As coaches graduate from coach training, gaining coaching experience begins to take more and more focus. The Integrated Coach Training process recommends targeting a specific client and using the coach’s expertise to super-serve the client of choice.
New coaches sometimes struggle with this focus, because integrating coaching skills means more focus on who the client is and less on what the client wants to do.
Lorenzo Lebrija, a development professional in Los Angeles and recent Integrated Coach Training graduate, wrestles with finding this balance. Recently, Lorenzo emailed that “People keep asking me to coach them on Stewardship/Fundraising because of my job and experience. I try to make it clear that coaching is NOT consulting. I think what further confused me was when I read about executive coaches who give “homework” to corporate clients. Do I really need a specialty in my coaching?“
“So, here’s a question for you: If we’re coaching the person, not the problem, does it matter to have niche knowledge?”
That’s a great question. Coach training focuses on drawing out of the client what is most important to them. The focus rests on client discoveries, thoughts, ideas, hopes, actions, and plans. The coach’s experience supports building clarity in the client’s mind.
One of a coach’s guiding maxims is “Coach the person. Consult the problem. Mentor the experience. Counsel the fallout.”
These four postures give a framework for optimal working relationships in a coaching setting. Handling the context in a coach-like manner stimulates understanding and custom tailors conversations to the situation. New insights become possible when the relationship centers on the client. Coaches commit to building clarity and meaning in evocative discussions. But coaches don’t do the work! That’s up to the client
So why does experience get so much experience as a coaching engagement launches?
During Integrated Coach Training, instructors often say “Your experience gets you hired, but your coaching skills get you re-hired.” A coach’s specific experience rarely changes the actual conversations. But working with a coach can be a daunting prospect, especially early on in the process.
Niche experience can put the client at ease, especially before they will sign on with a particular coach. Coaching the person during the actual session is what coaches do, but the door won’t always open without specific, in-niche experience.
As I watch the coaching industry change, the days of the generalist coach seem to be coming to an end. Virtually every masterful coach has a specialty, and that usually informs the clients the coach serves more than what happens during the actual sessions. Understanding what and who you want to be coaching makes a difference.
Finding your niche takes time. All coaches have sweet spots and understanding yours improves effectiveness. Counterintuitively, having a narrow window for who you’ll coach makes it easier to find clients that fit what you want to be doing.
So niche experience matters, but it matters most BEFORE the actual coaching begins. As an example, a lot of startup leaders see my experience them because they know that I’ve been a founder several times in multiple industries. BUT, the difference maker in the sessions is that I’m a good coach NOT that I’ve been a founder.
Don’t hesitate to talk about your experience, outside of coaching. What you’ve been through has made you who you are, and that’s one of the reasons your clients come to you. Your niche experience informs your questions and guides your listening. And your niche experience accelerates the sales process because it puts your client at ease. You’ve changed because of your experience. Your clients can change because of it too!
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Also published on Medium.