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Home of the Samurai Coaching Dojo blog where Toku McCree, Christina Salerno, and other guest Sensei share their philosophies and practices for deep coaching and honorable enrollment. SUBSCRIBE for updates to be notified of new blog posts, special opportunities just for subscribers, and more!

The Four Stages of a Coaching Business

When I first started coaching,

I thought . . . If I can just charge a hundred dollars an hour, then I’ll have made it.

Then I thought . . . If I can just go to a Rich Litvin intensive, then I’ll have made it.

And then . . . If I can join 4PC, make over six figures, build a scalable business, hire a great assistant, write a book, write a speech…

On and on and on.

For years I chased the next milestone, the whole time missing what was right in front of me.

And then I started reading books about business.

Scaling Up, Predictable Success, Small Business Life Cycle, The Pumpkin Plan, Run Like Clockwork . . .

At a certain point, I started noticing that as MUCH as I knew about coaching I knew SQUAT about business. Even worse MOST of the coaches I had been listening to knew even less.

Slowly, I began to see that there are…

Four Evolutionary Stages to a Coaching Business

Stage 1 – Not Enough Clients or Cash – this is where most coaches are and this is where most of them stay. They can’t support themselves or they can BARELY support themselves. This stage is dangerous for two reasons:

  1. You’re Prey – At this point, you on at the bottom of the coaching food chain and thus are prey for the larger more dominant predators in our industry and because you don’t know much you can be easily fooled.
  2. There’s No Going Back – unlike coaches at later stages of growth, the only way out is up. If you stay here for too long you’ll quit, either because you run out of cash, credit, or hope. So it’s vital you move beyond this stage quickly.

Stage 2 – Cash, Clients, and Chaos – Most of the coaches you think of as successful are here. They’re running around making deals, signing clients, and bragging about it all. They LOOK impressive, but they are just one bad month or two away from stage one.

If they stop hunting they starve and so they talk about how great they are at hunting. They tell you about the niche they’ve carved out in the market and encourage you to find a pack of wildebeest to follow just like them. They are having fun, but they are always on the move.

The biggest dangers in this stage are burnout or growth. You will either run out of steam or grow so much that you have to expand or collapse under your own weight.

Stage 3 – Too Many Clients, Too Many Projects – If a coach keeps pushing and growing eventually they end up here. They start burning out, or their business or lifestyle get’s too expensive. They’re coaching a LOT of clients and they start to resent them. They miss the days when things were simpler.

So they downsize, they fire their assistant. They go back to hunting. They come up with a few new projects but it’s still all on them.

A few coaches move beyond this: they expand, they give up control, they create structure and learn to evolve from hunters to farmers. But this takes courage and discipline and humility.

The biggest dangers of this stage are fear of the future, not being willing to get support, choosing the excitement of signing clients over the mundanity of running a business.

Stage 4 – Balance, Flow – This is rarefied air. Most businesses are aiming for this place, but most coaches don’t even know it exists. This is a place where you stop being the business and the business becomes a thing unto itself. You no longer do the thing, you now can make the thing happen. What you choose to do here is up to you. You might step away or you might choose your favorite part of your business and give yourself that job.

This stage offers true freedom. But it also requires you to let go of your identity and embrace something new.

THIS is the success I had been seeking when I started my business and for most coaches, it is as well.

They want freedom, they want time away, they want something that has an impact bigger than them. And they THINK they’ll get it by getting to stage 2, but stage 2 is a trap. It’s a job in coaches clothing.

The true freedom comes in stage 4 if you’ve got the courage to get there. And for most of you, that means getting OUT of phase 1.

It means getting to a point of making JUST enough cash to earn a living and then figuring out how to do that month after month.

You need to STOP worrying about anything beyond a basic website, a simple text logo, a few coaching packages, and a simple fee structure.

Your LIFE should be about clients. Finding them. Serving them. Selling to them.

You’ve got to MASTER sales and connection, NOT branding and marketing.

 

The Stages Are Simple

What can seem complicated to figure out, is how to keep them that way.

Your first job is to figure out what evolutionary stage you’re in. (For most of you it’s stage 1)

And your second job is to figure out how to solve the problem of THAT stage.

I know you want your problem to be more complicated. I get it. Logos are easier to make than clients are to enroll.

But that’s EXACTLY why most coaches have a logo, but not enough clients to eat.

Love,

Toku

 

 

If you’re looking for more practice or want to join me live with other dope coaches, join us for our next Monthly Public Open Mat Sparring – our free recurring container for deliberate practice, Q&A and connecting with dedicated people from around the globe. Click Here For More.

 

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The First Rule of Open Mat Sparring…

“Gentlemen, welcome to Fight Club.

The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club.
The second rule of Fight Club is: YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB.
Third rule of Fight Club: Someone yells “Stop!”, goes limp, taps out, the fight is over.
Fourth rule: Only two guys to a fight.
Fifth rule: One fight at a time, fellas.
Sixth rule: No shirts, no shoes.
Seventh rule: Fights will go on as long as they have to.
And the eighth and final rule: If this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight.”

