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November 5, 2001
All Coaches Make Mistakes. Here are two you
All coaches make mistakes; that comes with the territory of
being a professional. Some mistakes are inadvertent or
judged as mistakes by the client. Other mistakes are just
bad form. Every month, I receive a couple of letters like
the following one and it's always a shock. And, very
worthwhile because it helps me to craft the Certified Coach
training we'll be offering to help coaches avoid making such
There are two lessons here; one is
professionalism when the client chooses to move on. The other is
to not push our clients or encourage them to take financial risks
that they cannot afford.
The author of this note has given me permission to share it with
you, without attribution. She was responding to one of the lessons
in the Full Practice 100 ecourse that we offer.
Thomas J. Leonard
I appreciate your comments [in the Full Practice 100, lesson
55, below] about "sophisticated" coaches who avoid pushing
their clients. I would say that *ethical* coaches refrain
from pushing their clients.
Last March, while I was still on a payroll, I realized I
wanted a career change. I was feeling burned out and
isolated and had no support system. So I did what I thought
was sensible: I hired a coach, a grad of [coaching school
name deleted] and member of ICF. He emphasized action. As an
action-oriented person, I liked that.
Coach X convinced me to stop looking for other jobs in my
field, even though that would give me a financial base while
I started a business. He encouraged me to start a coaching
business, although I had no contacts, no support system, no
community ties and no sales aptitude.
After three months of coaching, I had a website -- created by
a designer recommended by the coach, who turned out to be
his cousin. (The coach never told me; the designer spilled
the beans.) And after three months of coaching, I had a a
diminished bank account, a website that would never bring in
clients, no strategy, no game plan (the coach said he didn't
believe in planning -- just "go with the flow"), and no idea
where to get clients. The "coach" said, "Go talk to your
friends." When I said that would not be possible in my
situation, he jeered, "What's the matter, don't you have any
He was surprised and nasty when I terminated, saying "Since
you fired me..." A few months later, I asked for my money
back. He sent back half, saying, "I take no responsibility
for anything that happened. I feel your pain."
It will take a long time for me to recover from this
Without contacts, setting up a business can take a very long
time, and most people fail.
It will be difficult for me to find another job that would
be as good as those the coach encouraged me to avoid.
It is one thing to recover from adversity but to recover
from a bad coach is very disheartening. It's been over
twenty years since I had so much uncertainty and since I was
in such a precarious financial situation. And it took a
coach to get me here.
Rather than encourage people to go out and practice being
coaches, I hope you will warn people of the harm they can
You also need to qualify statements like, "If you want to
succeed, get a coach."
I will survive and recover, but it will be in SPITE of that
coach. We did move fast, but in reverse gear.
Here is Lesson 55 from the Full
Practice 100 ecourse, which prompted the above
CoachVille member to write and share her story with
Strengthening Your Reputation:
is a lesson from 100 lesson Full Practice
ecourse available from CoachVille.com. Cost is
You can be
very strong, powerful, effective, edgy,
compelling, wise, analytical, intelligent,
inspiring and directive with your clients, and
still be incredibly light/informal in how you
There are more ways to communicate than there
are flavors of Baskin Robbins ice cream, so I
don't want to try to get you to communicate
using my favorite flavor, but I do believe that
coaches can lighten up in general without losing
It's also my view that the more entrepreneurial
and the more sophisticated clients want a light
vs heavy touch in how they are communicated and
I used to be a heavy and significant coach.
Everything the client said mattered, my advice
mattered, the events of life mattered, the
potential risks mattered, my history mattered,
the outside temperature mattered, the color of
my dog's collar mattered, those new gray hairs
mattered. I mattered.
As a result, I wasn't very good at inspiring,
encouraging, enjoying or heartening my clients.
I looked at the potential downside of everything
they were doing or could be doing because I
wanted to protect them from failure/loss. And I
would do my best to impart wisdom that really
mattered, because it should matter to them.
After all, it mattered to me!
The bottom line of this heaviness/significance
is that clients left me after a couple of
months. I probably bummed them out. Or made
them feel inadequate. Or scared the bejeezus
out of them. All in the name of 'doing a good
job' as a coach.
But over the past 5 years, here's what I've
learned along this line...
1. As much as clients can benefit from your
wisdom, they also want tons of encouragement.
Most clients hire a coach because they are
taking on a big project, or facing a challenge
or resolving something that is more than they
want to do on their own. Thus, they want, need
and deserve encouragement. Just like you
encourage your kids. Yes, that much.
2. I was carrying my clients
concerns/challenges on my own shoulders.
I so wanted their lives to be fun/easy that I
felt compelled to share their burden in a lame
show of solidarity. This, instead of only
working with clients who were willing to become
problem free zones.
3. Most heavy/significant situations that
clients are in, are totally and beautifully
While I wouldn't be so insensitive as to try to
get a client to make light of a difficult
situation or try to get them to put on a happy
face or only see the bright side of a problem, I
do believe that I can help my clients to being
lighter beings in general by helping them to
include/embrace what they think is a negative
thing. I help them to do this by helping them
to find the perfection in even the most
challenging situation. But ONLY AFTER they know
that I'm there with them and totally empathize
and respect their feelings. Only when we're in
synch can I help them move forward via the
4. People in general take life way, way too
I'm not sure where this comes from in our
culture but it doesn't make a whole lot of
sense. We're all gunna pass on; most of us can
have 50 to 70 great years as an adult. Tell me
again why we should feel burdened with problems,
shoulds, coulds, musts, tolerations, conflicts,
pain, frustration, obligations, and duties?
Who made THAT up?
Yes, I am a believer in being responsible and
being an adult, but I think we are pushed by our
cultures to take that too far and fit some mold
set 100's of years ago by our ancestors.
So, in my coaching, while I respect anyone
having a difficult time or challenge, the bottom
line is that I only am willing to work with
clients who wish to become
problem/toleration/should free zones and who
have taken themselves to the place in live where
they see that most of what matters in life is a
trip that someone many years ago laid on them.
For more information about the Full Practice 100
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copyright 2000 by thomas j.
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