Justin-McKnight-Research_Paper_1171

Research Paper By Justin McKnight
(Leadership Coach, UNITED STATES)

Justin McKnight (ICA student):

Alright, so thanks for making time. I appreciate it. So, if you don’t mind, just give a little introduction and share what led you to become a coach.

Craig Revord (Executive Coach):

Well, I guess I, I was always interested in the way people learn, the way people process. So that led me to experiential and outdoor education, which provided a bunch of different experiences, challenging experiences for people to learn about themselves. Be challenged, learn about their interpersonal relationships, and have a space to sort of experiment and play with doing something different. Or, you know, stretching as a human being, moving beyond fear, you know. As a real basic example, if you think of like a ropes course. Eventually transitioned me into wilderness therapy where I was working with adjudicated youth in a wilderness setting, doing a lot of the same things, experiential education-wise, and giving them experiences to learn about themselves and their relationships with others.

But there were therapists on-site and on staff as well. And I got to see a lot of deep internal work that I didn’t know anything about or understand, or even, you know, kind of play in that area. That lead me to pursue a master’s degree in counseling, psychotherapy. I transitioned from there to working in a bunch of different areas in the mental health field. Psychiatric hospitals, group homes, specialization in group psychotherapy, and eventually into private practice for about seven years. And that was all incredible and powerful. And I got to help a lot of people heal and grow. Eventually, there just were not enough ambitious persons or purpose-driven. Which was kind of where a lot of the service was for me, in counseling second therapy? But I’m also very much mission-driven, or just drive driven. I just, I love to see results I can point to. I love to see something tangible. And I love to work with people exponentially as opposed to incrementally and counseling in psychotherapy is very process-driven. It’s work, emotional work, transformational work. The sort of the clientele of counseling is it’s more support driven than challenged driven.

And so I was bored. I hired a coach. I got more done in six months than I did in six years in psychotherapy while I started to explore coaching. And eventually got into coaching, began to coach, coaching entrepreneurs landed me into where now I work with executives in fortune 500 scalings, or sort of growing, startups. In addition to early-stage startups with Tech Stars Boulder and Denver. That was long-winded. Sorry.

Justin:

No, that’s great. It’s a good story. It’s a long journey. Took you from what you were originally doing and that progression to get to where you are now. So tell me a little bit about the fulfillment you get out of being a coach.

Craig:

Yeah, yeah. Well, you’ll probably cut this part off the script, but I feel like I got my balls back with coaching meaning that I was able to just be more, more true to myself. Bring a lot more of a results-focused and a transformation body to what, what I knew. The therapeutic piece helps people drive towards something way bigger. Way more exponential in their life. So the fulfillment piece was being able or is being able, to see. See results in the world in particular. And this is one of well, I would say my main purpose in and being a coach is. My goal is to awaken the human potential to solve the great problems of the world. And so I, I align and or take on clients who are not just wanting to transform personally but transform personally so that they can act in that exponential way. Usually, it’s something of great value to the planet or people maybe environmentally, maybe socially, but it also might just be creatively in terms of like a more detailed version of like, how do we create more personal freedom in our lives and in whatever it is we do.

I’m coaching an organization right now, who’s supported in the gig economy talent, which I think essentially is very purpose-driven and freedom driven. And so those are, those are values. So the fulfillment is I’ve,  you know, been very clear on that. A bias set of values are my values. So when I wanna, I want to live them out. I want to support people who align with those values. So I can be very selfish.

Justin:

Yeah. But it sounds like it’s fulfilling, but it’s mutual. It’s fulfilling for the clients as well and their purpose.

Craig:

Exactly. Yep.

Justin:

So, I think you say “executive coach” would kind of be your niche or how do you define your niche?

Craig:

I would say it’s when I introduce myself, I say executive coach. Is that 60% of what I do which is helping leaders and managers scale them themselves in terms of their leadership capabilities, which includes people, capabilities, and sort of talent management capabilities. How to, how to be a conductor, as opposed to a musician. You’re not a musician anymore. You’re leading the group of musicians. And so it’s, it’s a very subtle, it’s very different and their specific behavior.

But then the other thing I do, I would say is more, I would say it’s more transformational coaching where I’m helping say the Oracle sales exec transition into something more purposeful, like a career in screenwriting. Helping him exact on that. And act on that in addition to obviously addressing the core mental, emotional items and against those in terms of the things that we’re getting away.

