Coaching, Integrity, and the Myth of the High-End Client

If you are a Life Coach, dedicated to the personal development of others, you are continuously pushing your edge, and actively seeking training and coaching yourself. Maybe you, Mr. or Miss Life Coach, are expanding your techniques and learning about new modalities. Perhaps you are doing your own deep personal work. And perhaps also, you have decided to upgrade your coaching practice by virtue of the ever growing online coaching gurus that promise to up your game. These Brave New Gurus, almost too shiny to look at, promise you freedom, the ability to work pool-side, and the holy grail of the coaching industry-- the "high-end client."

Ah, yes. The high-end client-- much vied after and coveted.

A quick search on the internets would have you believing, that unless you are charging upwards of five figures a coaching contract, you are playing it small, not reaching your potential, and certainly you have not found your flow, upgraded your money talk, or hacked your authentic, juicy, goddess-self. Sound familiar?

In his book, The Prosperous Coach, co-author Rich Litvin (whom I highly respect as a Coach), identifies a core issue within the world of coaching. He writes, "the coaching profession has a problem that is two-fold: There is a low bar for entry and high bar for success."

It is the "low bar for entry" that I am concerned about. And I supposed "low bar" could be relative, so I will define it here, for the purposes of this post.

Despite the efforts of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), coaching itself is too new and has grown too quickly to be effectively governed by either a shared body of laws, codes or ethics. Basically, anyone can become a coach-- and they sometimes do. Worse, they sometimes become a coach whose sole coaching business is selling the high-end client dream to other coaches, for a hefty price of course. And herein lies a problem.

Coaches, Coach Real People

Coaching is about people, relationships, growth and sometimes catharsis. No, it is not therapy. But, coaching is a behavioral and psychological technology that works. And the elements that make a good coach, are the same that apply to any other profession that claims to contribute to the personal development and well-being of others. Integrity, empathy, unconditional positive regard, and trustworthiness should all be criteria for a good and ethical coach.

The rise of the "high-end client" propaganda is dangerous in a business that doesn't govern itself. Namely, because it attracts a segment of the population that probably shouldn't be in the coaching profession.

Motivation is Everything

If you are a coach, what was your initial motivation for choosing this path? Were you looking to create a life of meaning for yourself? Did you want to contribute to community and society? Did you accidently discover how outrageously rewarding it is to serve others? If your answer is "yes" to any of the above, my next question would be-- What does having a life of meaning, one of contribution or one of servitude have to do with seeking high-end clients?

If you are a professional coach and have done any significant work, you know that there is not a monetary value you can attach to reaching others through deep and powerful coaching. If you are in the coaching world to effect change, make an impact and leave a legacy of good work, then you know there are no high-end clients-- or better stated, all clients are high-end clients, because the value is in being witness to your client's personal evolution.

All Clients are Valuable

All clients are worth working with and for. When people walk into your life, Mr. and Miss Coach, and are ready to work, confront the imperfect parts of themselves, be honest and vulnerable and show-up for themselves-- then they deserved to be met with a Coach of integrity, one that puts people before dollars, one that wants to serve the profession and the client before their botton-line. People deserve a Coach that knows there are no low-end clients. There are just clients with different sized bank accounts, and none are any less special or deserving than the other.

Does this mean Coaches are not to profit from their time and talent? No.

Am I saying that Coaches should only work on a sliding-scale, or for free? No, not exactly.

Do I think it is "bad" to make money, and lots of it? Never, don't be ridiculous.

What I am saying, is that if you are a Coach, you need to be very clear as to why you are in this business. It is not a sales job, although sales is part of any business. It is not about quotas and numbers and hitting money goals, although it is part of being a responsible coach to run your coaching business in a way that is financially solvent. It is not a place to hide-out because you don't know what to do with your life, and someone on the internet is promising you a title, a gig and a lot of cash.

This new-fangled thing called Coaching, is and must be about something bigger than chasing the high-end dollars. Why?

Because people matter. Because what you do out in the world matters. Because if you are good at coaching, people will make themselves vulnerable and trust you, and perhaps even heal little pieces of themselves through their relationship with you. And also, because after coaching hundreds of people, I know that coaching is powerful. I know that when you create change for your clients, they will send you their family, their friends, their little-old-lady neighbors, who might be on a fixed-income, but are starting anew after the loss of their husband of 50 years, and if you are in this profession for the right reasons, if you are kind-hearted, and loving towards humanity and open to all possibilities, you better be ready to coach those who come to you ready to be coached. Do this. Be this. And the Universe will reward you in all ways that matter.