–Tyler Durden, Fight Club

Okay, so the “rules” of Open Mat Sparring are a little different than those of Fight Club…  

But the concept of the two is much the same (minus the beating each other up part). Like Fight Club, Open Mat Sparring (OMS) is a place to push yourself, to see what you’re made of as a coach. And to be supported and challenged and encouraged and tested by a group of like-minded people who believe coaching is an art, and who are in pursuit of the same goals: to improve the art of coaching through deliberate practice, to walk the path of coaching mastery, and to change the coaching industry in the process.

This is why we gather as fellow Samurai Coaches and enter the sparring arena.

Here are the rules of this arena:

1-2. The first (and second) rule of Open Mat Sparring is: We DO talk about Open Mat Sparring. We know this simple practice has the power to change someone’s coaching profoundly in just a few minutes, so we want as many coaches to experience it as we can. Know a coach who’d benefit? Invite them!

Here is where we skip the Fight Club rules about tapping out and no shirts (who wants to see that, unless you’re Brad Pitt?)

3. Our third rule is an adaptation of the rule above that states: “fights go as long as they have to”, because in Open Mat Sparring, the limited time simulates all the other pressures of the “real” coaching conversation. On our mats, coaching only goes as long as the Sensei allows.

4. The fourth rule of Open Mat Sparring is: Coach like it’s for real, because it is. And it’s just practice. Keep these two contradictions in mind as you spar.

5. The fifth rule of Open Mat Sparring is: Well, there is no fifth rule. There are guidelines, suggestions, and even a few safety tips. Open Mat Sparring has just enough structure and just enough chaos to maximize practice and accelerate mastery.

6. The last rule of Open Mat Sparring (and here’s where we and Fight Club agree): If this is your first time at Open Mat Sparring, you have to spar. (We encourage you to spar every time – that’s where the fun is!) Don’t worry – we’ll be gentle. Mostly.

 

Open Mat Sparring newb?

If you’re curious and want some more context, check out Sensei Toku’s primer on Open Mat Sparring HERE.

Then, RESERVE YOUR SPOT and JOIN US Wednesday, August 28th, 12pm EST. Consider it a one-hour investment (or a one-hour experiment) in the craft of your coaching.

 

Open Mat Sparring regular?

Cool. It’ll be good to see you again! For you: See Rule #1. Find a coach friend (or enemy!), and invite them. Share this post, or simply give them the registration link: https://samuraicoachingdojo.com/spar, then call them before it starts to remind them.

You already know how powerful an experience this can be. Why would you deny someone else that opportunity?

Remember to reserve your own spot HERE. See you on the mats  Wednesday, August 28th at 12:00 PM (EST)

 

–Your Sparring-Obsessed Sensei and Dojo Support Team

 

Take the Crap Out of Your Coaching

Let’s forget about coaching for a minute. I want to know: how are you taking care of yourself? Are you getting enough sleep? Eating right? Exercising? Meditating?

Are you going to the bathroom regularly? (Yes, I really went there.)

I’m asking this because I care about your well-being. How well you take care of yourself reflects in your practice. And not just your physical health. I’m also talking about your mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. All of these aspects combined build the foundation for your daily mindset.  

In the coaching realm, the foundation of your mindset affect your ability to adapt, reflect, and correct your actions. Performing at your best requires focus and clarity. As you continue on the path towards coaching mastery, it’s important to fuel your input so that you have consistent, powerful output.

It’s easy to forget self-care as you’re putting in the long hours to meet your professional goals. Today, I am reminding you to do something to take care of yourself. Take a walk. Read a book.  Or drink a glass of green juice. You can spare 10 or 15 minutes to do something for your own well-being, guilt-free. Consider it an investment: better self-care = more powerful coaching.

Not-so-subtle ulterior motive: we want you well rested to give it your all at our next Open Mat Sparring on February 8th, 12 pm EST! You can reserve your spot HERE.

Is Your Coaching Masterful, or Just Mediocre?

As you walk the path toward excellence as a coach, how do you know you are following the right trail? How do you ensure you don’t look back ten years from now and see yourself in the same place, the same mindset, with minimal growth?

Practice, Practice, Practice is the way, as you have heard every elementary school teacher tell you.

Excellent coaches don’t become mired in stagnant learnings; they continually reflect on their actions, face their hard truths, and correct their course accordingly. It’s not the easy way, but it’s the most effective way to hone your skills.

Take Sensei Toku for example. He has learned, learned from others and himself, and will never stop learning. Such a simple act for creating such  long-term impacts instead of quick fixes.

What does excellent coaching look like? It begins with an agenda, overflows with confidence, and ends with both client AND coach gaining satisfaction.

