Robbie Swale - Leadership Coach

Welcome to Season 3 of Coaching in Focus

We kick off this new season with the fantastic Robbie Swale ( who is a coach, writer and fellow Podcaster.

On this episode we explore ways how sometimes coaches can get stuck in their practice. What gets in the what for coaches doing what we want to do, i.e. coach? We also explore ways to help you unstuck. What can you do if you’re finding yourself not coaching anymore? Listen to our first episode to find out more.

[00:45] Introduction to Episode and the topic of getting unstuck in Coaching

[02:40] Introduction to Robbie Swale

[05:00] Robbie’s 100 Podcast Challenge

[07:10] How Robbie got into Coaching and the 12 Minute Method

[10:30] What gets Coaches stuck in their Coaching?

[13:00] The Business of Coaching and how that gets in the way of actually Coaching

[15:00] Match your (Coaching) Strengths to your Business

[17:26] Surrounding yourself with Like-Minded People

[20:40] Long Term Commitment rather than Short Term Goals

[21:10] Perfectionistic Tendencies getting in the way

[24:10] How to get in touch with Robbie

[27:00] Final Thoughts

Podcast S3 E1 Robbie Swale

Joseph: [00:00:00] Thank you so much for joining me today on this episode of Coaching in Focus. It’s our third season, and this is our very first episode in this new season. For those of you who have listened to coaching in Focus before, thank you so much for doing so and for our new listeners and viewers. You are very welcome here.

I am Joseph, your host, and I’m also the founder of Become an ICF credit training provider, where we provide a number of ICF programs that lead to the ACC and PCC credentialed by the icf. We also have mentoring and supervision and CPD programs for coaches and on this podcast, I am in discussion with a number of different coaches in relation to the coaching practice and key topical themes in coaching.

The very first guest that I’m speaking to today is the wonderful Robbie Swale. [00:01:00] Robbie is a coach, but Robbie’s also a writer, and he’s written a number.of books About the creative process, and that’s what intrigued me to speak with Robbie and invite him to be one of our guests. This is because as an ICF educator, as a coach training provider, as I mentioned, what I see quite a lot is people are really excited at their start of the training programs, at the start of the coaching journey, and then after the finisher program, sometimes we get a bit stuck. I think the reality of everything just hits us a little bit. All of the practical things that perhaps we might have or want to do. Adding coaching hours to become accredited by an awarding body. There’s a few things that can get in the way. Coaching, and that’s the focus of today’s episode. How do we get unstuck if we find ourselves in this position? So we look at what gets people stuck in their coaching journey, but also [00:02:00] how it is so important to focus on becoming a great coach, because ultimately that’s what people are looking for.

If we’re great coaches, then we can develop our business bits of our coaching practice. So let’s jump into the conversation and hear from Robbie in relation to how we can get unstuck with our coaching practice.

So Robbie, it’s really nice to have you on the podcast it’s the first episode of this new season. I say new season. Have two seasons, but still How are you doing?

Robbie: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for having me on the show. Excited to, to get into these things and perhaps draw some of the connections between my books and coaching.

So I’ve been coaching professionally for seven years. And before that, in the first decade of my career, I dotted around in various places and changed [00:03:00] career at least twice in that time. And that was all quite stressful at the time because I was like, oh, no, not again. What am I gonna settle on? But now when I look back, it’s really useful.

So it means I have experience of working in a real range of industries, business functions, parts of organizations and the way I think about my coaching, these. Is I often call myself a leadership coach because in some ways leadership is one of the things I’m most interested to talk about, but there are really three parts of my work these days.

So leadership is one part that’s a big part of the one-to-one coaching I do and the training and facilitation that I do. And that’s often with leaders, with entrepreneurs, with people who wanna be significant and have a big impact on the world. I have a part of my work which is about supporting coaches cuz I really believe in coaching and it’s power to help us help individuals and society meet the challenges of the 21st century.

