Episode 71: The Hardest Parts of Being a Coach

The three challenges that I routinely face in my coaching practice as both a coach and a business owner and the strategies I use and love for making my way through them.
The Hardest Parts of Being a Coach Coach with Clarity Podcast

71: The Hardest Parts of Being a Coach

Every job has its difficult moments and coaching is no different. I absolutely love coaching, teaching, and connecting with clients and I honestly can't imagine doing anything else. Even so, there are moments where it feels tough and I wonder if I have what it takes to do it all.

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Show Notes

Every job has its difficult moments and coaching is no different.

I absolutely love coaching, teaching, and connecting with clients and I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else. Even so, there are moments where it feels tough and I wonder if I have what it takes to do it all.

At the end of the day, I know the answer is yes but that doesn’t change the fact that some days are harder than others.

Today, I’m taking a look at some of the challenges I have faced in my own journey as a coach and sharing the strategies you can use to navigate through them.

I hope that by sharing this honest perspective, if and when you find yourself facing these obstacles, you’ll feel more comfortable and know that you can overcome them.

Topics covered

  • How my past experiences helped me when I became a business owner
  • Balancing working both in and on your business
  • Wearing all the hats as a new business owner
  • Building your knowledge base through continuing education
  • Why time management is crucial
  • When to speak up and when to hold back
  • The problem with defining ourselves by what we produce
  • Navigating the hustle and grind culture
  • Getting to the root cause of your overwhelm

Resources mentioned

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Well, hello, my friend. Thank you for joining me for another episode of the Coach with Clarity Podcast. I'm your host, Lee Chaix McDonough. And today, we are doing things just a little bit differently. You know, typically in this podcast, I am talking a lot about why coaching is such an amazing field, and how to become a coach, and how to strengthen your proficiency in coaching. Today, however, I want to take a good hard look at some of the difficulties of being a coach. 

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Because let's face it, every job, no matter how much we love it, no matter how much it aligns with our skill set, our values, and our calling, every job has its difficult moments. Or has its parts that maybe we don't appreciate or enjoy as much. And coaching is no different. Now, I absolutely love coaching. I love connecting with my clients. I love teaching people how to become coaches in the Certified Clarity Coach Training Program. I absolutely enjoy helping coaches continue to strengthen their skill sets and their business savvy within the Coach with Clarity Membership. I mean, there is so much that I love about the work I do. And honestly, I can't imagine doing anything else with my life. And there are moments, there are days, where it feels a little tough, where things come up, and I'm left wondering, “Woah, do I really have what it takes to do all of this?”. Now, at the end of the day, I know the answer is yes. And that does not stop the fact that some days are harder than others. And sometimes we run into challenges, even in professions that we are well suited for and that we love. Coaching is one of them. So today, I want to take an honest look at some of the challenges I have faced in my own journey as a coach, and share with you some strategies and some ways to navigate through them. So I hope that by taking an honest look at some of the less than ideal components of coaching, it will serve you so that if or when you find yourself coming face to face with these obstacles, you have some ideas about how to overcome them. So today, I am going to share with you the three challenges that I routinely face in my coaching practice, and how I make my way through them. But these are certainly not the only challenges out there for coaches. And in fact, if you are facing a challenge of your own, and you'd like some support with it, reach out. Come find me over on Instagram @CoachwithClarity. Or send me an email, the address is info@CoachwithClarity.com. Because if there's a particular challenge you're facing, maybe I could create a podcast episode around it. Maybe I could even invite you on the podcast for some coaching. I would love to support you more directly. So feel free to reach out if you are experiencing a challenge in your coaching practice that I'm not covering today. 