Now is the time to watch yourself in action and reflect on your own approach, your soul searching, how you look for unanswered and unknown questions. Compare yours to the methodology of those coaches you strive to mirror. Where do you climb and where do you falter? Pat yourself on your back for your brilliance, but remember, facing the hard truths of your opportunities is an important step along the path to excellence.

Take your chance to practice and strengthen your coaching skills, and join us for our next Open Mat Sparring on February 8th, 12pm EST! You can reserve your spot here.

 

The Amazing Power of Sparring

In the Dojo, we talk about coaching as a martial art, because coaching is about the battle for possibility in the face of cynicism and resignation.

Some people talk about coaching from an academic perspective. They talk about practicums, supervision, and certification.

Some people talk about coaching from a spiritual perspective. They talk about energy, intuition, and flow.

But in the Dojo, I talk about coaching from a practice perspective, borrowing heavily from Zen and the martial arts. I do this because coaching is more than what you can know and study like an academic. Coaching is more than what you feel and intuit like a wise person.

Coaching is the art of bringing knowledge, being, doing, and nothingness into the arena and intending to create what seems impossible.

Why We Call It Sparring

If you have ever done sparring in boxing or another martial art, you know that sparring has an element of safety. There is usually a teacher guiding you, you wear pads, and there is an agreement not to go full out.

But in sparring there is also an element of danger. You are hitting and getting hit. Things get messy. The careful rules of the kata turn into reality. And in this controlled chaos so much of what you think you know evaporates, and yet you learn something you can’t learn in any other way.

This is why we call the practice sessions we do in the Dojo “sparring.” We want to invoke the realness of the practice. We want to invite you to consider that your practice matters, that something is at stake. We want you to feel safe enough to take risks, but we want you to be on the edge of control.

How Sparring Prepares You for Coaching

We create sparring this way because of what it makes possible. When you’re in a real session, you aren’t in control, there aren’t rules. Your client (if you are lucky) will bring all of themselves to your coaching. Things will get messy, confusing, and dangerous.

If you have had practice—practice being a little out of control, of pushing your edges, of stepping into the unknown—you’ll be ready. If you haven’t, you’ll scramble. You’ll buy into your clients limitations, you’ll try to force them into a process that makes you feel safe. This is not the best you can be as a coach.

This is why we create a place to spar as a coach. In some ways it’s just like other forms of practice. You coach and get feedback, you get coached and give feedback. You get hit by insight, you offer hits of insight.

But because of the way we frame it, people show up differently. They’re less stuffy, less controlled, less worried about doing it right. Which is why we get better results. You may not think it matters or that it will change you, and yet, you might be surprised.

What to Expect When You Spar

If you decide to join us for sparring, you can expect: 

Practice and Pressure

  1. When you come to spar you’ll be paired with another coach to practice.
  2. You’ll get a chance to coach them for 10 – 15 minutes.
  3. We encourage you to coach them just like you would any other client. Pretend it’s real.
  4. You won’t be able to go as slowly or get as much done as you’re used to. This is on purpose.

When you’re in a real session with a real client you feel pressure. You feel pressure to perform, to sign them up, to adapt, to be a good coach. The way most people practice, you feel no pressure. You go slow, you take your time. It’s not real anyway.

In the Dojo, we trade that real-session money pressure, performance pressure, and ego pressure for time pressure. So you won’t have enough time, or at least it may not feel like it. And that’s okay. It’s an invitation to trust yourself, to be confident, or to stumble and feel what it’s like to cave to pressure… so that you won’t cave to pressure in your REAL sessions.

  1. The session will end, because all sessions end and you will have coached how you coached.

Being okay with this is one of the most powerful aspects of sparring.

Giving and Receiving Feedback

After each round of sparring you get feedback.

In the Dojo, we give feedback using BO. We call it BO because it makes people laugh and when people laugh they chill the F out a little bit. It’s just feedback.

B Stands for Brilliance. There is ALWAYS Brilliance in your coaching. This is a chance to see that. Even in the WORST SESSION YOU’VE EVER HAD. There is brilliance. So your partner will tell you what they loved about your coaching. This is the stuff you should do more of.

O Stands for Opportunity. There is also always opportunity in your coaching. Sometimes it will be things you missed or things you could have done better. Sometimes it’s just another path you could have gone down. In the Dojo, we don’t believe in a ‘right’ way to coach.

There is the way you coached, and there are moments of brilliance, and there are opportunities. The Samurai Coach learns from both. So the opportunities are offered in this spirit—the spirit of learning.

Going from Coach to Client and Client to Coach

At the end of each round of sparring you change places: the client becomes the coach and the coach becomes the client.

This is helpful because this is what the life of a coach is. Sometimes you are the coach; you are standing in possibility with your client and creating. Sometimes you are the client; you are getting supported and challenged in the midst of creation.

Then the session ends and if you gave feedback before you get to give feedback now.

This get a chance to be generous. But you also get to learn.

