In this short snippet of our longer Coaching Blueprint digital marketing program interview, I talk with Layla Saad of WildMysticWoman.com about how she went through a radical business re-brand (this after some of her existing content had gone viral!). The full interview is included in the Coaching Blueprint digital marketing program for life coaches.
Layla’s post discussed in the interview: How 6 Figure Business Coaches are Failing You
Interested in hearing the rest? Get access to the full interview and more when you purchase the full Coaching Blueprint Program
Who’s the “Expert” in the room?
I recently lead a marketing seminar for a group of people who were relatively new to online marketing. We were covering the basics of blogging and social media that evening, and I had mentioned that blog posts needed to go beyond being “Dear Diary” manifestos, and into “demonstrating your expertise.”
- A man raised his hand and said, not disrespectfully but with a real earnestness , “The term ‘expert’ being thrown around the internet so much these days bothers me. I’m not an expert. I’m just starting out. There’s no way that I’m on par with people who have spent years doing this, who have poured all their time into studying this.”
I loved his point–mostly because sometimes, the casual tossing around of “expertise” bothers me, too.
Recently, I heard about a coach who had decided (after being financially unsuccessful at coaching people on other topics) that her new niche was to teach people how to be millionaires.
Knowing her personally, I cringed. This was not someone who was a millionaire, or who had ever been a millionaire. This was, in fact, someone who only a year earlier had sent messages out to everyone she knew, asking for help getting clients so that she could pay her bills.
We are welcome to politely disagree about this, of course, but I tend to think that if someone has never made that kind of coin, they shouldn’t posit themselves as having an expertise in helping someone else to make that kind of coin.
The same goes for any other topic, too. Coaches who are paralyzed by overwhelm say that they’ll teach people how not to be overwhelmed. Coaches who experience extreme anxiety about what other people think end up saying on their sales pages that they will help other people to stop worrying so much about what other people think. Coaches with relationships that are filled with drama, a few more choices that amp the drama, and a little extra helping of more drama, offer themselves up to help other couples.
The line between Expertise and Internet Shazam
The man who raised his hand to point out that it often takes years of study and experience to gain mastery over something was not being flip. As coaches, we do need some level of personal mastery over the things that we are to help others with.
When we have not personally internalized some level of mastery over a life lesson–not caring what other people think, forgiveness, handling overwhelm, making tough decisions, shifting a relationship, being creatively expressed–then we will only ever be helping our clients with “how to.”
Deep down, I think we all know this. I know how it feels when I “want” to forgive someone, versus when actually I do find my way to the choice, and it fully lands in my heart, mind, and body.
Think of the last time you were in that space. When you “want” to forgive someone, it’s all logic and pushing yourself to reason through things. When you actually do? There’s a complicated-yet-simple matrix of things at work. There’s a reconciliation of the past. There’s compassion, for yourself and for them. There’s logic and reason, finally clicking into place with understanding. There’s an expansiveness of love in your heart. You feel it within your body.
You can read books on forgiveness, talk to people about forgiveness, or even have other people pay you to give them advice on forgiveness.
However, nothing compares to actually forgiving, and it’s that experience that will teach you the most about guiding a client through that terrain. The same is true for anything else that clients need your help with.
Notice that I haven’t, so far, mentioned certification or diplomas or licenses. I take a bit of a controversial stance on this one.
First, I find lacking integrity in the sales pages of most large, conglomerate training institutions. I find it deplorable that they charge what they charge for a certification that is not even a real certification recognized by any state, not to mention the ways that they skirt the issue of how challenging it is to find clients and recoup the nearly $10k that a coach will spend on one of their training programs.
Second, my own coach-guru-man (as I affectionately call him), Matthew, never went to any formal training. He’s taught me more about life and living than the decade of therapists I saw before him.
Third, as I discovered when I went to graduate school to get my Marriage and Family Therapy license, attending a program that runs you through all the state requirements for license does not necessarily give you the skill-set needed to work with people.
- I’m not knocking therapy or therapists. I’m saying that diplomas and certification do not automatically = qualified to be effective with people.
Before making the decision to leave my MFT program, I talked with a lot of advanced students who were about to graduate. Without exception, they all bemoaned the fact that their classes on teaching “counseling” had not really taught them enough to give them confidence.
