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From the Table of Contents, you might've guessed that this post makes different offerings to different people making personal growth investments.

It's built like a playlist for your interests. Jumping to sections that beckon your interests is a great way to navigate this mosaic of reporting, reflection and interpretation about the first Tee Barnett Coaching Training (TBCT) program cycle. 

Moving through the standard sections –  

  1. Executive Summary (read time: ~2 mins)
  2. Program Design (read time: ~5 mins)
  3. Our Approach (read time: ~3 mins)
  4. How Things Played Out (read time: ~4 mins)

– reveals progressively more context via the old-school “Choose your own Adventure” format.

This was our playful way of carving some sense out of the voluminous richness of the coaching training data and experiences.

Start here instead if you need background info on TBCT. The rest of the report breaks out into stand-alone bookmarkable sections for audiences seeking different things.

TBCT By the Numbers, Interpreting the numbers, and Cohort Testimonials are other ways of quickly getting a sense of how things went.

The non-standard arrangement is our attempt at synthesizing a lot of “hopes” that we have in retelling what happened.

We hope you’ll uncover things that matter to you. We hope to popularize a distinct approach to personal growth that applies to almost any walk of life. We hope that prospective and existing coaches can learn from our takeaways. We hope program leads and designers get useful insights from our thoughts. That funders will come to understand and get involved. That we can elevate the quality of the life coaching industry by sharing open questions about the industry & craft we’re thinking through. That we can inform people to help make better decisions about their personal growth journeys.

Or you just might want to browse around. Whatever the case, you have my sincere thanks for taking the time to read this. Feel free to express interest in future cohorts and programs. You can also reach out at tee@teebarnett.com about any of it. 

Table of Contents

Choose your own Odyssey

Your choose-your-own odyssey[1]  adventure begins as an audience member of a fireside chat about TBCT with the co-developers, Tee Barnett and Emily Crotteau 

Executive Summary – Choose your own Odyssey #1

Tee: Thank you all for attending this “fireside chat” with Emily and me about how the TBCT program went. For those of you who don’t know, Emily was the co-developer of TBCT. She was primarily responsible for producing the curriculum, but also served a lot of important functions for the program. 

We’d like for this fireside chat to be driven by your questions! So I’ll be giving a brief overview of how I felt the coaching training program went last year and we’ll open things up for questions from all of you in the audience.

Well, my headline take: nearly everyone had the caliber of intense experience that can meaningfully affect life plans, including me.[2] 

The program seems to have accelerated, but also substantively nuanced, the exploration and development processes of the cohort coaches.[3] Nearly everyone gained valuable clarity as to whether and how coaching fits into their lives.

Most of this I chalk up to how this impressive cohort interacted with the unconventional design and implementation of the program.

My somewhat clumsy analogy is that TBCT had an ‘augmented reality’ effect on the cohort by substantially altering their emotional experience and developmental process of exploring coaching.

At the risk of forcing this analogy, just as your mind and body reacts to what’s in an augmented reality headset, what TBCT built upon the ‘baseline’ or ‘typical’ experience of trying coaching seems to have dramatically affected their beliefs, plans and actions.

The analogy breaks down, well, in several ways, but specifically in that augmented reality visuals are not real, they’re chimerical. Whereas, parts of our infrastructure tangibly touched the lives of our cohort coaches (Our in-person retreat and matchmaking of real paid clients are two examples).

Our approach to influencing the emotional experience and the process of exploring coaching took several forms:

  • One-to-one support – provided by Emily and me that was targeted and consistent in engaging deep cruxes (internal fundamental unresolved questions) about how cohort participants relate to supporting others, what role coaching could have in their lives, and how to upskill along the way. This mirrors our approach to coaching clients, which focuses on addressing emotional and perceptual constructs as the pathway to generating solutions and appropriate action. 
  • ii) Facilitating new learning – we provided Curriculum modules (classes) – with a variety of pedagogical aims, including things like the basics, alternative frameworks, and even spirituality in coaching. The cohort also received stipends to attend outside programs to learn from others.
  • iii) Process upgrades – like coaching early on with real paid clients, peer support and collaboration, scholarships to do other programs, help with presentation and business aspects, etc.

We had 9 participating coaches. About a third of the cohort now plans to make a living as a coach. Folks in this segment of the cohort tell me that, without TBCT, they wouldn’t have made this career move, and / or their process of becoming a coach was sped up on the order of years.[4]

Another third will likely continue part-time alongside other jobs and projects. And a couple of people are less easily classified. Two people will likely infuse their work with what was in the program (e.g. management), and the other person dropped out midway through.

Here's a nice group photo of several of us at the TBCT retreat outside of Prague by the way! [Tee presents a slide with the group photo]

Enough about how things unfolded last year makes me not want to run exactly the same program, but it was a remarkable experience that has inspired me to plan on spinning out a set of offerings as a result of what we’ve discovered.

Participants in this planned set of offerings will hopefully feed into the next upcoming coaching training cohort. We’re currently in the process of planning what’s next!

Program Design – Choose your own Odyssey #2

Tee: “Okay, let’s open this up for questions. Anyone can feel free to jump in.”

1) You say: “hmm, ‘augmented reality’ for coaching. I’m curious to hear more about that. (read response directly below)

2) You decide to exit the fireside chat. [Thanks for reading! You can jump to another section, or reach out to Tee at tee@teebarnett.com with any questions, curiosities, feedback, etc. if you’d like!]

For the cohort of 9 coaches that we had, the program infrastructure, and accompanying high-touch support, made certain initial steps far easier than they otherwise tend to be for the lone coach starting out (such as attracting their first paid clients).

TBCT provided infrastructure that covered these initial steps so that, along the way, coaches could have the space and bandwidth to ask more profound questions of themselves, and get support in taking on deeper emotional challenges (cruxes). 

Our curriculum modules (classes) were more like collaborative learning and working groups, designed to be environments for the cohort coaches to enrich their relationships with themselves, their own practice, each other, and ultimately their own felt existence.

We were betting that this recipe of approach would be incredibly rewarding for their development as coaches.

TBCT unfolded to facilitate this ‘augmented’ or reweighted experience in roughly three phases:

  • Phase 1: First steps – the cohort coaches got onboarded into the program and began taking initial steps to seriously explore becoming a coach by planning their own curriculum and charting expectations for themselves
  • Phase 2: Curriculum modules & matchmaking – the cohort began constructing their own curriculum while attending ‘modules’ (classes) developed by TBCT,  and got matched with more than 100 applicants for coaching.[5]
  • Phase 3: Coaching training & business development – sessions with dozens of clients across the cohort were in full swing. This included periodic coaching development calls where coaches refined their methods, discussed anonymized clients, and reviewed client feedback.

Here’s what we provided and when it unfolded:

[Program timelines are displayed upon a projected/shared screen]

I’ll pick out two major pieces of the TBCT infrastructure that seemed to have had big effects on the emotional journey of these new coaches:

• The first would be the curriculum modules – I mentioned that the coaches could choose between around a dozen offered modules with titles like: 

“Coaching & Spirituality”

“Planning Developmental Arcs” and 

“Emotions & Embodiment” 

The coaches really emphasized to me personally and through testimonials how much these modules elevated the program. I couldn’t agree more. As you might imagine with the titles I mentioned, they were aiming to be really generative and expansive. But related to the emotional crux point, Emily designed the modules to be incredibly inviting, collaborative and responsive to the experience of individuals and the group. 

Yes, it was a space for learning and exploration, but I’m also told that it was one of the key places for coaches in this program to work on themselves together and forge the type of bonds that form the foundations of collaborative discovery. Praise for these modules from the coaches sounded like “magical,” “perspective-shifting” and “generative for years to come.” 

I’ve been told by some of the coaches that my desire to speak matter-of-factly about the modules is underselling them. Fun fact: these modules weren’t in the original plans for TBCT. We were lucky to have Emily deliver them.[6] 

• And the second piece of infrastructure that heavily affected the emotional journey of these coaches was matchmaking coaches from the client pipeline – I say this because providing clients early on to the cohort coaches punted several months of serious emotional and logistical legwork they would have otherwise been occupied with, and enabled them to focus on deeper considerations regarding their self-presentation and practice – considerations that require pretty heavy emotional and intellectual processing. 


[ Tee presents the landing page for TBCT matchmaking ]

What we provided to alter their experience of acquiring initial clients, in some ways, was more difficult for the cohort coaches. Earlier than otherwise, they competed with other coaches for a higher volume of incoming clients, which was tough for many of them. These clients were paying real money in expectation of real results, so you can imagine the set of pressures that can come with that.
The program fairly quickly, probably too quickly if I’m being honest, teleported people into the actual life of being a coach by initiating paid client work after only a couple of months.

I wouldn’t say the program caused cohort coaches to face everything that they needed to face, or resolve everything that they needed to resolve, but the combination of experiential immersion, high-touch support and potent curriculum modules seems to have positioned them to face these deeper questions far more effectively than they otherwise would have been able to on their own.

Most coaches attained enough clarity to make cleaner calls about what to do moving forward as a result.

Our Approach – Choose your own Odyssey #3

1) Audience member: “Why was so much emphasis put on affecting the emotional experience of becoming a coach? Isn’t it okay if people succeed or fail on their own merit in the real world?” (read response directly below)

2) Audience member : “I’d personally love to hear more about Emily’s experience in co-developing the program. Could we hear more about that? (Emily gives an overview of the Emily’s Experience sections.)

3) You ask: “What are some examples of significant things, including emotional cruxes, that your program prioritized helping participants to address?” (Jump to endnote [7] for the response)

This is touching on a closely-held set of theories we’ve had about all of this that probably differentiates our program from other programs, and even our notions of well-calibrated personal growth, from that of many others in the industry.  

We feel that how people come to be coaches ‘in the wild’ often skips fundamental steps, or neglects key developmental milestones, that ultimately lead to bad outcomes somewhere down the line.

The program design reflects our high-level methodological stance that it's important to grapple with thorny emotional issues relevant to the path of pursuing what you want and being how you want to be.

In other words, working through emotional and perceptual tangles is critical for your aspirations. 

That means not neglecting emotional issues as you pursue various missions in life. And in the other extreme, not getting caught up in endless and directionless emotional work.[8]

In this way, you could think of efforts to address these emotional cruxes as ‘prerequisites’ to moving or continuing forward because they carry existential implications for the journey ahead. 

A perennial example from coaching and therapy revolves around how okay it feels to help people in this way at all. As evidenced by questions that commonly arise like:

  • What makes me think I can help people in this way?
  • What level of ‘figured out’ does my life need to be in order to help others with improving their lives?
  • How much does my basis of authority, or justification for my position, affect what service I feel comfortable offering? (e.g. beliefs like “unless I’ve exited a unicorn startup, I won’t hazard to help founders with how to build a successful startup.”)
  • In what ways do these beliefs around permissioning affect what I can claim about my practice?
  • What makes me think I can help people in this way?
  • What level of ‘figured out’ does my life need to be in order to help others with improving their lives?
  • How much does my basis of authority, or justification for my position, affect what service I feel comfortable offering? (e.g. beliefs like “unless I’ve exited a unicorn startup, I won’t hazard to help founders with how to build a successful startup.”)

You could see how landing in different places with respect to these questions could radically affect the journey to becoming a coach.

It’s common for freelance coaches to unknowingly commit themselves to unbounded costs in trying to make a living at this.

By that I mean, without taking stock of what unresolved internal things are pulling at them and affecting their decisions, aspiring coaches can will themselves forward in a way that’s not only compromised in the present day, but almost certainly sowing the seeds for significant issues to surface down the line.[9] Attempting to come to resolution on these internal cruxes at a later time can be far more expensive and less likely to be successful.

Another way I’ve seen this framed – neglecting cruxes can result in amassing emotional ‘technical debt’, or a layered accumulation of fraught emotional issues, that can be increasingly entrenched, knotty and costly to work through as time goes on.

We take the stance that this process of taking stock of relevant emotional cruxes, and continuously working through them along the way, is how practitioners become increasingly more functional and efficacious in embodying and pursuing what they want in life.[10] Pepper this process periodically with relevant and potent outside inspiration (e.g. our curriculum) for a near-complete recipe.

That’s not to say we have perfect clarity on which emotional cruxes to work through at all times, nor do we have all of the answers on how to resolve them. But we’re advocating for the importance of seriously attending to one’s interior state throughout the process of becoming a coach.

These beliefs are reflected in the design of TBCT and our methods of facilitating coaches in their development.

How Things Played Out – Choose your own Odyssey #4

1) You ask:  “Okay so, it seems that you think the program was relatively successful in inviting people to face the deeper challenges or ‘emotional cruxes’ of becoming a coach. What makes you feel like it went well? How did you track that? (read response directly below)

2) You ask: “Would you say more about what can happen when people try to push through a process, like becoming a coach, without addressing these ‘emotional cruxes’ as you call them“?” (Jump to endnote [11] for the response)

I came to this impression after observing a multitude of different snapshots of cohort coach experiences during the program,[12] notably the testimonials.

But we witnessed this firsthand repeatedly when supporting the coaches – coaching the coaches, as it were –  addressing these cruxes often contributed to the type of emotional resilience that’s necessary to sustain progress in this.

