Our latest guest in The Coaching Academy's 'Mentor Series' is Karen Kissane, an award-winning business and life coach who recently passed a major industry milestone, having completed 100 hours of volunteer mentoring for our next generation of coaches. Enjoy her inspiring story!
Karen Kissane is The Coaching Academy’s ‘Small Business Coach of the Year 2019’, a former mentor with the Cherie Blair Foundation, and a member of the prestigious Forbes’ Coaches Council.
She’s also the founder of The Smart Woman’s Business Hub, a thriving online community of more than 4,500 female business owners from around the world.
She coaches private clients and runs a thriving membership and mastermind. In 2021 (restrictions allowing), Karen will be hosting a series of immersive transformational retreats at her home in Bordeaux, to deliver a unique blend of transformational coaching and mentoring for smart women in business.
We caught up with Karen to find out more about her story, her commitment to developing new coaches to the highest standards, and the lessons she can share to inspire and support tomorrow’s coaching professionals…
"I’m an alumni of the Academy myself, and I wanted to stay connected to it. Becoming a coach has absolutely changed my life – professionally, and by shifting my perspectives in so many positive ways. Having benefited so much myself, I feel strongly about helping others maximise the same opportunities."
Karen, first of all – congratulations! One hundred hours of volunteer mentoring is a fantastic achievement. You must love doing it - but can you tell us why?
Well, the most important thing to say is that I’m passionate about quality and professionalism in our industry, and personal development such as mentoring is key to unlocking the high standards we all want to see.
Many of the students I have mentored tell me they chose me because they want my support specifically with the business side as well as coaching skills. I have a background in business, in sales and marketing and blend my coaching with this experience. It’s extremely satisfying to help students learn, not only how to be a coach, but also how to start, run and grow a coaching business.
But there’s a very personal reward for me too. When I get feedback from a mentee, telling me what a positive difference the mentoring session has made to them on their journey and the progress they’ve been able to make as a result of that session, it really fills my heart.
How did you come to volunteer as a mentor for The Coaching Academy at all?
I’m an alumni of the Academy myself, and I wanted to stay connected to it. Becoming a coach has absolutely changed my life – professionally, and by shifting my perspectives in so many positive ways. Having benefited so much myself, I feel strongly about helping others maximise the same opportunities.
Having been a student with the Academy, I can easily stand in the mentees’ shoes. I’ve lived that experience, I understand their frustrations, I feel their excitement. I also know first-hand what’s going to help them make faster and easier progress!
Having grown a thriving coaching business of my own over the last few years, and with my background in business, I know I can help mentees take the best actions not only to earn their diploma but also to set themselves up for maximum success when their new qualification becomes their new business.
What other mentoring experience do you have?
As well as my two years’ mentoring with The Coaching Academy, I mentor extensively in my own business. My clients find the blend of transformational coaching with strategic mentoring, gets them to where they want to be in their business more quickly.
I’ve also been a mentor for the Cherie Blair Foundation. I was matched with a mentee in India for a year of mentoring on a specific women-in-business programme, and it was wonderful to develop a mentoring relationship over that length of time.
Has mentorship changed anything in your own life?
Honestly, I didn’t expect to enjoy being a mentor as much as I do. I knew I wanted to give back, make a difference, and show my appreciation to the Academy. But I didn’t expect to get quite so much personal joy and satisfaction. It really has become such an important part of my schedule, and the students’ energy and enthusiasm are infectious.
Can you share a story of one of your mentee coaches overcoming significant odds to succeed?
One of the issues many of our mentees commonly experience is managing their pro bono work with confidence and seeing this part of their portfolio as a truly positive thing.
Mentees often tell me they feel people are doing them a favour by agreeing to be their practice client – but this mindset can make it very hard for them to find clients, and it’s vital they overcome this limiting belief. In reality, the opposite is true and the arrangement should be truly reciprocal, and I help them overcome this block and get it right. Shifting their thinking – in fact, switching their thinking into the opposite direction – helps them get much better results.
What success stories can you share from your volunteer mentoring with the Academy?
I won’t go into personal detail – those success stories are for the mentees to tell! But I will say that very often a breakthrough is apparent in the moment, there and then on the call. Often a mentee will tell me they’ve just had a massive realisation. I hear the excitement in their voices and, for me, these are the success stories.
What is your own coaching niche, Karen, and why did you choose it?
I work primarily (though not exclusively) with women in business. My clients and community members are mostly in service-based businesses – in fact, many of them are coaches themselves. Some are setting up a new business, some are pivoting to new business models (particularly crucial in response to the pandemic), and some are growing and scaling their business.
One thing they have in common is the desire to build profitable and thriving businesses, but with heart and values.
"Coaching is a booming industry – more people than ever are creating their own economies and they recognise the benefit of having a coach to help them do that."
You mentioned that you both coach and mentor your clients; how do the two differ, in your experience, and how do they work together?
Essentially, a coach will help you find answers of your own while a mentor will show you what to do.
Coaching can be transformational because the shifts you make come from within. These are the most transformational shifts of all. Mentoring, meanwhile, is more about guidance from someone with expertise that you need to master. A mentor has gone ahead of you, and they use that experience to shine a light on your next steps with proven strategies, ideas and resources.
I spent several years mentoring sales teams around the world, sharing my knowledge and experience to help them get better results. I’m naturally very curious and ask a lot of questions. And I noticed that when I asked certain questions, people made really huge jumps in their thinking and their progress. That really lit the coaching spark for me. I know that both approaches can accelerate your results and when they are blended together artfully, that pace is really magnified.
You mentioned that you yourself trained with the Academy, and your own journey will have started with the free two-day foundation event. If you could go back in time to the person you were before that event, what would you tell them?
I would start by telling them to keep an open mind because life is about to change in so many amazing ways! I would tell my former self they wouldn’t believe how life-changing and pivotal a single event would prove to be.
When I say life-changing, I don’t just mean in terms of perspectives, human connection, or understanding and learning more about myself – though all those things happened far more than I ever expected! I also mean the size and scale of the opportunity that will open up. Coaching is a booming industry – more people than ever are creating their own economies and they recognise the benefit of having a coach to help them do that.
And for me, it’s the very best kind of business, because it offers me growth and revenue by serving others. I’m an entrepreneur AND I help others. What a perfect blend of head and heart.
Finally, Karen, what’s the one tip or life lesson you would share with all the aspiring coaches out there, to help them succeed as a coach?
Actually, may I offer two lessons I’ve learned through my own coaching and business journey? Both relate to running a successful business, whether that’s a brand new coaching business or an expanded coaching offering.
Firstly, here’s a simple truth: if you want to have a profitable coaching business, being a great coach isn’t enough. You have to understand the business side of things too. When you qualify as a coach, you can start to work IN your business – but make sure you invest the time and develop your skills ON your business too.
And secondly, you have to be comfortable with things that make many people distinctly uncomfortable – being visible, singing your own praises, charging confidently for the great work you do. Without them you are limiting your business growth…perhaps even stopping your business from being viable at all.
If you're interested in finding out more about coaching, just like Karen did at the beginning of his career, start by joining us in our interactive live online training - Introduction to Life Coaching.
Choose from available dates here.
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