When you get feedback, you are being told what clients never tell you: what worked for them, what didn’t, what we missed. Clients rarely tell us the truth about our coaching.

Your clients want you to feel good and they want to look good. So they say nothing. They tell you they’ll think about it and then never answer an email again. When you get feedback, you’re experiencing the generosity of honesty that you rarely get as a coach.

But when you give your feedback you are learning about coaching as well.

You are learning to see coaching from a client perspective. You are learning what your view of coaching is. When you see your view of coaching, you learn from it. When you don’t see it, you don’t learn from it.

This is perhaps one of the most overlooked values of sparring. Getting to be the client observing the coach will teach you more about coaching than you could ever realize. When you are the client you mostly think about yourself.

Through sparring, you get to be the client and really think about the coaching and what’s happening for the coach, as well as inside of you.

Gathering Together

When the sparring ends, we gather in the great hall.

This is a chance to share what you learned with other coaches, other Samurai. This is a chance for your wisdom to wash over other people. Perhaps there will be a short demonstration or discussion, but you will learn from other people’s learning.

This is how we create sparring. It’s unlike any other kind of practice and yet it’s a lot like other kinds of practice. You may think, “I’ve done this before, I know what this is like.” But in truth, we’ve created sparring differently in big and subtle ways.

You may be intimidated by sparring. You may worry that you will be very bad, or that you’ll be so good that you won’t learn anything. But there is always something to be learned by practice in this way…

If you are willing to be brave enough to try.

If you are willing to be humble enough to practice.

This is why we spar in the Dojo. Because sparring gives you chance to see all the angles of a conversation in just 30 minutes. We assume that mastery can happen quickly, that insight is right there, ripe for the picking.

So if you want to get better, to stop being lonely, or having doubts, or being bored, or wondering if you’re any good, or wondering how you could improve… Or if you just want to have fun again.

If you just want to enjoy coaching and have some fun and try out a wild style or see how other people do it.

If you’re just a little curious, sparring is for you. Sparring is for anyone who’s open to it. That’s how we created it. With no right or wrong way. Just coaches, committed to practice, stepping into the arena together—to push each other to be the best version of coach they can possibly be.

We’d love to have you join us.

Love,
Toku

How to Turn Shifts into Clients

Some coaches say clients pay you for results. Others say they pay you for the powerful insights you generate. And still others say it’s the possibility you get them present to.

But no matter how you talk about it, what your clients are paying you for directly or indirectly is what happens in the insight creation, or Shift, part of your coaching conversations. The reason is simple: the Shift is where things change. It’s where clients see their lives differently. It’s where they get present to possibility. It’s where they realize what they’ve been missing and create what wasn’t possible before.

If you understand this, you can use the power of the Shift phase to sign clients. If you don’t understand this, you’ll squander the Shift, it will create powerful conversations, but no clients.

This is how it normally goes (hint… not well).

Normally, you coach a client, they get present to what’s possible, they see themselves in a new way, and they get interested in your coaching.

Then you try to ‘SELL THEM ON COACHING.’

But you don’t sell them the result of their Shift ; you don’t help them get present to the impact of what’s going to happen if they keep living from the old point of view versus the new point of view. No, you forget all about that. You try to sell them on a package, a program, a set of future goals that are dead and boring.

Before long, the magic they felt in the Shift is gone. Your interaction seems average, just like every interaction they’ve ever had with a sales person. They say they’re interested, they say they’ll think about it… and then you either get a polite email from them telling you no (but just for now), or you never hear from you again.


THIS DOES NOT MEAN YOU SUCK AS A COACH OR AT SALES.

What it does mean is that their context won. The context of resignation and cynicism. The context that nothing will really change for them. And it happened because you squandered their Shift . You went from “SO MUCH IS POSSIBLE!” to “Here’s my $599 coaching program.”

How to make it abnormal and thus successful.

If you want this to stop happening, here’s what you do. When your potential client has a Shift in your session, write it down. Keep track of these Shifts carefully.

THEN when you get to the proposal phase, which is IDEALLY before you get to the proposal conversation itself, write down each Shift and draw two lines from each one of them.

On the left line write who they are before this SHIFT :What is their view of the world? How do they act? How do they be?

Then write down the impact of this:
– What’s possible and impossible?
– What’s available and unavailable?
– How do other people feel around them?
– How do they feel about themselves?

Now do the same thing for the right line. Do this for AT LEAST 2-3 of the SHIFTS they experienced in their coaching conversation with you.

NOW SELL THEM THIS!!!

Help them get present to the impact of what it means to keep living from the left lines. Don’t TELL them, draw it out of them. Have them experience what it’s like to be the old version, the pre-shift version. Have them get PRESENT to that impact of what it’s like to be that person.

THEN have them connect with what is possible beyond the Shift : what could they do with new beliefs, what actions could they take, who could they become. Sell them on a future they create for themselves, NOT on your boring process or absurd coaching package that has them create a context of ‘just like everything else.’