Justin:

So, you talked about the clients you deal with being like a lot of people in the startup phase where they’re ready to scale. Well, what would you say is maybe a common struggle that you help clients to work through?

Craig:

I think, you know, in a fixed state, they get themselves up to a point and it might be a point of success or a point of, of, of sort of stability. It’s maybe good enough. It aligns good enough to, you know, kind of what they said they would do or what they set out to do. But then it becomes a fixed state. It becomes stagnant and it’s not really, it’s not a great representation of their zone. Their total zone of genius or what they, what they want. And more importantly, what their true purpose is or whatever it is that they’re here to do both for themselves and the world. But fear and you know, kind of the addiction to the, to the status quo, risk, risk aversion. And in addition to a host of other, you know, kind of cultural or family type conditionings leads them to stay there. I’d say it’s about the Hero’s journey. Which I think is an amazing protocol by the way, for the whole coach and journey the clients that come to me, they’ve heard the call, which is the first initiative into the hero’s journey. They have their frustration has either gotten big enough to where there’s like a knock on the door or the desire underneath the frustration has grown strong enough to create some, you know, an energy shift. And so they contact someone like me to help them strategize, implement, hold them accountable and address a lot of the core conditioned blockers that would, would have them stay in that, in that place. I’d say the same thing happens in executive coaching. It’s just very different in that it’s, it’s you know, there there’s a threshold experience, you know, going from an individual contributor to a manager, to a leader and, or in a leadership role in, you know, you’re learning to lead better, but it’s, it’s a, just a mini version of the same thing and more of a kind of concrete atmosphere.

Justin:

So, you mentioned a second ago about how you help them with strategizing, but also the accountability piece. So, I’m just curious, how are you driving accountability with your clients to ensure they’re making progress on their goals?

Craig:

Well I think, generally speaking, the accountability comes out of the client naming his or her goals first and I might gently nudge them into a kind of like honing that down more clearly. And then making a sort of a collaborative commitment to, you know, what, what that looks like. And so just want to be clear that that’s never, just like, Hey, here’s what I think you should do, and let’s hold you accountable to it. Like this it’s, it’s always sort of client-driven, coach facilitated, and then collaboratively discuss in terms of an accountability system. The accountability system can, can look like well, first of all, we have to be clear on what, what is exactly we’re measuring down to the specific behavior, and how often, all those different things that we can quantify.

And then, I mean, those systems can be all sorts of different things. They can text me every night, letting me know they did acts. We can have a 10-minute check-in call every Tuesday and Thursday to see how that’s going. When I think accountability it’s something that can help people, but I think it’s also an opportunity to sort of realigning and renew and trying to be accountable to it. We also have to be aware that, we want to learn through that as well. It’s not just like some robotic thing. Some shit’s going to come up, something’s going to have to be optimized. So it’s more of a, I see accountability more of a process than some, you know, rigid, do this, don’t do that or whatever.

Justin:

So, I guess another thing on the process side you mentioned the calls, texts, and things, so maybe tell me a little bit about how you structure your typical coaching agreements. About as far as meeting in person or by phone or by like a Zoom call and how often, how frequent and then even, you know, how long do these agreements last? I know that probably varies but in general.

Craig:

Well, it does vary. I’m a supporter of customizing and personalizing as much as I can. So I don’t think anyone’s process or journey is the same. With that said, a couple of different ways that I work, well it’s always a retainer model. So I tell people they’repaying for value, not time. And basically what that might look like we’re going to work together for six months and you’re going meet in person twice a month or something. But in between, there’s an unlimited amount of contact whether text, email, or phone calls. I might even say, Hey, listen, listen, I think we need to meet for three hours tomorrow. And go through this more strategically or whatever. Some price point is at such a point where I’m not going to, for me, I’m not going to get into time management or resentment. If I feel like they need the extra help it might take a couple of extra hours. But, again, my concept is valued more so than time. That can look again really, really different.

So I do pre-meeting emails basically like, how are you doing personally? What’s been keeping you up at night and what two to three items can we handle in our meeting? Those two to three items, by the way. So I always start with a two-hour strategic intensive where we sort of more PR, where we just might sort of break things down into four different pillars and create strategic internal and external goals. According to that, if it’s more actual executive coaching, I’ll probably have them do a 360 before another assessment. And then we use that two hours to dig deep and create a leadership plan with a bunch of different objectives and key results. So everything is sort of structured. We’re, again, the opposite of counseling or psychotherapy with it.

