by Brian Bennett
“We can strive and clench and grab and gain and control all day long. But there’s no freedom in that form of ownership. The only way to experience life as an entrepreneur is in the way God designed it. It is to place our entire identity in him and to view ourselves as stewards of whatever he has put in our hands.” -Harry Kaestner, JD Greear & Chip Ingram
The silence was deafening as I waited for the phone to ring after finishing my training and becoming a certified coach. I had invested hours of reading, coaching practice, and conversations with fellow coaches over multiple years, eagerly awaiting the next phase of letting the world know that I was ready to serve. And for six months the phone didn’t ring. Looking back there were clear reasons the phone didn’t ring, I held many uncalibrated assumptions and was insecure about telling the world what the Lord had called me to do. I was so excited when I finally got my first paying client and began what would be a multi-year coaching partnership. Over time, as I had the chance to work with more clients, I realized the journey from training to traction with my coaching practice was going to require a lot of prayer, iteration, and experimentation.
Experimentation is a mindset shift that is a necessary reality for building a coaching practice. It feels more comfortable to be an expert, to have it all figured out. Often those transitioning into coaching leave fields or vocational experiences where they’ve developed some form of expertise. It can feel vulnerable to be in exploration mode. But as we train further in the principles and paradigms of coaching, we realize experimenting and exploring are powerful places to be and necessary paths of the journey.
Reflect on your experimentation mindset as we explore these four experimentation principles.
1. It all comes back to our identity in Christ
“See what great love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God! And this is what we are!” (1 John 3:1a, NIV). Like all things, our hearts can wonder to find value in how many clients we’re working with, how great a session went, or any number of comparison factors with other coaches. The journey to serve with a measure of freedom and focus requires us to reclaim our identity in Christ daily! This is especially important before a coaching session, so we are the most rooted, most free, most settled version of ourselves as we seek to show up powerfully for the client. The more we claim and reclaim our identity in Christ, the more we can say “yes” to the beautiful journey God has ahead of us.
Reflection Q: What helps you reclaim your identity in Christ as a coach?
2. Go deeper with your ideal client
With a foundation of finding our identity in Christ, we can focus on discovering who God has made us to be as a coach and also on who he has called us to serve. I like, many other coaches, have made the mistake of defining my ideal client with too broad of a focus. We are so hungry to get coaching that many times we are happy to work with anyone who will welcome us to get going! But with experimentation, refinement, and reflection, we often discover that we are best suited to serve and most fulfilled working with an ideal client. The ideal client represents the attributes of the person we will work best with. Another danger is identifying this ideal client but not diving deep to really understand the job they are trying to use coaching to solve in their life, what benefit they seek from coaching, and all the key factors that are important to them in working with a coach.
Reflection Q: How clear is your ideal client? How can you get to know them with deeper insight?
3. Failure is the next step to success
“Failure is a prerequisite to learning (Ries, 2011).” Failure is a scary word, so much so that some would suggest eliminating the word, because we don’t fail, only succeed or learn. I am comfortable with the word failure, recognizing it is a moment on the journey when we don’t achieve what we set out to achieve. Our mindset toward failure will have a significant impact on our journey as a coach. When we view failure as an event, a pass/fail moment, failure is our enemy. When we view it as part of the process of learning, growth, and alignment, it is a crucial step. In fact, the faster we fail, the more quickly we often find our higher and better path.
Reflection Q: Where do you need to give yourself permission to experiment in your coaching journey?
4. Build it as you go
Wouldn’t it be nice to get every word on your website just right, every program and package fully completed, and never need to invest in any further coaching development before you turn your “I’m Open for Coaching” sign on? The more we create in isolation from our ideal client, the greater the chance we will be off-target with our finished product. It seems backward. It’s counterintuitive. And waiting and tinkering also support avoiding the need to access courage by engaging with the client. We can tinker away forever in the safety of the harbor and never really sail our boat. Constantly painting and patching and talking about our plan to set sail and yet at the end of the day we may have the most prime boat in the harbor, but we don’t know the joy of setting sail. The information we get from sailing with our ideal clients tells us who they are, what they want, why they want it, and how we can best partner with them. It tests, exposes, and refines all of our assumptions. A build-it-as-you-go mindset pulls through the voice of our ideal client into all we do, helping to align our coaching and programs to the true client profile.
Reflection Q: What am I learning as I continue to build it as I go?
I know very few coaches whose paths have been a straight line. Many have been surprised by how their coaching journey evolved as they learned more about God’s purposes in their life, themselves as a coach, and about the clients they serve. The journey of becoming a coach and building a coaching practice is one that often offers further clarity as we continue walking out God’s purposes, engaging with clients, collaborating with fellow coaches, and learning forward along the way. Our understanding of who we are as a coach, who we are called to serve, and how we are called to serve them often pivots, expands, and is enhanced as we curiously experiment and explore. Don’t fear, God is with you. You are his beloved. Happy experimenting and discovery on the path to serving your ideal clients.