Coach like a Pace Horse

Great coaching involves helping people get outside perspective, and this often means changing the pace up for them. Daily life runs its course, and most leaders feel they are sprinting for their lives from sunup to sundown. Often they’ve completely forgotten how to slow down for reflection.

At the end of a horse race, there’s always a pace horse that trots up alongside the racer during cool down. This horse isn’t bred for her ability to sprint, she is there for her ability to calm down the racer. Coming alongside leaders is like that. You have to be conscious that the client is running hard, and help them change their pace so they can catch their breath.

It’s easy for people (those who are a D on the DISC for example) think they need a coach who can sprint just like they can, but that’s not the case. You might find it disconcerting or disruptive to work with a coach for 90 minutes instead of a 15 minute conversation… but exploration doesn’t happen in a linear fashion. If you’re a hard-driving, highly motivated leader, you may want to consider finding a coach who can help you ease off the gas once in a while. You will be surprised at the value that coach can provide!

Need To Know Basis

We’re all on a need-to-know basis all the time. Life is so crowded now that information accessibility has reached an all-time high, that we’re self-selecting in this regard.

Information used to be carefully guarded. There are still things that governments hide, places where you can’t just walk in and find out anything you might want to know.

Conversations I’ve had the last two days have alerted me to the fact that we really need to choose what information we put out about ourselves: what we’re thinking, what we’re planning, what good word we’re trying to spread.

The key to selling what you really want to sell is not putting out more information than necessary to allow a buyer to make a decision. Everything else muddies the water. Other information becomes on a need-to-know basis to keep buyers from being overwhelmed.

This blog, for example, is a catch-all for my writing. If you’re really concerned about what I believe and think, I may not submit to a twenty-page theological and philosophical interview to work with your organization, but everything I put out there is just that: out there. Draw your inferences.

It has been said that you should not throw your pearls before swine. One way to look at that is to only share the information that’s relevant to getting the job done. If a plumber comes to your house and says “I can fix this pipe” you say “great, do it,” but if they then begin to tell you how you might also want to consider replacing your windows, and they can do that too, you’re liable to become overwhelmed. “Which one should I fix first?”

If I tell a prospect I can do motivational speaking (this is an example of a mistake I’ve been making!) but also life coaching, they may wonder which I do better. And if I’m an expert at one and not the other, why mention it? They’re much more likely to hire a motivational speaker who only does motivational speaking, or a coach who only coaches. The reality is that most coaches will do some speaking, and many speakers will interact with you personally, but it’s rare that someone is equally skilled at both. Give the information that’s needed. Not more.

 

Getting Busy With It

Not another blog about how busy someone is and how they haven’t had time to write their blog and how they feel guilty about it. Please, not one of those. OK, I promise. Here’s a bit of what’s going on, followed by some encouragement to go out and work on your own stuff!

Besides working on multiple book projects, some with co-authors, there are as many as six or seven speeches, training groups or classes I’ll be leading this fall, two international trips (and fundraising to make that happen) and oh, yeah, I need to get my kid’s soccer schedule on my calendar. All that before Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving, I will probably get a bit of a break… except it will be prime time for fundraising for the nonprofit’s 2017 budget.

I’m starting to find a sweet spot in spending money on marketing that actually brings in a decent return on investment, so there are more clients these days for individual coaching.

I have this to say to aspiring life coaches, motivational speakers, and authors: if you think you’re good at one of those three, get better. Then learn to market, manage websites, network your butt off, give lots of real value in exchange for the buck you earn, earn that buck for real, no scams, and then start getting good at the other two disciplines. They all go hand in hand to support you, like a stool with three legs. The bottom line is that in addition to providing great service, giving good speeches, and writing good books, you have to learn a fourth skill: that of entrepreneurship. Which means sales. Which means recognizing you aren’t going to close every deal. Get over yourself. You aren’t the best coach for everybody, but for the right people you’re very good.

People are going to ask you if you’re like Tony Robbins or John Maxwell.

I liked what Simone Biles said the other day, something like: I’m not the next Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.

Yep. I’m the first Adam Fleming. I’m not like Tony Robbins or John Maxwell, but I have every reason to be confident I can help people just as much as one of those guys could, and certain people I’m going to be able to help a lot more. Realize that you’ve got a unique perspective, nobody else has it.

