Ep 144 – When is the Most Effective Time to Promote Your Coaching Business?

This episode is inspired by a recent look at my business analytics, which are confirming that my business is surging right now and yours could be too!

What are business analytics and why am I talking about them?

Well you can’t know what times are most effective for promotion unless you set up and track analytics. Sound complicated? Not really.

For me, there are 7 sets of numbers I regularly review and track that tell me how many people:

  1. are on my website and how long they engage there
  2. are subscribing to get my freebie
  3. open and click through on the links in my emails
  4. listen to my podcast and what percentage of the episode they listen to
  5. respond to my posts on social channels.
  6. fill out my application to work with me and sign up for a Discovery Call
  7. are enrolling in a Strategy Session

These are all my opportunities for a future connection with a person who could become my paying client.

What opportunities have you set up to connect and attract paying clients?

I’ve made every aspect of my business — my website, my lead magnet, my podcast and more — highly visible and compelling for my target audience. I never do any type of promoting to a general audience.

Monitor Analytics About Your Coaching Business

Do you have stats about your business that you’re watching? If not, I encourage you to set up processes to attract ideal clients and keep their attention. Then figure out how you can measure that. Apps make this easy.

If you do have numbers you can review, what do you do with them? Soon I’ll do an episode about this. For now, I’ll just say … never let your stats depress you. Instead let them spur you to action.

So, my question in the title of this episode — when is the most effective time to promote your coaching business — is a bit of a trick question. The truth is that it’s best to promote all the time. All. The. Time.

Never Hard Sell Your Coaching Prospects

And I want to make it clear I’m not talking at all about constantly asking people to hire you or posting ads all the time. I don’t believe in that pushy approach.

If you’re running your coaching business the way I do and the way I teach my clients in my VIP program, you are using the simplest coaching business model and have built a beautiful customer journey so your ideal clients steadily flow right to you ready to enroll.

I’m not advocating hard selling. Consistent non-salesy marketing is the best approach for coaches.

My new clients tell me that one reason they chose me over other business mentors for coaches is because I didn’t hard sell them … ever. They never felt I was pushing or attached to them hiring me.

So take away this point today … run your business so that you’re promoting in a non-salesy way all the time. Do that by getting in front of and staying in front of your audience with high value content. Speak their language.

Inconsistent marketing is usually a waste of time because people forget who you are and their interest is harder to spark again.

Publish a weekly podcast, blog or videos and consistently show up on social media plus use more high touch methods monthly – such as networking and public speaking. All of this should be targeting your narrow audience and not talking about generic coaching topics.

Show Up More During These Times

That said, there are certain times of the year that, for most coach’s audiences, will be the most effective for a bigger promotional effort.

Think about it. When are human beings most in the mood to improve their lives and therefore most likely to hire you?

  • January after the holidays – This is the greatest energy for self-improvement and new initiatives.
  • May – Spring raises all life giving energies so people tend to invest in themselves then.
  • September – Once the kids are settled in school adults want to start something new.
  • November through early December – Before the year ends people want to honor their goals.

Plan Your Coaching Business Ahead of the Wave

If you haven’t launched your coaching business yet, launch during those high times.

If you’re launching a new program, plan the opening for these times.

Of course, that means you need to be thinking things through about 6 months earlier or more.

When I sold group programs, products and online training I used to plan my promotional calendar 18 months ahead because I needed to secure promotional partners, write web copy and promotional material, plan all the content when it would go out and how it would build excitement.

That was an exhausting and why I don’t sell products, online training or group programs anymore. It’s why I created the Simplest Coaching Business Model because I can make and keep more money with private services, which are fun for me as well as being more effective for my clients.

What are you selling? How many people do you need to get interested to enroll the number of people that will give you a great income?

These are questions that most coaches don’t ask themselves. And I get it. The business side of coaching isn’t why you started this journey. Still, if you’re in this to stay and you also want to earn well, you can’t NOT think about this.

I didn’t want to think about these things either when I started. I shot from the hip and didn’t plan anything. That affected my income. And then I found, when I made a game out of doing and tracking my business it became more fun!

You always hold the reins in your business and can do whatever you want, when you want. Start noticing what happens when you take action and what happens when you don’t. Set up ways to track your stats. Do things that AFFECT those stats. Watch how you improve and how your business grows.

Ep 143 – Should You Stick with Your Coaching Niche?

Do you have a coaching niche that hasn’t paid off yet? This episode explores 10 strategic things that could be missing for you. The full transcript of this episode can be found at prosperouscoach.com/143.

Nearly all coaches are hoping for more traction in their niche. And I want you to understand something that may take the sting out of this. Nearly all businesses of all kinds are hoping for more traction all the time!

So you may be thinking: “It sounds like it’s not worth it to start a business!”

It absolutely is worth it if you’re serious about being the driver of a career that’s tailor made for you. If you want to choose how and when you work and with whom … if you want to be the one who decides your own fees, when you take time off and how often … your own business can give you that.

BUT you have to be in it to win it. Win it a bit at a time until you find the sweet spot. Screw your courage to the sticking place— as Shakespeare advised — and take risks knowing that you CAN make it with time and patience.