And so for that, I occasionally run training for coaches. I have a community for coaches where I support them to hopefully thrive as people while are doing coaching, but also create businesses that meet what they [00:04:00] want. And I have a podcast for coaches, the coaches journey where I interview coaches about how.

How they got where they are, and people can check that out wherever they’re listening to this. And then the final part of my work, which in some ways has been my main focus this year is creativity. So I’m really interested in why do people sometimes really want to do something. Whether that’s a book or a business or some other creative project, why do they sometimes really want to do it?

And I include myself in this, but not end up doing it or not end up doing it for a long time. And how can we help bridge that gap between the things that we really want to do or feel really called to and actually doing them? Because I know that when we do that can create really amazing things for us as we do it.

But also it can help really cool things exist in the world. And that’s what the 12 Minute Method, which is my series of books

Joseph: Yeah, there’s so many things that I want to explore with you, Robbie, because first of all, that creative element that you mentioned, and as you were saying that, I was reflecting on the ICFs definition of coaching, which they call a creative process.

So there’s something in there as well that we can touch upon. But [00:05:00] before we go into all of that, I’d want to find out a bit more about the hundred podcast. Challenge that you’ve set yourself for 2022, and how are you getting on with that challenge?

Robbie: Yeah so this is the thing that I learned in my coaching business, a thing that really helped me.

It’s not for everybody, but I’ve also seen it really help some of my clients and other people. So one of my early coaches set me a challenge once to invite I think the challenge. Invite 30 people into coaching conversations this month. And it was, may I remember, it was may really clearly, it was a terrifying, impossible challenge cuz I probably invited five people into coaching conversations ever at that point or something like that, or it felt like that.

But what I found with that kind of challenge, and I later did one about making, about of making proposals to clients as well. And I found it the same with the a hundred podcast challenges that a challenge like this, like I. Making into a game and challenge something that I want to happen, helps me get out of my own way, helps me get creative, and it helps me ask for help.

And that’s essentially how we ended up here. [00:06:00] I was talking to a, I was mentioning I think to a mutual connections of ours, Natalia, about this going on, and she said, you should speak to Joseph because he has a great podcast and I really love the training that I did with him. And we did that.

And then for a while, and then, a few months later we, after we connected and had a lovely walk around a park in London, here we are doing this. And so it’s a great example of that.

Joseph: Completely. And I think that’s such a healthy way to relate to goals, right? Rather than going, yes, I need to hit hundred.

It’s looking at. It’s looking at what have I learned through that process? What connections have I made as a result of that? Who have I inspired? What changes have I seen in other people? It’s such a nice way how to look at our own performance as well. Talking about getting stuck and getting unstuck because I think it’s really interesting to dive a bit into this.

Do you want to tell us, cause I think it’s it really frames the conversation around coaching and getting unstuck in coaching, how you got into the 12 minute method. Obviously I’ve read it through the book, but if you could give us a summary for those who [00:07:00] haven’t read the book, that would be great.

Robbie: Yeah, absolutely. So I was working with not my first coach. I think my second professional coach that had coached me, it was 2016. So I’d been coaching for about a year, and one of the things that emerged in our work, our coaching engagement, was this theme about sharing myself. As I remember it, that’s what we called it.

And that showed up in a lot of ways, like it was when I was launching my coaching business, I had to kinda share that I was doing that and that caused me stress and anxiety.

But that would, this would show up in all kinds of places. So it was even like making jokes on social media would feel like a, I would write them and then delete them and for a few reasons I didn’t want it to be like that. One is just, it was unpleasant, right? Another was, I had this sense that if I was gonna have a coaching business, it would be a lot more sustainable if I was able to more, less stressfully be present on the internet. We played a little bit with writing already, but it was really more about how do I [00:08:00] practice sharing things that I’ve made? Online or with people so that I can get less stressed about that or learn more about it. Again, the learning thing was really important. The experiment we set up was in the next two weeks, I used to get the train from where I lived in southwest London, into the center of London.

