Creative Confidence: A Leader’s Shift

Kate Canales ICF GLF sketch

Earlier this month, I traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, USA to attend the second annual International Coach Federation Global Leaders Forum (GLF). I was especially excited and honored to represent my local Chapter, ICF Philadelphia, again and to have the privilege of hearing keynote speaker Kate Canales, Director of Design and Innovation Programs at Southern Methodist University. This was not your typical coaching conference.

But, rather it was a forum of leaders from all over the globe, committed to building a high-performance organization for the advancement of professional coaching. I was there to learn more about positive disruptions in leadership and shift as a leader for my chapter, my global association and my work as an executive and leadership coach.

Here are my notes from Kate Canales’ keynote, “The Design of Disruption” (after the initial sketching exercise that was designed to ignite the audience’s creativity including my own). It’s important to understand that design thinking is an applicable framework for leaders wanting to create unique opportunities and gain a competitive edge in an ever-competitive-and-changing environment. As you read, think of a challenge that demands a new approach in order to achieve a new solution.

Creativity is the #1 leadership competency for your success in business now and in the future. According to the IBM Global CEO study, standout leaders encourage experimentation and innovation throughout the organization. Creative leaders expect to make extensive business model changes in order to realize their strategies. To succeed, creative leaders take more calculated risks, find new ideas and keep innovating how they lead and communicate. Where might you exercise your risk-taking or boldness muscle?

Design thinking is an applicable process for creative and innovative ideas and for solving problems. It is not limited to industry or expertise, rather the most successful organizations co-create products and services for customers while improving processes designed for better solutions. It’s time to “think outside of the box” and gain new perspective for solving your problem. What problem are you facing that needs an outside perspective?

Creative confidence helps leaders break the habit of planning. All too often, we spend too much time planning and fail to execute our ideas. One of the easiest ways to break the overplanning syndrome and spark creativity is to draw your ideas on paper (with colored markers) or write your ideas on Post-it notes.

From my own experience, the use of colored pencils and moving notes on a whiteboard is a fun process and deepens my thinking for new strategies in pursuit of my goal.

In the words of Thomas Edison, about failure and inventing the lightbulb: “I have not failed, not once. I’ve discovered ten thousand ways that don’t work.”

What will creative confidence bring you as a leader and coach?

ICF Philadelphia at ICF GLF

ICF Philadelphia Chapter members at GLF (Pictured left to right): Peg Calvario, Pat Matthews, Lynn Meinke and Becky Scott

Top Photo Credit: A sketch by Kate Canales

Peg Calvario headshotPeg Calvario, PCC is an executive and leadership coach, a consultant and an active contributor to the coaching profession in various leadership roles.  Her coaching focuses on leadership development, particularly for emerging leaders in family-owned businesses who want to accelerate growth.  She often mentors coaches applying for ICF Credentials.  In 2008, Peg sold her family-owned fitness business after 26 years and created a fresh start enrolling in CTI’s Coach Training program.  She is President of ICF Philadelphia Chapter.  Learn more at  Listen to her new podcast, The Competitive Advantage Podcast

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

The Power of Bringing Art into the Coaching Process

Beinart artwork

In addition to being a career coach, I am also an artist, and I have found a way to combine these things to create a unique form of visual coaching. I wanted to share with you how I developed this approach, the impact it has on clients and my thoughts on the power of bringing more of ourselves into our coaching.

Last year, through my own coaching experience, I was exploring a way to bring more of myself into my coaching practice and to be more authentic as a coach. I am an artist, and I wanted to find a way to combine my passion for art with my coaching. Also, I had recently studied an art therapy foundation course, which emphasized the power of art for me on so many levels.

I experimented with finding different visual ways to capture what had happened after each coaching session, and I then started to share these with my clients. The responses I got were really surprising and led me to develop the way I work now.

After each session, I paint a picture based on the energy, themes and feelings I have felt and observed in my client. These can be anything from reproducing something they have visualized in the session, an image that comes to mind when I reflect on the session or even something abstract that is purely feelings based. I will send the picture through to my client by email the next day and ask them to let me know their initial reflections. I don’t analyze these myself; it feels to me to purely be an extension of our role as to reflect back what we see.