Furthermore, I realized with astonishment, choosing a career as a counselor did not necessarily translate to consciously practicing kindness. All semester long, I’d wondered about two women in particular who sort of whispered and darted glances at me, made comments that seemed like backhanded compliments or passive-aggressiveness–but with a smile, such that I wasn’t *quite* sure what the deal was.
I finally got a clue on the day when they were mad that I had sat in one of “their” seats in a classroom.
We had no assigned seating, of course. There was ample seating in the classroom to accommodate them.
In front of the entire classroom, these women in their late twenties were suddenly thirteen, again: “SOMEBODY just HAD to sit in my seat!” they said, setting down their things in other seats with a dramatic huff, while their other friends in the room snickered, at me.
Not one other person training to become a counselor spoke up to say anything. (I did, but that’s another story, for another time).
- I sat in a seat. For sitting in a seat, in my mid-thirties, in a professional licensing program for counselors…I was being bullied, middle-school style…by two women who were planning to become (of all things!) public school counselors!
I know that one example doesn’t make the rule, but I think you get my point: getting a degree will not guarantee that someone has a skill-set for being with and among people.
I don’t call people an expert based on a piece of paper or training or who they studied with. I don’t assign my approval or sanction to someone because of who they know or what they did in their internship or clinical hours.
Welcome to Expertise
It’s not your job as a coach to be perfect. I’m certainly not! That’s why I say “some level of” personal mastery. Humans are imperfect, and we always will be.
It’s your job to utilize a skillset that supports other people in getting the results that they want to get in their lives.
And that leads me to how I define “expertise.” Here are the two questions I’ll ask:
- Do you have enough mastery (not perfection, but skillfulness) in this area to be reasonably confident that you can lead clients to the results they want in a particular area?
- And furthermore, do you understand that expertise only labels a changeable state, one that needs constant refining and support in order to maintain that expert edge, and you’re willing to refine and educate yourself to maintain that edge?
Then, welcome: you are an expert.
I call myself an expert on courage and fear because I’ve lead so many clients to results.
Furthermore, I understand that the only way to maintain any expertise in doing what I do is by continuing to invest in education that helps me to expand not just my skillset as a coach, but my inner work and understanding. If I want to continue to help people to release fear and practice courage, then I need to continue to release my own fear and practice courage.
My vision for expertise is grounded in efficacy, in results, in helping people to get to where they want to go.
If you’re reading this and having some level of panic that you might not be “expert enough,” I would invite you to really sit down and spend some time assessing your strengths as a coach.
Maybe your expertise is not in a process, but in a way that you show up. Maybe you listen expertly, or put into words things that people have trouble articulating. Maybe your expertise is that you have something about you that helps other people to feel safe.
Some of you who sit down to assess your strengths might realize that you actually DO lead your clients through an actual process, one that you could claim, or that your clients always start out in the Land of X, and because they work with you they end up in the Land of Y.
Effective results. Real solutions for people who need them. That’s expertise, in my book.
I’m passionate about helping life coaches make their practices profitable, while still staying aligned with their values.
That means: no slickster marketing, no gimmicks, and a big hell yes to doing business your way.
But there’s a pinpoint of discernment that’s important: doing things your way still means that you gotta do something.
The Adult-ing of Business
Yes, I get it—you became a coach because you wanted to command your own hours and do work that lit up your soul.
I want that for you, too—I just also want you to make a profit.
Making a profit and marketing talk? It requires some “adult-ing.” Doing things your way might still mean that you have to do some adult-ing and also do a few things that aren’t your absolute favorite.
Take social media, for instance. I’ve heard many new coaches talk about how much they hate it. For them, not being on Facebook or Twitter is like a badge of honor.
Here’s the thing: if you don’t want to be on social media because you dislike it and you want to “do things your way,” fine. I don’t know anyone who was born saying, “When I grow up, I want to come up with tweets that have high conversion rates.”
Just understand that with that decision to do it your way and not be on social media, you might be creating more work for yourself. Or you might be creating something of an uphill battle for your business, where it takes longer to find clients or connect with the right people.
And that? That means you might not get to some other things, “your way,” like being able to work fewer hours, overall.
I have this theory that for most people who go into working for themselves, the underlying challenge is one of being fully seen.
Being fully seen for who you are.
Being fully seen for your expertise.
Being fully seen in the spaces where you’re not the expert.
Being fully seen and risking rejection.
We resist doing the things that will make us most visible, because being visible is scary.
