Last night I attended a great session arranged by the Association for Coaching, where Katherine Tulpa, Chief Executive and Co-Founder talked about mapping the landscape of coaching.  One of the key trends that she mentioned (and that organisations increasingly want) are external coaches who can brand themselves and be clear about what is their niche.  If someone asked you who you coach, would you say "anyone", or are you clear about your ideal type of clients?

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Katherine gave us five questions that she uses to define this more clearly and it really helped me consider this question in more detail.

1. What informs your coaching?   Where do you get inspiration, ideas, new concepts, feedback etc. from?  It made me realise that everyday life and the diversity of experiences I have had, plus the work I do with clients in different sectors as a speaker, leadership development specialist and coach all bring different aspects of learning that inform my coaching.   

2. When do you do your best coaching?  Each of us as coaches (and perhaps as coachees too) know when we are experiencing this – when you are "in flow".  As we discussed this on the night, another attendee commented that for them it was when no-one else was watching.  We talked about how other stakeholders in the process may have an impact on how you coach. It might also be when you are able to switch off the "inner critic" and just be present in the moment with your client.   I also reflected that environment plays a key role in being able to do your best coaching too.

3. What is your coaching niche and why?   Katherine talked about focusing on knowing your purpose and strengths and being clear about why these things are important to you.  This was the most useful connection that she helped me make in terms of bringing together my own values, purpose and strengths in my proposition as a coach.   A while ago I did the StrengthsFinder questionnaire and my top five strengths are:

  • Futuristic – "wouldn't it be great if…."
  • Activator – "when can we start…."
  • Significance – "associated with people who are credible, professional and successful"
  • Maximiser – "Excellence…not average"
  • Focus – "Clear destination"

It suddenly all made sense – yes, these strengths are what I bring to my coaching, and now I will be able to incorporate these types of words into how I describe myself.  

4. What makes your coaching effective?    This question combines elements of the learning from the previous questions and may also encourage you ask your clients what they experience too.

5.  What do your clients say about their experience in working with you?   Here is the proof in the pudding. So  how do you know?  Ask your clients to describe this and capture it.  I ask them to provide five words to describe the experience and one of my recent clients said " Confident, comprehensive, clarity, empathetic, assured."  I can see now how this fits with my strengths.

So as the coaching profession develops and more and more people enter the market, perhaps its about time for you to define your space and be clear about your coaching niche.   Thanks Katherine!