As we approached midnight on the 31st December 2020, I looked at my smart watch and could actually see my heartrate start to clink as it the countdown got closer and closer to midnight on the dot. What is it about a fresh year that we put so much store in it – that we expect everything to change for the better just because the clock has struck twelve? We’re not called Cinderella, and we’re not central characters in a fairytale.
But, I certainly believe that we need to start the year off with our eyes wide open to what’s in store for us and what we can expect. As the Scouts say, “Be prepared”, and I find preparation takes a lot of uncertainty out of what we are facing.
So, what is the landscape looking like, and going to look like as we get further into the year?
The landscape for coaching in 2021
We can’t hide from the fact that the online world has become a place where most of us are conducting business, keeping in contact with colleagues and clients, and generally just keeping up to date with what is going on in the world.
We have been reluctantly forced to explore new platforms, software and ways of communicating that may feel awkward or downright difficult.
With my clients, I am constantly dealing with fear of new technology, fear of exposure and visibility, and general lack of knowledge about where to start and what to do that would be a genuine expression of themselves in this crowded online world.
Making a memorable statement
In fact, to my great amusement, clothing designers have shifted their focus and intellectual capital to designing clothing for women that shows up well online – from the waist up. I have certainly spent a fortune on interesting necklines and eye-catching tops in my corporate colours.
And this is a very important point: now more than ever before, we HAVE to have a recogniseable, and easy to associate with us online brand. We want clients to see a colour, a style of clothing or some kind of imagery that they immediately associate with us because we know that our subconscious minds like imagery, pictures, colours and movement.
It makes us memorable.
Of course, we’ve all seen hilarious picture and videos of people who have been caught out online. I will certainly never forget that guy that was wandering around, stark naked, in front of all his colleagues, having forgotten to turn his video off.
And the truth is that many of the top online personalities admit to working in comfy clothes while working offline and even when they are online and visible, they are only dressed to the nines from the waist up.
I recorded a video on Enclothed Cognition which talks about how dressing for work makes us more productive, gets us into a work mindset and also mentally delineates from our work time versus our family time when working from home. You can watch it here: https://youtu.be/V1DsYr29O98
3 Trends That Would Impact Coaching
Some of you may remember the video that I did on 3 future trends that I predicted for the coaching industry in April 2020. If you want to catch up on THAT, you can find the article and full video here: https://bit.ly/2NaP053
I’m going to kind of just pick up on the three trains that I predicted at that stage because I think we have now experienced all of them as part of what we call our “new normal”. As much as I dislike using that phrase “new normal”, I do think that the impact of COVID-19 was something that we all took for granted was only going to be a temporary blip on the screen whereas there are predictions that we may still be dealing with it in 2024: wearing masks, hand washing, sanitising, social distancing. Certainly, the virus has shown us how intelligent it is, and how quickly it can mutate so it’s got the medical profession on its toes.
So we thought was just going to be like a temporary blip and inconvenience, and we would quickly just hunker down in our homes and socially isolate. But that brief period, while we got everything under control, has turned into something a lot more serious.
We need to factor COVID-19 and its mutations into our medium- and long-term planning. One thing we do knowis that we are never going to go back to what we had before. The world is never going to be the same and this virus is having a massive economic and social impact. It is impacting us in two ways.
Firstly, we know that companies are downsizing in a big way. Secondly, more and more people are having to work from home and working from home as companies are really looking at the way that they structure the workplace.
What this means for us as coaches, we need to be responsive to what our clients are how our clients’ working environments are changing. As coaches most of us are used to working from home, out of a home office, getting in our cars and maybe going through to the offices of our clients and having our coaching sessions there.
Some of us are used to balancing work with being parents or working in and shared office space with our spouses. Our clients may NOT be used to this. They might not even HAVE spaces in their home that they can designate as separate office space and may be sitting all day working at their dining room table on uncomfortable chairs with all the chaos of homelife happening around them.
They may be sharing computers with children who are schooling online, and so have to interrupt what they are doing and their train of thought throughout the day.
Relationships are being put into this crucible of unfamiliarity, prolonged exposure to each other, and simply trying to make it all work for everyone.
As coaches, we really need to be able to adapt the way that we work with our clients and listen even more carefully to the kinds of issues that our clients are having in their own adaptation to this “new normal”, this normal that is going to be our normal possibly in perpetuity.
