It never ceases to surprise me how many frankly, peculiar, interactions I have with people who want to be coaches. If you want to earn your living as a coach, this is a cautionary tale.
A coach is, above all, someone who can communicate. Coaches listen carefully, they consider things from all angles (or at least both sides!) and they ask questions, lots of questions. They are masters of communication.
Imagine my surprise therefore to have yet another interaction like this with someone who “wants to transition from full-time employment into coaching full time”:
I received an email. In it, a chap who we’re going to call Ian, asked if we could talk. He said he was interested in chatting to me, because of his desire to become a full-time coach. Of course, I said, when is good for you? A couple of to-and-fros later, we’d settled on 10am the following morning.
It turns out that Ian is in New York. He didn’t mention this in his email, just gave me a phone number in an unfamiliar format. I checked out his LinkedIn profile and realised he was from the US
Tip number 1 – you might want to let people know if you’re in a different country or time zone to them, it is quite important to effective communication.
The following day was a really busy day for me, involving 4 hours in the car and lots of work. Prior to realising that Ian was in the US, I had carved out half an hour at 10am GMT to stop and talk to him en route to my destination. Once I realised, I checked the world clock on my phone and discovered that 10am in NYC is 5pm in the UK. Except it isn’t, I made a mistake with the maths. It’s actually 4pm. However, I work with people in so many time zones that I didn’t check and double check, I only checked the once.
Tip number 2 – sometimes, people make mistakes.
Be Patient. People Make Mistakes
Blithely unaware of the mistake in my calculation, I engineered my day so that we could talk at 5pm UK. It involved cutting a meeting short, but that’s cool – I love talking to anyone that I know wants to earn a living as a coach.
At 4:40pm GMT, the fun started.
Tip number 3 – getting uppity generates bad feeling.
I received an email from Ian, asking me if he’d made a mistake with the time – weren’t we talking at 10am? Somewhat confused, I sent quick response from my phone saying ‘yes, in 20 minutes?’ and only then did I recheck the world clock and realise my mathematical error.
What ‘Tone’ Does Your Email Convey?
I quickly emailed again, apologising unreservedly and made myself available to him for the rest of the day and evening, whichever was most convenient to him (and, I might add was very inconvenient to me, but hey – my mistake, my job to fix it). His response (although to be fair, it could be that our emails crossed in the ether) was to send me a link to a world clock website with a terse message saying that if I wanted to work globally, I needed to make sure I understood time zones. This email was quickly followed by the another which said (this is verbatim);
“I work full time as the VP of a company. I don’t have the time to reset calls that have been planned. I am trying to make a transition out of what I am doing into coaching. I can talk to you today at 5:30pm NYC time.”
What I read into this email is
- Ian is very important – a VP don’t you know?
- Ian is so important in fact, that the mistake I made (and indeed the fact that I even made it) is considered, by someone as important as him, to be completely unacceptable – how very dare I?!
- Ian’s time is much more important than mine
- He is prepared to talk to me at 11:30pm my time – that’s the price I must pay for messing him around.
Tip number 4 – don’t expect people to want to communicate at nearly midnight.
Be Realistic In Your Expectations
I replied, apologising for a second time and offered Ian any time up to and including 9pm GMT that day (which is far later than I normally work), but he told me that he couldn’t speak to me at all before 9pm GMT. I did think that this was fair enough, I do understand what working for someone else entails.
I then sent him a link to my scheduler and suggested that he either choose a slot from there, or come back with a couple of suggestions of when is good for him and I’d do my best to accommodate. I must add that at this point, my colleagues were beginning to think I was mad, why on earth was I still talking to this idiot?
Unperturbed, I persisted in trying to find a mutually convenient time to talk.
Ian came back with ‘10am NYC tomorrow’. Literally, just that.
Now, I understand that emails are a particularly lousy way to communicate; that a tone detected by the mind of the reader was not necessarily put there by the writer, but by now even I was getting irritated by Ian.
Tip number 5 – be flexible in your dealings with people from whom you want something!
I couldn’t make 10am NYC time the following day, as I was with a client, and I responded to Ian explaining this.
His response? ‘ok, good luck’. Just that. I followed my colleagues advice and stopped responding.
What have I learned from this experience?
1) I am too accommodating. In future, if you can’t make one of the time slots in my scheduler, we don’t talk.
2) Sometimes, the tone you read into an email actually is there!
3) Ian will never be a coach. He won’t be one of those of whom I can say ‘you want to earn your living as a coach’. Anyone who is so full of their own importance and so utterly unable to accommodate someone (particularly someone he was hoping may end up mentoring him) is not coach material.
The Moral Of This Story
If you want to earn your living as a coach, you need to have a good, hard look at yourself.
- Are you an Ian?
- Do you identify with your job title so much that you use it as a weapon with which to try to beat people?
- Are you inflexible?
- Are you self-important?
If you can answer yes to any of the above, rethink your ideas of coaching as a career. If you answer no to them all, why not get in touch?
We can help you.
The Coaching Revolution is so much more than a bunch of people. It’s a movement that is debunking many of the myths surrounding coaching and building profitable coaching businesses, including the myth that anyone can be a coach. If you do want want to earn your living as a coach, perhaps you might want to read this article about how to create a profitable coaching business