During a recent practice coaching session with students, we discussed the phenomenon that as soon as they are coaching somebody on a topic they have lived through or are living through, it’s like they lose all memory of how to coach. Yet if it’s a situation they can’t imagine knowing how to fix, they can coach no problem.
This left them wondering: Why would I develop a niche if the more knowledge I have of my client’s situation, the less effective I’ll be as a coach?
And on the other hand, why would someone hire you if you have no knowledge or experience in what they need help with?
Coaching is not like other professions. As coaches, we are not being hired for our expertise. We do have coaching skills, of course, but we do not necessarily have explicit knowledge of what our clients are going through.
My answer to these new coaches, and anyone who’s wondering the same thing, is that I really do believe in niches and that there’s value in them. Yes, it can be a challenge at first to set aside your experience and expertise and stand firmly in the coaching principles.
It’s about getting to that point of “unconscious competence” where the brain automatically decides to not let what you know get in the way. Where you can tuck it away for a while, without seeming to forget how to coach.
So don’t hesitate to coach in your area of expertise, and to build a niche around that. As your coaching develops, there are bound to be times when you’re going to want to change hats and offer some expertise, and then go right back into coach mode.
If this is an area that concerns you, I encourage you to seek out support to develop those skills, through mentor coaching, practice coaching, or coaching supervision. If you haven’t experienced this sensation yet, of forgetting how to coach, expect it, or some other kind of growth edge. It’s going to show up, for all of us.