And so the experiment we set up was I would write an article on each of. Each of those days, one article, the game was I would write while the train was moving stop when the train stopped, proofread the article once and then post it online. And I did that and it was not fun. This is an important thing to say. It didn’t feel nice, felt stress. And had some of that energy of, am I really gonna do this? But we did some things to help. I did some things. We did some things to help make that easier.

Like I said, at the bottom of the article, this article was written on the train. You’ll find them and they have this little disclaimer at the bottom saying, just on the train. And so that helped me do it feel less pressured. I didn’t get much interaction. I got a little bit, but my fears didn’t come [00:09:00] true. That was an important part of it. So no one laughed at me. No one said it was terrible. None of that happened. That was really important and it, although it didn’t feel nice, one of the ways I think about it now is it felt good.

Like I knew something was important about doing this for me, having got through the initial fear and resistance, I decided to make it a weekly practice after that. And at some point I stopped. The reason it became the 12 minute method, not the train method, is I stopped getting the train as much and I wanted to work out how I could keep the practice on a week where I wasn’t getting the train.

And that was, I decided, I checked how long the train journey was that day. It was 12 minutes. And Mostly these days, I, all the time these days, I set a timer for 12 minutes, right? While the time is going stop when it stops. Proofread it once and then post it online.

And there are like probably, I don’t know how many, like 280 of them now written one a week. And then in some ways, the most magical moment came about three years in when Seth Godin, who’s a marketing blogger, an expert, an [00:10:00] author that I followed and posted a, created a book of his blog from the previous few years.

And I thought I could do that and I was coaching people, so I was interested in what helped them. I turned out I’d written 80,000 words about how we get stuff done when we’re not. and that in the end turned into four, was gonna be four parts of the book. And then I got some better good advice, which was, you actually wanna make this a series of four books because then if somebody’s struggling with starting, they can just buy the start book.

But if actually people are good at, someone’s good at starting, but they’re struggling with keeping going with their idea, they can buy the Keep Going book.

Joseph: So what really got me excited was this idea around how, cause I see this a lot in our coaches as well. This excitement around starting on a coaching program. And in a way, like you had the train, which was 12 minutes. We give them some of these criteria, we give them a bit of a framework to work towards.

They have to submit a number of sessions, they’re gonna get mentoring and they’re supported during that time. And then it’s. [00:11:00] Continuing that process once you finish your program that you know, getting going that sometimes can stop people from continuing on something that they’re really passionate about their creativity in a way.

So thinking about that perhaps and reflecting this back to coaches, I’m really intrigued to see what you think could get people. In the coaching journey.

Robbie: Yeah. Yeah. I see that thing you’re talking about that resonates with me with conversations I’ve had with coaches.

I really recognize that thing. That people have lots of energy with the coaching training and it feel like they get started in that way, but people find their way to coaching training.

It may be hard , but we don’t have a shortage of people making it to coaching training. But we do have a bit of a shortage. There’s then a gap, isn’t there? Like people come to the end of the kind of scaffold that the coaching training gives them, the accountability, the people around them.

The guidance, the mentoring that they get from the trainers, and then they’re out in the world and it’s what do I do now? How do I actually make this thing [00:12:00] work?

I think one of the things that gets people stuck is coaching can be sold as what is it? The easy answer to all your dreams because it can be a flexible, like it can do all the, I’m gonna list a few dreams that people have and it can do all these things. It can be a location independent, it can make people a good money.

It can be meaningful. And it can use strengths that. That for many people, if they’ve got the real people strengths are underused in, in, in any job that isn’t just focused on people. So coaching can be all your strengths, freedom, money, and meaning. That doesn’t, we’re sold that often as though it’s easy to get all those things. But coaching is quite, it can be quite hard business to be in requires grit and doing, in my experience, doing hard things, doing and things I was afraid of. And all those things can get us stuck.

Plus there’s I think you’ve, I’ve heard you say this before or maybe you said it to me like there’s, that there’s a thing about. Sometimes the business of [00:13:00] coaching doesn’t look like coaching, and people want to do the coaching without wanting to do the business of coaching.

