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Coach or Therapist?
By David Harder on November, 6, 2019

Coach or Therapist?

When we launched Inspired Work in 1990, the coaching profession was in its infancy. Today, the coaching industry generates about $2billion in revenue every year. In short order, coaches not only disrupted the therapeutic profession, but it also ran off with many of their most affluent clients. In Europe, seeing a therapist is a sign of one’s success. In the United States, seeing a therapist indicates something is wrong with us.


The message was simple:


“If you are mentally or emotionally unwell, you ought to see a therapist. But, if you are intention is to become more successful, than you will realize far more value by seeing a coach.”


There are many great Psychology departments in our universities. These schools provide remarkable education in the techniques of facilitating emotional, physical, and behavioral breakthroughs. But, they offer nothing in teaching therapists and psychologists how to make a good living from the endeavor. Right now, the coaching industry is doing a far better job of teaching them life skills that build an affluent practice.


Years ago, I was asked to become a founding board member of the Professional Coaches and Mentors Association. In that environment, I became troubled by the fact that most coaches take a quick course and then develop their skills on the job. A psychologist is required to develop comprehensive technical skills before they connect with a client. On the other hand, the schools fall flat in helping graduates understand the world of commerce, of making a living or starting a business. This is why so many healthcare professionals partner with our company. But, their schools offered nothing to speak of in becoming proficient with sales, business development, digital marketing, and branding.


At Inspired Work, while I participated in the coaching industry, I have never viewed myself as a coach. Much of my education emerged from leading thousands of people through dynamic group programs. Many of our graduates have come back to us with the desire to help launch their first business, provide successful career marketing campaigns, and become more effective with their existing job or business.


I have never viewed myself as a coach. My role is as an orchestrator. Our two-day program moves clients into results that could take months in a one-on-one coaching process. Instead of spending gobs of time to define their ideal role, they have clarity in all they want to accomplish. In other words, rather than continuing with any form of aimlessness, they are directive, perhaps even bossy. As a result, we can go straight to designing a business plan, build necessary skills, make introductions to key hiring managers, or engage in marketing their career. Every client is a blank canvas that has been painted with their aspirations, needs, expectations, and shortcomings. Many coaches would find that too directive.


Today, I believe the coaching and psychology professions would have a great deal to gain by studying each other. Instead of spending so much time addressing each other’s shortcomings, consider their success. Psychologists tend to have far more comprehensive skills in dealing with emotional wounds, behavior, and self-actualization. But, they are given a minimal understanding of how to build a productive career, deal with a transition, or launch a new business. Our graduate schools offer nothing in terms of building the skills that can make us wealthy, nothing in how to construct a business platform that enhances our personal lives, and nothing in developing and marketing a brand.


On the other hand, the coaching profession could use a big dose of understanding of how to capture the complexities of human development. When there is a deficit in this area, a critical turning point can be missed by directly not paying attention. In the absence of an answer, how many tell the client, they don’t have an answer but will get one?


Another area in which both professions could use improvements is in expressing the actual value of their work. Far too many coaching professionals and therapists gloss over the return on investment. Here is an example. One of my close friends has been recognized as one of the best executive development coaches in the world. This masterful coach earns well over a million dollars per year. She accepts about eight clients per year. She is paid because of the results. When a client organization promotes a new executive into taking a significant role, they call her. If the net profits in that group are 40 million, by the end of that year, the gains are 2 or even 3 times that amount.


One of our clients recently encountered a big staffing challenge. One of the business units had almost 40 openings. We designed a solution for the executive, and each role was filled within 30 days. This saved over $300 in external fees and helped retain existing employees.


To summarize, the therapeutic profession needs to develop what we call “courage skills.” Conversely, many business people dismissively call them “soft skills.” These include learning how to sell one’s services, developing strong consultative sales abilities, being able to make effective presentations, and, most importantly learn how to improve the kinds of support systems that generate your business, intellectual growth, and standing in the community.


As for the coaching world, there really are no shortcuts to becoming a master. If you want to work with organizations, get mentors who are hugely successful in this area. Find coaches that can help you understand how to access and speak to the needs and expectations of an organization’s buying influences. Instead of focusing on making an individual feel better, help them understand how to build their self worth by hitting and even sailing past the business targets.