Okay. All right. So with that being said, let's go ahead and dive into the first challenge that I routinely experience in my coaching practice. And that is the necessity of balancing working in my coaching business with working on my coaching business. Now, I should acknowledge from the top that not every coach is also a business owner. There are coaches who work internally. So they work for a company, or an organization, and they coach that company's employees. So they themselves are an employee of the company, but all they do is coach. There are also other coaches who are subcontractors, who work for other companies as an independent contractor, providing coaching to the clients that the company finds. So there's all sorts of ways to be a coach. And what I find is that many coaches decide to open their own coaching business, which means not only are they coaches, they are business owners. They're entrepreneurs. And to be quite honest with you, when I started my coaching business, I had no idea what I was doing. Well alright, that's probably not completely fair, I had a little bit of an idea. Having supported my husband through purchasing his dental practice and helping him kind of take over as owner operator, I was very much involved in that process. And when I think about my training in public health, and the focus on program development, and implementation and evaluation, a lot of those skills translate into the business world. So maybe it's unfair to say that I had no idea what I was doing, but I was fairly new to the world of small business ownership, and I did not correctly assess just how much time I would have to spend working on my business. I started this business because I wanted to be a coach, and I wanted to coach other people. And so I wanted to work in my business, I wanted to be the provider. And I am. And in addition to working in my business, as the coach, I need to work on my business as the CEO. And that was a huge learning curve for me. And like so many coaches who start out, I was the only person in my business, so I had to do it all. Like getting my website up and running. When I was first starting out, I was blogging. So I had to write the blog content, I had to manage my social media pages, I had to do my bookkeeping, and accounting, and oh, right, find and work with clients all at the same time. It was a lot. And so what I found was that when I was working in my business, when I was working with clients and actively coaching, I was in my sweet spot. But when it came to all of the other elements that go into running a business, I felt overwhelmed. And it wasn't until I read the book, “The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks, that it all started to make sense to me. And I will say I really appreciate that book and how it breaks down the work we do with regard to our natural skills, abilities, and talents. If you've not yet read “The Big Leap”, I highly recommend it. In the book, Gay Hendricks talks about how we each have a Zone of Incompetence, so the things that we are not good at doing at all. A Zone of Competence, so the things that we can do when we're okay at them, we're fine. Then we have a Zone of Excellence, which is where we are really doing work that we're good at, and we're efficient, we're meant to do it. And then beyond that, we have our Zone of Genius. This is really where we get creative and innovative. And we're finding new and unique ways of doing things in our businesses, and in our lives. Yet when we are solo entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, when we're in business, and we're by ourselves, we have to do it all. So we can do the things that are in our Zones of Excellence and even Zones of Genius. And so for me, that's coaching and coach training. And we also have to do the things that maybe are in our Zones of Competence, and even in Incompetence. And for me when I first started out that was things like website design, and sharing my message, and getting on social media, all of these things that I did not have a lot of experience with. Nor did I have a lot of interest in either. And so what I realized was that early on, I really have to do everything, regardless of which zone it fell into. And so if you are just starting out, if you're early on in your coaching business, and you feel like,  “Man, there's so much that goes into this that I'm just not comfortable with, I don't think I'm doing a good job”. First off, I just want to let you know, you're not alone. And I was certainly at that point for the first couple years of my business when I was still doing it all by myself. And so when you come against those feelings, I want you to remember that it's not because you're doing anything wrong, or that you are wrong, you're probably just not operating in your Zone of Excellence or your Zone of Genius. You may be operating from a Zone of Incompetence, by necessity. And that's not a comfortable place to be. And so, what do we do? We try to train and educate our ways out of it. I spent a lot of time teaching myself how to DIY a website. And eventually I moved from the Zone of Incompetence into the Zone of Competence. So I could do it, and I could do a decent job at it. It's not my passion. It's not anything I'm uniquely talented or able to do. But I figured it out. And so a lot of time gets spent working on our businesses early on, trying to figure things out, trying to make things work, trying to move from that Zone of Incompetence into that Zone of Competence. That takes a lot of time and a lot of energy. And it's often necessary when we're early in our businesses doing it on our own. And as we grow, once we get some traction in our business, once we have a strong system to welcome clients in and we're seeing recurring revenue, then we can start delegating. We can start hiring support to help us with those tasks that maybe we become competent at but we don't enjoy. It's not where we should be really investing most of our time and energy in our business. Maybe it's even the things we're still feeling incompetent at, this is an area where we can get support. And I want to acknowledge that this comes with time. So you may be at a point in your business where you are still struggling with how to work in versus on your business. And you may still be wearing all of the hats and operating from that Zone of Competence at best. Every single business owner starts there, every single one. And eventually those businesses grow so that you can start focusing more of your time on your Zones of Excellence and Genius, and you can delegate and hire people to support you with those other tasks. That is something I really love supporting my clients and my Coach with Clarity members on, because I want to help them get to a point in their businesses where they can delegate those tasks that they don't light them up and that don't fall into their Zones of Excellence or Genius. That being said, even the fact of delegating brings on the new responsibility of managing a team. And if you've not had that experience before of having to hire, manage, and provide support, whether to employees or to independent contractors, that's another skill. That's another piece of working on your business that takes practice. So again, we are always growing in our coaching businesses, and we're always coming up on the edges of what feels comfortable. And for many of those things, we will develop a competency in them, we will be able to kind of make it work in that Zone of Competency. So being a coach who owns her own business, and who does not work for another company, it requires learning new skills about how to work in your business as a coach, and on your business as a CEO. And sometimes that is very challenging. So that's the number one challenge that I encounter on a daily basis, to be honest with you, in terms of being a coach. 