Both myself and Emily conducted one-to-one sessions with each member of the cohort at least once every two weeks.[13] These sessions typically focused on one or more emotional or intellectual cruxes related to coaching development.[14] 

In some cases, getting enough resolution on emotional cruxes allowed cohort coaches to execute on a new set of things that previously went unrealized, or seemed out of reach. In other cases, it was a perspectival shift that allowed them to find a more direct line to purpose. In others, it facilitated realizations that  actually coaching should occupy a different role in their lives than they originally hoped or expected. 

It’s interesting because our methodological choice to emphasize attending to each coach’s set of idiosyncratic cruxes colors my opinion about things that didn’t quite go according to plan.

Among the things that didn’t go according to plan with this pilot, our estimates for how client acquisition would unfold were off on the order of weeks to months. Some coaches didn’t reach the client load goals they’d set during the program.

We saw compelling demand for the matchmaking service (110 applications from May – December 2023),[15] but the protracted logistics of matchmaking clients with coaches meant that cohort coaches built client bases more slowly than anticipated.[16]

But the relative peace that cohort coaches seem to reflect on falling short of their quantitative goals strikes me as some indication of the high value the cohort coaches place on their TBCT experience.[17]

And if you’d have asked me prior to launching the program whether I’d find it problematic that several of the coaches didn’t meet their client acquisition and revenue goals, I’d have wondered whether something significant went wrong.

But reflecting on this now, while we did pick up perspective-shifting lessons in this, I’m grateful that we made the choice to emphasize the deeper aspects of becoming a coach, letting things unfold as they had, rather than pushing for numerical targets and adhering to project management deadlines.[18]

A few reasons why I say this: for one, I get the sense that the cohort coaches themselves saw both the immediate and long-term benefits of working through deep cruxes, in this case related to attracting and acquiring clients. While it may not have resulted in client numbers on timelines they’d hoped, the coaches seem to see the value in stronger medium- to long-term positioning.

Second, Emily and I were fortunate enough to learn about client acquisition on both the individual and macro levels. As this relates to things not going to plan, disentangling what seems to have happened for individual coaches within a system TBCT designed was an incredibly valuable learning experience.

For instance, in some cases, coaches missed targets because I misjudged timelines for how things would unfold. In other cases, coaches missed targets for reasons that were more about themselves than about the program. In some interesting cases, coaches’ struggles with how client acquisition worked within this specific TBCT system (proximity to familiar competitors) caused issues. Most of the time, there were multiple contributing factors.[19] Getting to the bottom of it all was challenging and fun.

And finally – I might have mentioned this earlier – our highest-level aim for cohort coaches was to accelerate the decision-making process regarding what role coaching would have in their lives. For about half of the cohort, hitting client acquisition numbers was often deprioritized relative to other things they cared about.[20]

To me, at least, given all of the moving parts happening simultaneously within TBCT, my overall sense is nonetheless still that supporting cohort coaches with emotional cruxes that surfaced in response to encountered adversity was the highest leverage tack we could have taken for their development.

I would say that getting a sense of how these quantifiable goals unfold in practice, and having a better sense of how I’d interpret it all in this context, there’s a fair amount I intend to do differently next time around.

Hopefully that’s an interesting window into how our approach came into contact with reality, and how our philosophy of approach influences our interpretations about what happened.

Learn More – Choose your own Odyssey #5

Tee: “Any questions from others? I’d like to make sure that anyone who wants to ask a question gets the chance.”

1) Audience member: “How was the experience for you, Tee, personally? I’d be curious to hear about what it was like to run something like this from your perspective.” (Listen to Tee’s verbal overview of the Tee’s Experience section)

2) Audience member: “What were the curriculum classes? (Or ‘modules’ as you called them)” Emily gives a verbal overview of the TBCT Curriculum Module Catalog

3) Tee Says: “Well it seems like there aren’t any more questions, so that’s a wrap! I’d like to thank all of you for joining us. It means a lot to us that you’d show up here to hear how the first cycle of TBCT went. On the screen, I’ll put up a few links in case you’d like to read in more detail!”  (read response directly below)

[Tee passes along a link to a report filled with results and reflections about TBCT] 

Most of what I spoke about covers the first part of the write up, but other sections might be interesting to you as well. You can see specific stats on the cohort in the TBCT by the numbers section, including some contextualizing notes that I have about the numbers.

The Tee’s Experience and Emily’s Experience sections are more informal windows into our respective personal experiences with the TBCT program.

There’s an Open Questions about coaching, the industry & craft section where we outline some of the juiciest open questions and richest areas of exploration related to what we do.

And finally, the rest of the write up includes takes that we feel different audiences may be interested to read. This includes:

Thanks for being a great audience. I appreciated getting to tell you all about it. Please reach out to me at tee@teebarnett.com if you’d like to chat more.

Background on Tee & TBCT

I’m Tee – you can learn much more about my work as a ‘personal strategist’ coach here. In June of 2023, we launched the first cycle of an experimental program to train life coaches called Tee Barnett Coaching Training (TBCT). A cohort of 9 participants participated in a coaching matchmaking service with paying clients and went through this 6-month program to get clarity on what role coaching could have in their lives.

Among other primary aims, we’d hoped to learn whether this sort of program was the way to scale a high-trust and high-quality network of coaches. A great future scenario is one where much of this network concentrates on working with individuals trying to do good in the world.

TBCT by the numbers

This section contains stats from quantitative tracking of the cohort coaches’ performance and progression from June – December of 2023.[21] See the Interpreting the numbers section for commentary and contextualizing information.

– Section Table of Contents – 

All Stats

Cohort Progress

  • 8 cohort coaches – Remained in the cohort for the entire program
  • 7 cohort coaches – delivered final presentations (‘Celebrations of Odyssey”)[22]  to the rest of the cohort, describing their experience over the course of 6 months within TBCT to cohort attendees
  • 5 cohort coaches  Reached all stages of the program[23]
  • 3 cohort coaches – plan on coaching as their primary means of making a living.  Tee feels optimistic about their chances of being coaches full-time after this 6-month journey.[24]

Cohort Activity

  • ~422 paid coaching hours completed by the cohort coaches
    • ~$21,100– ~$42,200 paid out to cohort coaches by their clients
  • ~649 total (paid and unpaid) coaching hours completed by the cohort coaches during the TBCT period
  • ~30 clients referred by TBCT who completed more than four to five sessions[25] with cohort coaches
  • ~23 clients who completed less than four sessions with cohort coaches
  • ~41 active clients still working with cohort coaches referred by TBCT

Cohort Coach Performance

Aggregated and averaged across all cohort coaches from June – December 2023[26]

  • 25 longform feedback surveys completed by cohort coach clients
  • Overall satisfaction (1-10): 8.57
  • Expectations satisfaction (1-10): 8.13
  • Current maximum willing to pay per hour: $95.50
  • Current maximum clients are willing to pay if an organization pays in their behalf: $151.67
  • Current maximum willing to pay if income increased 2-5x: $177.01
  • Percent increase in what clients accomplished: 16.5%
    • Top three areas of perceived improvement (scale 1 - 5):
      • Discovery of self - I was able to uncover information about myself that I can now use to interpret meaningful things in the present: 4.17
      • Perception shift - the underlying paradigm that I use to interpret large areas of my perception have meaningfully shifted in a way that is beneficial to me: 4.04
      • Relationship to mind - how I relate to my mind is healthier and more aligned with how I wished to be: 3.84
  • Post-session reflection forms completed: 182
    • 80% completed by 4 cohort coaches
  • Session Rating Scale (SRS) forms completed by clients: 105
    • ~85% completed by clients from 4 cohort coaches
  • Outcome Rating Scale (ORS) forms completed by clients: 64
    • ~84% completed by clients of 3 cohort coaches 

Matchmaking numbers 

  • Total # of matchmaking applications:[27] 133
    • Applications from May – December: 110
      • 80% submitted between May and August
      • ~44% submitted in July (deadline was August 1)
      • Dozens of organizations circulated the TBCT matchmaking application
      • Dozens of applications came from a mix of Tee’s direct messaging and word-of-mouth referrals
  • Client Conversion[28]
    • Matching emails that converted to introductory calls: ~54%
      • Range: 39.5% – 79%
    • Introductory calls that converted to coaching relationships: ~44%
      • Range: 23.8% – 58%
  • Number of matching emails sent: ~250 – 275

6-7 coaches – Tee feels confident will be coaches at least part-time and / or incorporate coaching into their future work (e.g. senior-level management of others at a grantmaking foundation)

Interpreting the numbers

  • Contextualizing the numbers by comparing to Tee's personal practice – the maximum "full-time" caseload for me was 40 - 50 session hours per month across 15 - 20 clients. I get the sense that this amount of session hours is in the ballpark for many practitioners making a living from this. 

    This would be 120 - 150 session hours over three months. Mostly over 4 months, the cohort managed to log ~650 session hours, with 422 of those being paid session hours. That breaks down to ~18 hours per coach per month over four months in total session hours, with ~12 hours per coach per month over four months in paid session hours. 

    The average amount of hours put in by cohort coaches over four months is about 1/4 of my typical full-time amount, but probably closer to 1/3 considering that all 9 coaches didn't have an equal share of sessions. (i.e. 3-5 coaches drove most of these hours). 

    Taking on 1/4 to 1/3 of a senior coach's full-time caseload seems roughly appropriate for new coaches juggling plenty of other things, including attending curriculum modules, working groups, and other TBCT programming demands. 
  • How the stats are treated – the treatment of stats in this report is evidence of a distinct epistemic stance.[29] You’ll notice this report doesn’t hinge very many significant conclusions or learnings from the stats, nor does it discount them completely. 

    That’s due to my current beliefs that there are clear limitations with seeking to understand reality by quantification and universalized concepts alone.
  • TBCT can capably train coaches – three cohort coaches chose coaching as their primary way of making a living. Another 2 - 3 cohort coaches elected to coach part-time.[30] Nearly all coaches reported that the program accelerated and / or counterfactually changed their career trajectories. Much will be revealed in how enduring these outcomes are over time. 

    Our original intention was not simply to deliver a paid coaching training program, nor narrowly to ‘mint’ new coaches into existence, but for participating individuals to “clarify[] and secur[e] the role that they want coaching to have in their lives.”[31]

    By those lights, a third of the cohort intending to make a living as a coach is a positive result. Two individuals revised down their optimism about being a coach,[32] which also seems like a healthy proportion of outcomes. And 2-3 individuals intend to continue exploring part-time coaching seriously.[33] One person was positive about the effects of the program on their management abilities in their existing role. Only one person dropped out of the program halfway through.

    The most negative results for individuals that I can think of are i) participants feeling less clear and empowered after having gone through TBCT, and ii) those who’d already decided to become coaches not being able to as a result of the program ‘letting them down’ in some way. Two cases border each of these scenarios respectively, though I don’t believe they don’t cleanly qualify. 

    The most negative program-level result would be that nearly all in the cohort experience the same final outcome. Everyone deciding not to be a coach would be concerning. Everyone deciding to be a coach would be concerning. Everyone being ‘minted’ as a coach with a diploma, without knowing how exactly they feel, would be concerning as well. The more I look at mixed outcomes with the overarching goal being about helping these people get clarity on this path, the better it registers. Funders predictably wanting certain outcomes would likely struggle to appreciate mixed results.

    Much more will be revealed in how enduring these outcomes are over time as well, especially in the 1 - 2 year timeframe. 
  • Perspective on cohort stats: for new coaches, feedback indicators are better utilized as tools for learning, not performance expectations – for coaches-in-training, imposing high performance expectations from the outset doesn’t seem reasonable. In fact, low scores and / or notable feedback from clients are incredibly valuable for coaches at any time, but especially early in the development of a coach.[34]

    High initial expectations for performance can be very disruptive to the learning process. It was challenging in some cases to build prerequisites of trust and interpretive grace to create conditions for coaches to analyze their own performance without feeling rejected or demotivated. 

    We were looking for performance indicators and qualitative answers that would instead give us confidence that a particular coach was at least a ‘safe pair of hands’ in training and possessed potential to grow. In the aggregate, we also wanted to get a sense as to whether we chose a cohort of new coaches that cleared very basic bars of quality and competency. 

    To mix locomotive metaphors, feedback for individual coaches was to make sure they were able to get on track in the learning process, while keeping tabs on the coaches as a whole ensured quality control didn’t go off the rails. 
  • Tee’s first impression after the numbers came in: pleased with coaching quality indicators, but less data points than anticipated –  the cohort collectively seems to have cleared minimum bars of competency across dozens of clients, though the program could have done more to get clarity on this. 

    Quantitative and qualitative indicators, averaged across coaches and individual to coaches, were all fairly encouraging. For the ~1/3 of the cohort intending to make a living primarily as a coach, the stats looked even better. Our overall sense is that we selected a group of individuals well-suited to producing quality coaching (should they ultimately choose to be), and some of them have already been extraordinarily valuable to some clients.

