Choc Chip Transition
Salted Caramel Confidence
If you were given a massive tub and had to fill it with ice-cream that you could eat for the rest of your life, what flavour would you pick?
If you had to pick what type of coach you are or want to be, which would you pick?
If you are looking for a type of a coach that could support you moving forwards, which would you pick?
Confused? I doubt anyone else has previously linked ice-cream flavours to coaching styles, but while a bit left-field, I think the differences between ice-cream flavours and coaching types emphasises the challenge of pinpointing definitive universally accepted descriptions. The words needed to unpack raspberry in comparison to strawberry ice cream or leadership in relation to executive coach are tricky to craft and articulate. You know the two are similar in many ways, however also quite different, but try and explain the difference between strawberry and raspberry flavours without using either of those two words; and you have the same issue with coaching types.
Within language, the names we attach to describe the objective and subjective elements of our world enable us to give meaning to complexity and consequently aid understanding. However, the interpretation of these labels and categories differs from person to person dependent on their previous experience, skills and knowledge. Pigeon holing coaches into different types or niches provides a useful element of identification for coaches to describe their style, brand and approach, yet in reality coaching often transcends each area leaving us in a blurry muddle if we are forced to pick one.
To Niche or Not to Niche?
The debate on whether it’s necessary to immediately pick your coaching “niche” rumbles on within the coaching community. Having completed a significant amount of coach training and surmounted my initial hurdle to call myself a coach (see #Q1 What’s your personal coaching journey?) the next challenge loomed on the horizon. I vividly remember the ebb and flow of a conversation with a fellow coach grinding to a sudden halt when she posed the question “What’s your coaching niche?”
Words failed me and I was utterly flummoxed.
Looking back through the golden glasses of hindsight there was no Eureka moment or flash of inspiration when I eventually realised my niche – Performance Coaching: taking conversations outdoors and focusing on developing sustainable healthy human performance.
Working on the analogy of a picture paints a thousand words; my initial foray into coaching is clearly reflected through the original photos Jackie Jackaman kindly shot for my first website in Saudi Arabia. Her skill and expertise captured what type of coach I believed I was at that time, as I contemplated three mainstream options:
Leadership Coach. After nine years as a British Army officer, the leadership route was an obvious choice and I had several former military colleagues who worked successfully within this field. Leadership can be seen as the lynchpin for any successful transition or period of change; but I needed more as my interests lay beyond this subject and into the broader realms of human performance.
Business Coach. My interpretation of this entity centres on business strategy, corporate plans, goals and hitting KPIs, whereas I’m drawn to the people at the heart of a business and their motivators, behaviour, relationships and communication, so I was in the process of discounting this idea.
Life Coach. I’ll admit I find this a tricky label to untangle based on vague and ambiguous connotations. There’s definitely enough material for a totally separate set of ruminations within a future blog post, but suffice to say that it got discounted too!
I also contemplated rather then adopting a particular flavour of coaching, I could approach the profession from a different angle and focus on one of the many coaching models, theories, frameworks or franchises. Neuroscience, transactional theory, Gestalt, person-centred, psychoanalytic, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Emotional Intelligence, Conversational Intelligence, ACTION coach, narrative coach (…the list continues) all provide different frameworks on which to build your coaching style and find your niche. This approach offers the benefits of a clear definitive framework to operate within, established support networks and qualifications to work towards, while simultaneously appealing to a broad prospective client base. However, as I unearthed yet another coaching model or tool I found the collective knowledge at my disposal gives me the freedom and flexibility to create organic coaching conversations that support of my clients; opposed to rigorously following a definitive process.
Fast-forward four years, and the images produced working with Charlie Davies are considerably different to Jackie’s and reflect incremental changes as I’ve developed my style, brand and approach. Gone is the smart yet bland corporate uniform I initially favoured yet simultaneously stifled my creativity and authentic self. It was only once I had the courage and confidence to move beyond my own perceptions and assumptions of the corporate world that I was able to truly find my coaching niche.
My key learning from this process is that sometimes these decisions take time to unravel and reveal themselves; there is no need to rush.
“You discover your niche; you don’t choose it”
Throughout this journey, my inner bookworm’s insatiable appetite led me to research and uncover wider scientific research that strongly indicates the positive correlation of physical and mental benefits integrating movement and nature within daily routine. Evidence from a variety of cross-disciplines; physiological, psychological, neurological, aerobic, cognitive, cardio etc. led me initially to write a “Walking a Talking in Nature” blog, and more recently develop “MOVE”, a longer-term project to share the benefits of taking conversations outdoors, integrating walking and the outdoor space within everyday business life.
However, it’s my intuitive personal connection to “The Great Outdoors” that really struck a chord. The power of hindsight enables me to unearth endless memories strung over thirty-eight years that reinforces this genuine passion. Even as a newly commissioned twenty-nothing year old Second Lieutenant with limited life experience, I loved taking work-based conversations with members of my Logistics Troop outside, even if it was just onto the vehicle park. Listening and asking questions in an outdoor setting formed the basis of my leadership skills to support older, worldlier soldiers who faced a raft of family, career, alcohol and drug challenges. Literally, nothing beats heading outdoors for a walking and talking coaching session.
