Should I Hire A Therapist or a Coach?

The Most Common Questions Asked About Business Coaching

Coach or Therapist?

If you’ve been a listener of the show since seasons one and two, you’ll remember that we used to do an episode every month or so where I would address a question, or questions from our mail bag. I get emails and private messages every week from people who listen to the show, or have at least listened to a show, and I answer every single one of them. I simply decided that doing shows from questions from the mail bag was too easy and a bit of a cop out for me because I like to push myself each week to come up with interesting topics that force me to research and get educated on, if I’m not already.

Nevertheless, one of the most persistent types of question I get month in and month out is about coaching. Over the years, I have collected these questions, and the answers, and compiled what I consider to be a nice list of reasons to hire a coach, what to look for, how much to pay, how to get the most from the experience, how to choose the right one, and so on. In fact, since I’ve gotten such good questions from listeners over the years, I started to post them on our coaching website so that people visiting the site might have their questions answered straight away instead of making them have to take another step to reach out to me with those questions. Side note, this is a friction lowering step when it comes to your web presence. Marcus Sheridan wrote the book, ‘They Ask, You Answer’, where he talks all about becoming the answer people in a particular business or industry and making all those questions and answers readily available for people on your website, so they always come to you for that info.

What I’d like to do in this episode is to cover some of the most valuable of those questions, not so that you reach out to me and hire me as your coach, we don’t even take on new coaching clients unless they’ve been referred by an existing member, but so that you might hear some of these and think more deeply about your life, maybe your business, and have a better understanding about why somebody would ever think to, or consider, hiring a coach.

So, let’s start right there since that is the first question I get; why would somebody hire a coach? Please notice I didn’t say the question is, ‘why SHOULD somebody hire a coach?’, and that’s because I don’t believe hiring a coach is the right direction for everybody. It doesn’t matter how good a coach is, if the person they’re coaching isn’t ready, isn’t doing the work, if they aren’t speaking the same language, so to speak, or if the coaching student has unreasonable expectations, coaching wasn’t what they really needed. I can tell you from doing this kind of work since the mid 1990’s that many people need good therapist more than need a good coach. Now, personally, I like to think of good therapists as coaches, but I don’t think that’s the typical view of most people when they’re hiring a therapist or a coach. If I get the question from somebody asking me, ‘why should I hire you?’, my typical response is, ‘you can’t hire me, I’m not looking for a job!’ We can chat and see if I’ll consider taking you on as a coaching client, but the question you should be asking is ‘why would I hire a coach?’, to which I can then start asking more questions about.

The main reason people hire coaches of any kind is because they have a moment of self-awareness where they realize that it’s very difficult to get perspective on ourselves, and that somebody else may have different, possibly better perspective that might help me overcome some kind of issue or issues. Somebody might hire a coach to solve a very specific problem or situation, and then only need the coach for a specific period of time. I have a very good friend who is a very high-level manufacturing industry coach and consultant who is paid very large amounts of money to come into a manufacturing plant, diagnose issues with production efficiency, and help the company formulate plans for solving those issues. He might only be on a consulting job for a week, and he might work with that company for 6 months or more. They pay him he asks because the problems he solves for those companies are costing the company hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in wasted time, materials, and efficiency and when my friend solves those problems for them, he’s solved those problems for the forever. The company reaps the benefits of the solved problem forever into perpetuity. For them, the savings might be in the millions or billions over the short and long term so the cost of the coaching to them is nominal.

Another reason somebody might seek out a coach is for clarity. Again, it’s very difficult to have perspective on ourselves so a good coach can give an individual some refreshing perspective on things. Good coaches are typically armed with insight from experience, the experience of coaching others through similar situations and scenarios, so they can typically help somebody avoid the pitfalls and potholes associated with decisions that have been made by others in those same situations. The model of learning many of us get growing up is to learn by doing, and then learn from your mistakes. Which, by the way, I’m all for as a parent, as long as the mistakes don’t have life altering consequences. When the risks, the consequences, and the repercussions of a mistake are relatively low, let people learn from their mistakes. Some things will only ever be learned by experiencing them yourself and taking the lessons from the experience.

