Hi ,

 

This email is long.

 

I start off talking about my migraine and segue into why I'm annoyed about the coaching industry with some rants and thoughts.

 

Enjoy!

I've had a migraine this last week or so, I've managed to get things done in between - which is why I thought 'it's only a headache' but it took my Dr to confirm that something that long lasting and impactful at its peak is definitely more than a headache.

 

I'm sorting it - it's hormone related for sure, has been happening for most of the year and maybe longer, alongside other symptoms that I don't want to just have to put up with getting worse over time.

 

But my point in sharing that is that it sent me into a really negative head space mentally. Here's a taster of the thoughts for you to enjoy:

- I'm not present enough to show I'm 'back'

- I should be doing more, why can't I muster up the energy to do more?

- Loads of people I know wrote a book on their maternity leave/during lockdown/in their spare evenings, why can't I get my head round doing one too?

- Why can't I plan for 2021 right now? What's wrong with me

- Why am I not as efficient as I think I am?

- Why can't I just FOCUS

 

The point really is that I wasn't very gentle to my brain. I was good physically - I rested, went outside, slept. I was still able to be with the babe fully and the clients I saw fell on days outside of the peak of the pain. And it wasn't until my head started to clear that I could notice how toxic those thoughts had been, and are.

 

This is exactly why I DO need more gentleness, always. 

 

I'm not naturally kind or compassionate to myself. I have always put myself under pressure, and thankfully I've learnt so many ways, over a long period of time, how to manage and calm this side of me, but it still rears it's head.

 

 

Somewhere in that thinking I was also over-thinking about a furore that a corner of the internet, and some in the coaching world, has been consumed by.

 

As I said above I've no personal involvement in the situation other than through peers who may have gotten involved but backed out. But I do have a professional involvement in that I’m invested in the coaching industry and can see these sorts of situations add fuel to the fire of it being unregulated and prone to potential scamming, or the perception of scams, and how to support good coaches be seen and heard through the noise. 

 

If you're not aware of what's been happening (and, honestly, why should you be if you don't spend any time on instagram) this is an article with many of the details.

First, I’m not here to call anyone out. Where I want to come in is how this kind of situation impacts coaches, and the industry around it, and only perpetuates the poor reputation it can have, particularly amongst skeptics.

Rightly so though - this situation wasn't great, and it's served to confirm some people's beliefs that coaching is, well, what?

Not Regulated? It's not, completely.

Not Professional? What’s the definition anyway? Many coaches are, some aren’t 

A get rich quick scheme? Some might use it like that, I and many others don't

An MLM / Pyramid scheme? I'll come onto that below..

 

The second point to note before I go further is that I'm not here to change anyone's mind about coaching per se - I don’t particularly want to spend time convincing skeptics that coaching works. I’ve seen it and have plenty of anecdotal, social and even medical evidence to know it does. 

 

But I do want to support coaches who are once again floored by how some other coaches, and people calling themselves coaches who aren’t, work. 

 

To support the coaches who are trained and have valid, exceptional experience to hold space for people, to help them change their lives in deep ways, to help them make sustainable changes - money, growth, mental wellbeing, whatever.

  

And when a situation occurs that confirms the dark side for even supporters of coaching, then it’s not great news, and inevitably good coaches, who don’t use the dark arts or dodgy tactics - but are put into the same camp as those who do - come out worse too.

 

And, the final note - what, and who, is a good coach anyway?


The fact this and other situations like it happen is because the industry - coaching, marketing, online business - is able to be used and at times abused, so how do we distinguish the good from the bad users? How do we measure both, when there’s no one standard? Do we even want to argue for one, across ALL those industries? I’m not sure even I do.

Here’s the main things this saga has bought up for me:

 

  • I’m questioning myself a little too much in the process - I use some of the same techniques talked about in the article but call myself one of the good guys, so am I really?

 

  • I’m annoyed that services are called coaching when really they’re mentoring and - even if it was either - the quality of service provided can be a broad, subjective range.

 

  • I’m annoyed that some ‘coaches’ actually are marketers and teaching marketing without being explicit about that.

 

  • That coaching can be perceived as a pyramid scheme

 

  • ‘Good’ coaches are questioning themselves, finding themselves wondering if they’re dodgy, if they’re allowed to talk about helping people earn money, raising their rates, be more confident because ultimately will it just look like they’re part of a scam too?

About the techniques I and others might use. 

