You may be aware that earlier this year, I took a break from my coaching business. During that time, I had a lot of time to reflect and consider what it is that I really want to do with my life. Coaching? Events? Law? Something completely different?
You may have also noticed that I’ve started to make noises about getting my coaching business back up and running in 2018. That decision was precipitated by considerable internal confrontation.
To be honest, I have been completely confronted by the question of my expertise. What exactly am I an expert at?
If someone in New Zealand needs a 4-5 year corporate/commercial lawyer, I can put my hand up and state with all certainty that I am an expert at that level. I have the schooling, I have the degree and I have the experience.
However, the truth is that my expertise becomes a lot more murky when I put on my coaching hat. For a start, the industry is completely unregulated and there are a lot of training providers around the world who ‘look good’ on paper, yet what exactly are they delivering to their students in terms of genuine expertise?
Secondly, expertise becomes a lot more tricky to define when you start heading down the track of ‘soft skills’. For example, one of my greatest strengths is my ability to plan and organise. So, I’m really good at those skills but does that make me an expert at planning and organising? I don’t have a planning or organising degree or certificate; so am I qualified to help my clients’ in those areas?
As a side-bar, I do actually consider myself to have expertise in those areas, because of my demonstrated experience and success at planning and organising. However, it’s still worth examining the question!
I know several individuals within the coaching industry, who have no schooling or formal credentials; yet they are outstanding at what they do and they get results for their clients. At the end of the day, it’s all about consistent, demonstrated results; isn’t it? However, in terms of ‘expertise’, that’s when we step into a bit of a grey area where the question has to be asked: what qualifies an individual to help or advise another to get from A to B?
Having been part of the coaching industry for the past 3 years, I have observed that there are a lot of pretenders in the marketplace, making grandiose promises and not really delivering on what they say they will. That goes for both individual coaches and also training providers.
Let’s be honest; a lot of personal and professional development stuff is frankly, bullshit. I still believe in coaching (particularly combined with Psych-K), however, a lot of the puffed up promises being made in the marketplace are ridiculous. If I hear another 6 or 7 figure marketing gimmick……. grrrrrrrr!
So, here’s the deal; I’d like to save you money; potentially a lot of money. There are many self-proclaimed gurus ‘out there’ who are willing to send you into major debt, just to fill their own coffers and forward their ‘game’.
Here’s how to tell the difference between a self-proclaimed guru and an actual expert (and save yourself some moolah, potentially tens of thousands, in the process):
1. Let’s be honest, there’s not one ‘best way’ to get from A to B
A ‘guru’ will tell you that they are ‘not the way, the truth and the light’ but if you look closely in their eyes, you will see that they really believe that they are. ‘Gurus’ use language that is absolute, like, “these are all the tools you’ll ever need” and “we are the only organisation doing this”.
Whereas, an expert fully acknowledges that many roads lead to Rome. They believe in their knowledge and expertise, yet they also know that their expertise is a culmination of the available knowledge in that area, not something wholly original.
2. Nothing is truly original
A ‘guru’ will claim that they are ‘world leaders’, the first of their kind in that market. However, let’s be honest. If you look at any personal or professional development tools in the marketplace, they are generally a cut, paste or tweak on other available material. A simple Google search will show this.
An expert acknowledges that nothing is ‘original’ and that it’s actually an advantage to be using tried and tested tools rather than offering something untested and ‘new’.
3. Expert at everything
Watch and listen very carefully; a ‘guru’ will show their true colours by claiming expertise in pretty much anything. They will make sweeping claims about being able to help you with your career, your finances, your relationships and/or your heath. Yet, if you pull back the very thin veil, you will actually find that, their own careers, finances, relationships and health are on shaky ground.
An expert knows what they’re really good at and they stick to that one thing; and because they’re so good at that one thing, the people they work with get results.
4. It’s all in the application?
There are always bumps in the road, no matter what path you take to what destination. However, a self-proclaimed ‘guru’ is generally so convinced that their way is the ‘right way’ that when the bumps in the road appear, it will always be your fault for not applying their tools correctly.
An expert acknowledges that there are always limitations to knowledge and if you reach a bump; and it’s beyond their expertise, they will refer to you to someone else who can actually help.
5. Living on the Pedestal
You will know you’re hanging out with a self-proclaimed ‘guru’ because they only surround themselves with people who agree with them or put them on a pedestal. Look around you and if all the people who have questioned the guru are now gone, that’s a red flag, right there. Often, those people have been pushed out.
Experts acknowledge both their own brilliance and also their own limitations. They don’t need anyone to agree with them or put them on a pedestal.
6. Money first
A self-proclaimed ‘guru’ is easy to recognise because they are very powerful and persuasive; and if you’re not careful, you will find yourself in major debt with no quick solutions. That’s because a guru desperately wants your money to further their ’cause’ and will have you sell your Great Aunt if it will bolster their personal trajectory.
An expert offers their expertise for a fair fee (which is sometimes quite high, if they get excellent and consistent results). However, they work with people who are ready, willing and able to pay that fee; not someone who needs to mortgage their house and beg from their mothers’ to seal the deal.
7. Evidence based material
A self-proclaimed ‘guru’ talks about the great science and studies that back up their knowledge base, yet they can’t provide a single citation or credible evidence.
An expert knows their stuff, including where it comes from. They can cite and reference with ease.
8. Return on investment
Finally, and this is the biggy. If you do your due diligence, you will recognise a ‘guru’ by the hype that surrounds them. They are always talking up their next ‘big breakthrough’ and the big dollars you will be earning if you work with them. However, pay close attention to the guru’s other ‘followers’ and you will see that very few of them (if any) are crushing it like they were promised. Of course, it’s always the followers’ ‘fault’ that they aren’t applying the guru’s tools correctly; yet the truth is a self-proclaimed ‘guru’ is usually 95% hype and 5% substance. The proof is always in the pudding.
An expert’s main focus is providing an excellent return on investment to their clients’. Their ‘game’ takes a back seat to being of service and providing value to those they work with. That’s why they do what they do.
The personal and professional development market is a multi-billion dollar industry with lots of big promises and false claims being made. Often, from self-made individuals who become so self-obsessed with their ‘original’ methodologies and ideologies that they will say anything and take anyone’s money to further their cause.
Caveat Emptor: The simple fact is that in an unregulated industry, it’s up to us to take responsibility and tread carefully when investing in coaches and/or training organisations. Ask lots of questions, do your due diligence, fact check what the coach or training organisation is saying and most importantly, follow your instincts and don’t let any ‘guru’, no matter how powerful they seem, override or convince you otherwise.
It could save you a lot of money! ~ Sally G X