Joseph: And that’s a question that we get all the time.

When people call in about the coach training program, they’ll say, how much training do you provide me in setting up my own business? And I say very little because the focus of the program is not to train you up to. Be a business person. Yes, it’s part and parcel off. There are some skills that are relatable to both, but ultimately what we want to do is develop you to be a great coach.

That’s the focus. And if you then wanted to develop your business skills, there’s other programs that you could go on and you can then, merge the two together. But we’d be a very rubbish provider if we trained you up on how to be a great business person. , but actually, not how to coach, right?

Robbie: Yeah.

And I would say the most fundamental way to get clients in is the thing that you teach people in the program, right? Is to be a great coach, right? If you’re not a great coach, that’s gonna cause real problems for you in your business, because the most, I discovered this when I was starting out. I [00:14:00] spoke to, I interviewed over coffee, a bunch of coaches that I knew who had made it work.

One of the themes that I saw when I spoke to these coaches, That they had, the reason they’d been successful was they had got to a point where their refer, their business fed itself. So they had enough referrals coming in that the business worked.

But the key thing was if they hadn’t been doing great work throughout that time, it wouldn’t have mattered what shortcuts they found and skills and tactics they had because it would never be self-sustaining cuz people would not. Making the referrals or coming back from our business

Joseph: and linking that to getting unstuck.

There is this element of knowing that, right? Having this awareness that these things will happen. That once you finish a coach training program, you will need to feel a little bit of perhaps uncomfortableness, but those of us who don’t like to sell ourselves or market ourselves, or like you said, share certain things, it’s, you might not necessarily be posting on social media every day, but how are you gonna talk about your coaching?

And how you’re gonna develop yourself. And [00:15:00] that’s something that we do a lot actually on the program. Reflecting back, we support people think of themselves as coaches. How are you gonna talk about yourself as a coach? What are you gonna say to people?

Robbie: Yeah. And what I would say is you don’t need to be.

Like you said before, you need a kind of basic understanding. I think about the business bits of coaching a bit like, I think about a kind of strength based approach with clients. So the aim should be to make, if you are gonna have a coaching business, this is my view, right? The aim should be to make the way you run your business, match your strengths as much as possible, and probably.

Because that’s where you’re gonna be most successful. And probably that means by matching it to coaching as much as possible. So making the way you, and this is how I do it, make the way I enroll in new clients, look as much like coaching as I possibly can. So one part of it is that and then the way I, the other part of thinking about a strengths based approaches, there may be some things that, that, even if they’re not your strengths, you have to get.

And that, like you said, is you need to have, so you need to be okay at keeping financial records. You [00:16:00] can outsource as much as of that as you can afford to do, but you need to have some grasp of that. You need to have some grasp of how much money do I wanna make and how do my fees add up to that?

 If you practice saying that, if you practice that doing that for people a hundred times, it’d be really hard not to have clients if you say that enough to people. But it’s really important to say these things will feel awkward at first, and you’ll have lots of voices in your head saying, don’t do this thing.

This is weird. In my case, they would be saying, you’re gonna be laughed at, you’re gonna be humiliated, you’re gonna fail. But it’s by practicing those hard things that we get good at them. E everything that we do now that we’re comfortable at one point felt really awkward.

Joseph: So it seems to me that one of the things that can stop us get Coaches stuck is I this differentiation between our expectations.

I think sometimes people think coaching is easy. So I’ve had many conversations with people who were at the beginning of a coast running program. They say, oh, I’ve learned this many times this this is kind of part of what I do. And [00:17:00] then I dunno, three months later as they’re doing the program, they’ll say to me, I didn’t realize how tricky it is to just be present or to listen for an hour.

So there is this dissonance in a way between expectations and reality. And that can also happen from the point of view. When you become a coach there, there is the coaching, but there’s also all the other stuff that can happen and that you need to be okay at. Like we’ve seen. So moving on perhaps to the more kind of juicy part of today, like how do we get unstuck?

