I was struck by a question posed recently by Susan Hyatt, a leader in the life coaching industry and the passionate and courageous author of Bare, an anti-diet book that focusses the reader on loving her body and living her life.
I was listening to Susan teaching a webinar on marketing for coaches. Susan shared her belief with us that a coach’s first step should be to examine who she is.
Susan’s question struck me as interesting and novel. Why novel? Because, the typical marketing advice I’ve received since becoming a coach is to start by defining our “client avatar” (an imaginary person meant to represent our ideal client.)
The client avatar concept is useful because it helps us imagine how the people we want to serve are feeling and thinking. This allows us to write marketing copy that connects emotionally with our prospective clients.
The theory is that we should focus our marketing and our coaching practice on our clients’ needs rather than what we want to offer. After all, we’re in a service business. Coaching is not about the coach, but about the client.
This all makes sense. But the result is that many new coaches focus on defining their market niche and skip over the step of thinking deeply about who they are and how who they are can help their clients.
I believe that the best coaches in any field are the coaches who have personally lived the transformation they offer their clients.
When we have overcome obstacles and grown in an area of our life, we’re able to offer insights from our own life’s journey. We’re not just imparting teachings from our training, the books we’ve read and other people’s stories. We’re adding years of experience to the mix.
We can understand the struggles the client might be having, because we have had them too. We have experienced the fears and anxiety that inevitably accompany the change we’re offering. We know the negative emotions that occur as the client learns to shift her thinking, actions and results.
We have the credibility of having been there, done that, fixed it, evolved. We can be a beacon of hope.
In my case, I used to think that I could best inspire my clients by sharing the positive side of my own story of transformation. I went from being a tax lawyer who thought I was “not artistic” to a full-time artist who sells my paintings. Through my own transformation, I developed a knowing that when we have a deep yearning to do something, we can make that thing happen.
But I soon realized my clients are even more desperate to know that I have overcome the struggles, challenges, doubts and fears they are experiencing. They need to know that I’m not a special case.
I’ve had the privilege as a coach of learning that the majority of us, no matter how accomplished, are plagued by secret doubts, not enough confidence, feelings of unworthiness and a conviction that some of the obstacles facing us can’t be overcome.
When clients don’t see our humanness, they think their own humanness means something is wrong with them and they don’t believe that the offered transformation is possible for them.
I liked Susan’s question because it got me to really think about who I am and how I present myself to my clients. I believe that being honest about all of it, including the challenges I’ve faced and overcome, as well as the obstacles that cross my path now, is the best way to help inspire their self-belief.
I believe that some of you will see pieces of yourself in my responses to Susan’s question. My hope is that if any part of you yearns to do what I’ve done, that part of you will know after reading this that it is possible for you to do it too:
I’m a woman who is regularly anxious, and sometimes downright scared, but who keeps moving forward anyway.
I’m a woman who spent most of my life trying to please other people and do what was expected… until I didn’t. (Except every once in awhile when I forget!)
I’m a woman who believed for decades that I was neither artistic nor creative. And then suddenly believed I was both and started to paint.
I’m a woman who had 9 years of university and used to think I had to be well schooled with years of experience in my field in order to have anything valuable to offer. Then I decided to teach myself to paint, with no formal training, and painted from my heart. And I found that I loved my paintings more, and considered them to be more valuable, than all the things I had trained for years to do.
I’m a woman who doesn’t like to follow rules – almost ever – but for decades was a lawyer and eventually a senior partner in one of the Big Four accounting firms. (Go figure! No pun intended.)
I’m a woman who believed I needed to be perfect and didn’t like to do anything new because I wouldn’t be good at it, who suddenly started only doing new things. (And who sometimes still hates not being perfect at them! Until I remember that I don’t need to be perfect!)
I’m a woman who fussed about turning 30, then 40, then 50, but who decided on my 54th birthday that age would no longer define anything about me or be a barrier to creating anything I want. I’m turning 60 this year and feeling far younger than I did two and even three decades ago!
I’m woman who is building (literally – I’m constructing a building!) my dream so that I can show other people what is possible when we believe in ourselves enough to bet on us.
I’m a woman who has learned that the best answers come from inside, but who sometimes succumbs to thinking other people have better answers for me.
I’m a woman who understands that loving myself in all my humanness and with all my weaknesses is how I can truly create value for my clients.
I’m a woman who has learned that sharing my struggles is more inspiring than just talking about the positive changes in my life.
If you’d like to explore how my coaching could help you create the life you want, I’m offering free personal strategy sessions. Click on https://gracedcanvascalendar.as.me/schedule.php to directly access my scheduling page.
P.S. I’m proud to be one of the 35 contributors to the book, Ignite Your Life for Women, which immediately hit Amazon best seller status in 4 countries. Each woman bravely shares her stories, struggles and achievements in a heartfelt way, and provides practical tips to help readers transform their own lives. You can buy the book on Amazon or in Barnes and Noble stores and other retail outlets.