So there are a few things though, that I have found really helpful in navigating this tension that arises when I feel pulled between working in my business and working on my business. Certainly, number one is delegating when and where possible. I'm very fortunate at this point in my business where I do have people that can help me, whether it is producing this podcast, or planning social media, or supporting my members and students. So learning how to delegate and trusting my team members has been a huge part of learning how to balance the working in with the working on. Because I know that my talent and skills are best suited for training, education, and coaching. So if I can focus my time and energy on those three things, and I can seek support for everything else, then that is going to strengthen my business. Because it's going to allow me to really focus on the areas where I do my best work. So delegation is definitely a key strategy. And I want to acknowledge that not everyone is at a point where they can delegate in their business, and I certainly wasn't for the first few years. So in those cases, I found that being very thoughtful around my professional development and the educational and training opportunities I invested in, was very important. So I knew that at that point, I couldn't afford to hire someone to completely design my website. But I could spend time, and a little bit of money, teaching myself how to do it until I got to the point where I was able to delegate that out. I have found great value in courses, memberships, and similar programs that have taught me the basics of running a business. And so wherever you're feeling like maybe there's a knowledge deficit, or there's just something where you're not feeling 100% confident, that might be an area where if you can't delegate it out to another person, you can invest time and a little bit of money in learning those skills yourself. So continuing education programs, professional development courses, memberships, even masterminds with other colleagues. These are all ways where you can build your own knowledge base, and figure out better ways of doing this kind of work yourself. And that will help you when the time comes and you're able to delegate those tasks to someone else. You will understand why the task is important. You'll know how to get it done so you'll be able to train someone, and then you can kind of let them take that responsibility and run with it because they may find even better ways of doing it than you did. I also found when I was early in my business, trying to do all of the things, I had to be very careful about how I scheduled my time. Time was one area where it was easy for me to get out of balance. Perhaps I spent an entire day or an entire week actually coaching people, which was great, but then there were elements of my business that fell behind or didn't get taken care of. Or maybe vice-versa. I was spending so much time building a website and managing my bookkeeping that I wasn't getting out there talking to people, marketing, and connecting with potential clients. So I had to be very thoughtful around how much time I wanted to assign to each task and when I wanted to schedule them. Because if I didn't, I would get completely sucked into one task at the expense of all the others. So for me, having a calendar and time blocking worked really well. You may find another time management strategy that works better for you. You may be someone who does really well working in extended blocks. So maybe you do have one week where you focus on your clients, and then the following week where you focus on your business. I want you to find the strategy that is going to work best for you. And I'm going to encourage you to think about how you want to manage your time so that you do find that balance between working in your business and working on your business. So that's a little bit about the first challenge I found and continue to find in my coaching practice, which is balancing working in my business as a coach with working on my business as a CEO. The second challenge that I routinely struggle with, whether it's with my private coaching clients, my members, or my students, is knowing when to speak up, and when to stay quiet. Now for a deeper dive into this topic, you may want to pop back to Episode 65, which was all about transparency and coaching. Because I spend a lot of time talking about what to share, how often to share, when to share. So some of this I address in Episode 65. But when it comes to thinking about coaching challenges, this really is one of the most difficult parts about coaching for me. And I know it's also the case for many coaches in the Coach with Clarity Membership, and also the students I've trained in the Certified Clarity Coach Program. Our clients come to us because they value our wisdom and our expertise, and they want to learn from it. So it's completely understandable that our clients might want us to tell them exactly how to do something, they come wanting answers. But again, as I talked about in Episode 65, we trust our clients, we know that they are the expert in their own experience, and that they have everything they need to create the success that they want. We are simply there to help expedite the process, make it less stressful, and hopefully more fun. And so, what do we do? We use powerful questioning to help our clients uncover their own next best step. And so we use questions rather than always stepping in and telling them what to do. And, yes, there are times when providing suggestions or feedback or even good old fashioned advice is appropriate. There are times when our clients will ask us for that. And that's okay, because coaching is a co-creative process, and there is certainly room in the coaching relationship for us to contribute to our clients success. So part of being a masterful coach is knowing when to lead with our ideas, our thoughts, and when to hold back. When to share because we know it will serve the client, and when to refrain, because we don't want to undermine our client's creativity or their autonomy. 
So part of being a masterful coach is knowing when to give, and when to stay quiet. When to hold them, and when to fold them. And again, it's not that we can't share our thoughts, our ideas, but we need to be mindful of when it's appropriate to do so and how to do so in a way that's going to support our clients. I think the reason this is such a challenge for me, and such a challenge for so many coaches out there, is because coaches by their nature tend to be big picture thinkers, they tend to be visionaries. They see what's possible even when others don't. And so they are often a couple steps ahead, saying, “Here's where we can go, and here's how we can get there”, and, “Oh, I did this once. I did it this way, and that worked”. And you can see we kind of get carried away with what's possible. And if we're not careful, we can actually be several steps ahead of our client. And that's not good because it makes them feel like they're running behind. They need to catch up. They're not okay. And we don't want to perpetuate that process in our clients. So I find a lot of times I will be sitting with a client and they'll be talking about what they want to do. And I'm already like, “Oh my gosh, we could do this and this would be amazing. And what if we did that-”, and I have to slow my roll. I have to calm down. I have to stay in the moment and follow the client's energy. And, first off, assess kind of where they're at and what they want to create. And