    For instance, there’s very weak signal in averaged-out satisfaction scores from clients across 8 coaches. The casual reader won’t be able to make sense of the fact that our coaches logged ~650 paid hours of coaching as a result of this program. Is that good? Is it bad? How many hours does it take to be ‘a sufficiently trained’ coach? At a certain point, in the pursuit of knowledge within this domain, at least, you have to ask of what exactly is the number of hours, or hours as a unit of measurement, indicative? 

    I’d reply with high confidence that stats in this domain are one of several operative indicators, the concept of certain quantifying itself requires interpretation. Reporting the results of this program also didn’t melt into a deconstructive puddle of postmodern impressions and meta-narrative. This is the other bound of the epistemic range that shaped this report. Numbers and stats are not treated as meaningless, especially if well-chosen to pick up on signal for something you’re looking to interpret. 

    The shortfall in reporting is explainable but nonetheless not where we’d hoped it would be. Most client stats are driven by 6 coaches. We were on the low end of the expected range for clients who completed more than four sessions,[35] and a larger portion of clients than expected did not fill out a long-form feedback survey. (More detail in the Program Designers section as to what we believe happened here)

    A quick industry-related contextualizing note: it’s a rare and wonderful thing to have prospective coaches at this stage so open to being monitored, rated, and analyzed. Virtually all coaches try their hands at this craft without opening their practice and their books to anyone else. The openness and hunger for growth displayed by the cohort coaches in this regard is laudable.
  • Not soliciting quantitative feedback from coaches about the TBCT program was an intentional choice – ample feedback from coaches is baked into much of the report, especially in the Testimonials, What could have been better, Emily’s Experience, Tee’s Experience and Program Designers sections. 

    In the vein of standard quantitative feedback questions, within their exit interviews, nearly all coaches said TBCT exceeded their expectations, with one or two saying it met expectations. 

    Nearly all said they’d recommend it to others, though there were several coaches that had caveats here. Reasons for why coaches might not recommend the program, or would only recommend it to very specific people, were due to the upsides and downsides of how rich, intense and freeform TBCT turned out to be.  
  • Follow through on reporting stats was tightly correlated with usefulness – partly because our program didn’t force coaches to collect all stats as a matter of principle, the numbers we’re seeing hinge on the coaches’ motivation and ability to participate in reporting. 

    TBCT relied on providing justification for getting coaches bought into adopting certain systems, rather than strictly mandating use of these systems. 

    For a first iteration of the program, I’d say the information value of approaching systems participation in this way was the right call. It wasn’t obvious to Emily and me which pieces of the systems infrastructure should be recommended, and with what intensity those recommendations should be made. 
  • Stats shortcomings

    • Were the reduced rates responsible for counterfactually bringing coaching to those who hadn’t been coached before? A simple question about counterfactuals here would have sufficed on the application. This was an oversight. My impression from qualitative application responses is that people new to coaching, who may have tried it due to TBCT, was on the order of dozens. I’m not confident in this though.
    • Did satisfied clients stick with coaches after the discounted trial period? We could have tracked this closer, but that there wasn’t an aggregate drop in client numbers between the trial period with TBCT cohort coaches (guaranteed $50 – $100/hr. for three months) suggests that satisfied clients stuck with coaches beyond the trial, and presumably the rate hike if coaches chose to do that. We’d need more granular reporting to get a firmer sense of this. 
    • Cohort Client spot-checking didn’t happen – in the original plans was that Tee would ‘spot check’ the quality of sessions by having feedback calls with randomly selected clients. There wasn’t enough bandwidth for this. Tee had to rely on the longform feedback surveys, which isn’t ideal because there are motivational biases associated with filling in surveys. More satisfied clients are likely more disposed to completing longform surveys. 
  • Client stats and surveys are largely only reflective of ~3 months – The TBCT program spanned from early June to early December (~6 months), but there were only a handful of paid clients working with TBCT coaches until after halfway through the program.

    About 56% of the total client pool applied in July and August, which meant that the majority of coaching relationships didn’t begin until August, September, and October.

    Onboarding clients typically took between 2 - 6 weeks, the low end of which is roughly on par for a coach fielding interest from a potential client. The onboarding process was very likely lengthened due to the logistical complexity of potential clients conducting intake calls with multiple coaches.

    Giving potential clients multiple options of coaches to choose from almost certainly puts downward pressure on intake call success rates. This was a key source of angst for many of the coaches, though on the other hand, we felt the opportunity to have dozens of introductory calls within the span of a few months was an unusual opportunity for the cohort coaches to solidify how they present their practice to others. For comparison’s sake, Tee doesn’t recall having more than a half dozen intro calls in a month over the course of several years.

What’s next

By Tee Barnett

  • The next set of offerings will likely be a distributed set of programs designed to meet people where they are at in their self-improvement journey. 

    Something we noticed was that the disjointedness felt within the cohort was partially due to participants being in very different stages of life, having very different aims for being in the program, with different developmental profiles. Many of the coaches reflected fondly on the cohort in our conversations about this, but the developmental and situational distances between people seems quite important to address. 

    These offerings wouldn’t then only be segmented by intended audience (prospective coaches, current coaches and anyone interested in making self-improvement investments), but also a wider set of developmental profiles. Rather than TBCT being an intense high-touch program for anyone interested in coaching, specific programs would target ‘managers serious about bringing coaching into their role’ or ‘advanced coaches synthesizing theory and practice’, for example. 

    More examples of these programs – professional working groups, theory labs, one-off instructional modules, book clubs, high-touch coaching consulting, projects exploring coaching technologies, etc. These could be led by Tee, Emily and other collaborators and guest instructors. 
  • This project has a tentative name that describes this distributed set of programs as part of a wider ecosystem. Each of the offerings are essentially nodes that feed into one another, but also into larger nodes, projects and endeavors. The first TBCT cycle gave us a small taste of how much value can be generated from an aligned group supported by a robust infrastructure. 

    Imagining yourself as a curious prospective coach, you’d have access to introductory courses and a library of materials, community events, groups of others similar to you in various ways running their own spinoff endeavors, business group masterminds, opportunities to join increasingly advanced working groups, etc. Should things progress in a certain way, you could join high-touch training cohorts, referral networks, and other higher intensity projects. 

    As Emily touches on in her section, despite all of our attempts to stay in touch, cohort coaches spoke with me about how a lot of value and momentum is lost after the program ends and people disperse. We’re looking to create something that can include people at varying levels of commitment, not simply high-touch and intense training programs. 
  • Each of these offerings serve as opportunities for us to increasingly become familiar with those who want to work in this space. The hope here is that once we’re ready to run another high-touch coaching training cohort (for either potential or existing coaches) we’ll be largely issuing invitations to known people that we’d love to have apply, rather than relying on incoming applications. 

    We feel as if this could enhance future cohorts quite a bit. We’re also hoping that ‘qualifications of familiarity’ will be compelling as motivation for people to want to escalate their commitments to this work (if it keeps feeling right for them to do so). 
  • Hopefully more on this in the months to come! Feel free to express interest in future cohorts and programs. You can also reach out at tee@teebarnett.com about any of it.

The TBCT Curriculum Module Catalog

Authored by Emily Crotteau with light edits from Tee

  • Belief-Mapping
    • This module takes as its starting point the not completely uncontroversial idea that there is information “in” the mind which is meaningfully ordered and organized, through which people make and embody assertions about what the world is and how it works. The colloquial term for these assertions is belief. This module introduced a system and discipline for mapping relationships amongst a person's beliefs, and looking for beliefs that are likely to be especially connected to behavior and especially meaningful to change. Throughout, we explored the benefits and limitations of using a system like this, and how it compares to other ways of approaching the richness of another person's inner world.
  • Coaching and Spirituality
    • Somewhat surprisingly one of the most well-attended modules, Coaching and Spirituality was a series of guided discussions on the ways in which coaching can sometimes fulfill roles in a person's life that would have traditionally been fulfilled by religion (or other spiritual community), and how coaches may choose to navigate (or deliberately avoid) those relational potentials. Discussion topics included: (1) the epistemic standing of spiritual claims and their role in people's inner lives; (2) experiences of persecution on the basis of having or not having particular religious or spiritual beliefs, and how these may implicitly a coaching frame; (3) different explanations from different secular and spiritual traditions about the source of human "badness" (broadly conceived) and the strengths and weaknesses of different frames for different problems; and finally, (4) the idea of a spiritual path and what ends people are often seeking in their spiritual exploration And finally, this also included how coaches may or may not be able to help a person on their spiritual path.
  • Communication Approaches
    • How do we aim to have thoughtful, effective communication? This module combined the study and practice of different communication techniques (including Non-Violent Communication, Radical Honesty, and Clean Language) with direct exploration of our existing patterns of communication. Getting a sense of how these techniques mesh with our ‘native’ communication approaches often highlights how these techniques can be less effective. This had some positive outcomes for the program as a whole, as one participant was able to work through a communication challenge with Tee within the container of this module — very much in the intention and spirit of our work!
  • Emotions & Embodiment
    • One of the more scholarly modules, Emotions and Embodiment, worked through a text on psychoanalytic methodology to simultaneously give coaches a basic understanding of psychoanalytic theory and explore some of its limitations and pitfalls. Though TBCT as a whole was intentionally designed to be theory-agnostic, this module offered some immersion in the psychoanalytic tradition, giving participants an opportunity to explore questions like, “what does it look like to take psychology extremely rigorously? What is it like to be in the mind of an analyst? What problems have been taken as serious research questions in the history of psychology?” These were explored alongside practical questions raised by the text, such as, “how can one navigate the already embodied relationship in a coaching interaction to be of service to the client? What is the relationship between the instincts, the control of the instincts, and the structure of the personality?”
  • Introspection techniques
    • What is introspection, and how is it meaningfully different from naval-gazing? This module explored different approaches to the action of "looking inward" and considered how this information can be best worked with in a coaching context.
  • Journey into the Body
    • This module was very much intended to plant a flag in the area of "what is bodywork?", "why is this a thing people like/talk about?". It introduced participants to some basic exercises in body awareness, with lots of room for discussion of why and how these experiences may or may not be useful. Most coaches will not seek to introduce bodywork techniques into their practices, and TBCT was not set up to provide the level of training bodyworkers typically go through, but by giving participants some experience with how body-focused therapeutic approaches can work, it helped them build out their maps of the different healing modalities that their clients may or may not be interacting with, and decide if it's a direction they might want to explore further (as well as learning some basic grounding and self-care techniques along the way!).
  • Planning Developmental Arcs
    • In retrospect, something of a microcosm of TBCT itself, Planning Developmental Arcs was about how to orient towards the longer life journeys that clients are on, using different frameworks and metaphors of growth and change. Where is your client on their Hero's Journey? What season of life are they living through? What developmental paradigms could be helpful for them to know about along the journey? This module offered many different lenses on transformative arcs, building from participants' own lives and those of their clients, then moving on to consider contemporary research on adult development.
  • Structuring a Session
    • A short intensive, offered towards the beginning of the program, to help coaches develop a basic session structure that they feel comfortable with. In retrospect, this could have been much longer, possibly "mandatory", and included drilling with practice sessions.
  • Structure of Experience
    • Intended to offer tools especially aimed at participants' own growth and self-understanding, this module introduced practice and discipline of phenomenology — looking carefully at one's own experiences to discover regular patterns and "facts" about one's own inner life. By getting better at paying attention to the incredible detail and specificity of one's own experience, the "just exactly this"-ness of every moment of consciousness, participants were encouraged to consider each client's experience as similarly rich in detail and specificity.
  • Symbols and the Unconscious
    • Another of the more scholarly module, Symbols and the Unconscious was our attempt to introduce participants to the Jungian theory of archetypes and the relationship of the unconscious to psychological change, through the specific frame of personal symbols as intermediate representations between the un-verbalized, partially-structured forces of the "unthought, known" and our conscious waking minds. This ended up being an unexpectedly intimate and profound experience for many participants, as we got to learn and share our own senses of personal meaning through unfamiliar lenses and see sides of each other that might not otherwise have had a place in the program.
  • Trauma
    • This module offered a short, thoughtful introduction to the concept of trauma, broader discussions about trauma in the mental health discourse, and pathways for healing trauma. As coaches, it is typically beyond our scope of practice to help clients with serious trauma, but it is not always up to us what clients will bring into a session. By equipping participants with basic frameworks for identifying and talking about trauma, we hoped to help them avoid getting in over their heads, to have thoughtful ways to give referrals, and to have reasonable suggestions for resources for clients seeking to better manage trauma in their day-to-day lives.
  • Modules offered but not delivered (due to insufficient interest) in TBCT 2023
    • Culture, Class, and Formative Experiences
    • Common Problems in Coaching and Their Origins
    • Controversies in Coaching
    • Being in Business

Here’s a thread of testimonials from the cohort coaches that mention the curriculum module (Same thread on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn)

Emily’s Experience

By Emily Crotteau

For those who navigated here via Choose your own Odyssey #2, you’ll have the opportunity to jump back to the fireside chat after each subsection in Emily’s Experience.

– Goals for the program– 

When Tee originally looped me in to helping with the program, it was primarily as a behind-the-scenes support person for him. I didn't have a role, a title, or a plan for getting to know the participants.

