Sharpening the Saw for Coaches – A Plan for 2016!

All coaches (or others in similar helping professions such as counselors) want to be successful as they support their clients. However, not many have an ongoing program to continually sharpen their edge. Here are a few ideas that can help inform one’s ongoing preparedness for effective for client work. (This is my checklist and development plan for 2016!)

     (i) Increase personal skill inventory – A coach’s personal skill inventory is sum of one’s knowledge, skills, experiences, emotional competencies and so on. There is a risk that a coach’s learning begins and ends with the coach training! Surely, this is not enough! Effectiveness in client work requires that we have a planned program for increasing personal skill inventory. This could mean attending training or certification in related domains, taking a course on iTunes University or, reading books and journals, increasing the variety of clients one works with, engaging in supervision and so on. These efforts enhance the personal database of the coach.

The personal database is the wealth of information that a coach has about his or her area of expertise, what works or does not work with a client, the risks associated with a particular client work, the influence of organization dynamics, the social context and so on. One of our blind spots is that we nearly always believe that our personal skill inventory is greater than our actual skill inventory; this can lead us to saying yes to work that may be too challenging or problematic for us. Let us remember that what we do for our clients is limited by how much we invest in raising our own lid!

(ii) Develop a strong social network – Given the confidential and personal nature of a coach’s work, falling into social isolation is a big risk. Therefore, develop a healthy social network by belonging to professional associations, supervision groups and peer groups. In addition to emotional support, one can get tips, access to resources, information on new developments, advice on cases and so much more. A strong social network (personal and professional) is also a system of protection against taking on too much work or the wrong type of work; it helps deal with professional stress and compassion fatigue; finally, it is also a source of feedback and encouragement that is often missing for solo practitioners.

Unfortunately, many of us do not do this because our pride gets in the way! Often, we don’t like to ask for help or be seen as needing support. Perhaps, we don’t like to share what we know; we believe that one’s insights or perspectives may not be good enough. Whatever the reason, the biggest loss is for the coach who isolates him/herself from meaningful, learning oriented relationships. Not doing so has the risk of professional narcissism or self-deception: I believe that I’m better than others! I’m doing great work already! I have so many years of experience!…

(iii) Spend time on self-reflection – Those of us who are just starting the journey spend too much time worrying about business development. Or, we question whether we’re good enough to work with a particular client. On the other hand, seasoned coaches are caught up in client issues. Wherever one is on the journey, making time for self-reflection is a critical component for success. We don’t do it because – well – what’s there to self-reflect on?

     Here are some starting points: What are the areas that I really need to think about at this point in my life? Who can be my sounding board? How are my needs and aspirations today different from what they were 5/10 years ago? What am I looking forward to in the next 5 years? How does what I do each day align with what I want for my future? What can help me get better, or do a better job? What do I really need to give up? What about my personal wellness?

I’m sure that you will have another element that can help us all have an effective plan for ongoing self-development as people and professionals. Please feel free to add to this list so that each of us can commit to becoming the best we can – in service of our clients!

Please feel free to connect with us on for any support that you might need to help you on your journey!

Reference: Knapp, S. J., Younggren, J. N., VandeCreek, L. D., Harris, E., & Martin, J. N. (2013). Assessing and managing risk in psychological practice: An individualized approach


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