6 Big Mistakes Most Life Coaches Make

6 Nov 2013
As a life coach we all want to help people; and we're keen to get out there actually coaching people, however having trained thousands of people over many years I've seen many people not do as well as they had hoped, certainly at the outset. It can put the wind in the sails of talented and enthusiastic life coaches.
I've put it down to 6 mistakes that a coach needs to avoid early on in their career.
Many of you will have already made these mistakes or even after reading this will still make them! I know because I made the same mistakes myself and I can tell you there is nothing to learn from these mistakes apart form setting back your confidence, your referrals, and income as a coach.

The first is so obvious but it's so hard to enforce:

1. The client has to ask for your help

This is a golden rule. As an enthusiastic coach you can get so caught up in helping people, you end up trying to help people that do not actually want to be helped. I call this the "Born Again Coach". Depending on the type of coaching program you have completed depends on how much you yourself have changed in a positive way as a result of completing your training.
The best coaching programs create a safe environment and have you understand the process of forming a client and a coach relationship in such a way you are convinced of the skills you have learnt. The side effect of this is that you may end up being a bit over the top with enthusiasm. Based on the positive changes you've experienced in yourself you may get caught up in the "I need to coach people" and "You MUST do this" fever that you end up coaching people that are not wanting to be coached or have just asked a question about coaching, yet you end up "doing the process on them".
So in order to get the results you're after, ensure that the client has asked for your help. Of course you can still sell the benefits of your coaching process or program to people, you can talk about how it works. Build a solid case of why someone would like a coach. The key to you not going over the top, and building your business is how you leave the conversation with a potential client: something like, 'So if that is something you are interested in then give me a call and I can email you an outline of how a coaching session works and we can take it from there'.

2. The client has investment in the process

This is so important. If you charge $20 for a session, you will get $20 clients and $20 results. Now when we talk about investment I do not only mean monetary investment. Investment can come about in a number of ways. Investment means that the client has a big commitment to the process. Now the more you pay for something or the harder it is to get, the more investment and commitment you have in the product/service. It's the same with Life Coaching or NLP Coaching. You want a client that will follow your every suggestion to a tee in order to get the result they are working towards. Remember that the client wants results so by not having them invest in the process you are likely to not get the results and therefore are not doing them any service.
If you do not have the client invested in the process you will have two things happen. 1 The hardest client and coaching session you have had, or 2 the client will do everything for the process not to work, including not turning up, questioning the process and not following instructions. Do you really want a client like that?

3. The client surrenders to the coaching process

This one is a good one to remember when you are working with people that think they know best. They will tell you how to do the coaching session and how you could improve. Now there is feedback and there is a client that is doing the process of being a client and a coach at the same time. That's hard. So when working with a client, make sure they are being a client and are accepting the process. They must surrender to the process which means they are being the "client". Never let the hats change during a coaching session. "I am the Coach" should be what you say in the event the client starts to challenge you or become difficult.

4. You need to be compensated

Let's face it, when you add up how much you invested in your coaching training, I am sure it was significant. Your skills are worth being paid for. Here is an interesting reframe I like to use for a coach that does not understand how much you should be remunerated.
How much did your training cost
How much did the coaching course cost to develop?
How many people have used your coaching program to get results?
Was your coaching program something you downloaded for $47 from a website?
Did you make this process or coaching session up yourself?
Given this, what do you believe the "process" of your coaching program is worth?
Now I am sorry if this sounds blunt but it's not about you, it's about the tried and tested techniques and processes you've invested in learning to empower people and enable people to make the changes they want to make but can't do it on their own. You are the skilled up enabler of these processes. Now with that all said and done, as with any service that provides results, you deserve to be paid for your time, knowledge and skills you're using to enable change and positive results with a client.

5. Give the client what s/he asks for, not what others say they "should" do

This one is simple, however easy to get caught up in. Be it parents having you coach their kids, employers sending you their employes, or wife sending you her husband. They will often tell you what your client needs. DO NOT get fooled. If you take on what other people say the client needs you are setting yourself up for failure. The wife that sends her hubby to a quit smoking session that she bought him for his birthday will not get results unless it's something that he himself has been rolled in to.
So what do you do in this situation?
Firstly you need to understand where the actual client sits in the situation. Taking on a client that has not invested themselves or bought into the process is a tricky situation and one that requires optimal negotiation and tasking skills to get results. If this is not foreseeable then you have the option of resigning the client with a full explanation of why.

6. You need to NOT be part of the problem

This one often comes as a surprise: working with family members. You will want to help and work with your family who might be your first clients. But before you do make sure you are not part of the problem otherwise it's going to get ugly! Trust me on this one.
Imagine you are giving advice with a client and the advice you are giving them has the same meaning on the problem you are working on. Or you are helping your client that is your partner not get upset about when people say things about them and yet you have done just that. One thing is guaranteed, it's going to get uncomfortable! Unless you can maintain distance from the issue when working with family, don't get involved.
So think about these mistakes and be sure to do them to confirm for yourself that I was right! With over 10 years' of coaching I can tell you these mistakes will not help you.
Are there any other mistakes you've experienced or have seen other Life Coaches make when they start out with clients?
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