Chris Grady shares with us his story of the highs and lows of becoming a professional coach.

Chris Grady shares with us his story of the highs and lows of becoming a professional coach. 

It took me 4 goes to get my driving license…too cautious they said, but I got it in the end. So when I failed my first practical assessment I thought…here we go again. I was very disappointed but, rightly, I had been deemed to have not spent enough time in the most important areas of GROW. When I had spat a few feathers I went back to the basics. I made myself a big chart of all the steps so I could see it behind my computer. I looked at Kris’s excellent podcast…well I suppose listened is the right word, but I was staring at the screen whilst listening. And I was determined to get through my retake. Then I’d have a Diploma and a driving license to my name.

I’ve spent 30 years working in the arts business – running theatres, project managing events, creating festivals, and working for the greatest showman on earth. For the last 7 years I have combined that with my pay-what-you-can surgery programme. This is an invented service for creative which offers an hour long conversation to help someone off-the fence, off-the-ledge, or off-the-starting blocks on a creative project. I’ve done around 250 sessions without knowing that this was coaching (with an excess of opinion thrown in).

Two years ago I met a coach (with a Diploma from the Coaching Academy) who helped me into a fully freelance world after 3 years of full-time work. She was great. She was challenging. She had great homework exercises for me. Wheels and rocking chairs and things like that. On April 23rd 2014 I attended the free 2 day Coaching Academy session to see the magic for myself – and I realised that these amazing tools, this very clear discipline (which I omitted from my first practical) and my own experience with “clients” over 7 years was a great combination.

When Kris and others talked of niches, I sort of had mine. The arts. However I had another passion and that was what, as a student, I had called the unknown. The world of alternative therapy, healing and wellness. Ancient wisdoms which could help modern humanity. So along with creative artists I decided to welcome and encourage clients from this niche as well. And my final niche would be, East Anglian business breakfasters – part of the 4N Network

I then may have caused disquiet in the Academy. I started my training by welcoming clients on a pay-what-you-can basis, Since I had done my surgeries on this basis for 7 years, it seemed crazy not to accept money if offered. As I look back on the 134 sessions I did during my Diploma training I did have clients who worked with me for nothing. I had a couple with whom I had a contra arrangement. And one paid £240 for 6 sessions because that is what they thought I was worth. Thank you. Learning to accept my value is one of my own coachee/client challenges and I am grateful for this realisation. During the same time I continued my hour long pay-what-you-can surgeries and they generated between £5 and £30 normally. One generated a £300 anonymous transfer. That helped my self-belief.

I chose to try and minimize the number of training sessions I had with other coaches in training. I have done a contra series of sessions with a coach in training with another institution, which has been fascinating because we came at the task from very different directions. Most of my clients have been variously “worried well” looking to answer Mary Oliver’s powerful question “Tell me what is it you intend to do with your one wild and precious life”.

So, to cut a long story short. I have had 25 amazing trainee clients who have given me so much juice to learn my craft. I have benefitted from some brilliant accelerator days. I have tried out some ideas and questions from the course which have worked brilliantly and a few which have showed my failure to get it right. Now I need to promote myself as a fully diplomatised coach – and hope the lovely affidavits and supportive colleagues will generate me a continuing stream of customers. Scary old game being freelance!

To help generate awareness of me as a Coach (rather than an old arts admin person who’s been around for ever) I am using the great Kris-to-many group coaching exercise. I have adapted it (with permission) so that I can deliver it as part of a 4sight talk at the 4N Networking breakfasts. It’s going down well. After their sausage or continental breakfast they grab a paper and pen and tackle a full GROW journey in 23 minutes. It’s a very very fast journey, but it is wonderful watching the silent attention of most of those business men and women.

I am running my first 2hr workshop for creatives which combines the Kris-to-many exercise with reflections from my book. Triple aim – sell a few books, get some people interested in coaching (hopefully with me as coach), and testing the water for a one-day course. Happy to let colleagues know how that goes.

My challenges for myself are to a) take enough time to sell myself b) reach out to people who do not know me but may be looking for support c) don’t panic that growing this business may take some time and d) value myself and my time.

I started this whole training in order to have a long-term strand of work which I could do anywhere. Over Christmas I have proved the “anywhere” bit works. I was in Australia with family. I coached a client in Los Angeles, another in Manchester, and one in Scotland who I’ve never met. Now I’m back and needing to find new clients to challenge and cheer on their journey.

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