My Biggest Mistake As A Professional Coach (so far)

Innere Knorrkogel (2,882m), Nationalpark Hohe Tauern | © Gerdi Verwoert 2013

I had been thinking about this client for a couple of days now. They seemed satisfied enough. We were two sessions in, but to me things didn’t feel right at all. It was dawning on me I had made a mistake in taking them on.

As a professional coach I have set a couple of standards for myself. These standards include:

  • to only coach clients with whom I have a real connection
  • to only coach clients that inspire and energize me and vice versa
  • to only start coaching clients after a signed agreement is in place
  • to only start coaching clients after payment has been received

Honouring the client

I firmly believe a real connection and mutual inspiration and energizing are necessary for both my client and myself as a coach when we want to achieve the maximum results from our time together. It’s through connection, inspiration and energy I honour my client!

When there is a real connection it is much easier to create and hold a safe space for the client to open up, be vulnerable and do the deep digging necessary to get the absolute most out of the coaching experience.

When there is a real connection, energy starts flowing between the client and myself that is inspiring and energizing for both of us.

Clients come out of our sessions feeling inspired to keep moving towards the goal they have set themselves. They are inspired not by me, but by themselves and the process to do the work necessary.

It’s our real connection, the energy and inspiration from those sessions that gives them the confidence to make the serious life changes they always were afraid of making! 

Honouring my professional self

Having a signed agreement in place and payment received has everything to do with honouring myself as the professional coach that I am.

I am proud of my coaching skills. I know I’m good at what I do and I know how much effort I have put in to get that good and am still putting in to become even better. That’s not bragging; that’s just stating it like it is.

Expecting others to honour me as a professional coach however requires me to first and foremost honour myself as such!

I love the distinction Steve Chandler makes between the social self and the professional self.

My social self most of all wants to be liked and thought of as being ‘a nice person’. When I’m being nice I’ll find all kinds of excuses for people who are not living up to their end of the bargain. It often includes what people will think of me if I’m acting more ‘business-like’ or ‘less nice’.

My professional self on the other hand wants to be honoured and respected in the way I honour and respect professionals.

When working with other professionals I expect to have to pay them for their services and do so in accordance with the agreement we entered into. That’s what I agreed to after all. And because I respect them as professionals, I keep my part in the agreement.

If I want to be honoured and respected as the professional coach that I am, I had better start respecting myself as precisely that! TODAY! NOW!

… if I have a professional service I’m proud of (and only proud because of all the time I devote to making it masterful […] coaching people all day) then I want my service delivered professionally, and not as a social gesture of friendship.

Just like a doctor would not go around swabbing people at a dinner party. He wouldn’t walk up to you and say, “I’d love to operate on you.”

Reflecting on the sessions I so far had had with this particular client I had to come to terms with the fact I was not living up to my own standards!

  • there was no real connection
  • there was no flow of energy and inspiration
  • two weeks in, there was still no signed agreement
  • nor was there any sign of payment

In short none of the most important professional boxes I had defined for myself were being ticked!

My professional self was not being honoured. Not by my client, but more importantly not by me! And if I was not honouring myself, why should they?

Not anymore though! As of now I’m only taking on clients when I’m meeting my own professional standards and I’m discontinuing any coaching relationships where those standards aren’t met.

So after having overcome any objections my social self was throwing out there, I contacted my client. I respectfully explained I had failed to adhere to my own professional standards, but was doing so now.

This meant acknowledging my client was not getting nor going to be getting the best of me as a coach. This is not how I want to work with any of my clients!

It also meant acknowledging that the client was not completely committed to our agreement. If they were, they would have honoured their part in it. This is what I expect from all my clients!

So our coaching agreement has ended.

I am down one client and I have learned one hell of a lesson from a mistake I will not make again!

How about you? How do you honour your social and/or professional self? In which situations have you found yourself having to decide between either one of those? And on which side did you come down and why? 

Share your thoughts below and let me know. Be as specific as you can when you share your thoughts. Other people, Mountain Seekers like you, will be inspired by your ideas and actions.

Please, share only your original thoughts, actions and ideas directly in the comments. Don’t link to other sites, videos, etc. – they come across as spammy and will be removed.

Thank you for reading and adding your voice to the conversation.

As always…

Go dare greatly!