So you might’ve picked up on the fact that I lead a life coach training program. Graduates of the program are given the option to become licensees to teach some content from the Courageous Living Program as part of a group coach offering (my thinking being that instead of having to create an entire course curriculum as a brand-new coach, it would be great to give our graduates something that they can start teaching).
As I have been working on the training for this licensing offering, I started reflecting on the top lessons of leadership that I’ve learned from more than a decade of teaching. So here it is–the hard-won wisdom, the mistakes made, the lessons learned, the celebrations of how sacred the contract is between teacher and student.
1. You cannot be all things, for all people. This is the biggie. Trying to be all things for all people will only exhaust you. Keep coming back to the center of yourself, and the center of why you created the group experience that you did.
2. Upholding the integrity of the group is the leader’s job. Integrity is: when your words and actions match, and they are in alignment with your values, beliefs, commitments, and life vision (Matthew Marzel). You can’t make people do anything that they don’t want to do, but you can uphold the integrity of the group and its purpose. A leader who fails to address a lack of integrity is just colluding with it.
3. Never get caught in the upswing (or the downswing). When I was a college professor, my Ego was big-time wrapped up in being a student’s Favorite Teacher. It was a high like no other when students loved my classroom. And–it was a crushing blow when they didn’t. There’s plenty of advice out there about not believing the naysayers too much. There’s less said about the dangers of getting caught in the praise. Praise feels good, but it can easily be used to stroke the Ego. When someone praises you, receive it, and then like a meditation…release it. Let it go. Don’t let praise “mean something” about who you are, because that just invites the criticism to “mean something” about who you are.
4. Everyone shows up to the group experience, differently, but everyone really wants the same thing: connection. Even when they don’t say so, that’s what they want. They say they want answers or clarity or a new career? Well, they want those things because they feel that having them would make them feel connected to themselves, to their own lives. Everyone wants connection. You want it, too–that’s why you teach.
5. Everyone has a right to make a request. Years ago, I was annoyed when anyone made any requests of me. This was a time of profound isolation, where my life really pivoted around the spoke of “I’ll just do it all myself so that I never need to ask you for help or rely on you–and you do the same.” The truth is that people always have the right to make a request, no matter how outlandish it is. Resenting them for making the request becomes problematic. Let your people know that they’re safe to make requests, with you.
6. You don’t have to say “yes” to everything. Discernment is an important quality of leadership. Be clear about what you will and won’t say “yes” to. Be particularly careful around those places and spaces where a “yes” to someone else means saying “no” to yourself.
7. Believe in your people. It’s incredibly common that when people feel fear, they start justifying that fear with all the reasons why they “can’t” do something. They will logically lay out and explain some very, very legitimate reasons for why they can’t do something. Despite that, believe in your people. When I was a classroom teacher, students told me, all of the time, their absolutely and totally legitimate reasons for why they couldn’t get a paper turned in on time, and why they needed an extension. I never doubted their reasons or the challenges they were up against. I also never doubted…them. I believed in them and in their capacity to deliver. I know that if something is important enough to you, you’ll find a way to get it. 90% of the time, students who swore that there was absolutely no way that they could get a paper in, got one in. Some of them hated me for not granting the extension, but–well, see #1 on this list. And #2. And #3. And #6.
8. Let them see your awe. When I was reviewing the sessions that our life coach training program trainees had recorded and submitted as part of their final portfolio, I was routinely, awesomely, supremely…blown away. Wow. Sometimes I’d feel my heart rise or beat faster, as I heard a coach who only months before had felt afraid and shaky in her coaching, suddenly asking that perfect question that hit the client in just the right way. Every coach in the program has an exit call of sorts, a one-on-one call where we talk about their portfolio, and holding these calls made my day because it was an opportunity to share with this newly graduated life coach, how amazing they were.
9. Let them see your excitement. I am unabashedly excited about life coaching–being one, talking about the process, teaching the skill-set. As a general rule, that excitement is on full display. Your passion for a topic is magnetic. Let them see it.
10. Walk your talk when it comes to self-care. Lots of coaches talk about “the importance of self-care” and then they don’t set up their lives to actually live in accordance with what they try to teach other people (free tip: I have a theory that clients can suss out when this kind of inauthenticity is happening, and that’s why there’s a correlation lack of self-care and lack of clients). When you teach, when you lead, you need a supreme form of self-care. You simply can’t phone it in if you want it to be done, well. You’ve got to get rest, take vitamins, schedule a massage, suit up n’ show up. Sometimes, “getting rest” will mean that you’re later than you’d like to be on things like returning emails or having a perfectly clean house. But whatever it takes to show up beautifully, that’s what it takes. Self-care is a must.