We have clear targets and clear indications of what it’s going to look like. Feel like tastes like, smell like when we’re there, right. So really sort of a reverse engineer, everything. And every meeting I’m alluding to that. And you brought two or three items, can we handle it. So I put a lot of responsibility on the client. But so they’ll respond to that email. You know, maybe the night before our meeting, I get to take a look at that helps me understand their world. So we save time too. I don’t want a bunch of check-in stuff. I don’t want a bunch of reporting. It’s a waste of time.

I just want to be processing or save space for emotions and things fine, but these big downloads or stories it’s a waste of time. I think. So hit me up with the context in your life, if you need a little bit more space for it in the session. Fine. But let’s save some time here by doing that. And then the meeting goes, and then they get a post-meeting summary, which goes over all the themes and kind of topics we covered. And then all of the kind of, outcome goals or, next steps that they agreed to. And that emailed to them, or if we have a Slack platform it’s on the Slack platform.

Justin:

It seems like a great approach. Just the diversity of it seems like that’d be effective.

Craig:

It is. It’s really helpful.

Justin:

Do you mind sharing a little more on, how do you start to gather new clients?

Craig:

Yeah. well, it’s, let’s see, there’s a lot of different ways. But I’d say it all boils down to everyone has their approach. Meaning there’s a bunch of different best practices and things that are just kind of like tried and true, but at the end of the day I’m a huge proponent of finding your style and what works for you.

I just go out there and I talk to people that inspire me. I talked to people that I’m curious about and I hang out in fun environments. And that’s how I get my clients. I, I spend a lot of time in communities that I’m interested in. I want to learn from my clients as much as they learn from me. I want to be inspired by my clients and I don’t want to feel I’m 10 steps ahead of my clients in certain ways. And so I go and spend time in CrossFit gyms and build community. I don’t advertise, I don’t talk to people about what I do unless it’s the subject. I also go into various other atmospheres, right. That’s just an example of one, but then I just look at how I guess I can piece the whole. Don’t sell, serve and, and it’s like finding opportunities for me to just get out there and give my time away, give a lot of time away, just help the shit out of people.

And so for a while, with permission, of course, I was coaching anybody with a pulse and finding formal platforms where I could do that just to get experience and just to get case studies. Techstars is a great example. Just because I think once you start coaching, you might not even be coaching somebody, but it’s just in the way that you listen or who you are that they start going down a rabbit hole. I would just get extremely sort of shameless in like, Hey, listen I would love to help you out with this. I’m a new coach. I’m very clear about that. I don’t want your money. I would just really like to see if I can help you and spend some time with them.

And that way those people would, over time, those are all just seeds that get planted over time. That stuff just builds. And you know, where I’m at right now is at a place where, it’s like I think in business-like coaching, you eventually got to get to a place where you can be sold. So you want to be in networks and amongst people where the people that I want to refer to me now, they, they sell me by saying, you know, Craig’s worked with X and all of a sudden, it’s just like a big, giant book dropped on the ground. Or, I can’t sell you yet because you’re not sellable. Okay. How do I get sellable? Okay. You’ve got to work with these kinds of people. Okay. You know, kind of thing. So I try to get in proximity to not just like, you know, the people with Cadillacs. I mean, it’s always like, again, purpose-driven, impact, driven people.

If I see a group of people that I would love to help, I know of them, or at least I think, and I’d like to learn more about if I can help them. Like what are the steps towards finding my way into being sellable, right? Because for me, I, you probably see, I haven’t talked about anything website related, anything, social media related. I actually, didn’t promote it for three years. I didn’t have a coaching website for the first two years and I was full. Everything is relationship-based and relationship-based marketing. You gotta be associated with, or at least laddering, in association with the type of people that you want. Because in coaching, it’s a flooded market. I think it’s a super-saturated market. And every sign that I look at says it’s going to continue, and it’s going to a getaway where you can distinguish yourself. Well, there’s a lot of niching that you can do to distinguish yourself. But you can also distinguish yourself by establishing deep, deep, trusting vetted ties into communities because at the end of the day I think that’s the biggest way into markets and coaching. You look at websites, everyone can engineer a great website. Everyone can say something cute on the screen. But who’s worked with this person, right. Credible to me that seems much more valuable and it’s worked. So I think that’s valuable, I guess it’s just valuable to me. It just works time and time again for me. 

Justin:

Yeah. That’s great. So when a lot’s changed in the last few months, as far as different regions and different industries have different impacts. So just curious, personally, how has COVID impacted your business?