Then, when you can’t sleep at 1 AM, don’t watch TV. Post another blog. Keep working.

Then, when the weekend comes, know how to take a break.

This goes for a lot of people with the entrepreneurial spirit. Get good at what you do, present yourself with confidence, work hard, over-deliver, and learn how to rest.

Want to partner with my nonprofit efforts, get involved with one of the workshops I’m leading, or check out my books? Cool. I’m glad you said “yes, I’ll read on!”

Here are the two primary websites, followed by my Amazon author page:

www.motivationallistening.net

www.evergreenleaders.org

Adam G. Fleming author page

What do Egypt and Belize have in common? I’m going.

HERE’S the SCOOP: This is a personal update to my friends, family and global community plus readership.

Writing: The first Stetson Jeff Adventure is published. I’m making slow but steady progress on Zeppelin Zeke. I write a decent poem every now and then. Megan and I will be working on Your Guide to Understanding the Twelve Purposes of Art this fall once kids get back in school.

Coaching/ Training: For my nonprofit work I’m preparing to travel some more. It’s a long story how I ended up looking at a trip to Egypt and Belize in the same season, but for brevity, let’s just say that’s where I feel strongly in a spiritual sense that I’m supposed to go next. At an event several weeks ago things began to gel for a trip to Egypt, when I met two people who both enthusiastically encouraged me to go there in early October. These connections were not random and gave me a certain confidence in this direction, something that’s been percolating in my brain since February.

Honestly I’m not entirely sure what God has for us to do there. We’ll take our coaching and coach training experience and skills in our hip pocket and go see what the Father is doing. That feels a little nebulous, but there’s definitely been a growing sense that this is next, so I’m going for it. When I say we I mean myself, and two other guys who are considering going.

I have friends ready to go work long term in Belize; I get to drive them to the airport on August 5th and they will arrive there the same day to get to work, so it would be great to go see their lives after they’ve had about three months on the ground. I hope to go in early November. I’ll be in a coaching support role for them long-term so it will be really good to get to know their context just a little bit.

So here’s the deal: I want to invite you to consider giving to my nonprofit work. For these two trips I still need to raise $4700. If you’d like to give, electronically or by check, please click here.  I want to channel donations to Evergreen Leaders’ travel fund if you give through this blog, so drop a comment if you’ve given something (you don’t have to say how much) and let me know on the blog so I can route donations appropriately. I don’t often do asks through this blog, so if you’re wishing this blog was about coaching, or poetry or something else… next time!

Coaching biz: build a niche, or brand?

 

Notes from my webinar hosted by CCNI on June 7. Many thanks to CCNI, and to all the folks who joined in to hear what I have to say!

I want to share a bit about my personal journey as a coach at the outset so you know who I am, where I’m coming from and what I really have to offer here (and what I don’t).

It’s been brought to my attention by a peer that I struggle with coming across as either arrogant about what I have achieved or whiny about what’s not going well. That’s a major growth edge for me, and in fact it can sometimes mean that I create stumbling blocks for others even as I promote my own coaching business. This friend noted that when people do get to know me they find that these first impressions don’t hold up, which I of course knew; however, what I’m not always aware of in the moment is how others perceive how I present myself. In fact I feel I’m a much better writer than verbal communicator and that’s because I feel like I can massage things better when I have a chance to edit my thoughts.

So by way of introducing myself I want to be clear that any discussions of where I’ve done well or where I’ve been weak in my growth as a professional coach, those things I hope will edify you, not turn you off.

 

The next thing to say about myself by way of introduction is that yes I am a CPCC with CCNI and this call is the one place where I feel that doesn’t need further explanation, you know what it means and what it takes to get there. That’s a journey I’ve been on since 2007, when I was only 33 years old, a very young age to start a coaching career. However, I do not come from a background of church work, and often feel like an outsider; I don’t have megachurches banging down my door to lead coach training classes or coach their entire staff, but I don’t quite fit in the business world either. I’m in the art world, but that leaves me with a ton of cool contacts who can’t afford coaching! I identify strongly as an artist, poet, writer, prophet in the Ephesians 4 meaning of the term, and as such I’m a pretty nonlinear thinker. That has implications for what I write and how I write it, which we’ll come back to.