Maybe you don’t have time or patience. That in itself is a deal breaker. It’s not a good idea to start any type of business out of desperation. If you are on your last legs financially starting a business is not a good risk for now.

Start your business from a place of strength. Start your business when you’re hungry enough to motivate yourself and not so hungry that you’ll be under enormous pressure.

You don’t have to be independently wealthy to start a business. You just need a wealth of patience plus the willingness to try something, give it a fair shot for a decent amount of time while making small adjustments to improve yourself and your strategy.

ALLOW your business to unfold but don’t sit back and wait for it to happen without you.

I know I’ve used this metaphor in the last episode … your business is your baby. You would not judge a child harshly for not having it altogether in the first few months or the first few years would you? No, because you know there are developmental stages and every child has it’s own pace. That’s true for your business also.

If you’ve had your niche for a long time – let’s say a couple of years – and it hasn’t begun to pay off the way you want it to, should you abandon it?

Well the answer is possibly. Sorry there’s just not a clear straight forward answer here because there are so many variables to consider. Some have to do with the way you’re behaving and some have to do with strategy.

So let’s look inside your niche and your business. And by the way, I did a whole podcast series called Coaching Business Checkup that culminated in a beautiful free downloadable assessment to help you identify what needs to change in your coaching business … and yeah, it could be your niche for sure.

It could also be several other things. If you want to check out that series start with prosperouscoach.com/62

Inside the pdf you’ll also find links to each episode in the Coaching Business Checkup series so you can listen as you assess your business. The whole thing is like a mini audio course – all for free.

Your niche is only one of 10 things that could be keeping you back from financial success in your coaching business. It’s the cornerstone of everything so that does need to be right from the get go.

All businesses survive and thrive on a mixture of hard work, strategy and luck.

In my own business I surely have worked hard for over two decades. I am nothing if not doggedly determined. And that characteristic is a big plus.

I come by it naturally as nearly everyone in my family of origin are entrepreneurs who have scrabbled and cobbled together a good living all their lives mostly without being on someone else’s payroll. So working hard to grow my business wasn’t a foreign concept.

If you’re not working ON your business consistently and persistently … if you’re not in it to win it, well, that’s your answer right there. Without dedication no one makes it in business.

I’ve had some good luck too. I just happened to get involved in the Denver chapter of ICF at the right moment when the President recognized something in me and asking me to be a trainer for his coach training company.

Coach Training Alliance was born and I had the privilege of co-authoring the curriculum and developing the Certified Coach Program there. I personally trained 500 coaches and that put me right in front of an audience I knew I could help with my marketing and copywriting expertise.

That launched my current business. But I don’t want you to think everything was easy peasy from there. I kept working hard and finding my way.

There’s nothing wrong with working hard. It’s a positive energy unto itself. Enterprise is stimulating. It’s good for your brain to solve problems and follow a path as it meanders.

My hard work has paid off and kept on paying off. Apple, Google, Nike – you think those company leaders and teams haven’t worked hard? They have. AND they also did not know they would make it from the start. You will find your luck IF you work hard and stay the course.

The main thing you can control beyond hard work is strategy. And that’s what my free assessment – Coaching Business Checkup – is all about. Here’s a preview …

Strategy #1 is target a unique and viable audience. Does your niche have that?

Strategy #2 is center your niche on your audience’s BIG problems and goals. Are you good there?

Strategy #3 is articulate what you do in a way that inspires investment. That’s complex so that’s why there are powerful questions to answer in the assessment.

Strategy #4 is develop a simple coaching business model. Most coaches go with high tech, high labor low profit business models. There’s a better way.

Strategy #5 is create a simple and meaningful customer journey. Most coaches don’t think this through. I didn’t until the last 7 years! You can do better than me.

There are 5 more critical strategies. It’s time to examine your business and efforts dispassionately, so you can truly see what’s been in your way.

And if you want some help assessing your niche and business so far, grab a Strategy Session with me.

Ep 142 – How Long Will It Take to Reach Coaching Business Success?

I was having the last session of my signature program with a favorite client the other day. This short episode is inspired by that conversation. Find the show notes at prosperouscoach.com/143

It’s bittersweet having a final session with a client. For them, they’re losing an accountability partner and the structure that helps them stay inspired and make things happen. From here on out they’ll have to hold themselves accountable.

For me, I lose their unique presence in my life session-to-session. I’ve been holding space for their growth. I’ve been responsive to emails and getting comfortable with their learning style, their work style.

All my clients are truly brilliant in their own way. And I come to feel a kinship with them.

My signature program is 5 months long so I have the honor of seeing my clients transform – not only the nuts and bolts of their niche, business model, website and program but also in mindset and approach.

There’s a lot of teaching and learning. That goes both ways.

For most of my clients there’s enough room in my program for at least one pick-my-brain session. You know, they ask me a bunch of questions about little things related to client management and the like. Little details from an experienced coach that help them avoid pitfalls or shorten more learning curves.

And sometimes it’s the big questions that get asked. The ones on every coach’s mind but they are afraid to ask until the last minute. Not because they are intimidated but because we’re busy work-shopping their business from the ground up.

So this client, a smart man with a family, full time job and the chutzpah to start a business of his dreams asked me the ubiquitous question that has no satisfying answer.

