Coaching Blueprint Biz Manifesto #8: If you want your clients to live better lives, you’ve got to live a better life.
You don’t have to be perfect, to be a life coach. You don’t have to have all of your “stuff” perfectly figured out. The skill-set that makes you a capable coach is not your own hierarchical perfection over others. What makes you a great coach is your ability to hold a container for what other people are going through.
With that said, I firmly believe that life coaches–that anyone in a helping profession–need to hold themselves to a high standard of integrity.
You’d never send your kid to a daycare center that looked good on the outside but that had poor sanitation, behind closed doors. A community center shouldn’t hire a swimming coach who doesn’t actually know how to swim. We don’t want police officers on the force who arrest people for stealing, but then do a little back-door trading of weapons or drugs seized at a crime scene. If someone goes to Alcoholics Anonymous to stop drinking, and they find a sponsor but that sponsor is still drinking, the alcoholic will get little help.
Some might say that these are ridiculous or heavy-handed examples that take things too seriously, so let that point to just how seriously I take this career. If I’m going to be a point person for helping someone to change their life, I regard that with the utmost sincerity, integrity, commitment, and seriousness.
The point is this: anyone who says, “I’m capable of doing this job” has a certain level of walking their talk that they need to be doing. That’s what it means to be in integrity–your words and actions match, and they’re in alignment with your values, beliefs, commitments, and life vision.
That means that:
- If you talk to your clients about practicing self-care, but you don’t practice any self-care…you’re out of integrity.
- If your entire marketing platform is living a life of joy, but you’re hiding out from everyone in a state of utter joy-lessness and this is more than just a temporary rough patch…integrity is not in place.
- If you are a “business coach” teaching others about marketing and social media, but you have no demonstrable record of success in this area, yourself…there’s an issue with integrity.
- If you help clients to be more compassionate and gentle with themselves, but then you bitch about, complain about, or gossip about other life coaches when you go to conferences or get together with your friends…yeah. Integrity is not happening.
The next place people often go with this is to swing towards perfectionism. “I’ve got to get 100% in integrity!” says the life coach, and she promptly begins honing in on areas and beating herself up for wherever she falls short.
Integrity and perfectionism differ in that perfectionism is about some future attainable goal (that’s impossible) and integrity is about a life-giving and fulfilling commitment to presence.
It’s not about being perfect. It’s about noticing the places where you’re perfectly imperfect and an utterly lovable human being, and deciding how to respond with the same love, compassion, and integrity that you’d coach your clients to choose for themselves.
Let me be clear: I am NOT the “integrity police” trying to lay it down on you. Of course I’ve caught myself in the mist of gossiping, not practicing self-care, talking about courage in moments when I was hiding out from it, helping a client with an issue that I wasn’t feeling totally grounded in.
Here are a few examples of how I try to practice integrity in my life, because I know that this translates to my practice:
I’ve gossiped, and then realized later, “Hey, Kate–shouldn’t have done that.” I’ve said as much to the person I was gossiping to: “You know how I was bitching about so-and-so the other day? I felt bad about that. It was out of integrity. The truth is that she’s a human being, doing her best, just like I am, and I don’t like how I feel when I’m doing that.”
I’ve resisted self-care, and then stopped in the middle of a work day when I realized what I was doing, and done whatever I could do in only five minutes–even if it was just taking a moment to breathe and be.
I’ve hidden out from practicing courage, all while utilizing friends and supporters to be open about what I was doing, so that the pattern wouldn’t go underground: “Hey, will you help me? I’m totally in fear right now and I know that the courageous thing to do would be XYZ, but right now I just don’t want to choose that. Will you check back in with me, later?”
I’ve had clients ask me for support around things that I didn’t feel grounded in, and I’ve said, “The piece that I can help you with is _________. However, I really believe that _________ as a resource would be of even more help to you. It’s not that I don’t want to help you, so much as I know that you deserve the absolute best and I know that my skill-set here isn’t as strong as what you could get from someone else/this other resource.”
If you’re interested in doing some work around bringing your life into alignment around integrity, The Courageous Living Program might be something you’re interested in. Or, you might even bring it up with your coach (and as someone who believes in life coaching’s power to transform lives, you receive coaching, yourself…right?). Or, perhaps you’ll turn to any number of spiritual practices. Or, perhaps it’ll be as simple as this: when you give a practice to a client who’s struggling with similar territory as you are, you’ll decide to adopt the practice, yourself.
If you want your clients to live better lives, you’ve got to be playing to your own edge–continually learning, growing, and expanding your own skill-set of experience. This is not a completely radical concept–Carl Rogers, the founder of Person-Centered therapy (which is what life coaching stems from) was one of the first people to suggest that as the counselor grows, so does the client.
While I wholeheartedly advocate the kind of skill-sets that come from workshops and seminars, when I’m talking about living a better life, I’m really talking about the kind of skill-set you learn that first time that you don’t get in the snippy comeback with your husband when you’re in a troubled marriage or the moment you realize that you completely and totally can love your body, extra 30 pounds and all. That’s what will translate into the best kind of support for your clients.
Click to tweet: Integrity comes from within, and radiates out to change the world. http://clicktotweet.com/_85f9.