goes through a long explanation of how the person needs help but doesn’t know it or wants help but doesn’t know how to ask or some very convoluted version of “no.” My response is always the same, which is basically that I don’t take clients who haven’t chosen coaching for themselves or clients I haven’t spoken with personally. As it happens, I even turn down about 20% of potential clients who reach out because I don’t think I’m the right fit for them.
Coaching — excellent coaching — can be a deep, transformational experience. But it’s also intimate and demands a high level of trust. You can’t give the gift of coaching as if it’s a gift card. People have to find their own time, their own way, and their person. There are PLENTY of people who will cash your check for the “gift of coaching,” I’m just not one of them. In the early stages of my career, I allowed it a couple of times and immediately saw all the reasons it’s so problematic.
Coaching is something you choose for yourself. It’s an investment. You have to have desire. It’s not a panacea. I don’t believe that I can rescue or fix anyone. I help clients see more accurately, and make them feel safer and braver in order to reach their full potential. The client is the entire focus of the process. There is no one-size-fits-all model or predetermined curriculum in coaching. It is a client-centric process. You can’t be passive or merely show up. You have to work.
I also think that nothing is more important than finding your person. I am not everyone’s person. My style, approach, and point of view need to be aligned with your values. Even talking to past clients won’t really help you find your person. I have nearly 100 recommendations on LinkedIn and I can give you tons of clients who will recommend me, but that only means that I was their person. It doesn’t mean that I’m your person.
Selecting the right coach for yourself is the first step in your coaching process. You have to trust yourself. If you’re uncertain, don’t engage a coach. I ask everyone who calls me for coaching if they’ve spoken to other coaches. If they haven’t, I ask them to interview two more people. Your choice should be a HELL YES! I don’t even make follow-up calls and I’m a business development expert! Why? Because I’m not selling coaching to anyone – ever. The right coach must be intellectually and emotionally suited for you. That’s not a thing you sell. It’s an inside job that requires you to ask the right questions, listen to your inner voice and pay very close attention to your bullshit meter. Coaching has been commodified but good coaching is at its core a powerful, professional relationship. Invest wisely.
By Ann marie Houghtailing
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