It goes something like this … how long will it take me to be successful? He said with humor in voice. Is it three months, six months, two years?

Here’s more or less what I said:

Yes. All of that and more. At three months and before you’ll have a slice of success. At six months if you’re consistent and congruent, leveraging what we’ve created, you’ll have bigger successes.

Success comes moment to moment and you must celebrate those moments. Because if you do not, the long-term success you crave won’t arrive.

Your business is your baby. It’s like a living entity – a part of you. And you need to nurture that baby every day so you can attract good things – a following, social proof, Discovery Calls, ideal clients and of course the income comes with that.

If you neglect that baby it won’t thrive.

And here my client said something like “Yeah but with a kid don’t they eventually grow up?” And we laughed about that.

It gets easier but they are always your child. And with each phase you need to learn how to parent differently, right? You adjust as they grow.

With a business as with a child they grow as you grow,  you grow as they grow. You calibrate to the new phase. You learn what works and what doesn’t. You learn to live with limitations.

Successes happen. Then things change and you have to figure out the new way. Test and tweak. Incremental improvement.

There is no magic number. Could I say it takes about 18 months? I could, but that might not be true for every coach with every target audience, with every skillset. All coaches are different. And just like happiness success is transitory.

It took me years to find my sweet spot — I mean the combination of everything that works best for me. Do I get that all the time? No.

And I’m probably on version 8 or 10 of my business after 24 years. I’m not talking about major do-overs here. I’m talking about stretching and innovating, trying and failing, adjusting and finding a better way.

This is what we do in life. This is what every business is like. Whether it’s a solo coach or a big corporation, a boutique business or a mid-sized empire. Every business grows at the pace of its founder or teams. Every business grows according to the ability to adapt.

The most important thing right now is to do something everyday to grow your business. It might be as small as a social post or as big as doing a TED Talk. Find the way to attract your audience. Dedicate yourself like you wish you dedicated yourself to being healthy.

You have a solid business foundation now with a niche that’s uniquely yours. It’s your baby. Celebrate the baby steps. That will condition you to succeed in a bigger way.

So then my client told me that he truly gets my podcast episode sign off now — Stay inspired and make things happen.

He said: “It’s not stay inspired OR make things happen. I need to do both.” That’s right!

Ep 141 – 5 Questions to Test Your Coaching Business Integrity

This episode is inspired by my own breaches in integrity over the 2 decades plus that I’ve been a coach and some I see other coaches stumble with as well.

If you took coach training, hopefully you were provided with some standard ethical guidelines that need to be followed with your clients. Things like:

  • Keeping your coaching client’s contact info and what they say confidential unless they give express permission for you to share some part of it.
  • Setting personal and time boundaries with clients.

Beyond that, no one talks much about ethics and integrity in coaching.

Coaching is not currently a regulated field so it’s doubly important that you, as the professional coach, regulate yourself. That helps all coaches and the future of coaching.

Complaints about coaches hurt the field of coaching. And we really don’t want this field to be regulated, as it would greatly change the coaching industry for the worse.

What It Really Means to Be a Professional Coach

Have you realized that YOU are a PROFESSIONAL? Take this in.

Own the fact that what you do is a professional service and you are a trained professional offering serious and consequential experiences through your coaching.

When I say serious and consequential, I mean that you could hurt someone just as easily as you could help them.

I don’t think you should fear the possibility of hurting someone, but it’s wise to consider it often. More and more I craft what I say to clients both verbally and in writing.

When a client pays you for your services it automatically changes the power differential. You have a bit more or maybe a lot more perceived power than your client. You can equalize that by:

  • The respect you show your clients. Acknowledge always that they are resourceful, intelligent and whole human beings who don’t need you to survive. They can take of themselves.
  • Encouraging them to take full responsibility for their feelings, thoughts and actions.

I even have a sentence about this in my Coaching Agreement — part of my intake packet (also called a welcome or onboarding packet.)

As a professional you have an obligation to improve and maintain your integrity – your professional boundaries and more.

A Make or Break Factor of Your Coaching Business Success

Beyond being the right thing to do, I’ve come to think of integrity as a make it or break it factor in coaching business success.

I’ve seen how the way coaches conduct themselves affects their ability to earn well.

For example, if a coaching relationship is damaged by a breach of some sort that’s not addressed quickly that bad energy can float out and infect your business. People may not want to work with you even if they don’t know why.

Your integrity is about your core values in life, business, relationships — everything. It’s a set of principles that guide your words and actions – and even your mindset to help you to be your best self and do well at everything you do.

5 Powerful Questions to Check In With Your Integrity Level

To raise your integrity in your coaching business, look at all of these areas:

  1. What you do and say with clients
  2. What you do and say with potential coaching clients – including your marketing practices, social media posting, the words on your website, how you enroll clients
  3. Your business habits and timeliness
  4. How honest you are with yourself about what’s going on with your business.

Consider checking in with yourself every month or so. Ask yourself …

Am I operating from my integrity?

Am I conducting all aspects of my coaching business in an honest and authentic way?

Do I feel good about what I’m saying and doing with coaching clients?

Do I feel good about how I market and all the content I put out?

