Food for thought
Coach, what is thy color?
by Karsten Drath
Why should anyone be coached by you?
One exercise that we are doing with all new coaches who are joining our company is to brainstorm together with them what makes them truly unique as a coach. At Leadership Choices, we strongly believe in the value of individuality and the concept of the personal brand of each professional. Other organizations rather focus on conformity because this is an important enabler to scaling leadership programs and generate a similar coaching experience for many clients at the same time. However, this is just not our way of working. We also experience that some more unexperienced coaches feel that building a personal brand may limit their options in getting work because you may not be ticking all the right boxes. While that is possible, our experience is that having developed a brand which is connected to rather specific attributes makes it less likely that you will be overlooked when you would be a great match as a coach.
Any brand requires leverage
For coaches who are working alone developing a brand is even more important, however it is also way more difficult. On the one hand side, there is an even higher temptation trying to tick all the boxes in order not to miss out on potential work. As a result, many coaches end up being interchangeable “me-toos”. On the other hand, once identified the brand information also needs to be relayed to the market which requires a lot of time and effort. Within an organization were several dozens of coaches work together we recommend each other based on the brand which every colleague has developed over the time.
Here are some of the criteria we look for.
Finding the right coach for a client is not a trivial task. Here, the personality traits of a coach play an important role to create the right match. Qualities such as extravert or introvert, calm or tempered, detailed or big picture, challenging or harmonious make a big difference and it is important to be aware of them.
Area of specialization
What is your area of specialization? Which topics or type of clients fascinate you? Which job functions or industries appeal to you? Where have you developed a unique expertise over the years? This is a key element of your brand.
Gender and age
Some coaching topics are universal others are not. For example, many female clients want to be coached by female coaches, others insist on being coached by a male because they expect a better understanding of a man’s way of thinking and acting. Many leaders of start-up companies find it easier to open up to a person of a similar age group rather than a sixty-year-old. Other more traditional clients find that a coach in his forty’s may be too inexperienced for their challenges.
We often experience that clients find it hard to select a coach based on his or her profile. But if they have to they often make a decision based on the executive experience of a coach. A CEO may find that a coach who has been a CEO, too, is more likely to have a better understanding for the challenges he or she is facing. This may be true or not but again, perception is reality here. So the street credibility of your biography matters a lot.
Coaching style and format
What is your preference in terms of coaching style? Parameters like the favorite duration of your sessions (short and frequent check-ins vs. occasional deep-dive sessions) are important. Also, your coaching style (asking questions vs. giving advise; rather supportive vs. rather challenging) plays a role. Do you rather work with individuals or do you prefer coaching teams?
Obviously, location plays a role. Buyers of coaching services get more and more sensitive to travel costs and we observe this even on top echelons. So, your locations and travel patterns are of relevance for your brand, too.
What are you other than a professional coach? Are you a strategist or a sales executive? Are you an engineer or an IT person? Do you perform any past-time activities on a professional level, like flying an airplane or horse-back riding? All of that adds to your brand in a unique way.
In which countries have you lived and worked before? Where did you like it and where do you never want to go back to again? What have you learned about yourself by living in these places? All of that might be very valuable to a client in a situation where this experience is of high demand.
Personal transformation story
There is a saying that goes somehow like: The best guide across a mountain is the person who just returned from it. This is simply because these remember best how tough it was and what helped them to get across hurdles and obstacles along the way. So, what is your personal story of transformation? Where in your life have you been a caterpillar and are a butterfly now? And what do you still have to learn for yourself?
Finally, the way how you look at life plays a role for your brand, too, and it requires quite a bit of soul-searching (or listening to your clients as they talk about you) to find out what that might be. Do you radiate unbeatable optimism or are you a natural devil’s advocate? Do you believe in the good in people or are you rather realistic when it comes to the boundaries of human development? If you had to decide would you rather coach for achieving life purpose or to achieve measurable success?
For all of the above there are no right or wrong answers. The point is to find out what makes you unique and how this can be combined intelligently to a brand which shows your true color. Obviously, this requires a bit of work and creativity.
So, what is your color?
Karsten Drath works with top managers and their teams to improve their leadership effectiveness and resilience. He is a certified Executive Coach and Psychotherapist, a published author and keynote speaker, and is one of the Managing Partners of Leadership Choices, an international consultancy focusing on leadership development at Top Management level. Looking back on more than 15 years of own leadership experience in several international roles he knows the challenges that come with the executive lifestyle and also how to cope with them.