My elite ultra-running career has also played a part in this journey of discovery as lessons from the sports world translate into human performance and business. There’s an array of former sporting heroes who have transitioned into motivational speakers, consultants and coaches and their success is founded on how well elite performance and coaching naturally complement each other.
The final piece within my coaching niche is netwalking; these events organised in partnership with the vivacious Wafaa combine conversations, movement and nature. These netwalks enable me to move beyond working one-on-one with clients and reach a wider audience. During each netwalk a business-related theme is explored through a series of questions to encourage small business owners and individual freelancers to improve businesses and/or human performance, share ideas and connect. The concept emerged from a chance encounter over two years ago and now has a firm following of loyal netwalkers in the southwest region.
Once the seemingly disparate dots joined up everything made perfect sense. Taking coaching into the outdoor space to combine the forces of movement and nature, coupled with my own qualifications and experience, injected a special dynamic and energy into my coaching. The outdoors became my natural coaching realm and has unintentionally become a fantastic USP that’s been a successful differentiator in my business development. This is best illustrated through the words of one of my clients when asked:
What inspired you to choose walking and talking coaching sessions in comparison to virtual or indoor coaching sessions?
“The opportunity to get out of the office environment and increase the focus on the coaching conversation whilst reducing the intensity of a face to face conversation! It was also a different approach that stood out from the other coaches 'on the list'”.
Naomi Copping, Head of HR, National Composites Centre, Bristol
Reflecting across my current client-base, it’s predominantly populated by people we traditionally describe as Leaders: Board Directors, Senior Partners and business owners. I’ve found some clients are specifically drawn to Reach for More based on a shared interest in triathlon, cycling or running, whereas others are blissfully unaware of my endurance habit. Regardless of what attracted the clients to Reach for More in the first place, every client relationship is different and the fundamental basis of success is my ability to support their needs, which often focus around:
Leadership; either of themselves, a specific challenging colleague/manager, their team and/or the wider organisation.
Transition; into a new role/job/career or supporting colleagues who are working through a specific promotion.
Change Management; in line with the words of Heraclitus the Greek philosopher “change is the only constant” with yet another re-structure or simply the status quo of ongoing organisational changes within the twenty-first century business environment.
Everyone has the capacity and capability to exceed their own current performance whereas leaders are in the position to influence others’ performance too. From a business perspective, it's ultimately employee performance, often during transition and change, that creates impact and supports business strategies, delights customers and generates profit. Whether a business commands multi-million pound profits, provides essential services or specialises in a single particular product, it's the performance of every employee that contributes towards the overall business success. Focus on just high fliers; or conversely individuals at the other end of the spectrum who need “fixing”, excludes the majority of the working population and can negatively impact the overall business 3Ps (Performance, Productivity and Profit). This is an area I’ve covered in a previous blog post: Digging Deep into Performance.
The notion of sustainable healthy performance to optimise results offers a wider remit to explore and is ultimately a more holistic approach. People are at the heart of every business and I’m fascinated to discover what motivates and drives each individual to achieve optimal performance across their lives.
What is your coaching niche?
Thanks for taking an interest and reading through my journey into my niche in the coaching world. I’d be interested to hear how you initially discovered, then refined your coaching niche. If you have yet to set out, I offer these words of wisdom given to me by a far more experienced coach mentor:
“Be open minded to explore different avenues; then select a couple of specific themes that genuinely interest you; then continue to refine over time. If you set out to attract everyone; you’ll appeal to no one and you won’t have any clients”.
This is the third post in the “Discover Coaching” series where I elaborate on key questions that crop up again and again in conversations with potential coaches who have reached out to me for advice on becoming a coach. Over the last few years I’ve received several emails which roughly follow the message below, so I thought it would be helpful to consolidate my experience and ideas through this series of blog posts.
I hope you don’t mind me getting in touch, but I was wondering if I might be able to ask for some advice? I’m thinking of gaining a coaching qualification and given your experience, I would be grateful for any thoughts/ideas you might have whenever you have a spare moment.
A Prospective Coach
The first post gave a brief insight into my personal coaching journey, exploring the question “What’s your personal coaching journey?” and second shared various website resources to support the development of your coaching skills and knowledge.
If you know anyone who’s interested in discovering more about coaching; either to support their current role, transition and move into the coaching profession, or simply be more coach-like, I’d be grateful if you would share this post with them.
Photo 1: Suited and booted for the city in classic corporate attire.
Photo 2: Letting Anna-Marie shine through and taking a step outdoors.
Photo 3: Heading outdoors over lunch around Bristol and Bath Science Park through the newer housing developments set amongst older industrial remains.
Photo 4: Myself and Wafaa facilitate monthly netwalking sessions in Bath, Bradford on Avon and Devizes. Each netwalk has a business theme with four coaching questions to encourage conversation, share ideas and support business development. Insert Link to Event Brite.
Photo 5: Closer to home the Kennet and Avon Canal path is perfect for coaching outdoors. Closer to home along the banks of the Kennet and Avon canal in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire an eerie misty damp fog and frozen mud provided a mystical backdrop as we tentatively danced our way across the ice.
In the grip of the British weather it’s always advisable to have Plan B tucked up your sleeve (otherwise known as the pre-recced coffee shop or hotel lobby) yet I find the majority of clients arrive eager to head outdoors regardless of the weather.