As that changed, over those early weeks and months into what was effectively a high-touch, full-time position, neither Tee nor myself could have been more surprised. For me, the program proved to be an unlooked-for portal into a space where a lot of my latent hopes and wishes for creating and participating in a reciprocally self-improving community could be realized. It consistently felt less like working, more like freely giving ideas, inspiration, and capacities I already had on hand and hadn't realized could be put to such good use. I credit this to Tee's design of the program and the eagerness of the participants to immerse themselves in the skills, considerations, ethos, and active practice of coaching. What I was able to offer the program was as much a function of how everyone else showed up as my own starting position.

Because of this unique organically "found" situation, I experienced the program as an opportunity to organize and offer a lot of resources for facilitating growth and learning — ultimately through the curriculum design and modules, as well as 1-1 meetings with participants. A lot of these "course materials" had the benefit of being able to be self-applied — as individuals faced challenges throughout the program – and also brought into coaching sessions as tools. This flexibility and redundancy allowed any new learning to be explored from the inside view ("how does this help me?") and in a coaching context ("how can this be adapted to my client's unique situation?"). There were enough concrete components and external measures of progress that I trusted people's transformational work to stay grounded in practical results, so I was able to focus my contributions on what is timely and useful: what are the individual and shared needs coming up in the program, and how can my teaching and 1-1 meetings facilitate the best outcomes I see on the table? It is extremely unusual to be able to offer this degree of fine-tuning, and I was so pleased and so impressed to see how well people took to it. Coaching is fundamentally about interacting skillfully and constructively with the deep dimensionality of human existence, and I felt the program was able to help people connect with and lean into their own deep dimensionality and that of others.

[ Continue the fireside chat by jumping back to Program Design – Choose your own Odyssey #2 ]

– Goals for the curriculum – 

In the same spirit of my overall involvement in the program, the curriculum I ended up running felt like it emerged from the melting pot of needs, interests, and desires that everyone brought to the program. Originally, the plan was for each participant to have their own curriculum that they pursued in parallel, but it quickly became clear that there were enough overlaps between these personal curricula that it would enhance the overall program to offer its own classes (called "modules") to help meet these shared needs. I drafted an initial 15 module ideas, each attempting to plant a flag somewhere on the map of "coaching-related topics" where I suspected we’d find a lot of learning opportunities based on what I already knew about the participants. These ranged from the directly practical "Structuring a Session" to the more ethically and epistemically nuanced "Coaching and Spirituality". I expected modules would only take a relatively small amount of participants' overall time, but the sign-ups were so enthusiastic that we ended up running 12 out of the 15 modules total, and they became one of the important hearth fires at the heart of the program.

What happened in the modules? Ultimately, they were about grappling with the realities of being a person, of interacting with another person, of trying to do so in a beneficial way. We covered important arcs in the history of psychology, frameworks for communication and human development, methods of introspection, and ways coaching can bridge to other domains like bodywork or meditation. In different ways depending on the topic at hand, a central purpose of the modules was to provide participants with resources to help them contextualize their individual journeys of becoming coaches within the long and multi-stranded history of people growing in their capacity to care for one another — a perennial theme! This brought an educational aspect and rigor to the design of the modules that many found unexpectedly intellectually stimulating, but which I think is an important part of being able to take ourselves seriously as coaches.

In addition to this, many of the modules were designed to interface directly with participant's evolving coaching practices, either as a source of reference examples and things to troubleshoot, or as a platform for trying out techniques. This added to the level of integration, cross-talk, and multi-layered support that the program was attempting to offer.

Engagement with the modules was completely optional, but the majority of participants attended five or more, many on top of already busy schedules. I think this reflects a level of hunger, interest, and desire for depth that the program was initially not anticipating, but which we were fortunate to have the flexibility to respond to meet. One cost of this flexibility was that my summer schedule became thoroughly consumed with running, planning, and following up on modules, a more chaotic and just-in-time delivery than might have been ideal. With that experience behind me, and all of the concrete content from the modules themselves, I feel like there's a huge wealth of partially-worked material that could be transformed into a better-paced, more comprehensive, and more well-sign-posted coaching course program. I imagine this already and hope it's able to happen.

[ Continue the fireside chat by jumping back to Program Design – Choose your own Odyssey #2 ]

– What was hard – 

Are we doing enough? Are they asking too much? Is it ok to give this much? These were questions that regularly overshadowed Tee and my conversations throughout the program. In truth, we didn't know. Our experience as coaches had given us both a thorough sense of how much is possible when people are invited into a space that supports their capacity to change. We'd made this invitation, but there is a difference between holding a transformational space for someone in a 2-hour coaching session and holding one for a group over the course of six months. For us it was a trial of energy management, integrity, and clear communication.

We pushed people. We missed opportunities to push people. We held concerns, listened and responded. We dropped balls, lost threads. It was an extremely human and humanizing process. Participants struggled, from challenges arising in the program and their lives beyond, and while we'd anticipated struggling, of course we couldn't anticipate all the specific forms the struggles would take or the specifics of timing. We had bad weeks. We had extraordinary weeks, meetings that left us glowing, left us wanting to keep doing more of this and better versions for the rest of our lives. Sometimes it felt like too much, too high-touch for the ambiguity of participants’ commitments and life plans. Sometimes it felt like I’d finally discovered what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life.

What are the ethics of transformation-focused relationships? What are the ethics of investing in people? Ultimately relationships involve energy exchange, even when financially mediated. This comes up in coaching, but the pattern of bounding energy exchange in coaching relationships is more well-established than the pattern within a program like this. I consider all of the participants friends. I hope to hear from them all over the months and years to come and hope we can continue to enrich each other's lives. Realistically, though, I would not be surprised if that didn't happen. I expect some people to choose different paths, or for communication to naturally fall off. It's hard to feel these things simultaneously, hard to separate the long-term and short-term dimensions of mutual meaning-making. Teachers and parents, I imagine, feel similarly.

For the months of the program, we came together as a community. In my life, long-term transformational community has been a deep and enduring goal, and I inevitably threaded that wish into my involvement with the program — even though the time-boundedness of the structure we'd built meant that there would be a natural dissolution point at the end. Looking back on it a few months out, I feel so curious and so grabbed by the question of what a longer-term implementation of a community fostering a similar spirit could look like. I feel like I got to taste it here and also to feel viscerally how much work and thoughtfulness a more sustainable version would take. For me then, I’d say the most challenging theme of the program was this tension — between what I already trust myself to offer and create in a local coaching setting and some version of transformational, even visionary, community that could plausibly last.

[ Continue the fireside chat by jumping back to Program Design – Choose your own Odyssey #2 ]

Open questions about coaching, the industry & craft

Co-authored by Tee & Emily

  • In a world where we seem to be rewarded for telling others and ourselves that we are 'ready' for certain things, how can we be sure? What are the reasons why people would signal being 'ready' for something without it being true? How would we know? 
  • In what sense is coaching "normal" versus "abnormal"? I.e. in what sense is it normal for people to need some amount of highly customized, personalized support with whatever they're working on in life, versus it being that the needs showing up in coaching sessions reveal and reflect important gaps in people’s social and professional support structures? 
  • Insofar as coaching is a catchall that is filling other social gaps in people's lives, what should its relationship be to those other structures? Put differently, is there an implied call to activism with respect to some of the problems that show up in coaching?
  • How does a person's relationship to uncertainty affect how they navigate everything? Can a person get value from different things with varying levels of certainty? How/can they act on plans in their life depending on how certain they are? How does a person's means of collecting and processing information affect their emotional and perceptual constructs? 
  • What responsibility to coaches have for calling out dysfunctional or abusive situations in their clients’ lives? Coaches are not mandatory reporters, but in some cases they will find themselves as the first point of contact for discovering information about issues that typically require reporting. Should our scope of professional responsibility include more thorough training for handling these situations?
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of long-term stable learning environments or communities versus short-burst intensives, sprints, or training bootcamps?
  • What tools that consistently help people (generators) can survive the end of coaching, or the end of coaching programming? What can we give people of value that won't get swept away as they move on to different environments? 
  • What kinds of infrastructure best supports coaches having stable, long-term economic horizons?
  • What is already true of the power dynamic between a person presenting a desire to change and a person offering themselves as a resource for facilitating change?
  • It seems like there is something inherently suspicious and untrustworthy about a world where “everyone needs coaching”. What are ways coaching obscures or interferes with other processes of social maintenance, and how can coaches conduct their business without contributing to mentalities of neediness, brokenness, or self-criticism in their clients?
  • Many coaches come to coaching because of ways it has benefitted their own lives. In some ways, this is the market mechanism working perfectly, but are there downsides to many coaches being in “learning” mentalities rather than being models of fully realized attainment?
  • More pointedly, who does and doesn’t “need” coaching? Put differently, what is coaching for?

Additional takes for various audiences

These additional sections are meant to be of interest to specific audiences. Most of what’s written is a product of learnings, experiences and impressions from the first TBCT cohort in 2023.

Takes for prospective and current coaches

This section includes thoughts related to being an individual practitioner and the landscape of coaching. Interested readers can hopefully bring generalized forms of this to bear on themselves and their own circumstances.

  • Becoming a coach may not be for you, and that’s okay  – being a coach may be a bad fit for you in ways that aren’t clear from the outset, even if it makes sense as something for you to do on the face of it. There are still nearby occupations and callings that could be a good fit if you’re open to them.

    What I often say, among other things, to people who are on the fence about becoming a coach, is that what you get out of the (hopefully) whole-hearted attempt (6-18 months) to be a coach needs to be worth it to you if it doesn’t work out. 

    Working as a coach is one of the best ways that I can imagine to accelerate certain skills and sensibilities in a matter of months, but cultivating all of that needs to feel worth it regardless. 

    Stray example – holding the dual awareness of modeling what could be going on with someone, while also holding an active listening presence, has been a key part of my coaching. This improved radically my first 6 - 18 months of coaching. Building this skill seemed worthwhile even if being a coach didn’t work out.
  • Sustaining a coaching practice is likely harder for most people than it looks –  despite the meme that everybody is becoming a coach, making a consistent living at this is often harder than people realize. Sustaining being a freelance coach is even harder than people realize. 

    Similar to the ‘everybody has a podcast’ trope, it may be the case that there’s been an explosion in people venturing to start their own podcasts. It’s almost never the case that they’re able to make a dependable living at it, or perhaps more importantly, have the impact that they’d hoped for.  

    In short, it’s incredibly high-dimensional interpretive work that, as far as our approach goes, demands that you sort out a vast amount of your subjective experience in order to sustain.
  • Inner work is critical to when first starting out, but also along the way – check out Choose Your Own Odyssey #2 where I say more about how taking stock of, and getting support in addressing, emotional cruxes along the journey of becoming a coach is something we feel is essential for so many reasons. 

    For example, it’s important that branding and marketing yourself not feel too icky, forced or rote. Having your presentation efforts dominated by feelings like this is not only unpleasant, but likely ultimately ineffective. 

    The example from the Choose Your Own Odyssey #2 regarding key questions when just starting out: 

    A perennial example from coaching and therapy revolves around how okay it feels to help people in this way at all. As evidenced by questions that commonly arise like:
    • What makes me think I can help people in this way?
    • What level of ‘figured out’ does my life need to be in order to help others with improving their lives?
    • How much does my basis of authority, or justification for my position, affect what service I feel comfortable offering? (e.g. beliefs like “unless I’ve exited a unicorn startup, I won’t hazard to help founders with how to build a successful startup.”)
    • In what ways do these beliefs around permissioning affect what I can claim about my practice?
    • What makes me think I can help people in this way?
    • What level of ‘figured out’ does my life need to be in order to help others with improving their lives?
    • How much does my basis of authority, or justification for my position, affect what service I feel comfortable offering? (e.g. beliefs like “unless I’ve exited a unicorn startup, I won’t hazard to help founders with how to build a successful startup.”)
  • Consistency is surprisingly tricky to master in coaching – as I feel the cohort would attest, arranging your life, even across a matter of months, in a way that allows you to consistently provide the requisite spaciousness and supportive intentions, is remarkably tough for many. As people consider whether becoming a coach could be right for them, I’d encourage them to take a close look at their personal track record in this regard, or at least develop plans to prioritize the importance of consistency. 
  • Getting clarity on how to figure this out for yourself is the almost certainly best thing you can get from someone else – while there’s a place for directly importing the know-how of others on the journey to becoming a coach, related to the point above, what’s probably most enduringly valuable will be getting support with making sense of things for yourself and deciding what to do. 
  • If you’re struggling with a question, the key to resolving it may be tackling ‘bigger’ or ‘harder’ questions upstream – a quick example to illustrate the point: “how much should I charge per hour?” can be elevated to “how much should I charge such that I can consistently feel good about the balance of pressure and incentives that I’ll face on every call?” 

    Charging too low of a rate could warp the incentives of the dynamic and make each session not feel quite real. Charge too much and the pressure to deliver value can contort the interaction. 