If you can say without a doubt ‘yes’ to these questions, you’re doing well. Here’s a different powerful question that will help you uncover the blind spots:

Am I regretting any decision, action or conversation I’ve had in the last few months?

If yes, take the time as soon as possible to look closely at this and take action to correct it. With clients it could be something that’s nagging at you but that you avoid dealing with.

Maybe you charge too little for your services and you’re feeling resentful?

Do you have a client you know is not a good fit for you?

Did something come out of your mouth in a session that could have been said better?

Look, this is human stuff. No one is infallible. Everyone makes ethical mistakes. However, coaches should be held to a high standard. It means, bringing awareness to this and consciously choosing your words and actions.

Ep 140 – What’s Missing From Your Coaching Niche?

This episode is a refresher about what components are needed for a strategic coaching niche — one that will bring you clients who are inspired to invest and engage fully.

Look, I know this whole niche thing is aggravating. And that’s because it’s complex and it takes a few mindset shifts to approach this decision intelligently.

Simplifying this complex thing is my super power. I help coaches strategically develop a smart and profitable coaching niche and build their entire business foundation around that.

That’s my niche because I’ve seen too many coaches throw up a coaching business, website and all, without thinking it all the way through. And then the business only works well enough to keep you struggling but not to earn well.

Partially creating a niche is like building a new house without a foundation.

Think about it. If the foundation is good, the house is solid and secure. It will last. If the foundation is non-existent or poor, the house is not long for this world. It’s flimsy.

You may know that flimsy feeling in your coaching business but not know what to do about it.

That flimsy feeling is like this … you don’t know exactly what to do every day to attract clients that pay you well.

Your Coaching Niche Idea is Not Quite Enough

When you finished coach training you may have had the seed of a good idea in mind for your niche. But you might have stopped short of fortifying it with the essential parts.

You might have felt romantic about your idea and become attached to the vagueness of it then just put up your website and started posting.

That vagueness is keeping you from earning well.

Most coaches who hire me have a good idea that’s not fully formed. They tried to make it work and it was only somewhat successful.

They are dancing on the edge of success.

I can see in that seed something valuable. And I can clearly see that it’s missing the parts that would take this good idea into the concrete world so it sustains them.

Most Coaches Only Choose a Track

Some people say that a coaching niche is the area you focus on, for example:

  • Health and Wellness
  • Relationship
  • Career
  • Business or entrepreneurship
  • Executive or Corporate Leadership
  • Spirituality

See, to me, these are not quite niches. They are coaching tracks — a seed of an idea. You might have taken coach training in one of these areas and that training WILL be very valuable to you and your clients.

However, alone that is not a strategic niche.

A coaching track is a direction but not a destination.

If you’ve only gone so far as to choose a coaching track it won’t likely bring you a good income for 2 reasons:

  1. Because it’s selling coaching and people don’t often know they want coaching so the coach then has the hard job of having to convince people they want coaching.
  2. And also because a track is missing the specific and compelling things that would attract clients who are inspired to invest well.

Few people buy coaching for the sake of being coached. If you haven’t heard it yet, episode 7 was about this called Why Coaching is a Hard Sell.

But specific groups of people will invest in intelligent support to overcome their specific urgent problems so they can reach their most desired specific goals. A whole lot more specificity is needed.

Specialize in a Deeper Way for a Better Coaching Niche

To make one of those tracks I mentioned work, you need to further specialize:

  • Specialize in a specific narrow audience.
  • Specialize in a specific outcome they struggle to achieve.

And don’t just leave it there. Do research. Find out exactly what their most acute challenges are on the way to that specific goal. Use their language to describe it.

When your website, your weekly content and daily posting all speak directly to those things then you’ll inspire that audience to invest highly in your support. As you stay congruent, you leverage all your efforts and your income grows exponentially.

For example, a wellness coach might focus on weight loss, or a relationship coach might focus on dating.

It’s smart because it speaks to a specific PROBLEM people have in that track. If you’ve specialized on a certain problem, take an additional step and target a unique audience.

Let’s say you are a relationship coach and you’ve decided to specialize in dating. So far so good. Now go deeper … focus in more narrowly.

For example, focus on helping single parents with dating. That’s a strategic niche! Do you see how with that degree of narrowing you can hone in on the very unique set of challenges and goals this audience has?

They have to consider their kids in every aspect of dating and also as the relationship grows.

So don’t call yourself a relationship coach and coach about all relationships. Don’t call yourself a dating coach and coach about all dating. Instead develop a Signature Program designed just for a specific audience with specific challenges as it relates to dating. Be specific!

Getting Attention is Job #1 for Coaches

We live in a too busy and highly distracted world. So your message will only snap people to attention IF it’s highly relevant and to be relevant it has to be specific.

If you haven’t chosen a track yet, don’t worry about it. You can actually skip over that part.

Instead target an audience that’s easy for you to find and connect with, find out what they want so much they’d be willing to invest significantly in your help to get it.

Coaches serve people. That’s why your coaching niche should begin with the unique audience you serve and their real problems. You’ll be amazed how it can change your day to day as well as setting you up for long term success and incredible opportunities.

Ep 139 – The Art of Crafting Powerful Coaching Questions

I have something really special for today’s episode, which is about powerful coaching questions and is a part of a new series on Coaching Skills.