The other way that it’s impacting economically, obviously, is that it impacting all of us is in terms of our budgets. I know many coaches who have told me that their one-on-one coaching clients, who were paying for their coaching out of their own pockets have cancelled their contracts or are coming less frequently for coaching sessions, and that means less income for the coaches. So coaches perhaps aren’t earning what they were earning a while ago.
I heard a horrific story from one of the more successful coaches that I know, who was earning well over six figures and whose business has shrunk to 20% of what it was before COVID-19 hit us. One of the main reasons why this coach took such a knock was because they coached almost exclusively in an industry that was negatively impacted immediately by COVID-19 in terms of lockdown and regulations and things like that.
Industries that seem to be COVID-19 Resilient
In fact, I’ve started taking note of those industries or “essential services” that continued to operate during COVID-19 because I think it is wise to have a variety of clients across a number of different industries, for example, the medical profession, the pharmaceutical industry and essential services like plumbing and electricians or electrical and plumbing supplies.
In addition, companies supplying web-related services like mine have thrived. They may simply have set their staff up to work from home instead of in the office. Even legal firms continued to work, albeit from remote offices. So look into look at your client mix and make sure that you have a little bit more diversity, and make sure that you target the kinds of industries and professions that are more “COVID proof”.
Now, quickly think about how many times recently you have shopped online compared to before COVID-19 hit us? I’m guessing that some of you have become veterans of online grocery shopping. Yes?
How many of you – with additional time on your hands – have signed up for online courses or workshops? How many of you have attended online networking sessions? I’m part of an AMAZING online group that has a monthly subject matter expert coaching session and two online meet-ups every month. I’ve met so many new people and made so many new connections all over the world.
But we’ve all been doing something online on a daily basis that we couldn’t see ourselves doing a year ago. They’ve become the norm for us. It shows that we can LEARN new things when we want to and when we need to.
Most of all, it means that we can really take advantage of the global economy and be less and less parochial in terms of how we shop so that we can get economies of scale.
Plus, when we’re shopping online there isn’t that ever-present fear of coming into contact with someone who is infected or of being exposed to the virus on surfaces that we touch. It’s an underlying and pervasive fear and dis-ease that we are all living under and it simply adds to our stress levels – as well as those of our clients.
But remember, if WE are becoming more savvy about the online world, so are our clients, so that’s where you’ve simply got to be, and you need to be making enough of a splash to catch people’s attention.
There were some stats that I came across towards the end of last year about how many times you need to need to be posting on various social media platforms in order to be showing up in the feed. and I was flabbergasted that if you actually wanted to have any kind of presence on Twitter, you needed to be tweeting anything over 30 times a day! Instagram was in the region of 5 – 10 times a day and similarly for Pinterest, and the bare minimum for Facebook and LinkedIn was once a day.
That’s a lot. And it’s why I always say: “Pick your lane and stick to it”. Choose one social media platform and create a really dominant presence on it. We also know that – after web searches – LinkedIn is the second most used place to find a coach, so at the very least ensure that your LinkedIn profile is up to scratch.
The fact is that every single one of us, in one form or another, has been spending money online and been more visible (hopefully) online. It also means that your currents clients are there as well your potential clients. So I urge you to commit to making sure that you show you show up consistently.
Just as – at the beginning of every year, we make resolutions relating to diet, exercise and so on – we need to create a commitment and a regimen for getting online because this is how your business is going to survive: by making yourself highly visible, and making sure that you are showing up in all the places that your potential clients would be showing up.
Join online groups, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, and join in the conversations. You don’t need to start the conversations, but for goodness sake, join in and participate so that people start to get to know you. You need to give people an opportunity to get to know you, like you (hopefully enough to start following you), and trust you enough to engage your services – because their experience of you online is that you are the solution to their problem.
I can’t tell you how many clients come to me just from these videos that I’ve been putting out over the last year, which was the biggest shift in terms of my online social media strategy in 2020. What has happened is that before I could actually wipe the sleep out of my eyes, I’ve now got over 80 over that I’ve uploaded onto my YouTube channel that are all business assets that are all my intellectual property that I can roll out and point people to and reutilize again and again in different forms. In fact, this article was created from a transcription of a video that I did at the beginning of 2021.
Having experienced the success of weekly videos, this year, my commitment is actually to do two videos a week: one in my Facebook group (here’s the link to join: https://www.facebook.com/groups/coach.marketing.academy) every Tuesday that is more informative, more in-depth and more carefully curated and researched. Then I’m going to do one every Thursday on my Facebook page (here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/NicheIntelligence) that will consist of interviews and looking at different tools and things that we as coaches can use to support not just ourselves, but also our clients.