    Occasionally wrestling with bigger questions, even moral questions (see Tee’s Experience for more description and examples), such as the ethics around advocating for change and growth in others, can make the journey smoother and protect against large downside risks. 
  • Try to explore coaching without financial scarcity – building a coaching practice under financial stresses can have substantial warping effects. It can be hard for anyone to exhibit the patience and leave space for creative inspiration to flourish while feeling pressed with finances. Where possible, it’s likely best to keep a day job and/or explore coaching with some comfortable runway. We attempted to filter for this when selecting coaches to join the program. For those who felt financial scarcity while in the program, it undeniably colored their experience. 
  • Explore becoming a coach with a peer group – coaches in the cohort seem to uniformly agree that undertaking this journey alongside a group of others in a similar position was valuable in a variety of ways. I’d hazard that, at the very least, reaching out to (aspiring) practitioners at a similar level could be valuable. Joining some kind of program with a cohort is likely more so – it doesn’t have to be TBCT, but somewhere that you can find support among peers in a similar position will return distinct benefits. 
  • Set up multiple concurrent feedback indicators – our coaching development infrastructure was primarily modeled off of what I’d researched regarding how therapy training programs are constructed,[36] literature on how skill building (in related and unrelated) areas works, and my best guesses about how to upskill in coaching based on experience. 

    After spending hours and hours reviewing other coaches’ recorded sessions, reviewing their post-session reflections, reviewing their client feedback, and working through their technical and emotional cruxes, I’m more convinced now more than ever that getting into this sort of feedback apparatus is vital for aspiring and relatively new coaches. 

    Really any of these forms of feedback are better than nothing. Some work for people better than others. But engaging in multiple concurrent forms of feedback that cause one to face a variety of things that will arise can be very potent. Something like this could provide rapid returns to your skill growth on the order of months, not necessarily years. 

    My actual feelings are that these things are vital for any practitioner at any level of perceived experience and seniority. Coaching is so high-dimensional, and there’s such a broad spectrum of outcomes that can be interpreted in so many ways, such that getting more lines of sight on what could be happening is really valuable. Couple that with a supportive and ideally skillful presence to help with interpretation and your own self-growth – that’s the recipe for getting better at this. 
  • Address emotional cruxes related to receiving feedback – volumes could be written about the nuances in interpreting feedback. But a high-leverage thing to pass along about this would be that nearly all of the cohort coaches encountered serious emotional cruxes related to interpreting feedback about their coaching. In one case, working through a couple of the cruxes was the difference between getting good insights from the feedback versus not checking the feedback at all out of fear. (Scoring anything other than a ‘9’ or ‘10’ was unbearable for this person and they couldn’t move past that feeling without one-to-one coaching with me). In another case, unresolved emotional cruxes around feedback on their work made it so that they were unable to complete the entire ‘coaching training’ portion of the program. New and existing coaches who haven’t implemented any feedback indicators would likely benefit from reflecting on why exactly that is. That’s not to say everyone who hasn’t is a bad coach, but there’s likely something deeper at play if you don’t want to set up ways to figure out how you’re doing and whether you’re improving as a practitioner.
  • Set up granular session indicators in particular – related to the above, many coaches found the Session Rating Scale (SRS) to be valuable as a way of correcting and strengthening the ‘alliance’ or relationship. The Session Rating Scale (SRS), originally developed by Scott Miller as a quantitative scale for client feedback in therapy. Rather than taking at face-value the scores representing the quality of each session delivered, coaches treated the scoring as quantitative signals that could be qualitatively addressed (based on Miller’s recommendations). Receiving a lower than expected score along one of the axes is a great opportunity for the coach to potentially course correct, including the option to directly address the feedback with the client in the next session. (Miller also advocates for using the SRS in this way). 
  • Set up indicators for ‘where people are at’ – in short, as the reasoning goes, if you don’t know where people are starting from, you will struggle to know whether there has been any progress made. 

    We’ve had more luck measuring this in the form of tracking counterfactual events and decisions (e.g. did this happen or not? Would it have happened otherwise?) and other qualitative indicators that are upstream from goals and targets that people typically have. 

    Our attempt to get a sense of where people are at quantitatively worked less well. We attempted this in the form of the Outcome Rating Scale (ORS), another quantitative scale formulated by Scott Miller often used for tracking therapy outcomes. The cohort coaches got much less from this than the Session Rating Scale (SRS), likely because there’s far more noise in eliciting a number from a client relating to how an entire area of their life is going. As a result, we have far less ORS surveys issued because coaches weren’t motivated to distribute them after testing it out. This probably reflects on the notion of how granular, or how well-placed, quantitative indicators need to be for these purposes.
  • Being a coach as your life occupation may not be for you, and that’s okay – as Emily has been one to say, the great thing about establishing yourself as a coach is that you can dial up or down the amount of time and effort you spend on it alongside other pursuits. Choosing to become a coach shouldn’t negate embarking on other things on different timelines. 

    In fact, neither Emily nor I (Tee) believe that being a coach is the terminal goal. We both aspire to do other things, of which coaching and coaching-related relationships and skills will likely be a part.
  • There’s likely enough demand to make a living as a coach* – * but it’s highly contingent upon the individual. Approximations of demand out there for coaching are tricky for any single actor to pinpoint, but my experience running TBCT doesn’t lead me to conclude that the market is too saturated. For example, in the By the Numbers section, you might recall that the TBCT program received 110 applications from May – December. I’d consider this a weak signal of demand for coaching because TBCT is a different but related offering. Nonetheless, it gave us a glimpse of the potential demand for a “service” that requires nontrivial monetary, time and energy investment. 

    There does seem to be more coaches on offer than before, but because of how hard it is to make a consistent living at this, and how others have found it flexible to coach alongside other endeavors, I don’t think that means each new entrant into the coaching market represents a full-time equivalent amount of competing hours. It would be great to get hard data on this, but my guess would be that most coaches out there are doing between 15 - 30 paid hours per month. My best guess is that it hovers around 15 - 20 hours. 

    Speculation about demand seems to be mediated by  i) the reach/visibility of a given individual,  and ii) quality of the individual’s service. Some people can do zero marketing and have more clients than they can handle. Some have to expend great resources and energy to build a funnel for clients and still can’t seem to attract or retain enough. There’s a lot of complexity to unpack here, but I feel this is important to point out. 

    I also think that there’s a fair amount of attrition happening in the industry. Getting hard data on this is also tough, but many people launch a coaching practice but never close the site, or make any declaration about quitting as a coach, if things don’t work out. Most people likely leave the site up and go on to do other things, happily accepting the few people that trickle in. 

    And finally, in most cases, certainly if you'd like to be a solo practitioner, it's likely the case that a nontrivial amount of effort will be required for business development, marketing, etc. Solo practitioners who don't need to spend much time on this I'd consider privileged and uncommon. A handful of coaches in the program expressed surprise at how much effort is required for this. It's not often the case that someone who is a skilled coach will also be skilled at business development. That's certainly a point worth highlighting.
  • Diagnosing client churn is hard but still worthwhile – even from the position of being able to compare the client conversion and churn rates of several coaches participating within a single system, sussing out the reasons for client attrition was challenging, though not entirely in vain. 

    The rule of thumb I’ve come to after this experience is that it’s good to get basic infrastructural pieces from others in order to minimize making avoidable mistakes. However, getting to the bottom of client churn in your own practice takes sustained efforts at tracking what’s going on and occasionally inquiring as to what the reasons could be. 

    In one case, a cohort coach thought it would be logistically easier to ask for payment upfront when clients booked a time through their scheduling software. This had the effect of decreasing follow through dramatically. It’s unclear why, it seems that decoupling (session-by-session) scheduling and payment improves client follow through. 

    Sometimes the issue is methodological. A couple of coaches noticed correlations between increased client retention and the implementation of ‘developmental arcs’ that were communicated to clients. The leading theory for that is that clients are more likely to follow through when they can see legible paths towards progress and have some visibility on where they’re currently at on that developmental arc. 
  • (related to above) Having the right balance of automation and manual investment into your systems can vastly affect the relationship – most would think of this in terms of the client experience, but should be seen as something that bears on the relationship between the coach and client. Without any automations, things can fall off track. Automate too much and things feel impersonal. A solid rule of thumb is automating highly personalized reproducible things (e.g. automating emailed prompts that the coach created) 
  • (related to above) Collaboratively formulating and communicating about client developmental arcs is good for outcomes – developmental arcs in this context is basically the progression of client growth. It seems essential for practitioners to have at least one developmental arc in mind when working with clients. It’s better if an arc can be agreed upon by both parties after being communicated to the client. Ideal seems to be that the coach has multiple developmental arcs in mind for the client, with some (not all) communicated to the client and agreed upon.[37] Examples of arcs in various paradigms include natural cycles and phases, narrative arcs (hero’s journey), and cognitive developmental theory progression. 

    This one is in the column of anecdotally feeling  true across several cohort coaches. We didn’t track this at the granularity of checking session satisfaction outcomes upon doing this with clients, though I do remember coaches citing improvement in quantitative indicators after introducing developmental arcs in their sessions with clients. Cohort coaches had the sense that not including developmental arcs tended to subtract from feelings of continuity from session to session.
  • Feeling lost as a new coach is the norm, not the exception – it’s not just you and feeling lost for at least the first 3-6 months is common. Virtually all of our cohort coaches reported this being the case. What matters most is trying to arrange circumstances that are not inhospitable to this type of ongoing uncertainty, setting up a number of indicators inside and outside of your subjective feelings, and getting help interpreting how you’re relating to the uncertainty. 
  • Skill (up) in environments with a mix of stakes – practicing as a coach in multiple environments with differing stakes can be quite illuminating. Restricting yourself to only certain environments as you train up as a coach is likely to be quite limiting. 

    For example, giving away your coaching for free (e.g. with close friends) as a way of practicing as a coach removes very practically important effects of paid coaching relationships. 

    On the other hand, only practicing as a coach through paid sessions can limit exploration because one might feel obligated to stick to what is acknowledged as valuable by clients. 

    The same applies for tiers of pay rates and the perceived stakes that come with each tier. 
  • Choose a mix methodologies with a sharp intention for what you want to find out about your practice – there aren't dominant universally-accepted methods of assessing the quality and value of coaching, partially because the concept of "coaching" is intractably broad. Deciphering what's going on from a collage of deliberately chosen and well-justified indicators is currently my best guess at how to assess coaching. This concurs with the takes of other authoritative sources I've seen. 

    Important to note: choose some indicators that will have a direct response to  the fundamental focus of your coaching style. If your coaching is being assessed by an external party, I'd try to co-create the evaluation metrics and communicate clearly about your coaching practice to the best of your ability. You don't want to find yourself in a situation where conclusions are drawn about your coaching based on irrelevant and inappropriate indicators. 
  • An ounce of synthesis is worth a pound of reflection – one of the catchier phrases that coaches found useful in thinking about their post-session reflections. In reflecting on previous sessions, it can be easy to go through the motions, simply documenting what happened and perhaps how you felt. Taking the time to theorize about what happened, what the relationship and developmental arcs could be, and following up on threads with self-study is likely to be far more valuable. 
  • Transformational v Integrational concentration focus – the binarization of this distinction can be helpful for new and existing coaches to consider. Almost without exception, coaches would love to be of transformational importance to their clients (though I’d question this). But in terms of concentration of effort in being valuable to clients, because most coaches don’t have the means or reach, there’s typically a choice between conducting ‘intensives’ (e.g. retreats, very long sessions, bursts of sessions) vs. providing sessions of a more typical duration consistently. My practice and the tilt of this program leans toward the latter (integrational), but both types can have their place. 
  • Lean towards branding your practice to attract the clients you’d love to work with, not for the widest pool of people willing to pay – special care should be paid to not making this too narrowly appealing, though with the reach of communication mediums in this age, people often underestimate how large and sustaining ‘specific niches’ can be.

Takes for Program designers of similar ilk

  • Some very astute points brought up by the cohort coaches regarding what could have been better with TBCT
  • Our limitations in making use of the data – we would have likely gleaned more from all of the stats we collected if it weren’t for i) weaker reporting than we’d hoped and ii) too little intentionality and bandwidth allocated to analyzing the stats. It’s tough to forecast how all of that will go in a pilot program like this, though I suspect more intentionality in this regard would have yielded worthwhile benefits. 

    For example, more granular tracking of client outcomes in moments when coaches made key changes to their practice would have been better than relying on my individual recollections of what coaches told me moved the needle, especially because client perspectives sometimes tend to differ. 
  • Invest in trying to figure out ‘where people are at’ along relevant lines of development – After this experience, we’ve come to the conclusion that it would have been better to invest more into ascertaining ‘where people are at’ with respect to particular lines of personal development that would bear on their experience in the program. 

    As an example, we’d like to get feedback on how people relate to learning prior to putting them into a pressurized environment where particular relationships to learning are essential for success. How would we do that? Conduct reading groups of challenging materials and observe how potential cohort coaches handle that.
  • Avoid ‘grandfathering in’ dynamics where possible – problematic dynamics can present when people are grandfathered in,’ or not brought into a program the same way as most others. I want to be careful in stating this point because two wonderful additions to TBCT were grandfathered in. There’s often differing ways that people can make sense of those who are accepted into programs via different means and that can have a disruptive effect. Even for the person grandfathered in, for example in our case, it can really affect their confidence in feeling like they ‘earned’ a spot in the program just like everyone else. 
  • Take the temperature of the participants and adjust accordingly where possible – I think we did fairly well on this front. In one case, we suspended the curriculum modules (classes) for two weeks after realizing the cohort was overwhelmed with everything else they were taking on. Opening up the design of the program to the preferences and 'forces' of the cohort really seem to enhance the group experience. 

