Have you ever talked yourself up to a potential client in order to get business? Have you ever had a client ask about your successes in business? When the client asked about your successes, did you say, “Ya’know, I can share with you my successes, but I’d rather share with you my greatest disasters for that is where I can help you the most of what NOT to do?
I come across so many business coaches who, when asked about their worst business decision, they are hesitant to share. It is either because they are insecure to reveal how they got their scars or they are just embarking on their journey as a business coach with no business experiences to share.
To Thine Own Self Be True. ~ Polonius in Hamlet
Anyone can be a business or life coach nowadays as there are very few, if any, enforced regulatory guidelines to practice here in Australia. To a certain extent, the success of a ‘coach’ relies on your marketing strategies, the promotion of your book (since a #1 best seller on Amazon apparently makes you an authority), and the SEO of your website. The consumer does not really know the difference if you are qualified, the ‘real deal’, or just a great marketer.
Being an ‘authentic coach’ is NOT a marketing issue; if anything it is the farthest from marketing. Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau stated that authenticity is derived from the natural self, whereas inauthenticity is a result of external influences. That being said, especially in today’s society, the challenge of being a truly authentic coach is quite high due to the plethora of external influences impacting one’s practice. A ‘truly authentic coach’ would not be impacted by external influences such as competition from other business or life coaches; one’s own grounding and integrity would surface and be expressed without a marketing ‘push’. The potential client would recognise your authenticity and naturally ‘connect’.
Grimmett (1994) defines that authenticity as “to draw on a ‘body’ of knowledge and to speak and act from those moral spaces with a confidence that is rooted in a conscious, collective understanding.” (p. 209). Based on this definition, as a truly authentic coach, you would share your insights based on your own first-hand experiences and reflections. Unfortunately, there are many coaches that work outside of their capacity based on this perspective.
A classic example of an inauthentic business coach is one who had a long “successful” career working in corporate or government organisation as a manager. He used to have a “consultancy” business many years ago which he closed after one year due to a lack of on-going clients. Either through redundancy or quitting the job, he now has decided to make a career change and help people in starting and growing their business. He creates a good story, goes out and markets himself pretty well by attending many networking functions and gains a few clients. Very few will find out the truth that he has very little business owner experience.
An authentic coach is one who is vulnerable with their client and honest when they are entering into an experience that hasn’t been encountered in their career. For example, if you have experiences in having businesses that averaged $250k turnover per annum, that is a great market to service for I know many micro- to small business owners who aspire to attain that goal. Now, if you start targeting those clients who have over $1 million revenue per annum and want to export and grow into a multi-million dollar enterprise, you may be working outside your capacity. You haven’t gone through the mindset shift and emotional rollercoaster of that journey.
Many years ago when I was teaching small business management as part of a government program. One of my students made an observation when she said, “When you teach you tell stories; you wear your experiences on your sleeve. The good, the bad and the ugly. The ugly ones were the best. I learned a lot from them.” I never had given it much thought until then.
As coaches, dare to be vulnerable and honest about your experiences as well as the ones you have not had. By taking on the responsibility of business coaching with integrity, your authenticity will rarely be questioned.
Authenticity consists in having a true and lucid consciousness of the situation, in assuming the responsibilities and risks that it involves in accepting it in pride or humiliation, sometimes in horror or hate. ~ Sartre
Critchley, P. 2003., Autonomy, Authenticity and Authority: The Rational Freedom of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. [e-book] Available through Academia website <http://mmu.academia.edu/PeterCritchley/Books
Grimmett, P. and Neufield, J. (1994). Teacher Development and the Struggle for Authenticity. Teachers College Press: New York.
Nafstad, Peter. Rousseau: Authenticity or Narcissim? [ONLINE] http://septentrio.uit.no/index.php/nordlit/article/viewFile/2078/1936.
Dr Dion Klein is an entrepreneur, business developer, educator, and speaker. He has had brick-and-mortar and web-based businesses in Australia and the USA. He is the Director of The WISE Academy, a Registered Training Organisation specialising in small business development. He recently acquired and stepped into the CEO position of iPledg.com, an Australian-based crowdfunding platform.
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