I then use these with my clients in our coaching. I bring them out at the beginning of each session to reflect on further, at points in the coaching when it feels like they could help my client (it’s a bit like bringing out a tool from your coaching toolkit when it feels appropriate), and in the last session to review the whole coaching journey together.

I have been using this approach for eight months now, and the results have been amazing. When I talk about it to others, it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end! My clients say that the images really capture the essence of the sessions for them—they can tap back into the energy of the session by looking at the picture, and they often bring up really intense and powerful feelings.

They see different things in the images each time they look at them, so they are living, breathing images; rather like looking at yourself from a different perspective as coaching enables you to do. When they look back at these images, whether it is a few weeks or a few months later, they can see the progress they have made. And I love the fact some of my clients have shown the images to their partners and friends and been able to say “this is how I feel” without having to put it into words.

My first ever experience of coaching was great. I had a one-off complimentary session with my parent’s business coach when I was in my 20s. After that session, I felt I could achieve anything, and it was very powerful. That feeling didn’t last. I remember thinking at the time “it would be amazing if you could bottle that feeling.”

What I do with my art, in a way, is to bottle the session and the feelings from it—they  are captured in my drawings. I think sometimes it feels like our options are limited to offering notes or a written summary to our clients after a session (if in fact we give them anything at all),  but there can be other ways to sum up sessions.

I’m not saying that we can all work in the way I do—I am able to work in this way because I am an artist and the artwork I do for myself is very intuitive and based on my own feelings—but we all have things in our life we are passionate about, our own skills or experiences that are unique to us, that could really benefit our clients. It is about being bold and having the courage to try these things out.

My advice for others is to not be afraid to bring more of yourself into the coaching and to be inventive and creative as to how. When you do, as I have seen, great things can happen, and you can provide your clients with a much more valuable experience as a result.

Art Credit: Jane Beinart

Jane Beinart headshotJane Beinart is an artist and visual career coach, with a passion for personal development and a background in learning and development and the arts.   She helps people to feel happier and more fulfilled in their job or career, whether that is making small changes such as tweaking their working hours or learning how to work with that difficult colleague, or big changes such as deciding on a new career direction. Learn more at

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

The Mental Game of Building a Coaching Practice

crossword puzzle

To succeed commercially as a professional coach, there is so much that needs to be taken care of.

In addition to acquiring your coach training, you have to figure out how to set up and run a business that attracts enough of your ideal clients. Many coaches have never been in business for themselves, do not know how long the journey will be and face a host of doubts, rejections and pretty much constant levels of elevated anxiety. A coach’s ability to manage their thoughts, emotions, attention and expectations can make a huge difference in determining who gets discouraged and drops by the wayside and who stays on track and succeeds. In this video, Steve Mitten, MCC, CPCC will help you explore the necessary thoughts and feelings, and he also has a few tips.

Steve MittenSteve Mitten, MCC, CPCC, ICF Global Past President (2005), 2007 Canadian Coach of the Year, is an internationally recognized coach who enjoys doing transformational work with individuals, leaders, solopreneurs and business owners. He helps his client get clear, get a plan and enjoy far more success, meaning and happiness in their lives, careers and businesses. Steve is also an expert mentor on the marketing of coaching services. He is the author of Marketing Essentials for Coaches, a yogi and a longtime student of developmental and positive psychology, myth, neuroscience and the wisdom traditions. His website is

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Why Nobody Reads Your Coaching e-Newsletter (and What to Do About It)


Staying in touch with your network is essential if you want to build a successful coaching business, and email marketing is still one of the best ways to do that. However, with an average person checking their phone 221 times per day and receiving over 1,500 irrelevant emails per year (U.K. data), it is becoming increasingly difficult for any coach to engage with their prospective clients.

Below are some typical mistakes that you as a coach are probably making when sending emails to your database and a few quick fixes. If you follow these tips, you’ll be able to double your open rate.

1. Your Subject Line

If you have an open rate lower than average (below 22 percent according to MailChimp data for the Training and Education industry), it most likely means your email either isn’t getting delivered or your subject line is boring and sounds too commercial. The subject line is half of your success—if you don’t hook people with it, they won’t even bother opening your email.

