Since I started pursuing professional coaching certification in March, I’ve had many conversations with other business coaches and aspiring coaches, and they often ask me the same question:

Why did you decide to get certified as a coach?

They’re asking me, though, because they don’t think that I needed to do the program.

Most of the business coaches that I’ve met started their coaching certification before they left their previous positions to pursue coaching. Before they even had their first coaching client or conversation.

Typically before they have any idea who they will coach, how, or why.

In their eyes, they needed to have the certification under their belt to begin the process of building a business around their coaching.

So, when these other coaches or coaches-in-training see me with this little fledgling business that I’ve spent the last two years busting my butt working 16 hours every day to build, it looks like I have what they think that coaching certification will bring them.

As with anything though, the learning is very different than the doing.

Becoming certified in the principles, philosophy, and practice of being a good coach will not build a coaching business. Much like going to journalism school will not help you build a business as a freelance writer.

But, if you go to the right place, it can give you the forum and focus to take your innate coaching abilities to the next level.

The Real Reason I Got My Coaching Certification

Oddly, even though I am an enormous proponent of constant learning and continuous improvement, I was honestly very short-sighted in my goals for what I wanted to get out of getting certified.

I know, in most cases personally, the primary people who offer educational content on becoming a travel writer, and only a handful say that they offer coaching.

The thing is, everything that we do with Dream of Travel Writing came from people asking me to coach them on how they could succeed where they were currently finding friction with earning well from their travel writing.

I had my own business as a freelance travel writer earning well while only needing to work part-time at that point, and so when I looked for resources to direct folks to for answers, unfortunately, what I found was people proselytizing on what worked for them.

With any type of coaching, there won’t be traction unless the solutions are 100% specific to individuals’ situations: where they get stuck and what is easy for them, what excites them and what bores them to tears, and what difficulties they can tolerate and what is simply never going to be an option for them.

So, I left my own sustainable, low-hours-great-rates work as a freelance travel writer to go all in on this business, because I was struck by and sad about how many people were struggling that didn’t need to when I knew there were possibilities for them.

The problem was, while I was very clear on what was coaching and what its benefits were and the fact that most people weren’t really offering it, I didn’t have a super clear, noticeable way to communicate that quickly to others.

I thought that getting certified as a coach would be the answer.

I’ve been planning to do it for several years, since I started this business actually, but the cost is a serious hurdle. It’s a high four- to five-figure proposition to do an accredited coaching program.

The thing is, that seemed like a lot of money to pay just for a seal of approval!

Finally when this business was getting off the ground enough that I could channel what I was earning from coaching into paying to get my certification, I decided to take the plunge.

To say either that I’m glad that I did, or that I had no idea what I was getting myself into, would both be enormous understatements.

The best way I know to explore what these programs strive to create in coaches is outlined in the ICF (International Coach Foundation) core competencies, which enumerate wonderful soft skills that are incredibly hard to teach, but that an excellent coaching program impacts, like:

  • going beyond what is said in assessing client’s concerns, not getting hooked by the client’s description
  • invoking inquiry for greater understanding, awareness, and clarity
  • identifying for the client his/her underlying concerns; typical and fixed ways of perceiving himself/herself and the world; differences between the facts and the interpretation; and disparities between thoughts, feelings, and action
  • helping clients to discover for themselves the new thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, emotions, moods, etc. that strengthen their ability to take action and achieve what is important to them
  • communicating broader perspectives to clients and inspires commitment to shift their viewpoints and find new possibilities for action
  • helping clients to see the different, interrelated factors that affect them and their behaviors (e.g., thoughts, emotions, body, and background)
  • expressing insights to clients in ways that are useful and meaningful for the client.
  • identifying major strengths vs. major areas for learning and growth, and what is most important to address during coaching
  • asking the client to distinguish between trivial and significant issues, situational vs. recurring behaviors, when detecting a separation between what is being stated and what is being done

What Getting Certified as a Professional Coach Has Really Done for Me/All of You

Now that I have one coaching certification under my belt, you’d think I’d be splashing that thing all over the place.

The funny thing though is that I think the is probably the first time I’m mentioning on our blog, or anywhere outside of our webinars, actually.

Work on my coaching certifications and skills has become one of my two main focuses this year (more on the second one coming on the blog soon!) in terms of time, energy, and prioritization. But I only decided that after I got my first certification.

It took spending a concentrated in-person training with other coaches and aspiring coaches to get clear on all of the ways that coaching can go wrong and fail to provide the power and promise that lies in its potential.

In part, because I had fully glimpsed its potential before, being too close to it to see it clearly, and in part from not having seen before how a coachee’s progress can be so easily derailed by missteps by a coach from the same perspective.

I took these lessons home and immediately began incorporating those into my coaching calls.

But as with learning a language, it was clear that immersion is an incredibly effective and unmatched tool for deeply changing how you communicate. So, during the month of August, I worked with a master coach–someone who has more than 2,500 verified coaching hours under her belt–in an intensive program that had us coach in front of a group of other coaches and purse a rigorous schedule of practice calls. (Naturally, having always been a bit of an overachieving student, I supplemented those with some extra practice calls to have a really immersive month!)

