How to Shift From Consulting to Coaching

I attract a lot of other Process Professionals in my work. Some want to add visual skills to their toolkits or enhance the ones they already have. Others seek help in building their practices. Others want to shift their personal or spiritual lives. In this interesting mix I also encounter professionals who do process work with groups, who want to shift into working with individuals
visualcoaching1… i.e. make the move from change management, organization development and facilitation into coaching or other more personal expressions of process work. They see what I’ve done over the years and they want to do something similar.

Learn the Role / Develop Your Chops:
The first thing we usually talk about is the different role and nuance of working with individuals rather than groups. It’s much more personal (and therefore vulnerable) territory and has its own special boundaries, rules and sensitivities. Most express that ‘I feel I already coach or have been coaching my whole life’. While I have great appreciation of that (my path was similar) I also strongly emphasis that coaching is a distinct role onto itself that requires appropriate education and development. It’s not ethical to ‘wing it’ as the stacks are high for the clients who engage you. They deserve to be professionally held in a properly constructed alliance and process container just as your group clients do.

Even for seasoned consultants, facilitators and other group leaders I suggest getting a good base training in coaching before representing yourself that way. My usual recommendation is The Coaches Training Institute where I received my base training in 2000. They have handy weekend courses that are solid and also highly enjoyable. Many I refer go on to do CTI’s full curriculum.

Certified Visual CoachI offer Visual Coach Certification® but do not take complete beginners … I only accept folks who have already been ethically trained to work with individuals already (coaches, counselors, therapists, etc).

As my program is about adding Visual Coaching techniques and tools to your practice.

Clear Your Baggage:
Another thing that often comes up is the need for the consultant to clear some ‘baggage’ they are holding about coaching. Some have erroneously picked up the feeling that it is somehow less prestigious, respected or lucrative than consulting (particularly ‘life’ coaching).

There are many different types of coaching and coaches. So the consultant will need to figure out what type of coaching suits them (see later paragraph on niches). And align their self-image with the worthiness and dignity of their new role.

finding-treasureAs for the ‘life coaching’ distinction, I personally think there are few things more worthy than assisting people to improve their lives. It’s the most gratifying part of my work hands down. Yes, there are Saturday Night Live skits on life coaches (you do have to have a sense of humour about things) but there is nothing goofy about helping genuine people bring about what they deeply desire.

It’s delicious, yummy and thoroughly honorable! Good service indeed.

Another common issue is the feeling that in order to be a coach your own life has to be perfect. Well, it has to be functional, at least in the area you are focusing your coaching on. If you are a weight coach, you would have to be in alignment (or steadily on the path) about your own weight or body issues in order to effectively coach on that issue. Same goes for financial coaches, or relationship coaches or business coaches … your own finances, relationships or biz should be good working order.

A coach’s own story or background is usually their greatest asset. And the Law of Attraction is always operating, like attracts like (you will attract folks who have similar resonance and story to your own). That creates a natural built in empathy for what your clients are going through and being further along the path you have good guidance to offer.

Create Your Offerings:
clip-offeringsA logical place to start in your shift from consulting to coaching is to build offerings appropriate to the consulting arena you are already employed in. Often it can be quite easy to attach individualized coaching to a group offering you already do (i.e. add implementation coaching to strategic planning retreats or inter-personal coaching to team building events).

Or offer private confidential coaching sessions for the leaders you already know (a safe place for them to contemplate their challenges and to brainstorm strategies). Even more ‘life coaching’ type subjects may be welcomed in certain organizations (clarity of vision, personal strategic planning, busting down internal resistance, communication or relationship issues, etc).

Depending on the nature of the coaching you want to do, you may also start to build offerings that aren’t reliant on organizations (i.e. where participants register themselves rather than the company covering things). Again, building appropriate process and content knowledge will be important. One doesn’t just create these offerings out of thin air.

An easier way to enter into this terrain is to ethically use someone else’s material or system as a starter offering. Many of our Certified Visual Coaches do exactly that. They are trained and licensed in my SHIFT-IT System® and offer it as a life coaching offering in their own practice. Eventually some create their own signature systems over time … replacing my tools and brand with their own proprietary tools and brand as they emerge.

Refine Your Niche / Identity:
clip-nicheNiches are extremely handy in any process work and coaching is no exception. When you embark on adding coaching to your toolkit or transitioning to a full-time practice, you may already have an idea of your brand/identity and related niches.

However most folks I encounter need a little time and experience to sort that out. Eventually your expertise area (and passion/interest area) will emerge loud and clear.

Niches are wonderful as they help differentiate you from other coaches. Help highlight the problems you address and the solutions you instill. And make your marketing and attraction of clients a whole lot easier.

My SHIFT-IT System® is a general system that is applied by our Certified Visual Coaches to their various niches areas. We have very different coaches using it in their different practice areas. I myself use it to do deep alignment (resistance/belief work) with my clients because one of my niches, in addition to visuals, is energy alignment … aka Law of Attraction. But other coaches use it in business settings, weight loss coaching, relationship counseling, financial planning, coaching of artists, real estate coaching, personality types coaching, etc.

Be Prepared For It To Be Transitional, Not Instant:
parkbenchKeep your day job, as the saying goes. Transitioning to a fully sustainable coaching practice (fully replacing your consulting income with coaching income) will take time. How much time depends on you and your circumstances.

For years, I did Graphic Recording and Graphic Facilitation gigs as I built up my Visual Coaching / SHIFT-IT enterprise. I still do when there is something I want to fund quickly or a favorite corporate client comes calling.

My shift did not happen instantly and neither likely will yours. I coach that it’s best to take a medium to long-term approach depending on the degree of shift that you want to manifest.

Also, I personally like diversity. Coaching full-time is extremely hard work and there are built in time ceilings (nobody can coach completely full-time and still retain the balance, calm and peace one needs in order to be fully present for your clients).

sitting-aroundtableIn short, you will probably go a little batty if you solely coach full-time. If you still like your consulting or other group process work, I would suggest you keep at least some of it. Or pool your coaching clients into the occasional coaching group (like I do in SHIFT-IT Online).

It’s nice to go out in groups and use that part of your brain and bring much needed variety to your one-to-one work. Plus your clients (whom you coach on similar subjects) will most likely enjoy meeting and mingling with each other. I know mine sure do (the participants of my groups are my co-teachers).

bb4pplearnmoreI hope this article has been informative for those of you contemplating the shift from consulting to coaching. FYI, check out my Private Coaching sessions, I’d be happy to provide specialized one-to-one support as you make your shift.

Also Biz Essentials for Process Professionals is another excellent resource to assist you on your transitional path.

Christina Merkley, The SHIFT-IT Coach and Interactive-Visuals Mentor

The SHIFT-IT Coach and Interactive-Visuals Mentor

2 comments on “How to Shift From Consulting to Coaching

  1. Ayn Hanna on

    Fantastic article, Christina! Felt like a “mini-catch up” and review with you while reading it – so appreciate your SHIFT-IT Program and your coaching. Looking forward to re-connecting with you for some more 1-to-1 coaching as I work my way through the home study of the Biz Basics material….readying myself for launching more shifts in my biz. 🙂 Ayn

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