To come up with a good subject line, you need to write at least 30 of them (yes, thirty) and then choose a couple to A/B test. A/B testing consists of sending an email with one subject line to a portion of your email list and sending the same email with a different subject line to another portion of your list. Then based on the open rate, you send the winning version to the remainder of your list. Any decent mailing program can do it for you. Don’t follow your intuition here—check the numbers.

2. Your Name

You may sound too “salesy” and not human if you have a company name instead of yours in your email. Remember, people HATE receiving emails from businesses. They are much more likely to open your email if you are sending it under your personal name and not your business name.

3. Email Length

People these days are overwhelmed and have too many distractions. It’s been proven that people don’t read online, but rather, they just scan through texts in an F-shaped pattern. Given this knowledge, think about keyword placement in your text/email to make scanning easier. DO NOT WRITE LONG TEXTS. Period.

4. Too Many Links or Other Distractions

If you include too many links, your email usually doesn’t make it through the spam filter and even if it does, your readers can get distracted. Our brain stops processing what we are reading when we see a link as we have to make a subconscious decision of whether to click on it. The fewer links, the better.

Try to avoid distracting elements in your emails or website (e.g., flashy ads, lots of different fonts), as they also put you at risk of getting flagged by the spam filter. And, please, please never ever put your email on a black background—it’s impossible to read. You won’t send a flashy email to your friend, will you? So why torture your readers? Keep the design simple.

5. One email—one idea—one call to action

If people open your emails and tell you that your content is awesome but there’s no action following, you are probably suggesting too many things for them to do (e.g., subscribe, share, buy, reply, etc.). Or, you have shared too much content, creating too much choice and distraction. Remember, one email—one idea—one call to action. It’s better to give less than more.

Bonus fix (the most important one for all new coaches): Make sure you are not talking about yourself and your product, but rather about your potential clients. First give them value, then even more value, and only then, ask for a deal.

Anastasia DedyukhinaAnastasia Dedyukhina is an entrepreneur, startup mentor, coach and Huffington Post blogger. In the middle of a successful international career in digital marketing, Anastasia gave up her smartphone to start a digital detox business Consciously Digital. She is a frequent public speaker and also consults companies and individuals on sustainable online marketing that doesn’t distract people. You can learn more about Anastasia at

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Spend 10 Minutes a Day on These 5 Actions for Your Coaching Practice

Daily planning

Do you start your working day wondering what you should be doing? Are you wandering aimlessly through your work life? If you want to work on your coaching practice in a productive manner, then this article is for you.

When I first started my coaching business, I was at a loss for how I should be spending my days. I asked myself, “What should I be doing today to grow my coaching business?”

Being no stranger to owning a business, I used my previous experience to guide me in becoming a productive coaching business owner by thinking about what I’d done in the past to make sure I was on track with my business goals. I wanted a process that wouldn’t take much time but with actions that would be meaningful.

Here are five things you can do daily in less than 10 minutes that will keep you moving forward in your coaching practice.

1. Create a Productive Mood

(1 minute)

Turn on music. Music helps one become more productive because it influences mood, which in turn improves happiness. In other words, everything is better with music. If your practice is located in an office, then classical music may be in order. If your office is private and you can shut the door, you can select whatever style of music that makes you happy.

2. Revisit Your Goals

(2 minutes)

Keep your annual goals on a 3-by-5 note card or on your iPhone Notes app (or other similar app). Review them daily. You should be able to recite your annual goals if asked what they are. Can you do that? If not, you may need to list your goals and review them daily. Then, consult your list of tasks that will help you achieve your annual goals.

3. Create your Daily Call List

(2 minutes)

Who do you need to call today? You should be following up with at least five prospective clients daily to touch base with them and let them know you are thinking about them. You can use this call to ask if they have any ongoing challenges, to remind them that you have an event coming up, or to find out what is going with them. You can also call past clients to check in with them and possibly suggest starting a new coaching program with you.

4. Consult your Marketing Calendar

(2 minutes)

Look ahead to what needs to be done for upcoming marketing activities. Planning your marketing tactics ahead of time is an intelligent business practice. Time has a habit of sneaking up on us, so planning your monthly tasks and events will help you to stay on top of building your coaching practice.