What I can tell you about the niche and branding discussion is borne of experience in being honest with myself, which is a major success. It is not born of a success in building a financially successful coaching practice. I suspect being honest with yourself is the first step to fruit, in fact I believe it enough to preach it to you without the fruit yet. Also, it makes common sense. Now that you know what to expect, let’s dig into that a bit deeper.

I was always told you need to pick a niche. I will tell you that my niche is at the crossroads of faith, the arts, and entrepreneurship. My favorite clients to work with are entrepreneurial Christian artists: people who are trying to make a living and be missional with their art. In the process of trying to build websites and manage blogs, I was gradually getting more and more blogs and websites, some of them trying to put me in front of artists, and others to attempt to attract business clientele, etc. Until one day, a friend of mine said, “just focus on your personal brand.” One website, one whole person. Let your personality show in one central location online, What I came to understand, and this is a key, is that putting yourself in a niche is actually making yourself generic. The problem with going to a networking event and saying, for example, “I am a health coach,” is that people will say “so what? I know fifteen other health and fitness gurus in this city.” And the same goes for business coaching… to a lesser extent creativity coaching. And you’re back at square one, trying to show people how you’re different…. Without coming across as arrogant or whiny. At least that’s my challenge, because I know I’m one of the best in Northern Indiana and I whine about how those other coaches aren’t really coaching!

It’s been helpful for me to think in terms of how Jesus met people. I’m going to give only one example and I’m sure you can come up with others.

Jesus had a definite niche, and he knew what it was. And that was okay. He focused there. In Matthew 15:24 he was on a vacation, but started getting pestered by a Syrophoenecian woman. So he told her what his niche was. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

She said, “lord help me.”

They argue a bit, and in her persistent faithfulness, which we could talk about in coaching speak as a high degree of buy in, he decided to give her his help.

It wasn’t Jesus’ niche that preceded him and gave him a reputation in Tyre.. it was in fact what modern marketers call a personal brand.

So the point is not that we should eschew niches. We need to know where we focus. But, if we’re dedicated to helping people who have a high degree of buy in, no matter what, when they ask for it, then we can answer that call a lot more often when we’ve focused on a personal brand.

As you know the coaching skill set gives us tools to work with anyone. But one thing I learned from attending networking groups such as BNI is that saying “I can help anyone” gives your listener nothing to focus on. And that’s a niche thing. It’s a lot more effective to say “ can you think of someone who wants to publish a book” than to say “ I can help anyone who wants to work at creative ways to promote themselves.” But while we’re asking for referrals in a niche or two, our personal brand will attract people from well beyond our niche, who will come say “please help me.” Isn’t that ultimately what we want?

Now I want to share about how this impacted my authorship and how I develop my values.

Last year I put a book proposal together for a publisher. I noted that there were lots of great books about how to coach. I have not yet seen one that came from a poetic nonlinear thinker, and I wanted to write one that way. I believe there’s power in artistic treatment of any subject matter. I got the book deal and wrote The Art of Motivational Listening: Creative Ideas for Effective Leaders. I don’t know if I ever would have conceived of, proposed or written this book if I had not come to understand that my personality was something worth celebrating. And that’s all branding really is. Think about branding commercials with no call to action. Huge companies do this. McDonald’s and Coke. They spend a lot more time celebrating a lifestyle than they do with specific calls to action within a niche. The illusion, in this case, is that their products will enhance anyone’s lifestyle! Really there’s only one person whose brand truly enhances anyone’s lifestyle. That’s Jesus. So whatever we do with our personal brand it needs to reflect what Jesus has placed within us as a calling and member of his body.

For me, a second question that rocked my world last fall was “if you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?” it’s a long story of loneliness and rejection, but my answer was simple and immediate: everyone in the world should have one good friend. I want my clients to experience friendship as I deploy my creativity in pursuit of their destiny. My brand is about friendship. That’s what Jesus is to me, and what I want to reflect of him. That’s why I’m not a counselor. It’s even to some extent why I’m not a pastor. I’m a Barnabas and I’m so glad that I found coaching as a channel for my life’s work. I’m discovering this prophetic and poetic element, and exploring that deeper this year, but it feels like I’m just beginning on a long journey with that, embracing the poetic/prophetic aspect of my call, and really an entertainer aspect to that, learning to speak and perform as well as I’ve learned to listen. Thanks for taking the time to come listen to me today, the best place to get my book The Art of Motivational Listening and other books I’ve written is on the bookstore. I’m happy to answer questions or comments.

ps: some great comments and questions came up. One of them was “what’s your creative definition of brand?” And my answer went back to the idea that branding is celebrating your unique personality. This might be the most important takeaway. Please do feel free to comment on the blog as well.