So for me, there is an element of having this awareness, like knowing this, knowing that this is the journey that you are going to year on. And there is, for me, coaching, there is no kind of end destination. You we’re constantly developing ourselves, we’re constantly learning things. That’s part of what I love about it.

But what could be some other tips and tricks and things that we could share that could help coaches who perhaps are feeling a bit stuck?

One of the things I sometimes think about this is, [00:18:00] It’s really, there’s a reason why I think it’s, you don’t, in some ways it’s coach, the coaching industry is different now to seven years ago cuz there are ways that you can, there are companies that essentially will, if you can get on their books, sell you to other companies so you don’t have to have a coaching business.

But I have learned so much. About myself from having my own coaching business, from having to learn and practice sales and put myself out there and have conversations with people that I would recommend it to every coach. I think the harder you find it, the more growth and opportunity and learning will be in running your own business.

The easiest tip in some ways is it’s, Get a coach because all these things like all that learning for me became triply value valuable and twice as fast because I was doing this supported by amazing coaches like Joel Monk, who I mentioned before, Katie Harvey, who was my coach for a long time.

These kinds of people, [00:19:00] it’s It taught me loads about myself and also helped me in my business because I could really feel the value of coaching. So I suddenly had all these stories to tell the potential clients about the things I’d struggled with and the way that my coaching had helped, and then they can feel the embodied understanding in me that coaching is powerful.

And that rubs off on people. So that’s one.

Can I extrapolate that, to, cuz that I think is such a good point and what I was thinking around that is surround yourself with similar kind of people. So whether it’s getting a coach or a mentor supervision or a community of people being being surrounded by others who feel and think like you might be in your similar situation or a step ahead. Can be also really helpful.

Robbie: Yeah, and like in some ways I think being part of a. Supervision. I used to do that a lot. It’s partly when I’d seen the power of that and a group pro coaching program that I did with Rich Livin who did, who wrote the prosperous coach. That’s partly why I work if coaches want to work with me, I try and get them to work [00:20:00] in a group program.

I really agree. Group supervision, group coaching programs, very communities of coaches. Really. One of the things that really helped me with the 12 minute blog was that it wasn’t about having, it wasn’t about trying to write. I think if I’d been too attached to the outcome of trying to write a book or trying to have 280 blog posts, it would’ve felt really different.

It came from I, there’s this thing that I find difficult and I’m gonna practice it so that I can get better, and it wasn’t quite as clear as that. But for coaches, one of the things I think about these days is, If we’re really stuck, if I guess there’s two, two parts to it. So one thought is it’s a lot easier to keep going if you are committed to this for the long term.

It’s if I’m not sure if I’m in this coaching thing, if like my, if whether I’m in it or not, depends on whether I get a certain get speech mark, a certain number of clients this month, then that’s really hard because the pressure [00:21:00] is super high. And that doesn’t even help that, that, that makes it harder to sell coaching.

Joseph: Then I was thinking is around sometimes we also get stuck. Because we are really hard on ourselves, perfectionistic tendencies. So we feel that I’ve done training and I can’t possibly talk about as a coach until I’ve got my website all polished and ready until I know exactly why I’m gonna call myself until I have practiced X amount of time.

So I got the ACC by the icf. This gets in the way, right? Because we hold these thoughts and feelings so tightly that they become part of who we are. Whilst if we then say it doesn’t matter if I’ve got a website, if I’ve got a client, then I’m working with them. So letting go of some of these perfection expectation that we have on ourselves is helpful.

And if you view that from a long term, I’m. know, For the long run.

Robbie: Yeah, absolutely.

Joseph: It becomes easier.

Robbie: Another book, a bit like Big Magic that, that had an influence on me was the War of Art by [00:22:00] Stephen Pressfield. And that really, he’s really, he, the idea in that book really is there’s this thing resistance, which gets in the way of us doing the things that really matter to us deep down to our souls, to our higher selves.