5. Create Top 3 Priorities of the Day

(3 minutes)

The reason most people don’t get everything done in a day is because they are unrealistic with what they are reasonably capable of doing with the time they have available to them. What are the top three things that NEED to get done today? When you reviewed your goals, what were the activities that needed planning?

You can do these five things in 10 minutes each day to remain focused on the most important tasks that you need to complete daily, plus the things you should be keeping an eye on for the future. Building a coaching business is all about being intentional and focused on the key activities that will lead to success.

Suzanne Muusers headshotSuzanne Muusers is a Financial Advisor Coach and a Business Plan consultant for independent financial advisors. Suzanne helps her clients grow their income, expand their skills and rebrand their careers. Suzanne is passionate about the coaching industry and how it changes lives. Follow Suzanne on Twitter @prosperouscoach.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

3 Simple Steps to an Emergency Plan for Your Coaching Business

emergency plan checklist

In following with my previous article about contingency planning to keep your business running, this piece details the three steps you should take to write an emergency plan for your coaching business.

1. Be Prepared

Preparedness is the rather clunky term used to describe how ready you are to act if the worst happens. Specific action you need to take will depend on what disasters or emergencies you are likely to face. Your local climate will have a big impact. If you are in a hurricane zone, you will need to put different plans in place from those made by people who regularly experience blizzards, for example.

My father lives in a village which floods most years. There is a quaint little pub by the river that has hooks along the walls. All the glasses and bottles behind the bar are stored at shoulder height. When a flood warning comes, they hook up the furniture. Once the water subsides, they hose everything down and open up again. It’s rudimentary but effective.

Your government or local authority will almost certainly have done much of this thinking for you. It may even have training or advice prepared for small businesses. Preparedness really is about thinking through scenarios that might impact your work. This might not directly do with your own office building—a chemical spill in the neighboring street may still mean you have to evacuate, for example. It’s worth considering what response you’d need for fire, extreme weather, medical emergency, pandemic or security threat.

2. Check your Communications

When I get a power cut, my fancy phones don’t work. I bought an old-fashioned, plug-in type to overcome that problem, and then, too late, I realized my numbers were all stored in the digital phone memory.

It may sound basic, but it is worth creating a list of key clients’ and colleagues’ numbers as well as numbers—including your account numbers—for utility services like gas, electricity and water. Keep a printed copy in places like your car or home.

Your emergency plan needs to include protocols about who to inform and when, who makes decisions and how they are cascaded. If you work in a shared building, have a conversation with the management team about roles and responsibilities. Get to know the security desk and make sure your co-workers know who the first-aid responders and fire officers are.

For those of us with clients attending our workplace, our plans need to include visitors. What systems are in place to account for everyone in the building? Before a plane takes off, the safety announcement includes a demonstration of the emergency exits. We should be as careful with anyone who is unfamiliar with the layout of our workplace.

Also bear in mind that in major emergencies, mobile phone and Internet networks can be affected. Local radio stations still serve an important community service at these times, both for helping you communicate and for keeping you informed.

3. Practice your Plan

My friend in New Zealand has regular earthquake drills at her work. You may have a legal responsibility to do fire or other drills in your office block. But what if you work from home? It’s worth taking time to think through how you can easily and safely get out. The general advice is to think through two evacuation routes; some local fire brigades offer a home-visit service to advise you.

The emergency scenarios we are thinking through may not directly affect us: a security alert causing traffic delays or an outbreak of food poisoning at our client’s offices. We can and should still plan for their impact where possible.

Our ICF Core Coaching Competencies encourage us to “dance in the moment.” With that flexible yet mindful approach, we can develop plans that allow us a sense of safety without fear and being prepared without being worried. Thinking through planned solutions, knowing our systems and protocols allows us to focus on our main role as coaches.

Mary Anna WrightMary Anna Wright Ph.D., PCC works with coaches from around the world, helping them develop their businesses and deepen their coaching skills. She runs regular mentor programs that support coaches applying for ICF Credentials, and she also does some coach supervision. Her coaching focuses on leadership development, particularly for communications managers in the nonprofit sector. Five years ago, Mary Anna left a successful PR career in London and moved to her family farm in Donegal, Ireland. She was welcomed by ICF Ireland and is a past President of the Chapter. Learn more at

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.