The trend to shift online is here to stay. In fact, I forget the exact figures, but I think by 2024, Forbes Magazine are predicting that the online training industry is going to have a value of something to the in the region of 400 billion US dollars. It is by far the fastest growing industry right now. So, if you’re not part of it, if you’re not somehow packaging your services and participating in the online training industry, I urge you to please put that on your horizon and use this year to start getting the skills, the tools and the confidence.
In fact, in my 12-week course to accelerate your marketing and sales, the first module is on mindset and I’m seriously thinking of extending that module to include more mindset work because that is the biggest thing that holds my clients back from offering valuable, bona fide online value.
The Health & Wellness Industry
The other funny, amusing side effect of COVID and lockdown and the way that we’ve been eating and picking up weight. Statistically, I heard on the radio a few weeks ago, that on average most people have picked up anything up to 10 kilograms during lockdown. How’s that? So, I do think that people who are in the weight loss, the health, wellness, diet and related industries have a wonderful opportunity to really capitalize your business, get creative, and get clients into some kind of a membership programme where you are earning a pretty established income on a monthly basis.
And going back to the point that I made earlier about diversifying your client base, look perhaps at diversifying into working with people who are in the fitness and health related industries, because I think that they will never be without work if they are good at what they do.
I mentioned earlier that I did a video on three trends that I predicted in the coaching industry in April 2020, and I’m just going to go over them again, quickly.
Bombarded By Negativity & The Need for Resilience
I started the video by saying that we are surrounded by a huge amount of negative negativity wherever we turn: in the media, at small social gatherings, when talking to friends and family on the phone, and it’s quite hard to keep our spirits up.
In addition to this constant bombardment, most of us are also at a stage now where we know more than one person who has either contracted COVID, or died from it. So, we seem to be surrounded and going through almost like an apocalyptic kind of universe: something from a Stephen King movie.
It is difficult to remain resilient and positive in the face of us. In fact, I did an interview towards the end of 2020 with Alison Coates, and expert in resilience. We spoke about the importance of resilience and how to build that resilience muscle and to make as ourselves as flexible and adaptable as possible.
But we also have an enormous duty of self-care, because we many of us may be grieving for someone that we have lost and going through the heart and height of the grieving processs can take up to six months before we are fully functional and the fog clears in our brains. Grieving can create poor memory, non-existent concentration levels and a general feeling of disconnect with the world around us.
But what we as coaches, being surrounded by all this negativity, have an enormous duty to self-care and also responsibility towards our clients who have experienced loss to ensure that we refer them to a medical professional if we pick up any signs of depression.
Having gone through the loss of my mother last year, I have realised how incredibly small acts like regular meditation and exercise is to my ability to get through my day and to weather whatever is coming at me during the course of the day. It’s that’s one of the things is we need to be very, very mindful of ourselves and be gentle with ourselves at the moment with everything that we’re going through.
Learning Online Body Language & Netiquette
Another one of the three trends that I spoke about last year was that we were going to be shifting to doing more and more coaching online. This has meant that we have had to learn a whole new way and set of skills of reading our clients’ body language of interpreting the meta-conversation, reading between the lines. We’ve had to learn an entire new language of netiquette because there are certain things that you do and don’t do in the online world.
We can do little things like hold meetings while standing up if we are naturally active people and dislike sitting still for too long. You can put your computer on top of a high chest of drawers to accomplish this. I’ve seen some rather humorously inventive “studio” set ups with people sitting on the floor in their lounge at their coffee table with a chair on top to hold their computer at the most flattering angle.
When I first started doing videos and didn’t have a special stand for my laptop, I had a specific pile of books that I kept together because they gave me the angle that I wanted. It’s amazing how creative and inventive we can be when we have to be. And I think that is a key concept: necessity.
We also don’t need to confine ourselves to our offices. Look for other spaces and environments that positively affect your mood and mindset.
Mass Job Losses & Increasing Competition
I also spoke in April about the impact of job losses. We have seen industries like the hotel, catering and recreation industries decimated and I’m sure you’ve also noticed many gaps in your regular shopping centres where there used to be a little coffee shop. Well, there’s another industry that you could target: franchises seem to have weathered the storm.