However, if you can avoid errors and mistakes in something, why wouldn’t you? If somebody has been there before and learned a valuable and expensive lesson, and they’re willing to share that with somebody else, we’d be fools to not take the advice. Libraries are filled with this kind of wisdom; some take it and some don’t. Turn on the A&E channel on any given night and you can find an episode of Scared Straight where they take problem kids and teens and let them hang out in a prison for a day or two while some of the convicts scream in their face and threaten to do unspeakable things to them if, and when, they end up there. The idea is to blast past the logical brain of the youngsters and go straight into their emotional brains to help them see the error of their ways and where the potential consequences of making mistakes might lead them. It’s a form of coaching. A fairly harsh one, but one that works in many cases for that specific scenario. The verbally abusive inmates are trying to help the kids avoid the mistakes and poor choice that they, themselves, made that landed them in prison. So, clarity and perspective, as well as avoiding mistakes that have been made by others, are a few of the reasons somebody would hire a coach.

Another really good reason somebody would hire a coach is to help them set better goals and then break down those goals into daily and weekly activities and metrics that might help develop longer term behavioral changes and better habits. What I can tell you from my own experience with this goal setting piece is that very few people know the proper reason to, or how to properly set worthy goals. Goal setting is such a big topic of discussion, and, in fact, a bunch of new coaches pop up each year in almost every industry because they learned in a seminar how to write out some S.M.A.R.T. goals. That’s the acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound. The problem with only being armed with this extremely simplistic paradigm of achievement is that it doesn’t work for most people.

I hate to spill the beans and talk out of school, but most people never reach their goals. At least not on their own. Maybe they follow the SMART goals process and write out what they think they want to achieve, but the goals are not in alignment with their deeper core values, they’re not in alignment with their habits and behaviors, and the goals are not in alignment with a deeper purpose for the person who wrote them. So, when things get tough and life takes over, most people throw up their hands and give up. If they do reach those goals, they’re now faced with a ‘now what?’ moment. If there is no alignment with core values, a deeper purpose, and something outlining and addressing habits and behaviors, goal setting for most is an exercise in futility. I’m not telling you not to have goals and aspirations, just that there is a right and wrong way to go about it. One way is empowering and life changing, the other way is demotivating and discouraging and often has people focusing on the wrong things. A good coach helps the individual get to the core of the most important things which helps when it’s finally time to start setting some goals and aligning behaviors.

The next question I often get is how to choose the right coach. This, of course, depends heavily on the issue, situation, or goal is for hiring the coach. With my friend in manufacturing, he’s hired for a very specific reason. They don’t hire him to solve goal setting problems with upper management. So, depending on what you’re hoping to gain by hiring a coach, the most common recommendation people get from me is to research, set up a call, look for social proof and results, and a feeling of confidence about the direction you feel the coach can take you in. If you don’t get that feeling after researching and speaking with them, move on. You have to mesh personally with a coach to get some real value from the relationship. Please note, I did not say you have to like your coach. I have had coaches that pissed me off every time I met with them. I hated them every time I left a session. But I also knew that’s why I chose them and I was willing to put up with the anger because the anger was leading to growth. You hire a coach to get results and positive outcomes, not to have a best friend.

The next question I get from time to time is around whether or not a coach should be versed in your industry, and whether or not they should be more successful than you. Great questions! The question of whether your coach should be versed in your industry is multi-faceted. To use my friend again, no manufacturing company would hire me to do what he does because I will not be able to get the results he does. Nor would somebody hire me to be their weight loss or fitness coach, although I think I could whip you into pretty decent shape in short time. However, there are many coaches out there who consider themselves to be generalists, not necessarily specialists. They know business, they understand goal setting and making behavioral changes, maybe they understand HR issues or organizational issues, maybe they understand the steps to help any business scale, and so on. So, the answer to that one is that it really depends. In my opinion, a good business coach can coach in a variety of industries without specific knowledge of that specific business.