There’s a free download that you can get so stay tuned …

First, I want to share something personal with you. I have been so buoyed up by wonderful reviews lately. So I want to give a shout out to Gemma who said recently to me:

“I’m sending a heap of gratitude to you, Rhonda, your generous podcast has helped me identify my platform and program. Also, I know that I’m not alone in this. You’ve helped so many coaches. Thank you for cutting through the noise.”

That made my week. So I’m grateful to you, Gemma, for taking the time to write that review for me on iTunes.

So let’s roll with today’s episode.

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Laurie Cameron of WAKE UP Enterprises.

Laurie is literally the best coach I know. She is also the best coach trainer I know.

In 2001 I co-created curriculum for Coach Training Alliance and I designed their certified coach program, I was their first trainer. Then I brought Laurie in. She surpassed me significantly and she is their Senior Mentor Coach now.

I first met Laurie 20 years or so ago at the Denver chapter of the International Coach Federation and we became fast friends. We were both on the board there. Beyond that, Laurie and I have been accountability partners for each other and doing a little co-coaching now and then. Something every coach needs.

LAURIE CAMERON: I am really excited and thank you for all those kind words that made my week as well. So I’m really thrilled to be here.

The Most Powerful Coaching Skill

RHONDA: Laurie, I’m going to ask you some questions. I hope they’re powerful questions because that’s the topic that we’re bringing today. So I wanted to start with … What is your favorite coaching skill, Laurie, and why?

LAURIE CAMERON: I would like to ask you a question in return. Complete this sentence: If you want better answers, you …?

RHONDA: … have to ask the right questions.

LAURIE CAMERON: Close. See when I do full day coach training workshops with leaders and managers and when I train coaches through coach training Alliance, that’s the common answer. A better answer is you have to craft better questions.

RHONDA: Nice distinction.

LAURIE CAMERON: Thank you. Questions are amazing and they’re even more amazing and more powerful when you are adept at putting words together in a way that draw somebody’s wisdom out and draw out something new and, and send them deep. That’s why I love powerful questions and learning how to craft them.

Take Your Time To Formulate Powerful Questions

RHONDA: That’s great. I wanted to notice something. You know, you asked me that question and I jumped with my answer. You’re talking about crafting and crafting takes some time. How can a coach that’s in the middle of a coaching session take the time to craft a question?

LAURIE CAMERON: Well, it’s about taking the time to do that actually. And one of the challenges that I’ve noticed that newer coaches have about asking questions is they don’t take the time to craft one before they start asking it.

So as soon as the kernel of a question pops into their head, it’s coming out their mouth, they are revising it, editing it out loud, and it actually turns into this long thing that the client just loses track of.

Learning how to craft a powerful question is more about taking the time, pausing, being comfortable with the silence — which is also a challenge for a lot of coaches — and crafting internally before they open their mouth.

LAURIE CAMERON: That’s great to know and it reminds me that a lot of times when I’m working with my own clients. I have something to say, could be a question or it could be anything, but if I don’t quite have it ready yet, I’ll just buy myself some time. I’ll just say: Give me a second, I thinking.

It’s Okay to Be Human and Transparent with Your Coaching Clients

LAURIE CAMERON: What makes coaching not only powerful is you can be transparent. You can be vulnerable. You can say, give me a minute. Or I found myself occasionally stopping mid question and saying: Wait a minute, that’s not the question I want to ask. Let me redo this.

RHONDA: Exactly. That is so important to remember that even though someone is paying you for this service, if you put yourself up on a pedestal that actually becomes worse for you and them.

When you’re training coaches, what are some of the biggest challenges that new coaches have with asking pithy questions?

LAURIE CAMERON: I love pithy. That’s a great way to describe really important, powerful questions because those are the questions that get to the heart of the matter really, really quickly.

The Continuum: Moving Towards Mastery in Crafting Powerful Questions

LAURIE CAMERON: So one challenge is not taking the time to craft a question before they open their mouth. Another one is asking what the client is doing now or what they’ve already done about their agenda.

So let’s just say a client’s agenda is — I want to manage my energy better during the week. I hear a lot of coaches say something like: What have you done so far? Or … What are you doing now? Until you really learn how to craft a powerful question, that sounds like a great question.

But, there’s no pith in it, right? There’s no challenge to the client to think about how to move forward. What they’ve been doing or what they’re doing now that is not working and they want something different.

RHONDA: That makes a lot of sense. Do you have an example of a different thing that they could say?

LAURIE CAMERON: With our example — I want to manage my energy better during the week — a more powerful question might be: When you’re managing your energy, what does your week look like?

RHONDA: You’re asking them to think about the ideal.

LAURIE CAMERON: Yes. You want to help them uncover and create in their life.

Asking … What have you done so far? What are you doing now? It’s not necessarily a bad or a wrong question. Mastering coaching really is moving along the continuum from less powerful to more powerful.

RHONDA: That’s a great point. There’s the concept of continuous improvement. It’s not about being perfect today or having it all nailed down before I take a move, but rather to just say “Okay, I’m going to do what I can today with what I know.”

LAURIE CAMERON: So it’s less powerful to ask the current or past questions and more powerful to ask what do you want to move forward towards? Because that’s coachable.