If you do this, you WILL sign clients. If you do this, you can use the Shift to create a powerful opportunity for commitment.

THIS is exciting and powerful. This is what it means to create commitment through service instead of pressure. This is the Art of Enrollment with Honor.

Love,
Toku

The Drop Deeper Into Coaching Challenge – Part 2

[While this post works on its own, you might enjoy reading Part 1, which you can find here.]


I also want to invite you to practice both Calmness and Activity in the Shift phase, with us in our upcoming OPEN MAT SPARRING session, happening on Wednesday, January 23, at 2pm EST. You can reserve your spot here.


Calmness in the Midst of Activity in the Shift Phase

There’s this concept I heard when I first started coaching: the “lamp post metaphor.” The idea is that even if a person talked to a lamp post every night they would get some benefit. And while this is a helpful metaphor when we’re caught in the midst of doubting ourselves as coaches, I don’t think that aspiring to the effectiveness of a lamp post is why any of us got into coaching.

In the first part of this challenge I talked about the practice of being active in the midst of calmness, about how to be focused on the practice of being present while you create silence, space, and possibility. In some ways this is the practice of being a powerful lamp post.

But of course this is only part of the equation. To be a masterful coach, a true Samurai Coach, you must not only be a powerful lamp post, you must learn to act, speak, ask, and reflect with depth and power. And while this is true for ALL the parts of a coaching conversation it’s especially true for the part of the conversation after you choose an area to coach around or in, the part we call the SHIFT phase.

Which is why in this post I want to ask you to deepen into your coaching by practicing Calmness in the midst of Activity.

The Practice of Calmness in the midst of Activity

Coaches love to collect questions:

  • “What would make this an extraordinary conversation?”
  • “What’s the first simplest step you could take?”
  • “What’s missing from your life right now?”
  • “What are you tolerating right now?”

But if you’ve ever taken a great question from a Master coach and used it in your own sessions, you’ve probably noticed it didn’t really work like magic. Maybe it worked a few times. But just as often the question will fall flat, or confuse your client, or lead to a place you didn’t expect.

The reason this happens is that questions are magic spells. In order for a question to be powerful you have to be powerful as you ask it. And the core of this power comes from the practice of Calmness in the midst of Activity.

In the Dojo we don’t teach particular questions as the right questions. We don’t try to get you to coach like this coach or that. We don’t give you a step by step process to follow. Because that’s not what will make you a master coach. What will make you a master coach is learning to practice being Calm in the midst of Activity.

If you can learn to do this ALL of your questions will be more powerful—the brilliant, stolen-from-a-great-coach-video-you-watched, mind-blowing questions, as well as the almost-eye-rollingly-simple questions.

To practice this, begin by finding calm before the session even begins. Take a few minutes before your call to breathe, to feel into the place underneath and/or behind all of your nerves, your questions, your doubts. Then as you go through your conversation, keep checking in. Can you feel the calm? If not, take a breath, ask the client to pause and find it. Help them find it.

This is especially important as you move from context and focus into curiosity and insight creation (aka, from the Drop to the Shift), so after you find out what the client would like, after you choose a focus. Take a breath. Find your calm and then each time you ask, each time you reflect, see if you can stay in touch with the calmness, the stillness at the center of your coaching.

At first this practice might seem confusing to you. It might even seem impossible. You might get to the end of your coaching conversation and realize you were thinking, scrambling, doubting, and dreading the whole time. IT’S OKAY. This is how 90% of coaches coach. This is how 99.9% of people do almost everything in life. This is the norm.

The practice of finding Calmness in the midst of Activity IS NOT the practice of BEING Calm in the midst of Activity. This practice always goes one of two ways: Way 1: You realize you have lost calmness and you practice finding it. Way 2: You forget or are unaware you have lost calmness and thus don’t practice finding it.

The only place to go from Way 1 is into Way 2. It’s like breathing or the left of right foot in walking. It’s okay. You don’t have to be perfect.

Just practice and notice what happens. Notice what happens when you act from calmness.  Notice what happens when you act from another place—franticness, doubt, needing to be right, wanting to prove yourself, or whatever.

The Samurai Coach doesn’t seek perfection in practice. The Samurai Coach realizes that all practice is perfect.

And again, if you’re not sure how to do this I hope you’ll join us at our next OPEN MAT SPARRING) where you’ll get a chance to be in the practice of this and get feedback.

Love,
Toku

 

PS: Over the next few posts I’ll be talking more and more about the Dojo and how we help coaches develop deep confidence, learn how to do breathtaking coaching, and discover their unique coaching voice. Coaches that take the Dojo don’t just experience a small spike in insight or skill, they step on a path of mastery that leads to doing work they love, with amazing clients, and getting paid well.

This doesn’t happen because of some hack, trick, or system we teach. It happens because mastery and practice are at the heart of creating transformation in your coaching conversations and in your business.

