It started when the same ad kept coming up in my Facebook feed after I became a certified coach. A self-described master coach continuously invited me (and many others I’m sure) to her free seminar. She offered participants the “secrets to client acquisition success using sales techniques she learned closing customers while selling mops at a big box retailer.” And no, I’m not kidding! This was the culmination of my fascination - or perhaps call it what it is - my Love to Hate relationship with the myriad of gimmicks and tools aimed at professional coaches. They dangle magical and oh so top-secret shortcuts as an alternative to offering real service as the key to creating value as a coach.
But I don’t want to single out this individual coach. The truth is you could spend endless hours (and $$) plowing through get rich quick books, seminars, and workshops geared towards making success seem like something you can grab for three installments of $39.99 (or fill in some ridiculous price). As long as you ACT NOW!!
Don’t get me wrong. There are many fantastic individuals out there offering very real support in helping individuals like me develop their coaching and consulting practices. In fact, I’m incredibly grateful to be working with several of them such as my wonderful mentor-coach Angela Cusack of Igniting Success. I’m also thrilled to be joining Melissa Ford for her Game-Film group coaching program. Melissa’s book Living Service: The Journey Of A Prosperous Coach has been an absolute game-changer for me in the way I approach creating clients.
As an aside, this experience takes me back to my early days in the nonprofit industry when I was getting my start in fundraising. I was bombarded with invitations to programs that would teach me how to be a better fundraiser, craft the perfect ask and opportunities to mingle with other fundraisers. I have absolutely nothing against learning and networking. Yet, I wasn’t quite clear how I was going to become a better fundraiser without spending the bulk of my time well, fundraising!
Here’s my point: Whether you’re a coach, consultant or fundraiser - or pretty much anything else, You’ve Got To Do The Work. Yes, it’s worth capitalizing. No matter what you do, there will always be someone - or several someones - telling you there’s an easy way to do it. There will always be distractions from the real essence of what you do. But remember: reading and talking about coaching isn’t coaching. You become a better coach by coaching. Similarly, learning about and networking with those who fundraise isn’t fundraising.
As for me, the only way I know how to do this is the following (spoiler alert: a lot of this is crazy obvious but still worth staying)
The following occurred this past Sunday....
It was early in the morning and I was standing outside on my lawn. My dog was trying to decide where to make her deposit. I had just come back from my morning run so I was still in my gear looking a bit sweaty. OK, so this story isn’t starting out with such a lovely visual but stay with me….
While we were standing there, a man also dressed in running clothes came walking down the street in my direction. As he came closer, he seemed to be walking towards me specifically. Given the current state of social distancing, I was curious and even a bit concerned. I needn’t have worried as he stopped himself at a safe distance that still allowed for conversation. Up close, he didn’t look particularly familiar - or unfamiliar for that matter.
“So, are you still in training?” he asked. I was a taken aback by his question, but given what I looked like, it wasn’t such a surprise. “Well, yes I am - as a matter of fact, I was supposed to have run the Pittsburgh Marathon today. I’m still just happy to be out there getting my run in” I added, trying to be friendly.
The man then said “You’ve run a lot of marathons haven’t you?” This was getting a little weird now. I thought to myself, “Does this guy know me?” Nevertheless I said “Yes, this one would have been my 17th.”
Finally, after asking how my wife and I were managing through the coronavirus crisis - pretty typical conversation these days - he added “This probably isn’t much of a change for you since you work from home.” OK, now I was sufficiently freaked. How did this guy know so much about me and particularly how and where I worked?!?
Now feeling suspicious, I asked “Do I know you?” He reminded me that we had met and talked for awhile at our community association meeting six months ago. The conversation came back to me. I even remembered that we had figured out that we both worked with the same triathlon trainer amongst other things.
I was beyond flattered that this man remembered all this so I inquired “How in the world did you remember all that about me?” His answer was short, simple and poignant:
“I listened to what you said.”
I’m sharing this little exchange because it highlights something we can all do that is so simple yet something we rarely do authentically: Listen.
How often do we truly listen to what others share with us? Both the significant and the mundane. Conversely, how often are we just biding our time till we can share our own brilliance? A lot more - if I’m answering honestly for myself. This kind man’s one simple action, giving me the gift of being listened to meant so much to me.
Try giving that gift the next chance you get. It’s one that will keep on giving.
Robert is an Executive and Business Development Coach. You can read him here or on www.younonprofitnow.com