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The Coach’s Inner Journey to a Prosperous Practice

Posted by Linda Ford, Ph.D., PCC | December 9, 2019 | Comments (11)

Does this sound like you?

You’re a good coach. You want to have a prosperous practice that makes a difference. You’ve read books and attended workshops. In spite of the knowledge and skills you’ve gained, it hasn’t gotten you where you want to go.

Sadly, this is when lots of good coaches give up. Learning to build a coaching practice takes more than the “how to.”

At some point, it’s wise to consider how your ways of thinking and being in the world might be holding you back. You need a trustworthy map to guide your inner journey so you CAN build a prosperous practice.

What Sales Books and “$1M Coaching” Guys Don’t Tell You

Here’s the dirty little secret:Many of us can learn all the “how to” and still not get there.

Take Caren. She hired me to coach her because she “knew how to sell,” but she wasn’t doing the work her heart wanted to do or making enough money. As we dug into it, we saw that Caren was afraid to be seen in all her power. She simply couldn’t successfully advocate for her work from that place.

The Alternative

Caren realized where she was and committed to the inner journey. By working somatically to address her fears, Caren created powerful, sustainable change. She began to experiment with a bolder approach to her current client work. New opportunities began to show up.

We’ll get to the map of Caren’s journey in a moment. First, let’s take a short detour into the neuroscience behind her challenge.

Neuroscience Detour

We are constantly scanning to see if our basic neurological needs for safety, respect and connection are being met. As kids, we create adaptive strategies to get these needs met. These strategies served us well.

Common Adaptive Strategies:

  • SAFETY: I choose being invisible
  • RESPECT: I choose being innocent
  • CONNECTION: I choose being “nice”

As adults, we’re often still using those same strategies unconsciously and in situations where they aren’t necessarily useful. These strategies lead us to one conclusion: I am not enough.

These strategies don’t just live as ideas in our heads—they are deeply wired into our mind and body. We use these strategies without even realizing we’re doing so, like when we’re trying to enroll a new client.

Adaptive Strategies and Client Enrollment

Linda Ford Figure 1 Adaptive StrategiesHere’s a simple enrollment model I developed based on The Prosperous Coach by Steve Chandler and Rich Litvin (Figure 1). Our adaptive strategies pop up throughout the client enrollment process and can undermine our efforts.

When we overlay the common adaptive strategies onto the model, it helps us see where they hold us back (Figure 2). Of course, this takes a messy, non-linear process and makes it tidy. Helpful, as long as we remember that reality is never this tidy!

Caren’s primary adaptive strategy was “I choose being invisible”—right at the beginning of the enrollment process. No wonder she was stuck!

Your Starting Point

Linda Ford Figure 2 Adaptive StrategiesThink about where you’re stuck in your enrollment process and take a look at Figure 2. See if the corresponding adaptive strategy resonates with you. Take a deep breath then notice how it lands in your body. Does it feel like this might be your adaptive strategy? Keep playing with the strategies until something feels uncomfortable or uncertain inside you. That’s a great starting place.

Caren worked with her adaptive strategy and came to a new embodied place of believing that it was truly safe to be seen in all her radiance and power. She found herself talking about her work with more commitment and authenticity. She began to see opportunities for powerful client work. Soon, the balance of her practice shifted from accepting any client, to booking clients for the deeper work she longed to do. Her income was climbing even though she was saying no to the work she didn’t enjoy.

What Now?

You identified an adaptive strategy that lives inside you in “your starting point” above. Settle into your body; notice your breath. Now explore how that strategy lives in you. Where do you feel it in your body? Is there a posture or “shape” that expresses it?

Now let’s shift. What does a shape that’s the opposite of that feel like? Breathe into THAT shape. What arises in you? What might be possible if you lived this shape just 5% more?

Congratulations! You’ve begun the next chapter on your inner journey to a joyful and prosperous coaching practice. You don’t need a “quick fix” or another “how to” book now!

Please share in the comments what emerges for you. I’m excited about your journey!


© Linda F. Ford, PhD

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Linda Ford, Ph.D., PCC

Linda Ford, Ph.D., PCC, works with leaders and coaches who want to make a difference. She is a certified Presence-Based Coach® and has a Ph.D. in Human and Organization Systems. She helps her clients live into their bigger selves so they can fulfill on what matters most to them.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Comments (11)

  1. Elisenda says:

    Amazing! I didn’t know or pay attention before to the adaptative strategy and a world of opportunities has just been open in fron of me. Really useful for a inner journey. Great to link it with the inner opposite to outside (buy a new book).

  2. says:

    I realize the adaptive strategies that have stayed with me from youth. I cannot be invisible if I want to be bring in and retain new clients. So counter-productive! Just be recognizing this and replacing with I choose to visible with great joy takes me to a new place. Interesting……

    • Linda Ford says:

      Glad to hear this, Adeyanju. I love your choice to be visible with great joy. Yes! Notice how your body responds when you claim this new joy and see if that can help you move more powerfully into visibility.

  3. Frederick says:

    I’m new to the coaching profession and still working on certification. I’ve yet to enroll my first client and I can sense that my adaptive strategy of choosing to be invisible is holding me back. This article has raised my self-awareness more than I’d anticipated.

    Thanks for helping me to explore inner journey.

    • Linda Ford says:

      Welcome to the world of coaching, Frederick! I’m happy to hear that the article helped with self-awareness around choosing to be invisible.

      Here’s a challenge for you. Go through your contacts and identify 5 people you would like to invite to be your first client. That gets you through the first step – IDENTIFY. Now reach out to each of them and ask them to connect over coffee or a phone call. The prospect of doing that may bring up some of your adaptive strategy “stuff” and that’s ok. You’ll develop even more self-awareness.

      Remember, this first client doesn’t have to pay you a lot or be a big engagement. You just want to be in the enrollment process.

      I’d love to hear how that goes for you. You can use the contact form on my website or reply here if you want to check in after identifying the 5 people.

      Good luck!

  4. says:

    The shifting of the shape exercise really worked. I went from a “blob” of “not good enough” to a “triangle” with God’s spirit rising out of it, and out of me, to serve clients more powerfully. I will be using this image in my practice in 2020 to help shift my coaching business to one that is more powerful and prosperous. Thank you Linda!

    • Linda Ford says:

      Beautiful, Christy! Thanks for sharing this.

      If you want to dial it up a notch, remember to actually take the “triangle with God’s spirit” posture physically as part of your daily practice. Much more powerful than the image alone.

  5. says:

    Great article Linda. I will share it on social media.

  6. Charles Lee says:

    Linda, impactful post and comments. To experience your service to the community – it’s breathtaking and beautiful. Thank you!

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