then secondly, ask them the questions to see what they already have in mind, what they've already been working on and what ideas they already have. Because that is how we create a client centered approach to coaching. We're not leading with our ideas and our big picture vision, we're leading with the client’s. And so oftentimes, that means we need to slow down, hold back, and really focus our attention on the client, and ask those questions to uncover what's possible for them. This is absolutely a skill that can be practiced and refined. And it's something that I talk a lot about in the Certified Clarity Coach Program with my students. So coach specific training, like the Certified Clarity Coach Program, can be a wonderful way to explore this process. This dance of when do I lead, and when do I let the client lead? When you couple that coach specific training with mentor coaching, and with professional consultation, you've really got a strong support network as you navigate this challenge. I know for me, especially as an early coach, when I was still figuring out my approach and how I wanted to work with clients, having really solid coach specific training to fall back on was so vital to my process. And also working with my own coach, my own mentor coach, where I could talk about issues I was facing in a coaching session, I could be really honest about where I felt I was doing well, and where I felt I needed to work on my own skills. And I was able to do that with my mentor coach. So, the strategies that have worked well for me in terms of navigating this challenge of when to speak up and when to hold back, really come down to training and mentor coaching. This is something that we offer in Coach with Clarity through the Certified Clarity Coach Program. Our next cohort begins August 23. And we are currently accepting applications. So if you've been thinking about pursuing coach specific training, and you're interested in an International Coaching Federation accredited program, come check out the Certified Clarity Coach Training Program, you can just head to CoachwithClarity.com/certification to learn more and to apply, because I would love to see you in the next cohort.
 So that brings us to the third challenge of being a coach and my friends, this is a big one. The third challenge I frequently run into is feeling the need to stave off feelings of overwhelm, or that persistent need to do more. And I know I am not the only one out there who feels this way. This hustle and grind culture that is everywhere, in the online entrepreneurial space for sure, including the coaching profession, it's overwhelming. And it really has its roots in white patriarchal culture, which defines a person's worth by their productivity. And so this idea that we have to do more, we have to be more, we have to put ourselves out there more, and more, and more. It is exhausting, and it undermines our confidence in ourselves. It is so easy to feel like you should be doing more. More marketing, more sales, more social media, more webinars, more training, more, more, more. And this is reinforced by our society. Because historically, we have placed a high value on productivity. And so we have equated our output with our worth. And then we become defined by what we produce, our identity becomes wrapped up in what we do. And think about it, I mean the last time you met someone new, they probably said, “So what do you do?”. It's one of the first questions we ask people when we're getting to know them, “What do you do?”, because we're so focused on work and output as a way of defining ourselves. So if you struggle with this the way I do, first off, you're not alone. Secondly, it's a byproduct of our culture. And thirdly, there are ways that we can navigate through this. I have not found one perfect solution to this, I will admit that. But there are tactics we can use. So for me, I know limiting my social media time is a big one. Whenever I get caught in the scroll on Facebook or Instagram, I notice my hustle meter goes off the charts. Seriously. I love Facebook and Instagram, and I love being able to connect with people through those platforms. But when I connect with people, I am bringing an intentionality to it. When I am mindlessly scrolling, there is zero intentionality to it. And so for me, that's the difference. When I am on social media with a purpose, and when I'm fully engaged with a person or a community, that feels very different than when I'm bored, or I can't sleep, and I'm just scrolling. And it's when I'm just scrolling, that all of those little fears creep in, “Oh, this person's doing that. Maybe you should be doing that”, and, “Why aren't you doing this? This isn't enough”, and it can spiral out of control. So for me, I know one way to vanquish the feelings of overwhelm, or like I need to hustle more, is to really be careful about how often I am on social media and how I am using it. There are also other tactics I've used, for example, turning off notifications on my phone has been a game changer. I have created a system to support inbox zero so that when emails come in, they get tagged, they get organized, and I don't necessarily feel the pressure to respond to them immediately. There are these things that I can do to reduce that sense of pressure, urgency, and overwhelm in my business. And I want to differentiate those tactics from trying to avoid something, trying to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Anytime we try to avoid or eliminate a feeling, it rarely works. If anything, we're just kind of stuffing it down, and then it re-emerges later, even stronger. So when the feelings of overwhelm come up, before I go straight into fix it mode, and try to work my way around it or out of it, it's really important that I first take note of what is going on when this feeling emerges. This is where a mindfulness practice can really support this kind of work. And it's what I talked about in my first book, “ACT on Your Business”. When we notice an uncomfortable emotion coming up, like overwhelm, like feeling the need to do more, let's just pause and notice it. Notice what was going on in your environment, notice what may have been the trigger for that feeling. And we're doing that from a place of not judging, not trying to fix, all we're doing is noticing it. And then from there, we can ask, “Okay, I'm, I'm having this feeling of overwhelm. How do I want to move forward in a way that's in full alignment with my values, that addresses the underlying component to this overwhelm?”. Because I know when overwhelm shows up, there's something else going on, it's speaking to a deeper issue. And that's why sometimes tactics don't work, because those tactics address the superficial problem, but they don't get to the root cause. So when we can pause, mindfully engage with our emotions, and take note of the root cause, then the question becomes, “What value-aligned action do I want to take from here on out?”. We're much more likely to resolve the discomfort we're feeling from that emotion, without necessarily trying to get rid of it or fix it. And we can recenter ourselves in what matters most, we can come back to our values, and we can ensure that the actions we're taking are 100% in alignment with how we want to show up in the world. So my friends, those are the three challenges I routinely face in my own coaching practice. Number one is balancing working in my business with working on my business. Number two is knowing when to speak up in session and when to stay quiet. And number three is staving off the constant hustle culture, and the feelings of overwhelm, and the need to do more. With that, let's move into this week's Clarity in Action moment. 