    In crafting our “full cohort calls” which were attended twice-per-month by all cohort coaches, we tried to make calls about what to talk about based on sequencing in the program structure, how things seemed to be progressing in reality for the participants, and ambient felt senses about how the coaches seemed to be doing. I believe this approach was an appropriate blend of structure and flexibility for this program. 
  • Peer coaching seemed healthy for the cohort – there were very positive first- and second-order effects of the cohort training up by working with each other. This was under-emphasized in the program, and next time around, I’d encourage this far more
  • (related) Having the cohort coach me (Tee) seemed unexpectedly valuable. This was a lesson I’d forgotten from participating in other programs. Being a new coach that can help facilitate the insights of a more senior coach (ideally that you admire / respect) can be incredibly confidence-inducing.
  • Maintaining structure is often a matter of persuasion – structure in a worthwhile program will often be a mix of being unilaterally imposed, consensus decisions, and taking shape organically. In cases where it's not purely organic, participants need to act on their own motivations for adhering to the structure. What sustains these motivations isn't always self-evident or even very legible at all. At times, investing in trying to get others to be motivated to carry out structure is worth doing. Co-creation and shared maintenance of structure is a collaborative version of this. 
  • Pricing in differences in learning – if your program facilitates learning, you'll need to contend with how people have approached learning for decades of their life before your program. Practically speaking, this means that it's likely that your materials won't simply be received as presented, or even as you'd expect they'd be received. Learning can be a very different process from person-to-person, and the design of programs needs to account for that. 
  • Our 'non-standard' recruitment and selection process paid off – in these Twitter threads you can find more on non-standard criteria and selection process tips that I felt were important to attracting and selecting such a great cohort of coaches. 

Takes for Funders, patrons & the community-conscious

By Tee

  • From what I can tell, much about what happened within the program and how TBCT was received by various communities suggests that all of this was very worthwhile.

    Based on this, it reaffirms my belief that individual funders looking to make a counterfactual or disproportional difference with their money should consider being patron funders for promising new projects trying to get off the ground, or taking the next steps to grow. Better still if they can actively participate and benefit from the endeavor. 

    TBCT in the current form was made possible thanks to patron funders, without which, the program would have been a shell of what it turned out to be. At the start of 2023, I was determined to run the first cycle of TBCT regardless of funding on top of my full-time coaching commitments because I personally thought the information value of doing so was so high. I’m very lucky I didn’t have to go it alone. 

    Reflecting on all the work that went into the first cohort starting in late February of 2023 – work that I was freed up to take on as a result of incoming funding in April – whatever I might’ve mustered on top of my other full-time commitments would have been almost unrecognizably thin in comparison.

    The program generated about $22,000 in tuition from the cohort, and in fact, we paid out slightly more than that for non-Tee staff costs. This is not including the external stipends that coaches received to go attend programs elsewhere.

    We wouldn’t have been able to afford bringing on Emily or anyone else. The curriculum modules wouldn’t have existed. The external stipends wouldn’t have been offered. The matchmaking systems and admin setup offered to each of the coaches would have been off the table. There’s just no way I could have had all of the curriculum, coaching development, business development and other supportive calls at any reasonable frequency with a group of that size.

    With the high-touch model of support I’d been offering, the cohort would have needed to be reduced to three to four people, at most. That would have shrunk the tuition revenue even more. 

    In short, without patron funders, TBCT would have simply been me leading a few people in a group that wanted to explore making a living as a coach. It wouldn’t have changed so many people’s trajectories. It wouldn’t have opened up nearly as much access to below-market coaching for these communities. 
  • Funding coaches indefinitely, or even for more than a handful of months at a time, to do their work currently seems like a mistake to me.[38] That is, unless it is building towards something else (e.g. a learning information-gathering project or helping launch the coach’s career. Example). There’s potential for warping effects all over. 

    The indefinitely-sponsored coach is completely removed from market demands, which means accountability and drive for improvement needs to come from elsewhere (usually from the funder, who often isn’t well-placed to serve that role).

    Unless they’re internally driven to construct their own feedback mechanisms, or see transparency as core to how they operate, it’s easier for them to lose touch with / get complacent about how they’re really doing. I'm hard-pressed to find coaches that have the drive to take feedback to this level 'in the wild.'

    Clients get the service for free, which can influence (usually negatively in my experience) the value they place on the service and their expectations of the coaching landscape. I'd bet these have largely negative externalities for nearby coaches in the community/ecosystem.  

    And finally, should discerning funders want to indefinitely fund a coach, which I’d advise against for the reasons mentioned above, they’d want more signal than feedback that originated from the coach that they’re sponsoring. This is because it’s too easy for the coach to erroneously present, easily through unintentional means as well, that the coaching is valuable to clients. This means more than testimonials. More than even surveys that the coach distributed to their clients, unless the surveys were at least partially crafted by someone else with distribution of those surveys monitored. 

    If you want to get to the bottom of whether a coach is good and worth funding, you’ll need a range of indicators. Market forces are often useful for this, but not the only solution. Community-based reception indicators can also be helpful here.
  • Having been immersed in coaching for this long, mostly working with leaders and senior management within organizations, I take the potentially controversial position of being very skeptical about leaders who have no coach, therapist, mentor, partner, or close confidant to work through complex emotional and intellectual trials. 

    I have little to no confidence about people being able to calibrate themselves and make balanced decisions alone, especially when pressure ratchets up as it certainly will in positions of leadership. 

    Put another way, a person’s support system is among the most important things I’d look for when considering whether to work with someone long-term, let alone be led by them. My general rule of thumb is – the more supportive nodes in their life, the better. 

    It’s pretty shocking to me how little serious effort and appetite there has been to explore how coaching and other personalized support endeavors affects organizational health and leadership. 

    My clients and I have this bizarre recurring experience of coaching and therapy generally being entertained as valuable by leadership in their organizations, even hearing explicit endorsement of these things, without seeing spirited follow-through. (e.g. leaders taking the laudable step of carving out personal development budgets for their staff, but ‘loudly’ not endorsing it fully or making use of development allocations themselves) 

    There have been some efforts at trying to get a sense of how valuable coaching, therapy and management consulting is that would likely be incredibly revealing with more investment.  

    As is mentioned in the major open questions section, Emily and I are in agreement about preferring to live in a world where coaching and therapy aren’t as necessary as we believe them to be. Given that we don’t, if we are spending our lives within communities that don’t faithfully prize any support networks, how can we expect ourselves to function well? How can we expect these communities to function well? 
  • Were I a funder, I wouldn’t fund this project as-is a second time around – because I think prospecting for information value was the aim of this first cycle, whereas, the second and subsequent cycles should aim more squarely at certain outcomes. 
  • To evaluate coaching, mix methodologies with a sharp intention – there aren't dominant universally-accepted methods of assessing the quality and value of coaching, partially because the concept of "coaching" is intractably broad. Deciphering what's going on from a collage of deliberately chosen and well-justified indicators is currently my best guess at how to assess coaching. This concurs with the takes of other authoritative sources I've seen. 

    Important to note: the coach ought to have a say in the chosen indicators and consent to being assessed according to them. Because coaching approaches and effects vary so widely, indicators of effectiveness can be poorly chosen if they miss the fundamental focus of the coaching style. 
  • Additional relevant notes about community dynamics in relation to coaching within Interpreting the numbers and Takes for prospective and current coaches.

Takes for Self-improvers, clients, people ‘bought into’ self-development

By Tee Barnett

The mixture of thoughts for this audience can be described as my takes that have been strengthened by my experience training coaches at TBCT.

  • Addressing emotional cruxes along the way (in doing hard things) will probably yield the highest and most enduring gains – this report makes a point of emphasizing this as crucial to how we supported the cohort coaches, but it’s also fundamental to the coaching practices of Emily and me. (It underpins whatever success I’ve had in coaching leaders across different roles and organizations.) Note: this is definitely a particular orientation to coaching and the potential effects of coaching that others might not share. 
  • The term "coaching" is likely so broad as to be nearly meaningless – what this thing we call "coaching" is can be so different from practioner-t0-practitioner, from relationship-to-relationship, that it's really difficult to make sweeping evaluative statements about 'all coaches' or 'the industry' of coaching. 

    I mention in the Tee's experience section that my experience suggests that who is involved maters much more than most things. 

    In short, if you've had experiences where the words and presence of another person were meaningful to your growth and trajectory – be it a parent, friend, mentor, public intellectual, etc. – there's likely a practitioner who can enhance your life. (This is very different than advocating for all of 'coaching' or even most coaches out there.) 
  • Willingness to try coaching often hinges on self-conception and experience – I've encountered very few people that have decided against any form of coaching or therapy after thoroughly testing it for themselves. More common is coming to a fairly precise understanding as to how it's useful for them and when it makes sense for them to engage. (Often this means working with coaches on particular things during phases when skilled outside input is desired.) 

    Blanket rejections of coaching and therapy based on little to no investigation feel like they'd rarely translate into good advice for others. If the person truly doesn't require any input of this sort (not necessarily paid coaching) in order to live the good life, or make personal growth investments, or be a virtuous leader/manager, then I'd consider them among the very privileged few. It seems far more likely to me that there's conclusions being drawn from places that could use reexamination. 
  • Is coaching purely a service? Is it a relationship? Both and more? Some of the clash in expectations on both sides of a coaching can come from how each party treats and handles the relationship. It can be good to think through your expectations in this regard beforehand. For some, the sharpness of a more professional service container is best. For others, a more flowing and flexibly relational container feels best. 

    For reference, my own coaching practice is geared toward working with people who want to build a wide-ranging relationship, which can include friends, mentors, collaborators, coaching peers, etc. I invited two former clients to my wedding, for example. I do draw professional lines, however, just not in the same places as those who treat what they offer as more of a standard service. 
  • Fit is key – How you gel with a coach is hugely important and not something to discount. There’s so much subtle yet critical information in the concept of fit. We launched the matchmaking service partially because of the substantial empirical support for the importance of relationship fit for client outcomes, which includes the ‘alliance’ in counseling. What a great fit should feel like is contingent upon what types of relationships cause you to feel safe enough to grow. That is to say, not too chatty, safe and passive. And not too pressurized. A ton more to say here, but hopefully that helps. 
  • One-off sessions are only indicative of certain things – for many types of coaching and therapy that work at deeper emotional and perceptual levels, it's often the case that the biggest effects arrive after cumulative work. This means that what you likely experience from a one-off session isn't as revealing as it might seem. As the 'developmental arc' point (above) might imply, progressing along a path of growth might take two or more sessions depending on how things go. One-off sessions can be great for vibe reads, getting a sense of potential, etc. 

    Our coaching cohort was pretty divided on giving one-off sessions. Advice from my own practice was to not give one-off sessions, but some coaches elected to offer them. It makes more sense that less established coaches are more likely to be in a position where one-off sessions make sense. Where as more established coaches might have more opportunities, less time, a legible track record, etc. that makes it less worthwhile to have one-off sessions with new clients. 
  • Trialing with multiple coaches at once – many clients engage in a linear journey of testing out working with practitioners. This can work, but the prospect of how slowly information comes by experimenting with one coach after the other, where trialing with a coach can realistically take a few months per coach, can be daunting and demotivating. 

    Experimenting with two (maybe three) coaches at once can speed up those timelines, while also providing nice contrasting and synergy benefits. Some decide to keep working with two or more coaches at different frequencies because they make very different, but nonetheless valuable, offerings. 
  • Ask about your (potential) coach’s personal and professional development. It almost certainly matters for your outcomes – I’d be optimistic about coaches that undergo serious continued education and training, are active in a larger coaching/supportive network, and regularly receive personalized support themselves (coaching, therapy, etc.). There are just so many glaring benefits as a coach in things like sharing information and understanding, testing hypotheses and perspective, and getting support in trying to help others. For example, my sense is that client outcomes almost certainly improve when coaches can talk through their feelings, perspectives and potential solutions with other coaches. (Usually these conversations are appropriately anonymized.) 

    I’ve seen enough in working with both new and seasoned coaches to be concerned when coaches engage in little to none of these practices. 
  • You might be surprised by your returns on personal growth – especially services that have a chance at fundamentally altering your perception, your experience and what it’s like to be you. Unless you have a fair amount of experience with coaches, therapists or other personalized support providers, it’s hard to know how to value ‘coaching’ more broadly. I know people who’ve experienced growth that’s worth tens-of-thousands of dollars (or more) to them. Some utilize coaching to change jobs, earn substantially more income, or reach elevated states of being. It’s hard to know what you’d value those things at if you try. More in-depth discussion on that in this episode of Any Thoughts On (01:04:51). 
  • Deliberate meta-discussions are almost always worth it – taking stock of perceived progress is a great way for building the basis upon which to make future decisions about the coaching. (In good worlds, it can also feel good and be incredibly motivating!) Effects can fade, things can be forgotten, etc. 