And once you’ve really seen that and started to take it seriously, I started to think what of all these things that I’m doing while I’m trying to start my coaching business is like actually helping with the business and what is resistance? And the website is a great example, but there are some things that if you don’t do them, you basically can’t have a coaching business that’s successful.

We mentioned one, it’s like create powerful coaching. For people. If you can’t do good coaching for people, it’s gonna be really hard to have a coaching business. If you do enough good coaching, you almost can’t help but have a coaching business cuz people will start telling their friends if you never connect with anybody new, you can’t really have a coaching business.

Those connections might come because somebody says, I my friend worked with you and [00:23:00]told me you were great, and that might be the connection. But if no one is ever connecting with you and you are never connecting with anyone, you can’t have a coaching business. But if you connect with enough people and you mention coaching in some way, you almost can’t help but have a coaching business.

Now that might be our very high number, but like it, I think that’s true. .

Joseph: . And using the irony in all of this is, as coaches, we learn all of these skills and sometimes we then don’t adopt them in our own life. ,

Robbie: So it’s mean, it’s like Exactly. Building rapport is like an ICF competency.

They’ve changed it now in the new competencies. Direct communication used to be one, but it’s now hidden in one of the others. But direct communication is just here’s the thing I can offer. Would you like it? Or, this is my. It’s like direct communication, like honesty down the line, authenticity, it’s all in there.

So yeah, you’re right. We’ve got all those skills, we’ve practiced them. We just have to tweak it slightly. Retell the stories we have about sales and money. Cause often that’s a thing. We have all these stories about them. We just have to develop those and we can, yeah. And all these things we can practice.

And if we’re in it [00:24:00] for the long game, that practicing becomes easier

Joseph: That’s great. I think that’s a really nice place for us to, um, kind of start unwinding down our conversation. Otherwise, I’m sure we’ll be here for another hour or so talking about this. But, um, if any of our viewers want to get in touch, um, do you welcome that? How can they find you? Um, what’s the best way to get in contact?

Robbie: People can find me at That’s got links to everything, including the books. Um, I’m on all the social media, but because of the 12 minute blog is there or was there originally? I’m most active probably on LinkedIn, so please add me. But because like, and any coach will know this feeling because uh, I get lots of people adding me on LinkedIn who want to sell me stuff.

Uh, I sometimes, uh, ignore. Um, if they don’t say, I heard you on this great podcast. Um, so just let me know where you heard about me if you are adding me. And they’re all my stuff. So I have created a lot of resources for coaches. All of that and [00:25:00] I love helping people practice tho those four things and, and get unstuck in their coaching businesses.

So if anybody does want support with that, um, you can come along. And, and there is the coaches journey community is one way to do that.

Joseph: I hope you found that conversation with Robbie useful. There’s a number of things in there that I think are important to remember for new coaches or for established coaches.

First of all, this idea that we can get stuck in our coaching practice, and that is perfectly okay. It happens to all of. And particularly for newer coaches who, uh, perhaps are still following a training program, is noticing that one of the most important things is understanding who we are as coaches and the type of coaching that we want to do.

The rest of the things will fall into play a bit by bit. Yes, we need to understand some basics of accountancy or marketing. But there’s many training [00:26:00] programs that will help us with that. And at the start, if you don’t know who you are as a coach, what you would like to do with this training, then it’s gonna be really difficult to build your marketing strategy or to build a vision for your own coaching practice.

So have a think of that. The other aspect that is important to mention is that you don’t need to have everything. You know, I mentioned perfectionism in today’s. You know, you don’t need to have a website. You don’t need to have all sorts of different things in order to be able to launch effectively. Take it step by step.

Don’t let these things actually get in the way from you continuing your development as a coach. I hope once again that you’ve found this episode useful. If you have, it would be amazing if you could rate the podcast, leave a comment wherever you found this podcast and tell your friends about it. That’s the best thing that you could do for us.

Um, so thank you so much for listening, and we will see you on the [00:27:00] next episode.

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