The Motivated Locomotive

Once upon a time there was a train full of toys, stuffed animals, dolls and balls. “Wouldn’t it be great,” said the Clown, CEO, “if all the boys and girls on the other side of the mountain had our goodies, toys and treats any time they wanted?” Everyone agreed. So they roughed out a Vision statement which said “Develop, deploy, and manage a diverse set of strategic logistics tools to serve our customers, improving overall satisfaction among our diverse customer profiles.” It sounded very business-like. Everyone knew what it meant, right? “Take a variety of toys and sweets over the mountain that all the kids will like.” Also, they decided that a good mission statement would be “seamlessly operationalize market-driven global opportunities,” which pretty much meant “get in the black asap” and they got to work.

The CEO pointed out that the most likely market was over the mountain, and besides, there was a railroad right over the top already, so the company loaded a train with anything they had in stock and set off to make their mission a reality. Which was great, until their engine broke down a mile out of town. Nobody had bothered to see if it was in working condition. So the CEO started doing some quick headhunting by tapping his network.

“hey, I need a loco-motivated guy here who can get us over this mountain,” he said. He tried to lure away people from some major logistics companies, one that specialized in heavy brown and yellow packages, and another that specialized in speedy delivery of red and blue envelopes, but nobody he went to business school with was interested in working for a startup, for half their current pay and dubiously valuable stock options.

Finally he found a kid who was just out of college. Let’s just say she was a little green behind the ears and hadn’t quite stopped watching videos with talking trains who rolled their eyeballs around and bantered with their cabooses and obeyed a clown in a top hat. She was what we’d call an “idealist” and a “go-getter” and she’d never had an opportunity before. She was hyper-motivated; even loco-motivated because she loved the vision. Her motto was “I think I can” and with a lot of effort she made it over that first mountain and delivered the goods.

The end, but not quite. Using some lingo she thought the CEO would understand, the Little Engine Who Did, said “that mountain is a silly hilly hill, homey don’t play that,” and to the board of directors she said “our methodology is unsustainable, has anyone even bothered to think about what our values are?”

Everyone said “What do you mean? We have a vision, a mission, a motivated general manager, and we’re in the black. Keep doing it!”

The Little Engine Who Did, and was happy to keep doing it, too, if only it wasn’t such a damn uphill struggle half the time, said, “We have vision: we know how we want to change the world for the better; we make children happy. We have a mission: to deliver toys to the town on the other side of the mountain. But I’m not motivated to keep making that climb, over and over, when I think there might be better ways to deliver that fit who we are more appropriately. Did anyone think about the tracks?”

“The tracks were just there,” said the giraffe, who spoke up because he always had an easy time getting a bird’s eye view, “and based on a cursory inspection they do not appear to be broken.”

“It’s not a matter of being broken or not. It works, but I’m wearing out quickly. I don’t get to see my children much, and when I do, I’m so exhausted I fall asleep before we’re done eating our KFC. I really want to do what we do, but I don’t have a high value for our traditional methodology.”

“How else could we do it?” said the CEO.

“The first two options I see are blasting a tunnel through the mountain or building a track that goes around it. Then we could consider getting a ship and sailing around to the east, or flying some of the goods in by air. Some of those methods will cost more, some will take longer, but just getting it done isn’t going to work. We need to look at other values besides just doing it this way. In this case, there isn’t a right way to do it, just different ones.”
So they wrote it out:

Vision, or how the world will change if we succeed: Kids will play and grow!

Mission: What we are doing now: Getting toys and fruit to children.

 Values: How we do it and why we do it the way we do it. Where the train tracks go and why they go there.

“We have not thought about these very carefully before,” said the CEO, who felt his suspenders had broken and his pants were falling down, because they were. Hee, hee.

And that is when they called a coach to help them talk it over. The Beginning.