But with all of these job losses, it means that more and more people are coming into the job market at a time when jobs are scarce, and a very easy thing is for them to decide to become a coach. The barrier to entry to this industry is really, really low. In fact, you can start coaching without even having any kind of certification, or you can do a five-day, or a three-week online course or a three-month online course and call yourself qualified.
I know – you’re cringing – but it is very, very easy to get into coaching, and that means that those of us who are existing coaches need to leverage our experience and the length of time that we’ve been coaching, our expertise and the common results that our clients experience from working with us.
The flip side is that because there have been so many job losses, there are fewer people in companies to be coached, and companies are all looking at their overheads, and we all know that training and development and the marketing budgets are easy targets. So we get hit by a triple whammy, more coaches are coming into the market, there are fewer people to coach, and there’s less money to be paid for the coaching. So coaching pricing is going to be coming under pressure.
Now, for the new trends that I predict for 2021. I’ve spoken about continuing job losses and a big influx of new coaches into the market. So, we all have greater competition, in a diminishing market and pool of potential corporate clients.
Psychological Literacy, PTSD & Self-Care
If we look at our clients, a lot of the clients that we are dealing with have lost someone close to them – someone precious – and are going through the grieving process. I’ve always said that one of the hallmarks of a good coach is a level a good level of psychological literacy. What I mean by that is having an awareness of the most common and most the most widely used or most popular, prominent and psychological models and approaches, because I think, with what we will be dealing more with underlying psychology now with our clients.
So we, are dealing with clients potentially who are going through some kind of a grieving process and may even be suffering from a form of PTSD, which means that there’s probably going to be a greater element of wellness mindset and or life coaching coming into our coaching sessions.
If we are business coaches, we’re possibly going to be spending a greater amount of time on personal issues, and we need to be prepared, mature enough and professionally able to handle what our clients present in the coaching session.
I’ve mentioned earlier that we too many of us have suffered some kind of a loss too. One friend is part of a group of coaches who each dealt with different things and offered a well-rounded programme to corporate clients. One of the people in this group was a natural and comfortable salesperson who took the role as the Rainmaker for this group of coaches, and he died from COVID leaving the remaining members of this group without one of their most important members.
Things have changed in our worlds so significantly, that one of the other things that we need to be aware of, for ourselves as coaches, but also with our clients is that we could be suffering low levels of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Small Changes to our Old Normal
Let me give you an example: when we go out in public, perhaps to the doctor’s take a child to the doctor, or to meet someone, or simply to do some shopping, we are all masked up and sanitising like mad but in the back of our minds always this underlying possibility that we might get exposed somehow. We don’t realize the toll it takes on us, living under these conditions and how it has completely changed our behaviour. How do we read people’s expressions? Do you also sometimes find it hard to understand what the other person is saying without being able to read their lips?
We had family coming up from Cape Town over Christmas. At the time, Cape Town was a designated COVID hot spot and we had to have discussions about whether or not we should all wear masks around each other. Now, this was spending time together with family members for Christmas. In the past, we would have been completely comfortable hugging and greeting and kissing each other. Now we had to think twice about actions that used to be normal and commonly accepted.
But this is just a simple example of this low underlying, insidious level of daily threat and fear that we are living with. We are dealing with something that this generation has never, ever had to deal with before.
On top of all of this, both coaches and clients are having to get to grips with managing new technology. It’s stressful learning something new, not feeling comfortable and accomplished and feeling out of your depth.
I think more than ever before, we need to commit to having that level of psychological literacy, and also, we need to absolutely be aware of, and able to recognise what we are dealing with in the room in front of us. For example, I know people where, because they are now working from home, it’s put pressure on their marriages, it’s put pressure on their relationships with their kids. These are just some of the new dynamics that are coming into play.
A friend of mine who trained as a coach last year, has held herself back from coaching, because she hasn’t quite managed to carve out a comfortable office space in her in her home office, and thought that the coaching that in she would be doing, she would always be going to her client’s offices. I think there is also some imposter syndrome going on but this is an example of seemingly insignificant little things that are holding us back and impacting on our mindset, on our positivity on our productivity and our ability to be normal at the end of the day.
I’m preaching to the converted when I say that things have changed, and that life as we know it will be very different for a long time – if we EVER go back to how things were before. But we are coaches. We are all about thinking out of the box, creative solutions and overcoming challenges. We have a variety of tools to deal with stress. We are well-equipped to survive mentally and emotionally.