“How did you get started in coaching?”
I am asked this question often, sometimes by people simply curious about my path, but frequently by people considering becoming coaches themselves. I am happy to respond, as I believe the more thoughtfully and intentionally we approach a possible career or development opportunity, the more likely we are to make a purposeful decision that leads to fulfillment and success.
I’ve coached many coaches, as well as many individuals who have gone on to become coaches after our work together, and every story is a bit different. If you’re interested in hiring a coach, click here for five things to consider as you seek the perfect coach for you. And if you’re considering becoming a professional coach, consider the following five tips for building a strong foundation:
1. Work With A Coach.
First and foremost, work with an experienced, qualified coach. You will learn so much about yourself and about coaching, and your coach can help you stay accountable and motivated with your goal. When I teach coaching skills to managers and leaders in businesses, I always include practice time; it’s one thing to know coaching theory, skills, and concepts, but to experience coaching is a completely different thing altogether.
Personally, I also believe this is a matter of integrity: How can we expect others to believe in and invest in the power of coaching if we aren’t doing the same? Although I’ve been a certified coach for years, I still always have a coach myself. This supports my professional development, grows me personally, continually stretches me as a coach, and allows me to work in integrity and alignment.
2. Seek Out Reputable Training.
Just because you have experienced something doesn’t mean you are qualified to coach others through that experience. (You could mentor, perhaps, but that’s a different role.) On the path to earning my Ph.D., I was in school – most of it while also employed elsewhere – for over 20 years. I learned a lot and gained tons of work experience as well, but my coach training provided a completely different kind of learning altogether.
The International Coach Federation is a wonderful starting point. In addition to serving as a guiding resource for coaches and ensuring the ethical standards and continuing education of its members, the ICF provides a fantastic list of accredited coach-training programs around the globe. That’s where I discovered the College of Executive Coaching, where I gained my training (a program I absolutely love and still take courses from, by the way).
3. Connect With Other Coaches.
You don’t need to wait until you are a coach, or in the midst of your coach training, before connecting with other coaches. In fact, doing so as you’re exploring possibilities will serve many purposes: You’ll learn where other coaches obtained their training and can hear their experiences, you’ll grow your peer network for referrals and collaboration, and you’ll have a lot of fun because coaches are among the most delightful and welcoming people in the world (in my opinion, anyway! )
For a couple of years, I served as President of the Iowa chapter of the ICF. I encouraged (and still do) people just thinking about coaching to attend a meeting and surround themselves with coaches for a while. Many of those individuals have become longstanding members of our chapter, certified coaches, and are now making a powerful difference doing work that they love.
4. Block Time Now For Coaching Work.
Look ahead on your calendar and start blocking time each week to devote to coaching work. You’ll need this once you begin your training program, but in the meantime you can use it in a variety of valuable ways: Read coaching books, arrange introductory meetings, schedule conversations with coaches you may wish to hire, review coaching materials, and conduct some self-discovery (see #5), to name a few.
5. Spend Time In Self-Reflection.
In working with a coach and through your training, you’ll become incredibly self-aware; I don’t think one can become a coach without experiencing this benefit. But you can start now. A few questions to ponder:
Why do you want to become a coach?
What would you love to help others achieve through coaching?
What’s your ideal vision for the world? How might becoming a coach help you make that a reality?
How might you honor your values through coaching?
What might stand in your way of pursuing this? How can you address those obstacles and prepare accordingly?
Ideally, you’ll become a coach because you have a grand vision for other individuals, your community, the world, and your own life – not because you’re wanting to escape a job you dislike or because you’re running away from something else. Questions like these can help you discern your purpose and help your motivation.
“As a coach,” write Steve Chandler and Rich Litvin, “your only mission is to wake up each morning and ask yourself: ‘Who can I serve so powerfully that they never forget our conversation for the rest of their life?'”
If that idea excites you, coaching might be just the thing for you!