If you’re ready to step off the path mediocre and overly marketed coaching and onto the path of lifelong mastery and success rooted in integrity, I invite you to fill out an application today.

APPLY TODAY

The Drop Deeper Into Coaching Challenge – Part 1

Activity in the midst of Calmness in the Shift phase

If you care about coaching, you care about creating change. You want your client’s lives to shift, you want them to see new possibility, you want their dreams to come true.

While this can happen anywhere in a coach conversation, the Shift phase is where this happens the most. This is where they get present to possibility, see themselves clearly, face difficult truths, and come to terms with fear, grief, and pain.

After spending hours observing Master Coaches, Samurai in the Dojo, and reflecting on my own practice, the key creating a powerful Shift is clear.

The most important practice of the Shift is the practice of activity in the midst of calmness and calmness in the midst of activity.

Which is why I’d like to challenge you this week to drop deeper into your coaching with every conversation you have, but especially each time you move from what you’re going to coach about to diving into the coaching itself (aka, when you move from the Drop to the Shift). You can do this whether you are brand new to coaching or have been coaching for over twenty years.

I’m going to offer you this challenge in two parts:

  1. Activity in the midst of Calmness
  2. Calmness in the midst of Activity

I’ll offer Part 1 of the challenge to you today and Part 2 later this week.


I also want to take this chance to invite you to come and practice this with us in our upcoming OPEN MAT SPARRING session happening on Wednesday, January 23, at 2pm EST. You can reserve your spot here.


Okay, here’s Part 1 . . .

Part 1 – Activity in the midst of Calmness

When you start as a coach silence is scary. It feels like nothing is happening, and so you tend to fill each and every silence with thoughts, ideas, words, and questions.

But then as you grow in depth you begin to get more comfortable with silence. Usually you experience the power of silence from a coach you’re working with. Or you watch a session with a master coach and you are amazed by how much they get done by saying so little.

Soon you become enamored with silence and you try saying nothing at all. But eventually you go too far, your sessions lose form and then you begin to drift back, always searching for the perfect balance of silence and speaking.

Part of the reason why using silence as a coach can feel so confusing is that coaches misunderstand how silence works in a conversation. Because silence really isn’t about silence at all. At least not in the hands of a master Samurai Coach.

When a Samurai Coach is silent, they are not just not talking. They are not holding back their questions. They are not waiting for the client to give them the answer they have already come to. No, the Samurai Coach is practicing. They are deeply present, deeply curious, and deeply open. They are silent but their silence is different.

It’s not the silence of the “not-talking game” or the silence of a stand-off. It’s the silence born out of activity in the midst of calmness.

This isn’t the only time that a Samurai Coach embodies this. In fact they are in the midst of this practice in every moment they are coaching. They are in the activity of being present, of being curious, of breathing deeply, of feeling their intuition, of standing in possibility.

But this practice is the MOST POTENT in the Shift phase. So much of the set up, the technique, the exquisite creation of the container that happened in the Open and the Drop phases of the conversation come to fruition during the Shift phase, but this set up can either be squandered or deepened. And the first part of this practice is to deepen by being active in the midst of calmness.

The reason this is Part One is that if you’re like most coaches you tend to be more active than you need to. You ask more questions than you need to. You think harder than you need to. And you try more than your clients need you to.

So to start, practice doing less in your Shift phase. Shut up, say less, ask one question instead of three, speak more slowly, listen more deeply.

And as you do all of this be active. Don’t just think, think, think while biting your tongue. Don’t be silent and lazy. Stay present. So present it almost feels like you’re sweating. Be active in the midst of calmness and notice. Notice what happens. What shifts for you as a coach?

This is a simple practice but it’s a lifelong one. One that you can return to again and again as a coach. And of course this is only the first half. In the next post I’ll talk about the other half of this practice. Calmness in the midst of Activity. Because great coaching isn’t just being quiet.

A Samurai Coach coaches by using silence as powerfully as words and words that are as powerful as silence.

If you’re not sure how to practice this, that’s okay—just try it out.

And if you want support, join us on January 23, 2pm EST for OPEN MAT SPARRING where you’ll get a chance to try this out and get some feedback.

Love,
Toku

The Two Ways Coaches Look at Insight (and Why Both Are Right AND Wrong)

There are two ways coaches tend to look at insights:

1) Insights are miraculous.

Coaches who look at insights in this way tend to have Drop and Shift phases that are spacious, open, winding, and flowing. They don’t want to direct, they don’t want to control—they want this insights to happen.

This way of thinking has roots in both “person-centered therapy” (a major precursor to coaching) and several spiritual traditions. This can work great and lead to powerful insights, but it can also lead to long, windy sessions that go nowhere, and manufactured insights with little application or embodiment. It can also lead to false guruism (thinking your coach is a deity).

2) Insights are manufactured.

Coaches who look at insights this way tend to be process focused. They work their clients through their process: RTT, NLP, GROW, and all the other acronyms you can think of. Byron Katie’s THE WORK is very heavy on process.