The Qualities of a Powerful Question

RHONDA: That’s a fantastic distinction. Okay, so now I would really like to hear if there’s a formula for how to get further down that continuum to more powerful questions.

LAURIE CAMERON: Well and I don’t know that this is so much of a formula as it is a list of qualities of a powerful coaching question. So perhaps they’re, they’re similar in there.

First and foremost it’s short.

I hear a lot of newer coaches ask a question, ask another question with lots of different punctuation marks in it and pauses. And it’s really easy for a client to get totally lost in that.

“So client, when you think of all the things you just talked about, the timing of the project, the obstacles, the resources you have or the resources you need, what do you think is the most important piece to consider first, you know, before all the others can actually come to fruition and then you can move forward and figure it all out?”

RHONDA: Yeah, I’m overwhelmed just hearing that

LAURIE CAMERON: It’s, it’s very easy to get lost. So the more powerful question would be to say: So what has to happen first?

RHONDA: So simple!

LAURIE CAMERON: That’s five words.

RHONDA: I think most people who are overwhelmed are not able to really see themselves clearly. And that’s why coaching is so helpful. All of us get into that place of overwhelm. Getting out is about setting priorities. What is the next step?

LAURIE CAMERON: Yeah, helping a client figure out what they want to do or where they want to go and then create a strategy to bridge the gap from where they are to where they want to go and create an action plan to make that happen.

RHONDA: Is there anything else that that goes into the formula or the list of characteristics?

LAURIE CAMERON: Open-ended. And I think a lot of people are really aware of that. Being aware of it and noticing it when it’s coming out of your mouth are two different

A closed ended, yes or no question might be —and I hear this one a lot too — is something along the lines of “So do you think you can figure out how to make this viable?”

And it’s clear the coach wants to know and wanting to challenge the client and yet there are only two options with closed questions. Yes, I think I can figure it out. No, I don’t think I can figure it out.

It’s actually more powerful just to ask an open-ended question. What will it take to make the project viable?

RHONDA: Yes. Who, what, when, where, how and occasionally why. Although I’m not a big fan of why

LAURIE CAMERON: Me either.

An open-ended question assumes success. It’s saying I believe in you. This is what you want to do. So what’s it going to take to make that happen?

RHONDA: It’s empowering.

LAURIE CAMERON: definitely empowering. And at the same time there are very few moments where a closed ended yes or no question actually can be more powerful and most typically that’s towards the end of a coaching session when the coach is asking the client for commitment. Something like: Are you willing to do what it takes to make this work?

If a client says yes, then they have stepped up, they are ready for accountability.

RHONDA: And there’s a bit of challenge in that question after you’ve helped to empower the person to later on ask a challenging question is a really great thing to do with your clients, because coaches who challenge their clients actually get a lot more from their clients.

LAURIE CAMERON: Yeah. Letting clients off the hook is not really leveraging their investment in you.

Why Not Ask Why?

RHONDA: Yeah. You know, before we get too far off of it, I just wanted to go back to the why thing. You and I both said we’re not a big fan of why questions and I would love to hear your reason for why not why?

LAURIE CAMERON: Well, a couple of them. One, there’s an underlying judgment in a why question and even if it’s not the intention of it, and even if the person hearing the why question is not fully cognizant, it’s as if a parental unit is standing there wagging their finger saying, so why didn’t you do this? Why didn’t you do that?

And with that judgment comes a need to defend one’s actions.

Two, it perpetuates the story. Why questions put people on the defensive.

RHONDA: So if a coach is wondering why, how can they ask their client something without why?

LAURIE CAMERON: What would be an example of a why question that comes to mind, Rhonda?

RHONDA: Why in the world would you ask me that? Lori?

LAURIE CAMERON: Thank you. That’s great LOL. Well, I would re frame that as: Where’s this question coming from do you think?

RHONDA: Yes! And by the way, sometimes it doesn’t have to be a question, but more of an inquiry. I am a big fan of saying … Tell me more about that.

Multiple Choice Coaching Doesn’t Land Well

LAURIE CAMERON: That’s a wonderful way to invite your client to dig deeper. As long as you give them silence.

This is another challenge I hear from newer coaches … they just start asking question after question after question. A powerful question will stand on its own.

I hear a lot of times what I call multiple choice coaching where a coach might say:

How do you see yourself being accountable for tracking your progress? Do you need to track it on the calendar or maybe talk to somebody, get somebody on board with it? What do you think?

What happens in those instances is whatever options or possibilities that are popping into the coach’s head, if they put those out there in answer to their own question, it limits the client’s options. As opposed to saying: How do you see yourself being accountable for tracking your progress? Question mark. Be quiet. Let the client go through their own options, their own choices and sort through that rather than limiting them.

RHONDA: I’m so guilty of that one.

LAURIE CAMERON: You get to be human too.

Universally Powerful Questions For Any Agenda

RHONDA: Let’s move on to another question. Are there any questions that you think are universally excellent or powerful for numerous coaching agendas?

LAURIE CAMERON: Oh, of course. Yes. I definitely have my favorite —what I call toolbox questions.

These are questions that are generic and fundamentally powerful when you customize it with the client’s agenda or goal or action. Can I share three of them?

RHONDA: Yeah, please!