    Collaboratively reflecting with the coach can be even better. You have another source of information about how the relationship is going, but also outcomes rest on the coach’s experience of the coaching session as well. You can learn quite a bit about the coach’s reported experience, their perception of your progress, and their plans moving forward. Lots of opportunities to strengthen that relationship, or notice differences in perception that could be grounds for course-correction conversations, or even ending the coaching relationship. 

    Some TBCT coaches were shy/scared about this at first. But upon witnessing the reactions of their clients, seem to have embraced doing this. I’ve valued these discussions highly both as a coach and client myself.
  • Render legible your path to growth – getting a firmer sense of where you’re at and where you’re going according to different conceptualizations of developmental arcs, lines, and cycles can be very illuminating. It can normalize difficult-to-decipher periods in your life like ‘liminal’ periods (i.e. disorientation and deconstruction of previous identity associations) and highlight future states you might aspire to. It’s also sometimes helpful to see various models of ‘progressions’ or ‘stages’ that can be orienting and reassuring. 

    Our ‘Planning for Developmental Arcs’ curriculum module covered a handful of these developmental models, including Constructive Developmental Frameworks, conceptions of seasonality, and metaphorical journeys. 

Tee’s Experience

Leading this section with juicier things that could hopefully serve as inspiration for others. You can find gratitude and acknowledgements further down.

  • Overextending to keep things running smoothly – “Are we doing enough? Are they asking too much? Is it ok to give this much? These were questions that regularly overshadowed Tee and my conversations throughout the program. In truth, we didn't know.”  

    Emily’s take on the pressures and questions that we faced as a team is a wonderful portrayal that I’d only retrace less gracefully if I rehashed it myself. Definitely worth a read. 

    In certain moments, it felt like we needed to overextend ourselves in different ways to keep the program on the rails, primarily by investing in high-touch interpersonal interactions. (i.e. lots of one-to-ones as the way to secure mutual understanding and alignment.) I believe this was due to a combination of our philosophy of approach, the design and implementation of the program, and gaps in our understanding (about people and groups) while going through this for the first time. Much of the need for overextension could be mitigated by different decisions we’d make next time around. 

    As a concrete example, I’d lean towards drilling new coaches on a very basic framework for supporting others in the very beginning of the program, such as Clean Language and Clean Coaching. Coaches could then modify the framework and deviate to their liking once they’ve got a basic framework down.

    We encouraged cohort coaches to find their own starting frameworks, which required quite a lot of investment on our part to support their search. The second-order effects of not having a starting framework exacerbated the requirement for more support, including helping with emotional fallout from coaches being in sessions without having a firm grasp on any framework. (e.g. helping work through reactions like “I have no idea what I’m doing and maybe I’m not cut out for this at all.”) 

    All understandable, but hey, worth noting the experience and hopefully addressing next time.
  • The (moral) tension in holding multiple roles at once – there was so much for me to wrap my mind and heart around while leading TBCT. I’ll dive into example dilemmas that illustrate a class of major challenge I regularly wrestled with:

    • In one-to-one sessions, how do I hold space for accountability as the Program Lead and Coaching Trainer, while also wanting to support as a Coach and empathize as a Friend/Human? 
    • How do I talk to you about your prospects as an aspiring coach, given that my opinion could factor heavily into your motivational system? How about given that my influence can affect access to concrete opportunities for you? What do I really think when I disentangle these things? Can I disentangle these things in practical reality? 
    • How can I learn from observing what happens when the cohort relates to structure, while at the same time encouraging certain relationships to structure? How does my encouragement affect the existing structure? 
    • What about the way you’re relating to me seems unhealthy or could stunt your development? (Roles projected onto me) What can I do about that? 
    • How do I deliver something valuable for you that threads at least these needles – what you say that you want, what I want to / am able to give, what I think you need, and what can actually be delivered?
  • While it’s true that navigating roles with people is common in life, this program in particular seemed to concentrate the practical importance of how I negotiated occupying multiple roles. 

    It was common for me to struggle with what to do or say when the overlapping roles that I was holding would clash. I felt like clinging too tightly to a role could easily cause unwanted effects in this environment. I didn’t want to stunt the growth of others, lead them astray, or do something to discourage them, for example.

    My attempts to negotiate these periodic role clashes elevated the importance of addressing knotty moral quandaries for myself. It became apparent that some amount of resolution on these moral questions was required in order for me to move forward in integrity. 

    To do that, I’d need to reconcile internal forces shaping my experience. This feels particularly true because I’m of the belief that these internal forces themselves carry interpretations that clash with one another, which feed into my overall interpretations of what’s happening, and effectively what my actions will be. 

    As a result, with the help of Emily and even the cohort coaches themselves, I invested more than ever before in getting enough internal resolution on certain things before taking (what I hoped was appropriate and effective) actions.

    In the parlance of this report, basically self-applying what we emphasized with the cohort coaches – addressing emotional cruxes – but in my position leading the program. 

    I think this went fairly well, certainly better than how I imagine my historical action-biased self would have done. Some examples of how I think reconciling these forces was good for me and others:
    • In some cases, questioning my assumptions about what came with certain roles (e.g. perceived responsibilities) that I was occupying eventually led to more flexibility in negotiating between the roles.
    • In some cases, I decided that leaning into some roles over others would probably be better, even if it resulted in unpleasant short-term friction in the relationship.
    • On some occasions, it didn’t seem possible to resolve my internal conflicting forces without telling others about the tension itself. Their response would sometimes affect the dynamic in a positive way and / or give me better information to possibly resolve the role tension.
    • Reconciling these roles in so many circumstances really stretched me emotionally, intellectually and energetically, but the privilege of getting to do this with such incredible people isn’t lost on me.
  • Coming to terms with being an attractor for the program – me wanting to generalize this point so quickly is a great example of how uneasy it can be to acknowledge the effects of your individual presence. 

    It was awkward for me to confront that, me as a person, was what moved the needle for people. I was told many times that people applied for the program because of their relationship with me and / or my reputation (making me regret the name choice less). My presence obviously mattered quite a bit in many situations. At first I downplayed this. Then I had to keep relearning it. 

    Now I think this is a profound point that has implications in constructing and assessing programs and services offering highly personalized forms of care. There’s too much variance of all sorts in these relationships for an averaged representation of a coach or therapist to mean anything. 

    Many choices and assessments made by individuals, even relating to therapy, seem to be working with abstracted, universal or objective quantified forms that make far less sense in a setting like this. When in reality for this type of domain, so much that is specific to the distinct intermeshing of people as specific individuals is quite important, even when considering all of this at the community level.[39]

    As a result of this experience, I’m much more likely to ask “who specifically is involved?” to answer very general questions like “should I join a coaching program?”. Also I’d reply to “do you think coaching is good for most people?” with “who is coaching and who wants to be coached?” This lends to more accurate approximations in my opinion, though perhaps less elegant macro answers.
  • Reflections & gratitude for each of the cohort coaches – what is written about each of the coaches isn’t exhaustive and hopefully reflects my enduring gratitude for their willingness to be along for the ride. These words are meant to compliment and solidify the understandings and bonds between us that hopefully we’ve been building throughout this program. 

    Before I start, here's another of my favorite pictures from the retreat

    No photo description available.

    • Anna – was such an inspiring presence because of her rare blend of consistent intentionality and refined capability. Her appreciation of TBCT gives me confidence that what we do could be potent in other leadership contexts. She pours so much of her life force into ensuring that others are well-positioned. Her unceasing incremental contributions to so many of those around her is surely an emboldening, harmonizing and synchronizing force. It’s been wonderful to encounter, and is hopefully widely appreciated. My hope is that TBCT contributed to that spirit, and my sense is that it did. I’m grateful to know Anna.
    • Brian – was a pleasure to behold in moments when it seemed that he found the space in TBCT to bridge his theoretical models of therapy with his aptitude for counseling. It was as if this program were training grounds for integrating embodied wisdom in this practice, bridging the contextualization of universals with explication of intuition. Glimpses of that synergy were really exciting to witness. I saw evidence of that in the reverence his clients had for him. I’m grateful for the time with Brian.
    • Harri – always puts me in contact with archetypes of thoughtfulness and high-integrity. I love the way Harri wrestled with some of the deepest questions facing himself and his work with others. It inspired me to do the same, including finding an integrous position from which to help someone else in his position, trying to soberly acknowledge my own motivations, incentives and hopes for others. My friendship sensibilities jump at the mere mention of Harri and I hope we can stay close as time goes on.
    • Harry – dazzled me with how much raw desire and determination he’s thrown at his own process after judiciously deciding on coaching as the right path. He reawakens within me a voracious appetite for all of this. Our work together has been periodically contentious, fraught with tricky dynamics, etc., but among the most rewarding because of how hard it pushed me in turn (in good ways). It seems likely to me that our professional and personal paths may remain in sync and converge again in the future. It’s already been a privilege to be party to his ascendency to this point, but more importantly, witness how nourishing this path seems to have been for him.
    • Jana –  consistently puts me into contact with archetypes of taking what was forged in the fire of the soul and using it to shape life for the betterment of oneself and others. She seems to have rare privileged access to the depths and richness of the human experience that awes me. I saw some of my role with her as a matter of helping prove that a person like that can make it in this world. Not only do I think she can make it, but people like her are very much in demand. If TBCT is partly responsible for causing more Jana to be experienced by more people, that’s an outsized success. She also has enviable gravitas and quick wit that are a pleasure to be around. I’d be honored to collaborate further.
    • Milan – just radiates a good-natured spirit you’d find in ancient myths. He’s had a journey in this program that profoundly shaped so much of my own experience with TBCT. It feels like it basically boiled down to, “what do you learn about yourself when there’s finally something on offer that you’ve always wanted?” He admirably wrestled with different instantiations of this question, some of which I was party to. I wrestled with how to support him in his efforts. We clashed at times. It pushed me to find new orientations to help others in their journey. It inspired me to look directly at that question as it relates to my life. I’m better for all of it and I hope he is too. I wouldn’t have changed any of it and I’m hoping our paths continue to converge.
    • Natalia – is perhaps the most group-conscious person I’ve ever met in my life. Coming into contact with her often revealed my growth edge of what it means to truly care for groups and act with purpose to foster conditions that improve their lives. Her rich interior world is so rich that it can actually be disorienting for me to access. She’s been an ardent supporter of Emily, me, TBCT and so many of the coaches in the program. I’ll count myself lucky if I keep being on the receiving end of Natalia’s way of being in the world, and I hope to have the chance to play the reciprocal “Natalia role” for her in turn, willing and directing good things in my life in her direction.
    • Pavitthra – embodies an epic package of work ethic, analytical prowess, and warm affirming presence. You get the sense that she’s rapidly accumulating and compounding wisdom far beyond her years. The spirit with which she entertains and grapples with questions of life is among the purest I’ve ever seen. Her inquiries about how to care for others and related questions of self-growth strain my knowledge and perceptive faculties. I considered a key part of my role with Pavitthra to simply find a way to channel her spiritual wholesomeness into a form that fits into this world. Should she continue to want that for herself, I’d be honored to continue being a part of it.
    • Signe – quite gifted at embodying and moving energy around in a way that seems to be restorative and inflate the sails of inspiration for others, including myself. I saw my primary role with Signe as how to amplify and open up structured access to the presence that she holds. We challenged each other about the type of space and presence we were holding for each other, and for the group, which kicked off periods of very fruitful friction and reflection for me. I have her to thank for big updates here. She’s also a rare mix of being willing to bridge differences and make changes herself, but from a place of grounded being and understanding. I’d be supremely fortunate if my future plans included helping to bring more energy like this into the world.
  • Marveling at good fortune – this was easily the greatest professional experience I’ve ever had, largely because it was one of the greatest personal experiences I’ve ever had. In fact, I reflect on this past year as being perhaps the happiest of my adult life. My working circumstances made it clear to me that presented challenges would be valuable to face, even if I didn’t understand exactly how or why in some moments. All I want right now is to keep doing what I have been doing in the last 12 months with TBCT. 

    For about 6 months, a group of incredible people bestowed upon me an important role in their lives and gave me the floor to share my thoughts on this vocation of mine. Plus, I got to co-lead with one of the people I admire most in the world. What a gift. Imagine that every day you exclusively interact with people you’ve chosen and regard so highly. I don’t want this to be the pinnacle because I hope there’s more to come, but it would be a damn good one if it has to be. 

    People – I’ll freely admit that we attracted a much higher caliber cohort than expected. Two ways to demonstrate how highly I regard these people: first, our original plans were to only have 3 - 5 coaches in the cohort. We ended up accepting 9 because of how excited I was about them.

    Nearly doubling the max for such a high-touch program was a logistical challenge I was decidedly happy to eat. And second, a core criterion for selecting coaches for the cohort is that I get some subtle sense, most of which I wouldn’t endorse, that they’re intimidating to me. All of the people in this cohort have qualities that I can only wish to emulate, and they certainly possess the potential to outpace me in areas that I consider my own strengths (if they don’t already). 

    My position as the counterfactual hinge of this program’s existence is a privileged vantage point for appreciating all of the circumstances and people who came together to make this happen.

    8 coaches stuck with it for more than 6 months, putting trust in us to structure their sizable expenditures of time, energy, money and effort into themselves. Some shifted their life trajectories substantially as a result. I’m deeply thankful to each and every one of them for how much of their life and aspirations they shared with me. 