They think that they must get their clients through this process to create insights. This can ALSO work really well. Many of these processes are well designed, codified, and have been shown to produce results. The problem is that they can also be used as unskillful bludgeons, excuses for bad coaching, and as panaceas that ignore important issues and factors.

For the Samurai Coach (a coach dedicated to mastery and the sacred practice of coaching) both paths and views are true and right:

  • Insights are miraculous. And very often in the breath-holding stillness of a coaching session the client can discover deep truths hidden from view.
  • Insights are also manufactured. The container, the steps, even the process we use can produce insights for the client if we hold them correctly and powerfully.

And both views are wrong:

  • Insights may be miraculous, but we can’t just wait around and hope they show up. That’s wasteful and lacks leadership.
  • Insights may be manufactured, but shoving your clients through or selling them on your “process” isn’t great coaching. It’s cheap robotic,s and dishonors the client and the craft.

The Samurai Coach embraces something else: a middle path, a question to this question instead of an answer.

Insight is both and neither. Sometimes you need a process, but you can’t depend on one. Sometimes you need spaciousness, but it’s not a panacea. The Samurai Coach stays in the inquiry, feeling back into their lineage and knowledge, feeling forward into the future and possibility, feeling into the moment and the most skillful means. They choose and then they observe.

When you practice this way, you never lose attention, never assume you know what’s next, never let the process or the space do the coaching for you. You are the coach, in space, in process. The client is the client, in space, in process.

It may seem impossible and it is. You will always fall off, get lazy, lose awareness, but this is the practice of the Shift as well. To notice. To return.

This is the way of the Samurai Coach, beyond manufacturing or miracling insight. But sitting in the center with the client, when the answer arrives, it arrives for both of you at once.

How to practice:

  1. Let go of what you think you know about creating insight.
  2. Instead, next time you coach, after you’ve Dropped, make yourself still and ask: “What is called for in this moment?”

Whatever answer arises go with it, and keep noticing.

Even the wrong answer can lead to the right place, if we pay attention.

Love,
Toku

What do I do when a coaching session isn’t going anywhere?

It’s minute twenty of a sixty-minute session and all of a sudden I realize that we’re not really talking about anything. There’s this long silence happening, but not one of those good, deep thoughtful silences. It’s like a silence in the midst of a bad first date. I look up at the time again, twenty-one minutes of a sixty-minute session. How the HELL IS TIME MOVING SO SLOWLY?

Thoughts run through my head as I try to look like I’m being present:

Man, I suck at coaching…

What should I ask next…?   

This dude’s never going to hire me…  

Oh my god, can he tell I’m totally lost… ?   

I can’t believe this is happening. I had a great session just this morning…

What was that question Rich asked at the intensive… ?

Man, I wish I had written it down…

Okay, I should ask something…

What should I ask, what should I ask, what should I ask, what should I ask, what should I ask, what should I ask, what should I ask, what should I ask, what should I ask, what should I ask, what should I ask, what should I ask, what should I ask, what should I ask, what should I ask, what should I ask, what should I ask…?

Finally he says something, he starts talking about his job, even though we were talking about something else. But I nod my head and pretend to listen. I look at the clock again… twenty-three minutes have passed.

 


 

If you’ve never had a session like this, then consider yourself lucky. I’ve seen this happen to a ton of coaches, both inside the Dojo and in real life. I can think of three times at least I saw this happen to Rich Litvin live on stage at an intensive. Imagine that, having a session LIVE on stage in front of a HUNDRED-plus people, that goes NOWHERE.

In truth, sessions that seem like they go nowhere can happen. Using the Coaching Canvas model we’d say these sessions are missing the Shift phase, because the Shift phase is where the insight and shifts in perspective, beliefs, viewpoints, etc. all happen.

But very often sessions that don’t OCCUR to you as going somewhere can actually be really important and powerful sessions for your clients. It’s one of the reasons I encourage coaches in the Dojo not to try to hit home runs in their sessions. When you get attached to a certain kind of feel in a coaching session you often miss the subtle nuance and joy of all the other kinds of coaching.

But all of that aside, I get that being in this kind of session can feel terrifying or at least disconcerting. So here are some things you can do when you’re in a coaching session without a Shift:

1) Look Back – Step Back:

Very often when nothing is happening in the Shift phase of your coaching conversation it’s because you missed something vital earlier in the process.

It might have been in the Open phase:

  • Maybe you didn’t create the container very powerfully, but instead just let the client start talking at you.
  • Maybe you didn’t create a context of possibility, and so the client is mired in disbelief.
  • Maybe you didn’t set up how the conversation is going to go, so the client’s waiting for some other shoe to drop and it’s having them be defensive and on guard.

It also might have been in the Drop phase:

  • Maybe you didn’t find out what the client wanted.
  • Maybe you just accepted their beliefs about the world without looking deeper.
  • Maybe you rushed past the Drop in search of a Shift and now are kind of lost along with the client.

