by Ed Britton
The best college basketball players in the world are recruited into the NBA. These guys are so good they run rings around the rest. However, when they get on the floor with top-flight professionals, they are left wondering if they'll ever get to touch the ball! Only after engaging at a professional level for a while do these supremely talented young athletes develop genuine, world-class mastery.
It’s the same with coaching. Genuine mastery is achieved after engaging in the real thing at a professional level. Without that, all the practice coaching sessions in the world just won't get you there. Further, practice coaching doesn't pay the bills and is not sustainable.
Globally, only half of coaches make over $25,000US a year.1 That's not practice building. That's not sustainable. That's not building a profession.
There are at least seven solid reasons to emphasize a focus on building coaching practice:
1. Coaching practice is the whole cycle of operating a service business: program development, lead generation, lead conversion, branding, client retention, referral generation, business management, network development, and on and on it goes. A person can become a really great coach without touching any of this stuff. But they cannot be a successful professional coach without getting really good at all of it, and integrating the whole package with the coaching session.
2. Niche selection and development are imperative for success. To compete professionally, coaches need to select a focus where they can really shine. “What am I especially good at? Where do I have a particular advantage?” It is not a matter of just being good; it is a matter of being world class. And if you are not world class in your niche then you will get the feedback in business results that steer you to make an adjustment.
3. The matching process is more rigorous. Clients are committing a lot of time, money and hope into a professional coaching relationship. They want to have high confidence in their selection of a coach. A good match is a grand key to great coaching sessions and outcomes.
4. The focus of coaching changes. Clients want to make it count. They make a mental shift from, “What would be nice to talk about today?” to, “What do we need to accomplish in the next 30 to 60 minutes that will return high impact to my life?”
5. Fee-based coaching means fee-based commitment.2 Coaching your friends and family, buddy coaching and pro-bono coaching are necessary and good. But these are more relaxed settings. There is the perception (not true) that if it does not work, well then no one is really out anything but a little time. However, when there is $500 per hour or more on the line, then suddenly, “Whoa, I’d better make this worth it,” kicks in. It is not casual anymore.
6. The client demands value for money. When the client is writing a monthly cheque for exclusive, high-priced service, then they want value for their money. They expect more of themselves and of their coach. And the coach has an effective lever for expecting more from the client. “You are paying me all this money, but not completing the commitments you make to yourself? This needs to be fixed. Explain to me where that is coming from.”
7. Obviously, only fee-based coaching is sustainable. If you cannot make a living at coaching then you will not be doing it for long. You will never develop true mastery because you will not get the exposure time at a professional level. You need to invest the 10,000 hours of practice necessary to be a world-class master.3 Without a sustainable, profitable practice you will simply run out of time and money.
Practice building is not easy, but it is achievable. We need to take responsibility for practice building on an individual and professional level.
1. International Association of Coaching, 2012 ICF Global
2. Stewart, Julia. 2012. Life Coach Salary: 15 Reasons Your Coaching Fees Are Too Low. http://www.schoolofcoachingmastery.com/coaching-blog/bid/90425/Life-Coach-Salary-15-Reasons-Your-Coaching-Fees-Are-Too-Low?goback=.gmp_1951844
Ed Britton is a leadership coach based in mainland China. His focus is the application of leadership principles in developing life and career in an international, expatriate setting-particularly in developing economies such as China. Ed serves the IAC in the role of Capacity Building Specialist.