Craig:

 April was one of my worst months. May was my biggest month ever. And I think it makes a lot of sense, makes a lot of sense in my mind, in my world. Anyway, I think a lot of businesses are crashing. A lot of people are scared, particularly scared to spend money, In like crisis mode, heads-down mode.

And that’s what I think I saw in, in March or April with that said, and again, this is depending on where you play and what industries and things. But I think all industries around that was kind of a similar sentiment. But what I found is that why May was such a big month is there’s a lot of thinking, getting challenged, a lot of opportunities opened in terms of new business, and just a lot of people who have their, their talents for risks. Cause then, some think, well, the bottom just went out and I was okay, maybe I can leave my corporate position and go do something more meaningful or purposeful.

And so that’s what I am seeing a lot actually in the past four weeks. I’ve gotten a lot of calls from people who are moving out in the middle of this, like moving out of corporate. Saying  I can’t do it anymore. I’m done. And I want to, and that life is short as well, they’re like screw it. Like the bottom went out, I was out of work. I lost all this money now. I got it all back. Soin my business, I’m riding that with people, which is really interesting and extremely fun. And I’m very aware, and this is just something you sign up for in the coaching industry.

But I think, you know, just like value for time. It’s like corporate mentality versus entrepreneurship mentality. It’s like, you look at numbers and you look at the time and a corporate mentality or I think really like an incremental mentality, but in entrepreneurship, you look at you. You look at value for time, right? Like I could have two rough months. And if I go down with that I could miss the biggest month of my life in June or something like that. S you gotta play big and not get too wrapped up in the details. It’s like, what does Warren buffet say, when the tide goes out, you get to see who’s, who’s swimming out there naked. And that’s kinda what I mean. That’s a moment in time and you’re going to see what sort of things weren’t working for your organization or you’re whatever, but you’re also going to see the rest of it. And that’s what I’m seeing. A lot of people kind of focus around who are not trapped all up in fear, you know? You can kind of activate some innovative thinking.

Justin:

Yeah, that’s great. You know, we look around, there are so many people, so negatively impacted greatly to hear that you were not, or at least for a month or so. But also that you’re finding other people that are, are willing to make changes and trying to improve their lives even in this kind of scary time. So that’s great.

Craig:

Right, right, right. I want to just make sure that, like, I very much see that this is a niche piece of the population. And unfortunately, a lot of people just don’t even have that capability and don’t have a choice,s so I want to be clear that it’s a very slim portion of the population that’s unfortunately, available to even think like that. I do like that, but because they’re pivoting into something more purposeful or meaningful you know, hopefully, there’s like some structural systemic change that goes along with that.

Justin:

So just to wrap up again, I appreciate everything you shared and it’s insightful to me. But you know, me as a new coach and others like me, you know, what would be kind of some big brother advice that you would give, getting started, you know, starting your practice.

Craig:

Yeah. A couple of things I think your network is where your biggest net worth comes from. And so engage your network and relationships because those can’t be automated. Those can’t be taken away. I think there’s a big trend that we’re seeing and coaching becoming scaled and AI taken over. There’s a lot of coaching happening, which I think is good. There’s a lot of coaching culture being created. You see that happen in a lot of organizations where instead of hiring external coaches, they’re creating a coaching culture, whether it’s peer coaching, where it’s just, a culture of coaching. And I think it’s better and more sustainable over time. But how do we as coaches stay relevant? So I think, bottom line, don’t be in isolation as a coach. You’re not a solo entrepreneur. And so be in conversation with at least five other coaches at any given time that are either in your niche and maybe others in different niches, just so you get a future-forward view. There’s a lot of ways to be ahead of the change and keep learning. Getting in front of people who want to be coached and have a peer coach. I have a peer coach, I have a peer coaching group. And I have a bunch of coaches that I just talk to regularly that I consider mentors, that are alongside me or ahead of me. I’m a huge proponent of being the least interesting person in the room. Cause if you’re the smartest then you’re not going to learn. So I try to be around the people who think like I want to think, who makes the money that I want to make, and who are at least two to five steps ahead of me in some way, shape, or fashion so I can learn from them.

Justin:

Yeah. I like that. Cause it’s a process, right? It’s never-ending. So that continuous growth mindset I think is a big part of being a successful coach.

Craig:

Exactly.

Justin:

Great. Well, thank you for sharing all this. I appreciate your time and I value your story and the journey you’ve been on with coaching. And you inspired me, you know, part of my journey. So again, thanks for taking the time and sharing today.