So take a moment. Maybe even ask your client if you can have a moment and look. Is there anything you could’ve created back there that might have helped you arrive someplace else over here? Then, if you see something, CREATE IT NOW!!

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you didn’t create it earlier in the call, you can’t create it now. Own up to it.

Say: “Hey, you know, I realize I missed something earlier in the call that really matters. Do you mind if we step back for a minute?”

The client will often be inspired by your honesty and relieved that what’s going on can be addressed. After all, they’re probably thinking the call isn’t going anywhere because of something they did or didn’t do.

2) Trust Your Client:

Very often when the Shift phase is empty or a session isn’t going anywhere, it’s because you’re trying to make the session go somewhere it doesn’t want to go.

You have an agenda.

You might not even realize you have one, but it may be that you’re trying to get something YOU think the client needs to see and YOU think there’s a way or process that they need to go through to see it.

You might be right—but if you were, the session probably would have gone there. So instead of pushing, let go. Just trust the client to guide themselves where they need to be, make the topic the client selected the RIGHT topic. Make the answers they give the RIGHT questions.

Stop trying to control the outcome. Relax and choose the session you’re in.

Very often when you do this the session will naturally correct itself or the topic you’ve been considering will arise on its own. But it’s not possible unless you trust your client.

3) Reflect:

Sometimes you see a thing as a coach you want your client to see. But then your coach brain kicks in and says, “YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO TELL THEM!!” As a ‘good’ coach, you know you’re supposed to draw it out of the client.

And while this is true, 90% of the time breadcrumb coaching is BAD coaching and leads to false or nonexistent Shift phases. So if you find you’re trying to get the client to ‘guess’ the right answer to your process, STOP IT!! Using a process to guide a client through an experience is one thing, trying to get them to say to themselves what you want to say to them is another.

Reflection is a POWERFUL coaching tool that’s very often underused. So stop underusing it. Instead, if you see something for a client you believe might be powerful, reflect it to them.

Say, “Hey, I think I’m noticing this thing in what you’re saying and I’d like to reflect it to you, would you be okay with that?”

Then if they say yes, reflect it and add a caveat that you might be wrong, it’s up to them to decide.

Simple reflection either as a sharing of an insight or a simple restatement of what you’re hearing can create deep insight for your clients naturally. We simply do see and hear ourselves very well. So while it may seem very simple, it can also be very powerful.

4) Shake Things Up:

This is your method. You are using it with the client. Nothing is happening. But you double down. MORE METHOD. But nothing, nothing, nothing.

If this happens, do something different. Anything. Make a dog barking sound. Get up and dance. Try the opposite energy. If you’ve been holding lots of space, trying leading instead. Guide them through a practice. If you’ve been leading them a lot, shut up. If you’ve been structured, be flowy. If you’ve been flowy, add some structure.

The more you coach (and this is especially true for regular clients) the more likely you are to get stuck in your process or for you clients to adapt to you as a coach. It’s sort of like diet and exercise.

Great athletes have to vary their routines, and anyone who’s lost a lot of weight will tell you that you need different strategies at different phases. Humans are great at adapting to and stabilizing change. This is true for change work especially. So if you notice your session isn’t going anywhere, do something different.

Of course there’s one exception to this rule. But it’s a big one. Don’t change too fast. Sometimes, often in fact, certain tactics in coaching take more time than we expect to yield results. Most coaches don’t stick it out long enough.

They don’t leave enough space for the Drop, or have powerful Opens. They rush. They switch tactics, they ask three questions when one would do just fine. So this last one is the exception to the exception.

Most coaches get better first by simplifying. By spending more time on the fundamentals. BUT if you find your fundamentals are failing and you’ve given it a good go and waited past the first and second urges to switch, then changing tactics can be incredibly helpful.

Final Thoughts:

As coaches we have a hidden expectation FOR FIREWORKS. Part of why many of us became coaches is that the powerful moments of our own transformation shine in our mind like crazy diamonds. And we want that. We want that for our clients, for ourselves, and for our coaching. And I get it. I love it, too. I love being in the midst of it with a client who’s having POWERFUL INSIGHTS. But because we remember those moments we often forget the rest.

We forget that there were many days, weeks, month, hours, and minutes of nothing happening, of struggling and wrestling with the same problems again and again.

So if you’re in a session that’s going slowly, DON’T PANIC. Take a deep breath and remember that you have no idea what’s going on below the surface. If you need to try something else do it. Stay curious. But don’t shake and rattle for no reason. This phase is called the Shift, not the EARTHQUAKE, for a reason.

Even earthmoving insight begins with small Shifts, and so that’s all you’re looking to create. The small Shift that changes the very ground your client stands on. And with that intention remember that patience is as important as persistence.

Love,
Toku


The Next Dojo: Starts on March 8th, 2019. Early Decision Deadline: is February 2ndApply Now