LAURIE CAMERON: Okay. My first one is typically at the beginning of a session just after the takeaway is clear for both coach and client is, I call it THE MAGIC WAND QUESTION.

You know … the perfect outcome, ideal resolution. You touched on that a little bit earlier. Ask a client to tap into their true desire and paint that picture of success without worrying about the how yet.

It’s saying … What do you really, really want? Don’t think yet about how you’re going to do it or if it’s possible or any of that. That’s not on the table yet. For right now be bold, be big, dream big, be creative.

And the client might not actually realize that ideal situation. But when they start with what they really, really want and you coach them to move in that direction, there are a lot more likely to get more of what they want.

RHONDA: Great. Love that one.

LAURIE CAMERON: Okay. And another is: How will you know when you’re successful?

I love this one because it asks your client to project themselves into a future state of success and describe it. It’s kind of similar to the magic wand question. And when they answer this kind of a question, what they’re doing is they’re also identifying the parameters that they’ll use to evaluate their success and their progress.

So it opens the door for them to strategize what actions they have to take in order to move in that direction. If we use the same agenda that we were talking about before — I want to manage my energy better during the week, we ask: How will you know you’re successful?

It helps the client think forward in they might say: Well, I’ll have enough time in the evenings to spend with my kids. I’ll be exercising consistently and how, you know, when I get home on Friday, I won’t just drop onto the couch and pass out. I’ll have enough energy to go out and have some fun in the client. Identifying how they’ll recognize success when they’re in the middle of it.

They already have three things that they want to make sure they do. Spend time with the kids in the evening exercise consistently and go out and have fun on Fridays.

RHONDA: I would, in that situation, repeat to them the things they said.

LAURIE CAMERON: Yeah, absolutely. And that leads me to my third really favorite toolbox.

What will it take to …? And you fill in that … with the, the agenda, action or goal.

So what will it take to make sure you have time to spend with your kids in the evening exercise consistently and come home on Fridays with enough energy to go have fun? Yeah.

That what will it take question kicks it into strategy mode and you could say: What’s your plan to do that?

There’s something about the word ‘plan’ that is abstract and they have to start thinking in different ways.

But the question: What will it take to do what you want to do? is simple, more direct. And I’ve discovered that it’s easier for clients to go right into planning and strategizing mode and then you can coach them:

  • to figure out what level of accountability
  • how are they going to put this into place

There are three variations that I have of the What will it take question:

  1. What has to happen?
  2. What has to be different?
  3. What has to be in place?

The Coaching Skills Quickstart Giveaway

RHONDA: Great. They’re subtle but they’re simple. And Laurie, I know that you have something that you’d like to give everybody listening. What is it? And where can they find it?

LAURIE CAMERON: A list of Sample Toolbox Questions — all the ones that I’ve talked about plus a handful more.

This list of toolbox questions is adapted from a self-study guide I wrote for leaders and managers called The Coaching Skills Quickstart and I retooled it back to professional coaches and what they might come up against in a session with a client.

RHONDA: Brilliant gift. You can find that at https://wakeupenterprises.com/prosperous-coach/

By the way … know that whenever there are links shared with you verbally on these episodes, it’s really easy to go find this stuff. If you’re listening to the podcast on a podcast app, then it will be in the show notes. If you click details on there. If you’re listening to it on my website, well it’s right there in front of you in the SHOW NOTES.

So Laurie, I just want to thank you so much for your time, for your incredible expertise and I’m definitely downloading that baby for myself!

LAURIE CAMERON: Wonderful. It’s always such a joy and a treat and an honor to spend any kind of time with you, Rhonda. Thank you.

RHONDA: You are so welcome. My absolute pleasure. I feel the same way about you, so virtual hugs to all!

Ep 138 – A Coaching Skill You Might Not Have Learned Yet

This episode is about a coaching skill you might not have learned in coach training school. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s a relationship skill.

A few weeks ago one of my VIP clients emailed me asking if she could coach me in our next session to get more practice. It totally took me by surprise. No client had ever asked that before.

And I felt conflicted about it so I gave it some careful thought before responding. It wasn’t without risk. How might it affect our mentoring relationship?

I decided to say ‘yes’ if I could think of a good topic. It had to be something real for me because making something up would not give her practice. And it needed to be complex enough to truly challenge her.

And then I realized my topic was staring me in the face. I had been deliberating about a very serious decision. Something that involved my health, finances and it affected my partner too. Suddenly I felt gifted by the Universe because I really did need an objective person to share this dilemma with.

Into the Co-Creative Relationship

So in our next session we jumped into the co-creative relationship.

My client’s coaching was near to flawless. In fact, it was some of the best coaching I’d ever experienced. I came away from the conversation feeling clear about my next steps and leaning towards a decision that would honor my values and needs.

After coaching, we both stepped out of the co-creative role. She asked for feedback and it was easy to give her praise about a dozen things. There was only one thing that I thought needed correction.

Because I’d been working with this coach for a few months already, this thing hadn’t affected my ability to be coached well. But, I knew that it could be an issue for her with a new client if she didn’t make changes. It could even affect her ability to enroll a new client.

During our coaching her voice was a bit flat. Technically, she was masterful. Asking all the right questions with excellent timing and moving me through to my decision without advising or manipulating.