Appraisers always think their business and industry is special and that only an appraiser can help them build their business. I made the biggest changes to my own business appraisal business on the coaching and advice from my manufacturing friend, and a guy who is a top national coach in the mortgage business. Why? Because everything I needed coaching on had to do with systems and processes, not appraisal techniques and tactics. In fact, there are specific coaches you can hire to help you be better appraisers. Timothy Anderson and Josh Wallit are two great examples of wonderfully intelligent and experienced people who can help you be a better appraiser. We coach you on how to be a better appraisal business owner, which doesn’t really have anything to do with being good appraisers. In fact, in many cases, being a really good appraiser is what screws up most of them from being great business owners. They’re held back by their own abilities as good appraisers and they think that’s what the market wants from them. What the market wants from them is a duplication of their talents at scale. Your clients may want your expertise and talents, but they’ll take it in the form of some other human being you’ve trained and can produce what you’ve taught them to produce.

That’s what I heard from my coach, and it was the best advice I could ever hear from somebody. They basically both said, ‘get over yourself, Blaine!’ It’s not you we want, it’s what you do and the way you do it. If you can duplicate and reproduce that, then do that! That’s what a good coach does. On the point about whether or not your coach should be more successful than you; that too depends on what they’re coaching you on. For example, it will be very difficult to take advice on health and wellness from a coach who smokes and is overweight. They might know what they’re teaching and coaching on, but you’ll always have your doubts, and you may not have respect for them as a result. It will be difficult to take advice on wealth building from somebody with a negative net worth, no assets, and no prior history of wealth accumulation. And it can be tough to take advice on business building if somebody has never built a business.

However, I can tell you that I coach a bunch of businesses that are, by almost all metrics, more successful than my own appraisal company. Sometimes being the most successful at something actually disqualifies you from being a good coach. It can be like being the most talented athlete or salesperson. Things that come very natural to a person are rarely analyzed and broken down into a teachable point of view by that person. In fact, they often can’t understand why others can’t do what came very easily and naturally to them. A good coach has a deep understanding of human nature, an understanding of the systems and processes required to be successful, an understanding of where the most common pitfalls and bottlenecks occur, and a demeanor that allows them to get to the heart of issues. A good coach asks the right questions at the right time and helps the individual see the answers in front of them. I don’t think, in most situations, a good coach needs to be more successful than the person or people they’re coaching, they just shouldn’t be a complete failure.

The next question is around money and usually sounds like, ‘what metric should I use to determine the cost or price I should be paying for a good coach?’ The metric you use should be directly related to the amount of your life you’ll get back, the degree to which your life will be enhanced, and the degree to which your busines can be bettered and experience increase and greater profitability. What this means is that if coaching costs you $10,000 per month, but it can net you 20 hours of freed up life energy, increase in efficiencies, and an increase in net profit at the end of the day, that might be a steal. If your net after that is a $12,000 or $15,000 increase, then I’d trade my $10,000 for the $12k to $15k all day long, unless I can hire somebody that will get me an increase of $20k per month. The reality is that most coaching in most industries is in the couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars per month. Most will tell you, however, that their returns are exponential to their costs, as they should be.

Remember earlier in the show when I mentioned my manufacturing buddy and how the savings and efficiencies he creates net those companies millions and billions over time? Well, it should be the same with any good business coach. If a good coach can help you avoid a $12,000 mistake, well that’s worth $1000 per month for one year. You get to keep your savings and avoid that same mistake forever into perpetuity. If a good coach can help you drive an additional $1000 to the bottom line, what’s that worth to you? You get to keep earning that additional $1000 per month forever into perpetuity. After 10 years, that’s an additional $120,000. One good idea, one well asked question, one small change in your business, or your life, that helps your life and business be better is something you get to keep forever.

The way to come at the cost question, in my opinion, is how much have bad decisions, lack of action, not knowing certain principles or ideas, and poor habits cost you already? I can tell you the number for most is in the millions. Not only do you have to take into consideration the actual dollar amounts of lost opportunities, you have to then calculate what the return on that money would be if it was invested at a 7% or 8% compounded return. An additional $100,000 in net profit each year is a $1,000,000 in 10 years, not counting any compounding, any interest, and all the other lost opportunities because you didn’t have that money or the freed up time. A good coach doesn’t cost you money, a good coach makes you a better human being, a better business person, and nets you considerably more money than your investment into their insights and services.

I hope that has helped you have some of your own insights, my friends, and until next week, I’m out…

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