Being forced to coach regularly and be coached by people I never would have chosen about topics I would never opt to coach on was an eye-opening experience in many ways, including:

  • that a skilled coach can help anyone get results, even people they don’t connect with or even necessarily seem to communicate well with (not that that is the type of client relationship that I aspire to on a day-to-day basis though, of course)
  • how, as a very deeply introverted person, to handle and achieve comfort in coaching situations that I don’t feel prepared for or comfortable with
  • that a good coach can help someone find an outcome on anything, even a long-standing marital issue (this situation was in fact really forced upon me, despite the fact that I am in a business coaching program) quickly and easily with the right questions

I really can’t quantify how all of this work has paid off.

I see it every day in so many ways that simply don’t make sense to sing from the rooftops the way that people usually do when they have an awesome course or product and want to share its success.

The results that one can experience with coaching are so huge in terms of how they can affect one’s life, both day-to-day and in the big picture, but the changes themselves that bring about those results can feel small and intensely personal:

  • a sudden realization about how much effort you are (or rather aren’t) really putting into your work
  • seeing that a fundamental member of your inner circle is a drain in a way that you can’t move forward with your goals without address the imbalance in the relationship
  • an understanding of how little you are valuing your own time
  • acknowledgment that you simply want to comfortable more than you want the thing you thought you want, because the friction of going so far out of your comfort zone simply isn’t worth the mental and emotional strain for you at the end of the day
  • clarity around the effect your friends’ and family members’ perception of your work is shaped by how you explain it to them
  • awareness that you consistently choose the longest, hardest way to something and avoid taking the easy way to set yourself up to fail along the way so you avoid disappointment at the end of the line when you actually put your work out into the world
  • an insight into a way that you express yourself not only in your pitches but in every interaction you have in life that weakens your position that you can easily change now that you’re aware of it

These coaching moments, all of which (put in intentionally vague terms) come from coaching conversations I’ve had this summer and fall, are not the sort of case study or testimonial people usually splash around their websites.

Those are more often in the form of finally getting a clip from an incredibly impressive major outlet, getting a book deal, or hitting $5,000 or $7,000 or the coveted six-figure marker of $8,000+ per month (though I’m delighted to say these are all also examples from members of our coaching programs).

But these “aha” moments are why I left my travel writing two years ago to work with all of you in the first place.

To me, they are priceless.

There is no more important work to be done than helping people unlock and move past something that is keeping them from the life that is waiting for them.

What’s Next for My Coaching and Our Programs

Right now, I am a CEC (certified executive coach) through the Center for Executive Coaching, which is run by a man who has himself authored half a dozen books since graduating from Harvard with a bachelors in anthropology and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

This program allows me access not only to a cohort of individuals in major companies who understand how business works, but also an incredible level of business-school-style (and content) training for the head of the program.

He was formerly a consultant in a big consulting form who was horrified by how little his suggestions actually were implemented and able to make a difference for clients.

He realized that coaching was the way to create buy-in, motivation, momentum, and lasting change, and that’s what he’s been doing ever since.

Right now, though I have my initial certification as an executive coach from the organization where I did my training, there are two additional ones that I’m working on.

Even though the Center for Executive Coaching is accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF), it is possible to get a higher-level certification directly through this international body.

The requirements are really hefty though. But that’s also one of the reasons I want to do it.

To get the level of certification I’m working on through the ICF, you need to complete:

  • 500 documented hours of coaching, including at least 450 that you have been paid for, with at least 25 clients since you have begun your official training program
  • 125 hours of coaching instruction, of which 100 must be live and interactive
  • a 10-hour training with a master in which your coaching is observed by other coaches and your trainer over an intensive period
  • the Coach Knowledge Assessment

On top of these hours, which I’m patiently building up over time, I’m also in the middle of an incredible new coaching certification specializing in influence, which, as both writers and small business owners looking to build our ideal client load, should be our post important stock and trade.

Along the way of working through the coaching hours in these programs, I have been heartened by the feedback I’m receiving and the desire to be coached by me expressed by some people with simply incredible backgrounds and accomplishments of their own that frankly, make me feel like a waste-of-space in comparison. In particular, I was honored to be asked to speak on several panels at the recent alumni gathering for the Center of Executive Coaching, despite only having joined this March.

Someone who has himself touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and empowered them to build businesses that changed their lives was a critical force in originally pushing me into both this work and getting my narrative travel work out into the world.

As I’ve dove deep into this coaching work and experienced the results it can have, both in my own life, and the lives of others, I am more jazzed than ever to bring these “aha” explosions to more people to solve more problems.

You’ll hear more about my other big goal and focus for this year in another blog post soon, but that will be crucial to free up my time to bring the power of great coaching and influence building to more folks in our coaching programs, live events, and whatever else comes next in the year to come.

I look forward to bringing all of these new tools to help you with whatever you need help with whenever you’re ready for your next step.

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