The phone rings – it’s my coaching client calling for their bi-monthly coaching session scheduled for 30 minutes. Like many Co-Active Coaches in 2002 my coaching sessions tended to last 30 minutes, every 2 or 4 weeks and over 3 to 6 months. A very much ‘little-and-often approach’ to personal development.
With headphones on, I help them clarify what they want to get from the session along with a short recap on any action or reflection they’d carried out from the previous session. Clients knew back then (as they do now) that the majority of learning takes place in between the coaching session where you ponder on something that came up, or something you’ve been tasked to think about, or report back on a stretching action that has taken you out of your comfort zone.
Back in 2002, from what I remember, coaching focused on having clear personal goals or if desired even work goals, though most of my predominantly all female clients were looking to build upon their personal development. We explored values, used visualisation tools to tap into their future self and life purpose. Sessions sometimes included wheels of life and perspectives, cards to help open up a conversation or an intention – but all with a focus on what the client wanted to achieve.
I worked in parallel to a therapist, who I could refer coaching clients on should the conversations get too personal, too stuck, or morphing into areas I wasn’t comfortable or able to support them on. Having clear boundaries around what I offered and what I didn’t was as important then as it now. Whereas back then, stress or anxiety, struggling with confidence and not feeling able to cope would have been a red flag to me as a coach, today they are present in almost all of my coaching conversations and areas that I’ve since upskilled and trained myself to manage.
Many of my clients were just a name. Most I never met and without real social media, I couldn’t search for them to see what they looked like, what they shared in their online profile or even where they lived. There was an element of anonymity back then, giving a greater space for confidentiality and boundaries to exist. I’m not even sure if they knew what I looked like either, as it never crossed my mind to add a picture to any of my publicity. Coaching clients weren’t bound by geographical borders or time zones, in fact the majority of my coaching took place after work in the evening, in the privacy of their own home.
In 2002 there was no blueprint as to how to grow your coaching business as the ICF who I became a member of, was still in its infancy, having only started in 1995. There were very few other coaches operating in Scotland and those that were, like magnets who we were either were attracted to or not, creating an informal peer support network. In 2007 in the ICF Global Coaching Study they purported there to be around 30,000 coaches worldwide, compared with 109,200 today. How many were operating in Scotland would have been a drop in the coaching ocean.
Most learning around growing a coaching business came from ‘giving something a go’. As a relatively new industry with few other coaches, being promoted on an organisation’s internal database was acceptable, as was holding free sessions in the local library and being advertised on the Council’s events web page.
As is today, word of mouth played a big role. However, back in 2002 having a Life Coach was something you didn’t just tell anyone. Seen as a ‘fixing or helping’ solution for many, Life Coaching as it was known then, was more of a secret activity one that you paid for yourself, and you were careful not to advertise about. Often clients owned up to coaching once loved ones noticed a change in language or behaviours as they took onboard the coaching process of change.
Forging a path in coaching in Scotland decades ago was often a lonely place. Any new service takes time to move from early adopters to majority, and in many ways coaching has followed the curve. 21 years ago the majority of people knew nothing about coaching, and those that did it was a more formal and scheduled experience, whereas today you can have a coaching conversation in the works’ kitchen, on the bus and in a matter of minutes and with a few carefully chosen questions.
Will coaching be around for the next 21 years? Absolutely! Coaching will continue to adapt to world challenges and it’s offerings will move into the virtual world as well as the real world. Coaching reflects change and the desire to be more than, better than, happier than and more you, so I believe there will always be a place for coaching in the future.
Want to experience coaching in 2023? Book your free sample coaching session with Kate.