Voice Matters

But energetically, I didn’t feel enough human connection in the coaching. And this is important! It was not about the words she spoke. It was about the lack of feeling conveyed in the words through her voice.

Voices are amazing things. They have the power to communicate beyond words.

I first learned this in college when I took a voice and diction class. At the end of the semester my professor clapped his hand on my shoulders and looked directly into my eyes saying: “You must do something professional with your voice, Rhonda.”

That had impact I can tell you. But I didn’t become a singer or actor or broadcaster. I became a coach.

I’ve used my voice a lot of the last two decades. Never so much as with my podcast, which has given my voice more range in multiple ways. It’s impacting more people than ever.

Just the other day in a Discovery Call a prospect said to me: “You sound just like your podcast!” It seemed that was reassuring to her. And I felt a kind of connection that I don’t think couldn’t have come from her reading a bunch of blogs I’d written.

Back to my client – the excellent coach … I suggested that she raise the energy of her voice. Inject it with human connection. Just a subtle shift would make a big difference.

And she immediately knew what I meant. She recognized that in concentrating so much to use the coaching model and ask the right questions that her attention wasn’t on the energy she was conveying.

And she also noted that she could relate to the dilemma I brought in my agenda, which she said threw her off a bit, though I could not tell.

You can convey so much with minor modulation in your voice. Changes in the timbre of your voice, speed, volume, enunciation, and word emphasis add meaning beyond words.

Imagine that you are in session with a client. How can you convey softness in few words without sounding parental or overstepping a boundary? Could you hear the warmth in my voice just now?

How can you shine a smile or convey humor through your voice? I literally did smile as I said that.

How can you call attention to what you’re saying without becoming loud?

Did you notice that I slowed my words down just then and put a bit more emphasis on certain words? My mouth worked a bit more to put more meaning into the words.

If you’re meeting face to face with clients, you might not need to inject more humanity into your voice. It can also come across with a gesture or look on your face. You shine light through your eyes.

I’ve always preferred to coach over the phone. I’m an introvert. Plus I like to take notes. And I know there is intimacy in speaking directly into my client’s ears and they into mine. From my client’s voice I can read body language. I can tell a lot just by the tone, speed and little elements in their voice.

You can too. All it takes is attention to this. Now maybe you already modulate your voice for meaning. Or maybe you could use more subtlety in your voice. I think you know instinctively what you need to do to be an even more masterful coach.

Ep 136 – The Downside of Coaching for Corporations

This episode is for those thinking they’ll make a lot more money coaching for corporations.

I had a Strategy Session recently with a client to help him choose his target audience and niche. We were discussing whether he wanted to target individuals or corporations.

I asked that because I could see his expertise and interests were centered on helping execs develop talent.

At first he wasn’t sure so I told him the pros and cons of targeting corporations. Mainly, it’s about the hassle factor.

When a corporation hires you you will likely have to:

  • Compete for the many corporate and executive coaches plus coaching firms.
  • Write proposals and give presentations to get the contract.
  • Invoice the organization and be paid slowly.
  • Be certified by the International Coach Federation or another well-known accreditor.
  • Have significant expertise in corporate and possibly in the roles you’ll coach.
  • Possibly report to the supervisor or HR department about your progress.
  • And likely not be able to hold all confidences.

Not to mention that you will have to charge market rates.

All of that boils down to giving up a lot of control — of your income, your hours, what you deliver and how.

Also, you’ll need to market to the decision maker — the person who will evaluate and hire you — rather than the individual or groups you coach. You’ll need your website and other messaging to be about the outcomes the corporation wants not the individuals.

A lot of people believe that you can earn significantly more money with corporate contracts. Not necessarily true.

You may earn more for a set term or contract but only if you don’t charge higher prices for work you do with individuals.

I advocate that coaches create a long term, high ticket Signature Program and provide a VIP service to individuals. You’ll only need a handful of clients each year and can earn well.

Me? I like to control every aspect of my business. It’s one of the main reasons I wanted to work for myself.

I want to decide exactly how I’ll work with clients, what I’ll charge, when I work and who I serve. A good fit is important. That won’t be 100% possible with corporate coaching.

With corporate coaching you may not have control over any of those things.

I also really appreciate that the people I serve and also the people that invest in working with me. I find they are highly dedicated to the process and their own success. Whereas sometimes when someone else is paying for the services the individual you coach is not fully invested.

Think about it … when you pay out of your own pocket you’re a lot more motivated to squeeze all the juice out of the experience.

All that said … I realize that for some your skills, background and passions may be perfect for corporate coaching. So, if you decide to go that way do your best to have control over your business.

The best way to do that is to narrow your focus. That’s right … niche down.

Rather than trying to do everything for all corporate employees, specialize. If you become known for offering something no one else does in the corporate arena, and it’s something that is highly prized by decision makers, you’ll have more control.

That Strategy Session client? That’s what he decided. To avoid the dog and pony show he’s targeting mid-size businesses in a certain industry.

These businesses don’t have internal human development departments. They aren’t snobby about certifications. They want competent help and will recognize it by the fact that he speaks their language and understands what’s in the way of their big goals. Smart!

That’s how you stand out!