 

I’m talking about:

 

  • Course launches with rapid open and close doors
  • Limited spaces
  • Discounts for early birds
  • VIP rates
  • Prices rising with less availability
  • Creating a buzz around the programme using others’ voices
  • High ticket pricing (121 or group programmes)
  • Money and commitment discussion e.g. what change will happen without your commitment to invest (time, money, resources) in this?

 

They’re not inherently bad techniques, despite - as I see them in a list - feeling a little hesitant about how they look. 

 

I’ve been on the receiving end of all these ways of marketing, selling, launching, investing and sometimes I’ve hated it, balked at the idea and found it annoying (ALL THE EMAILS!). 

 

Other times I’ve absolutely loved it - I want the time limit, the updates on who’s signing up and the ability to question if I really want this now. 

 

So it’s not the technique I particularly mind and I don’t think it’s what many of the people in this specific situation minded either - it’s what then comes after that matters. Well, it’s also whether you trust and respect the person or brand selling it to you, but sometimes we don’t know that until we’ve actually experienced their service or product right?



So, I don’t always mind the techniques that MIGHT be seen as scammy or persuasive. I think they can be really, really helpful in many cases. 

 

Most people I know, who’ve set up a business - coaching or not - have had to quickly get very good at not just their service or product offering but marketing and selling it too - and mostly online. So it’s not like these are alien to many of us. But when the service (or product) doesn’t live up to expectations it’s crap for everyone.

 

But when those techniques are used alongside what would be classed as mis-selling - it’s problematic.

 

And when THAT’S then happening and it’s seen as ‘coaching’ it’s bloody frustrating and an insult to the highly trained, qualified and experienced coaches who provide amazing services.

 

Once again I’m thrown back into the subjective argument - some people said the services that are talked about in @Thewotpod article were very good.

 

And coaching is so subjective - sure, you can say ‘I’ll help you get out of relationship’ (although coaches would be careful to make promises like that), or ‘I’ll help you get to 10k a month’ but again the parameters have to be really clear to know what the client and coach would need to do to get there and I think too many coaches - good ones too! - AREN’T clear in their technique, their ‘how to’, their process - to actually help customers make a good choice to know whether to work with them or not.  

 

What about the fact that services are really mentoring? 

 

I use mentoring within my coaching, even more now that I’m pretty experienced, because I have years of examples I can call upon that will help people. 

 

I also know when to use them and when not, and when to let a client know I’m moving more into mentoring and to ask them if they’d like more of my guidance or advice over exploring. It’s a really subtle but powerful shift and I love it. 

 

I’d bet on the fact that most online business owners who are coaching are more likely using mentoring. 

 

That means they advise from personal experience. This is a REALLY powerful technique and not to be sniffed at - BUT IT’S NOT COACHING (can you tell I feel strongly about this) which is far more about supporting the client to find their own solution than telling them what they should do.

 

The problem is, online courses and even 121 programmes for business owners and brands have become so much about how to do something that someone else HAS done.

 

  • How to grow your IG to 5000 followers in 5 weeks
  • How to launch your online course
  • How to run your facebook group as a lead magnet
  • How to sell your products on Etsy
  • How to express yourself to make powerful profit
  • How to lead a more gentle and successful business (LOL)

 

So a lot of what’s being sold is really ‘I’ll share with you my secrets and what worked for me so you can do it too.’

 

It’s actually why I struggled to create an online course, because I didn’t want to suggest I’d created this enormous brand, millions of followers, hyped myself to the max when I hadn’t done those things. I wanted to help people change, adjust, learn, develop and literally have life changing moments that would last (cue violin). That may not sound as dramatic or exciting as the above titles but you get my point. So I always have coaching, I always have reflection time, I always have feedback in my courses. I also always definitely mentor. 

 

Also where do we draw the line in experience versus training - when I was in the cancer world, there were incredibly experienced cancer patients who were using the skills from their own experience to support others. BUT I drew the line, in my mind, when I would find out they were using processes and holding space that really only a trained counsellor or similar should be using. But who was, am, I to stop them doing that? Who would I report them too anyway? They weren’t affiliated with any body, so could technically get away with more. 

 

And should I tell people to stop chasing their dreams? Don’t think big and outside the box? Well, if and when it might harm people - please don’t (but, come on, as if YOU didn't know that already).

 

I just wish these two terms could be better monitored and used by the people offering services so customers know more about how something will be taught.