Options for the Stuff You Don’t Like
For anything that could be helpful to growing your business, but for whatever reason you just don’t like it?
There are options for the stuff you don’t like.
…talk to someone who does it in a way that you like. See what they do about the parts that they don’t like.
…delegate the stuff you don’t like, to someone you hire.
…intentionally find something you like, so that it’s no longer “stuff I don’t like.”
…decide that the energy you’re putting into not liking something is probably where 90% of the problem is coming from. So hey, stop putting that energy there.
Doing Business Your Way
Yes, you can do business your way. Keep in mind that sometimes, compromises will be necessary. It’s compromising on your essential values that you really want to avoid—values around not “pushing pain points” to get business, for instance.
Resistance around social media, or aligning different aspects of your business to boost your SEO rankings, or being willing to re-write a sales page that’s lackluster so that you get higher converting sales?
This is resistance to work through—and it’s resistance that’s worth exploring from the vantage point of, “Am I resistant to this because I have a fear of being fully seen?”
Now that we’re a few months into 2015 you’re likely at the point where all your BIG plans for the year have been tucked away, or have fallen by the wayside as the realities of running your coaching business happen around you.
What you’re experiencing is 100% normal. As business owners we tend to set crazy big goals for the long haul, which goes against human nature. When you’re working on the ground, in your biz, day in, day out, that big goal quickly becomes overwhelming and unrealistic. Next thing you know, you’re off track, chasing the next shiny object and your brain is ready to explode.
Breathe easy. Because we’ve got a fix to get you back on track. Setting goals for an entire year is a recipe for failure. Our brains can truly only function in about 90 to 100 day chunks of time. So when you set a goal that’s 12 months long, you’re not failing when you don’t accomplish it, you’ve simply gone against human nature.
We tend to confuse our vision with goals. The vision is the guiding principle, the long-term plan and absolutely necessary. But trying to run your vision day-by-day on the vision alone isn’t entirely functional. But you need something to keep you on track as your go from point A (today) to point B (the future when you’re living the dream).
Our vision is the why, our specific goals are what, when what we really need is the how. How are we going to actually make things happen?
Enter your savior and new business BFF, the 90 day plan.
Meet the 90 Day Plan
The idea behind the 90 day plan is that you take your vision and goals and break them down into actionable, realistic bite-sized chunks. This approach lets you take actions every day, every week that help you get to the big goals and vision over time.
Before you dismiss 90 plans as being too tactical, consider this. What’s the alternative? Eating the elephant and trying to get your book deal or meet your huge revenue goal? Finding yourself going off course as you’re not sure what do next?
With my clients, I see the magic of the 90 day plan happen over and over. It’s the very first thing that I implement with each and every client so they can start seeing successes immediately and are constantly moving ahead.
Having a 90 day plan makes the intangible suddenly tangible and helps them take action in a sustainable, logical way.
When my client Brittany Becher started her business a year ago, she was still working in a corporate job so time was at a premium. Using 90 day plans, she was able to get out of her own way and see the path out of her full-time gig and into entrepreneurship by taking small actions day in, day out. A year later, Brittany’s the CEO and founder at Foundation and Flow and growing an amazing business.
The lesson from Brittany and my clients just like her is that it’s way too easy to get stuck at the macro level and skip over all the steps you need to take to build your audience, connect with potential clients and bring in revenue today.
The 90 day plans means that small wins breed consistency, and that action results in long-term success because you’re not working towards something simply too big to put your arms around.
Creating Your 90 Day Plan
You can create a 90 day plan anytime. Don’t wait for the start of a month or a new quarter, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your goals, (or even if you aren’t) there’s no time like the present.
So, what goes in your 90 day plan?
You’ll want to start with looking at the key functional areas of your business that you need to focus on. Some examples include: sales, marketing, operations, client service, community building or even self-care. You pick what you need to focus on most at that high level.
Once you’ve got those picked out, break down the specific actions and activities by month that you want to accomplish. Here’s an example:
You’ll notice that these are often tactical, very specific goals. There’s no plans to take over the world in any given month. Tactical actions are what going to help you execute your strategy, so embrace that simplicity and uncomplicate your business.
Amber McCue is a systems and leadership expert and the CEO of NiceOps. She partners with the nicest, smartest CEOs around to help them step into leadership roles and build a strong CEO mindset.