This week's Clarity in Action moment is brought to you by a special challenge I am hosting the week of July 19. We are going to spend that entire week diving into the keys of powerful coaching. Each day I will be sharing a new key to help you unlock your mastery as a coach, and we will be wrapping it all up with a special masterclass all about the practice and business of coaching. It is going to be an extraordinary week, and I would love for you to join me. And the best part is, it is 100% free. Every single day we'll be diving into a new key to powerful coaching. By the end of the week, you are going to be fully equipped with all sorts of skills and tools that you can use in your coaching practice, all for free. So if you want to join in the fun, just head to CoachwithClarity.com/keys and get yourself registered for the entire week of fun. It is going to be amazing. I can't wait for you to join me. So just had to CoachwithClarity.com/keys to secure your free registration. It's going to be a phenomenal week, and I can't wait to see you there. 
For this week's Clarity in Action moment, I want you to let me know the number one challenge you are facing as a coach. So you can do that over in the Coach with Clarity Community. That's our free Facebook group, you can register to join at CoachwithClarity.com/community. And I will have a thread in the Facebook group where I will be asking you, “What is the hardest part about being a coach, what is your number one challenge?”. So you are free to let me know there. You're also welcome to reach out to me on Instagram, I'm @CoachwithClarity. I will have a post over in my feed there, and you can also send me a DM, if you prefer, and let me know your number one challenge. I would also love to know if there's a particular strategy, or technique, that you find helpful in mitigating that challenge. Now, if there's not, if you're still searching for one, that's okay. And maybe I might have some ideas that I can share with you. But I would love to hear from you. So your Clarity in Action moment this week is to think about the number one challenge you're facing in your coaching practice. And then let me know, because I want to be a part of your support team. And I want to help you become a more powerful and more satisfied coach. Well, my friend, we did it again. We've come to the end of another episode of the Coach with Clarity Podcast. I hope you will join me next week. I'm super excited about next week's episode, because one of the questions that I received from a member of the Coach with Clarity Community was, “What does a typical day look like for you? As a coach, what can I expect my day to look like?”. And I thought, “Oh, that is such a good question”. So next week, we're doing a little behind the scenes where I'm going to walk you through a typical day in the life of this coach. So I am throwing back the curtain so you can see all of the ins and outs of what it looks like to run my business and to serve my clients, my members, and my students. I'm really excited about this one. So I hope you will join me next week. Until then, my name is Lee Chaix McDonough, reminding you to get out there and show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity.


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