In all cases, the consumers must follow their gut and look for professionals with the skills and the emotional sobriety to help them achieve what they want and need. My most prominent personal bias in this area is that I will not work with a therapist on my long and beautiful, soon-to-be-married relationship if she or he is not in a successful marriage as well. I will not work with someone who is struggling with money to advise us on how to generate more revenue.


We learn nothing of value by studying dysfunction. Study the best.


Perhaps 20 years ago, a highly respected industrial psychologist came through our Inspired Work Program. As a result, he launched an executive and entrepreneur coaching business. Through the grapevine, I heard that he had become rather wealthy. This news irritated me. So, I took him out for a lovely dinner. Both of us are hard workers who don’t cut corners. I told him how irritated I was with the news that his economic worth was in the stratosphere and asked if he could tell me how to do that. He had become an instructor in a highly regarded business school where he worked with budding entrepreneurs. Whenever he worked with a start-up that he believed would become successful, he offered to replace monetary compensation for stock. Three of those businesses snowballed and became successful publicly traded companies.


From my vantage point, the number one reason people fail is through isolation. That is an outcome of fear. So many of us are frightened of getting attention because it might hurt us. At the very least, that hurt in history. Many coaches could become more effective in helping their clients learn from their past. But, an equally large number of therapists could look to coaches as a resource for looking into the future.


Personally, I believe it is time for the coaching industry to be subject to the same type of licensing that takes place with healthcare providers. To enter someone’s life and influence their minds and their outcomes is a sacred contract. But, I also believe that it is time for therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists to become far more versed in helping high-functioning, educated, and successful people attain even greater success and fulfillment.


Active learning, curious, joyful curiosity about becoming part of the cutting edge pushes away mediocrity. I don’t pay much attention to all of the vilifying directed towards 1%. Sure, there are some true pieholes in the wealth sector. But, there are just as many struggling to get by. Pay attention to the people that are changing the world. Learn from those who are growing every single day. Watch the people who are happy and effective, whether they are with their children at home or are standing in front of a board of directors.


I’ve been in the game of helping people love their work for almost 30 years. There have been countless times when someone asks if I can help them. My usual answer is an enthusiastic “yes.” But, there have been times where I’m clueless about how that will occur outside of the fact that when some of us say we will do it, we are willing to do whatever it takes to make it work.


Before launching our first program, I met with people who wanted to change their careers and their lives. One night, a young man came to my door. He looked a bit exhausted and scared. I asked what he wanted to accomplish. “I am dying from AIDS. I don’t want to stay home alone, waiting for the end. A friend of mine suggested that you might be able to help me get the most out of every day that I have left. Will you help me?”


I instantly responded, “Yes.” I was terrified. He died five months later. But, we worked together in helping him give to others and live with his definition of fulfillment. He told me of looking in the mirror at night only to realize he was not defeated. His demeanor surprised him because he was using all that was left to honor himself and others.


When he passed, his parents whisked away with his remains. When we met, he felt betrayed by their shame. Instead, we worked together in identifying what he most wanted to accomplish. I never saw him again, but he gave me the awareness of just how precious life is.


In a recent appearance on Saturday Night Live, Adam Sandler did a piece as the owner of Romano Travel, telling the audience of their beautiful tours of Europe. But, he warned the viewer, “If you are miserable where you are today, you will probably be miserable when we take you to these beautiful places, filled with art and culture. You will probably be miserable when you sit down to a magnificent meal in Roma. So, if you are miserable, please stay home.”


The world today is filled with choices for all of us. The world is also changing so quickly that we need everyone with capabilities to help the rest of us learn how to change and become active contributors to the future.


Whether you are a coach or a therapist, a banker or investor, a billionaire or someone homeless, every single day offers a choice for us to use our time to become the best that we can be. Generously give yourself to others and the results might outstrip your wildest ambitions.

Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work, Inc.


Schedule 15-Minutes to Discuss Your Workplace or Career with David (Here)


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