Monday, April 23, 2012
Individual, independent career coaches, executive coaches and life coaches make an interesting feature in the varied coaching landscape. They need to compete against much larger organisations, but they have the opportunity to provide complementary services. But there are pitfalls too.
It was a deliberate choice, eight years ago, to try it on my own and set up my own individual coaching service. First of all, I was given the opportunity and a carte blanche by a small consultancy in London. Secondly, I knew I could set up something that was different, filling in a need in the market that was left untouched so far.
As with many independent executive coaches, my clients chose me as much for what I am as for what I am not. I can work discretely, without my clients’ colleagues, bosses or even their PAs knowing what I am there for. Independent coaches can offer a service that is totally bespoke. My clients know that they work with me and only me; they can be assured their account will not be handed down to a more junior person after one or two meetings. When they work with me, clients know they will not have to study any set theory and they are not pushed in a fixed programme.
However fascinating and liberating, independent coaches have no immediate colleagues or bosses to fall back on. But by building your own support system, you end up with one that is very personal to you. You have to go the extra mile to achieve such a support system, but the extra effort leads to a very satisfied feeling about it. There are no safety nets and we don’t always work with fixed tried and tested programmes that have been rolled out many, many times. To me, that keeps me on my toes. Having to make it happen from scratch with every new client is exciting and keeps routine at bay. I provide my own reward system but my clients are very positive in their feedback and it goes out to me and to me alone. All the collateral jobs, like administration, PR, networking, account management and sales are mine. Being my own boss, I am doing them with pleasure because I have a very good sense of the direct effect of them. But I get all the praise and feedback.
Independent coaches have to be extremely flexible and adaptable and I feel we can offer a very high quality and standard. Never once have I felt small against the big boys: we offer mostly similar services, but also quite different ones. However, I do notice I have started to get more and more clients, individuals and companies, who say they are tired of working with those large organisations with all their overwhelming sales and networking abilities and their heavy handed fixed programmes.
Most of my clients are stuck in a rut, they are ambitious but are failing to materialise their ambitions and they don’t understand why. Their ambitions are personal, and so are their struggles with themselves and with the competition for the top job. Bringing me on board, away from the peering eyes of their competing peers causes the breakthrough that baffles everyone, not in the least themselves. Being slightly different than most of their colleagues they had side-tracked themselves. They are lone rangers.
But without us lone ranger coaches they might never have found the way up again.