What then about the fact that most people are actually marketers (and sales people) and not coaches?

 

Well, this isn’t unique to coaching. 

 

I’d say the same thing about other professions; marketing and photography; marketing and yoga teaching; marketing and cooking. 

The question is:

 

Are you ACTUALLY good at the thing (photography, yoga teaching, cooking), OR are you just a very good marketer?

 

Maybe you’re both; even better. I know lots of people who thankfully are. 

 

But if you’re more of the former, in order to help people change their lives/businesses/ minds etc you really want to also think about getting help to be the latter too. 

 

For the record, I’ve got nothing against marketers.

 

I hope a marketer or sales person is somewhere creating an equally long-arsed email using this situation to also shout about their industry ethics, standards and good and bad examples.

 

Marketing is bloody brilliant - it’s how it’s used, by certain people, and how others are taken advantage of, that can be the problem. 

 

Influencers are brilliant marketers, but that doesn’t mean they can or should coach. Mentors might also be great marketers, but that doesn’t mean they’re able to professionally coach. People with amazing life experience can help thousands of people, but should they say they’re coaching? Not technically, but who am I to shatter dreams? 

 

Also, FYI, at this point I’ve been writing this email for nearly 24 hours on and off. I started off with a glass of wine Thursday night, re-drafted Friday morning, carried on mid tea and biscuit afternoon and finalised after dinner Friday. I’m so far invested in this email it’s just going to carry on.

What about the fact that coaching is a pyramid scheme?

 

First of all, it can be used like that. A pyramid scheme is “a model that recruits members via a promise of payments or services for enrolling others into the scheme, rather than supplying investments or sale of products" (wiki).

 

So if coaches are recruiting coaches to make money, to recruit coaches to make money, to recruit coaches to make money then that might be classed as a pyramid scheme. But what if there was an actual, tangible service provided in the midst of that too? Does that make it less of a pyramid with products/knowledge/services actually passed between hands?

 

But if I WAS to say I’m horrified coaching is seen as this, does that mean I don’t use similar techniques? 

Am I actually ashamed that techniques I may have used that could be construed as pyramid selling are being caught out? 

And that’s upset me, because I’m apparently one of the good guys?! 

I have never done that, but what I have done - and doing more and more of - is coaching coaches, who may also coach coaches. 

 

I realised just this year that had increased - and at first felt uncomfortable (not with my clients, I love them) at the perception that I might be one of those coaches.  

But I got over that, because i’m providing high quality, tangible, life changing services and I’m qualified, trained, supervised and accredited

 

  1. Whatever one of ‘those’ is, I know I’m providing high quality, proven processes, tools and techniques with my clients that creates change for them (and their business), I’m highly skilled, open to critical reflection on my own processes and there is an obvious exchange of service and impact from out work together that doesn’t require them to recruit another coach!

and

  1. I realised there was this analogy. Imagine I'm a jewellery maker, and I want help to make my jewellery better and I want help to run my jewellery business better. Who am I going to look for help with on both those things? MORE likely the person who's come from a jewellery related background and can demonstrate their expertise in supporting other people like me. I don't actually care at this point if they call themselves a coach. What I do care about is that they're telling me their process, what I get for the price and exactly how they're going to do right by me and my business. That they CARE, and that our values are aligned. 

 

So, when we think about coaching, we're really quick to poo-poo the idea that coaches coach coaches. Or that money people talk about getting money by getting clients to make their money and their clients to make their money. It's almost like as soon as we talk about it being in the personal or professional development space it's 'less than'. Or is it because some people in that space (coaching, money etc) have taken full advantage of the situation in order to make a quick and high buck without thinking about the individual lives involved, and the longer term?

What about the coaches questioning themselves?

 

I’ve spoken to a few coaches this last week (despite migraine) who are really ashamed of the industry, the term, calling themselves a coach, knowing how to use their own unique way of selling their service without coming across as spammy, scammy, a con. 

 

As if we needed more excuse to berate ourselves and hide away, here comes another.

 

That’s why this is frustrating. 

 

But I do want to say it’s not just this situation. This is EVERYWHERE. This is in the bro marketing ‘coaches’ (marketers!)  who started off 20 or so years ago when we all went online to sell stuff. This is in the new age spiritual community ‘coaches’ who sell orgasms and money through pleasure principles. This is in the relationship coaches who tell us our marriages are failing when we didn’t question them before. It’s all over the place. 

 

And whilst I’m not into victim blaming, I do know we (the people who might buy this stuff) can get really savvy at working out what we’re REALLY looking for when we buy something.  

 

Do I really want the acclaim of saying I worked with this person?

Do I really want the format they’ve used to get to their 10k months?

Do I really want their listening ear?

Do I really want their audience to hear me?

 

So much to consider here. This email would be even longer if I went into each of them which I won’t for your and my sanity.

The solutions to all this are many:

 

We may not all get behind one either - perhaps like Trump and Biden; many people don’t necessarily love Biden, but voted him in because it's the nearest best we (they, really) have, and there’s just parts they might have to put up with to have a better president. Again though, judgement (however much I don’t like Trump). 

The solutions include:

 

  • ULTIMATELY: make any coach qualified, trained, supervised and accredited. Amazing - but the logistics behind it are beyond my paygrade or time right now. Ideally yes. Realistically, ain’t gonna happen (easily).

 

  • If not: Protect ‘coaching’ as a term and practice ie who can call themselves one. This is being looked into by various coaching bodies but no one has come up with a final way to do it, and it's contentious because there’s lots of good coaches right now who may not get included because they didn’t train with a certain body or weren’t accredited by another. 

 

  • Or ensure people who use the term coaching have at least a minimum standard of proven training (or at times experience very much counts. But again, aslo a separate point later) in the issue they're coaching on, and at best excellent standards are applied across the board that ALL coaches must adhere to, whichever training they have - eradicating untrained coaches or coaches who are really mentors, from setting up as coaches)

 

  • And educate people on the difference between coaching and mentoring - this is a HUGE one and would have saved a bit of heartache (not necessarily for the customers involved in the situation above but for us coaches at least) since when we're selling a model of behaviour (do this, it worked for me) THAT'S so obviously mentoring it can't be denied. The client is at LEAST going into it with the ability to question whether they WANT to learn someone else's technique only, or find their own solutions with guidance (the subtle but important difference). Problem is we can define the difference all we want; people will still abuse it, claim they didn't know or need to know and the 'abuse' of coaching will probably still happen.

 

  • And demonstrate the difference between marketing and coaching. Not dissimilar to above but SO important in its own right. If you are supporting people to market their business, and happen to be also advising them on some lifestyle aspects too, you are using marketing and a version of life coaching, most likely. KNOWING this when you offer this is vital - and imparting that knowledge to your potential customers is also. 

 

  • And ensure anyone offering emotional, business or life change support has ANY sort of ‘formal’ training, even if it’s not accredited. A more practical solution but also wide open to interpretation.

 

  • That we are clients know what integrity, authenticity, and quality means for us, so that we can judge against our standards and feel confident in buying and making changes to criteria we’ve set ourselves. That’s probably the most empowering part of this. Whilst all the above gets debated, we can control who we let into our sphere of influence, buy from, buy from again and enjoy watching and being ‘coached’ by.

 

For the record the bodies that exist to monitor lots of what I’ve said above include, but are not exclusive to:

 

Financial ombudsman (money advice)

BACP (counselling)

EMCC (coaching)

ILM (coaching)

NCP (coaching)

And more

Who the hell am I to judge all this anyway?

 

I've moved from cancer coaching, to what would be classed as life coaching, to far more business related coaching than ever. I charge what's probably classed (at least in the UK) as high ticket prices (my 121 is now £5k onwards), and, like I said, I coach a lot of coaches. 

Well, who I am to judge is: 

I've got two psychology degrees that help me help people's minds. 

I'm a therapist (EFT) with a CBT background that helps people adjust their behaviours, safely.

I'm an accredited coach and psychologist with 15 years experience in supporting adults and children in lifestyle and emotional changes for sustainable wellbeing.

I'm an NLP practitioner (that was alongside my coaching qualification).

I've got 500 + hours working with coachees (ie clients)

I've got thousands of hours working with groups/communities around coaching techniques

So I can judge - especially where coaching is lumped into scam definitions when it’s not the technique but the people able to mis-use it. 

So who's to blame? The system open for misuse or the misusers?  Who should I be cross at really, especially since I’m not personally involved?

That’s it, I’m spent. I haven’t edited much of the above other than into sections so don’t judge my comms skills on this. But I do hope you’ve enjoyed the debate.

 

What do you think? (I probably won’t reply until Monday). 

 

I'm off to enjoy the weekend, migraine free.

 

Emily x



coachingemily

Surrey, UK

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