    If I might, playing into jokes some of the coaches have had about me treating this cohort like a ‘papa bear’, I’m also proud of them for facing what they did on this journey. We mentioned the program placing unusual emphasis on facing emotional cruxes – I personally witnessed these coaches work through things that some people never get to in their lifetimes. What a fucking honor. (Tearing up writing means I’m in the right spot.)

    To the anonymous patron funders that made this happen – getting the space and creative freedom to put this all together transformed my life (and those of at least a few others) and is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. The trust and belief you put into all of us, the genuine involvement, care, patience and interest you brought to this, and balanced presence of feeling like a supporter, collaborator and accountability partner – has been an inspiration. I’m honored to have had this and I hope it brought you the joy, fulfillment and whatever else you were hoping for. 

    To my ‘co-developer’ of TBCT, Emily. Without her coaching me along, TBCT likely wouldn’t have existed. Without her role in the program, it wouldn’t have been nearly what it turned out to be. I consider the several recorded curriculum modules of hers to be a goldmine that we have yet to tap. She brings an otherworldly blend of generosity, intelligence, attunement and care to her work that I’ve never before witnessed. And by extension, her partner James, who is an inspiration to her and was also kind enough to lead some of the module sessions at TBCT. We’re grateful for your support as a team.

    And finally, there were numerous people who weren’t directly involved with this project that breathed life and momentum into TBCT. My wife, Kristie, supported me during trailing times and helped me refine my work. Shout out to all of the partners of those who were directly involved in the project. Lots of people who wanted to be considered for TBCT, and were even unsuccessful in applying for the first cycle, still made contributions. A large number of people thought the matchmaking could be a great service for those around them. We appreciate their willingness to circulate the matchmaking application. And there were just lots of fans of this that were kind enough to nudge this along in small ways, including passing along encouraging words to me. 
  • Writing angst & resisting rounding down – an astute reader might have noticed this report has come out more than a couple of months after final presentations wrapped in mid-December. It took longer than I’d hoped and writing this all up was an angsty process at times. (You can imagine taking the nervous frustration of ~5 to 6 low-output writing hours at the computer home to your ‘shift’ taking care of a three month-old baby.) 

    This was partially due to personal life circumstances, but I’d say mostly because it was exceedingly difficult for me to unpack the richness of what I went through in a way that felt true to myself, responsible to everyone involved, and roughly in accordance with the expectations of the intended audience. 

    Without spending too much more time belaboring this point, the primary evidence of my attempt to thread this needle was the (perhaps overly) contextualized presentation of metrics and events. Nearly everyone involved went through something very personal and intense, and I’d hate to see their experience rounded off unjustly within my account. This is a high bar and there will almost certainly be ways I’ve not been successful at this. (Also some explanation for the length of this write up as well) 
  • The search for ‘organic’ scaling – another hurdle to producing this write up was feeling distinct pressure to scale the program up in predictable ways (bigger cohorts, online courses, etc.) exactly because of how well it seems to have gone. I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the distinctly privileged position of having quite a few people ask me what’s next and whether they might be able to join. 

    But getting the write up completed in order to progress to the next level – simply creating a bigger version of TBCT – just didn’t feel right. In this late-stage capitalist society of ours, especially that influenced by VC culture of late, there’s seemingly endless temptation to scale promising projects as rapidly as possible. 

    Particularly for this project, with an ethos prizing things like not skipping steps in development, taking care of prerequisites and cruxes to move forward more wholesomely, and treating the quantifiable as signal to interpret, the reason for rapidly scaling weren’t particularly convincing.

    What’s next hopefully does not require an injection of artifice or fragile means of sustenance. What’s next is hopefully something scales ‘organically’ by tapping into the natural currents, momentum and energy of community, much like TBCT was partially successful in doing. More on that in the near future.
  • Role fluidity & blank face – it was brought to my attention during the program that I hold an unusually neutral affect, even during one-to-one sessions working with cohort coaches on deep emotional subjects. Coined (eventually affectionately) by one of the coaches, my ‘blank face’ was something they couldn’t help but project their insecurities onto. (e.g. “Is Tee unimpressed with me?”  “Am I not doing a good job in the program?”  “Am I struggling with this more than I’m supposed to be?”) 

    Though I think the neutral affect is mostly good and largely the product of things I endorse,* the novel insight here was that something else may have been contributing to it – issues I had with holding multiple interactive frames as the leader of the program. In any given conversation, I could be switching between coaching someone, checking in on them personally, holding them accountable for goals, sorting out logistical and transactional matters, etc. 

    Emotionally, it was probably difficult for me to fluidly move between such different interactive frames, especially ones where I wanted to hold someone accountable, but also be a supportive and empathetic presence. Having the ability to create a space for the other person to experience multiple concurrently overlapping frames is something I’m currently working towards. 

    *My guess is that it’s mostly due to being internally at peace, plus coaching full-time or near full-time for years, which I believe requires creating space and withholding emotional cues that would influence the interaction unduly (though there’s something to be said for warmth).
  • Calibrating efforts to resolve friction – I think we mostly succeeded in having TBCT be a setting where we could all feel like a wider-than-normal set of interactive snags are appropriate to surface and address. 

    In-line with some of our philosophy of approach outlined above, we felt it important that these efforts be calibrated to the degree that makes sense for us to move forward in carrying out the shared mission. (e.g. iron out friction relevant to existing in the cohort together, not necessarily all forms the relationship could take. We didn’t expect to rid ourselves of all relational friction.) 

    I didn’t always embody this calibration choice with respect to my cohort relationships. In some cases, I encountered surprising ways of being averse to addressing issues that exacerbated problems (e.g. a discovered propensity to need elegant interpretive clarity on what’s happening before bringing something up, rather than sharing my confusion live in the moment)

    In other cases, I probably let my efforts to address things and repair the relationship go on for far too long and spill outside of the ideal bounds (driven somewhat by vestigial fears that the person would turn the group against me, mentioned below). 

    On the whole, I was happy with how TBCT appears to have been successful at engendering the cohort coaches to bring the fuller versions of themselves to the program, and how everyone dealt with how those fuller versions related to one another. I’m certain that this was unusually good for a few of the coaches to witness a functioning group capable of this. 
  • Facilitating groups is a primary growth edge – TBCT put me onto an incredibly steep learning curve with respect to facilitating a group of individuals. To be honest, this class of challenge I find intimidating and actually a bit scary. Something deep within me is fully expecting the group, even that which I’ve assembled myself, to turn against me in some way, or figure out that I’m lame or something.

    I’d aimed to foster a culture with vibrant and healthy dynamics, hopefully leading to outcomes like achieving an organic momentum of rewarding interactions between members (rather than have it driven by the program leads). For example, the regular instantiation of interest-based subgroups within the cohort.

    Some people made close connections with one another and there was encouraging group activity happening, but I’d only view TBCT as passable in this regard. The ways I could improve in facilitating and leading groups was glaring to me at least. In terms of specifics, structurally speaking, we could have had less full group calls, more small groups, and more groups based on interest. I’d have also freed up bandwidth to encourage facilitation of these things. I’d have freed up more bandwidth to interact in a timely manner with people as well. Some people hit a wall of asynchronized delay, which detracts from the group experience.

    I wish I’d asked myself what others need from the group and what I could have done to facilitate them getting that. Some cohort coaches were miles ahead of me thinking and acting in this way.

Cohort Feedback for TBCT

Section Table of Contents

What could have been better

By Tee Barnett

My distilled thoughts on what I believe could have been better are already woven throughout the report, such as misjudging client commitment and revenue timelines, but below is an additional non-exhaustive list comprised of feedback that I consider important to document and think through for future iterations of TBCT:[40]

  • Communication
    • Some cohort coaches wished that various commitments (emotional, resource, time) were outlined more at the outset. Paraphrasing (“Had I been told in the beginning how much of a commitment this was going to be, I wouldn’t have decided to join the program, but I’m glad that I did.”) Coaches seemed to be ultimately grateful despite this.
    • Could have made it clearer that business development is a big part of sustaining a coaching practice
    • Outlining more types of potential successful outcomes for the coaches would have been helpful. (e.g. you can become a staff coach for a company and/or have your own practice)
    • Phases of the program were not as clearly delineated as they could have been.
    • Tee and Emily could have explained more about their journey in working with clients and generating revenue over time in order to help the coaches better calibrate expectations for themselves.
    • Some coaches were under the impression that they’d recoup their tuition costs from the program sooner than they had. It’s reasonable that it would take a few months to get setup, but TBCT could have made it clearer that earnings would lag for a period of time.
  • Programs
    • Sequencing of the program was potentially out of order – could have been good to drill coaches on basics and support in formulation of nascent practice, then open matchmaking.
      • Some suggested that the in-person retreat come earlier to solidify bonds within the cohort, though there are conflicting takes from the cohort on this. Some thought it was well-timed, taking place about halfway through.
      • Some suggested that we push ‘introductory’ calls to later in the program when the coaches are more established
    • Phases were potentially too short – there were suggestions that coaching training should have been conducted throughout, not just the final two months.
    • More introduction call training would have been helpful
    • More live coaching demonstrations would have been better. The ones that did come were pretty late.
      • In-person coaching demonstrations and coaching training were particularly helpful. There could have been more of this.
    • There was a ‘curriculum co-creation’ phase and ‘curriculum module’ phase, when it would potentially be better to execute modules according to where the coach is in the journey.
    • Cohort coaches receiving stipends for external programs was widely appreciated, though TBCT could have done more to check in on what coaches were getting from those programs and create structure to integrate the outside content.
      • We could have provided more structure for helping cohort coaches choose external programs to engage with.
    • More senior coaches on staff could have been better for providing support. In some cases, coaches needing help felt the limits of our personal bandwidth.
    • The module related to building your own business might have been good to make mandatory
  • Matchmaking
    • Matchmaking was emotionally difficult for some. The high rates of rejection (compared to direct referrals) and up-close competition were key factors.  
    • Matchmaking was less efficient than it could have been. The logistics of choosing between three coaches can cause delays in getting started.
    • Vast diversity of cohort made matchmaking feel distinctly unfair to some.
    • Some doubts about the follow through of the client pool. Are retention rates lower because it’s largely composed of people ‘trying out’ coaching? Are they only interested in the introductory ‘below-market’ price of coaching?
    • More legibility on client choices between coaches would have helped. In many cases, clients moved forward with a coach but did not update other coaches on their decisions. (There was a centralized table for this, but it updated based on information gathered by the last contact person, which is slow and unreliable)
  • Cohort
    • Bringing coaches into the cohort that received (a reasonable amount of) coaching/therapy sessions seems like an essential criterion joining TBCT. Many had lots of experience as coachees, but not all. The spectrum was potentially too wide in this regard.
    • The cohort didn’t feel like a cohesive community as some might have hoped. Could have been more structure to facilitate connections between people.
    • The cohort was so diverse (stage of life, socioeconomic class, emotional development, etc.) as to be disjointed and the source of particular types of friction.
    • Coaches with vastly different aims for coaching in their lives cut against cohesiveness.
    • Less involved members detract from the group dynamic.
    • More co-working time (peers) and office hours (Tee) was requested.
  • Curriculum
    • Could have been focused more on the basics for new coaches.
    • Too many modules (perhaps more guidance about how much time investment would go into each of the modules).
    • After co-creating the curriculum with each coach, we could have checked in on how they progressed in digesting the materials
    • Watching more videos of other coaches’ sessions, both senior coaches and peers, would have been helpful

Cohort Testimonials for TBCT

Names are displayed prior to testimonials for ease of navigation and recognition. Names ordered in alphabetical order by first name.

– Anna Weldon, Director of Internal Operations at Open Philanthropy Project

“ It is clear that TBCT is a passion project, and Emily and Tee brought immense amounts of care and investment to their work. They brought together a diverse and brilliant cohort of coaches and gave us scaffolded support to practice our craft. Tee and Emily's approach was deeply invested, focused on getting and giving feedback, flexible to the individual, and thoughtful.

I personally benefited greatly from the program. Getting an opportunity to dig into theory and technique, conversations as a group and in our 1:1's, and having time on the calendar to dedicate to this aspect of my work were all incredibly helpful to my growth.

I sincerely hope there are more cohorts and that other people have the opportunity to learn from other coaches, focus on their craft, and connect with Tee and Emily and their wisdom. "

Harri Besceli

" TBCT made it much easier for me to get set up as a coach. Being able to source potential clients through the programme made it much easier to get started, as well as providing a learning environment where we could get stuck straight in.

One of my favourite aspects of the programme was being part of a cohort - being with a group of people on a similar journey to myself. I found the cohort very supportive, and a great opportunity for learning from other people, and I expect that I would have both learnt a lot less and enjoyed myself a lot less without the cohort.

I also found Tee and Emily incredibly supportive, and found there to be a great balance of providing both default structure and room for crafting one's own journey.

Coaching is an industry/ practice which people can be critical of, for both good reasons and bad. I really liked that the programme engaged with a lot of the more complex questions around coaching head-on. I both found this pretty refreshing, and helped me develop a much more nuanced conception of what coaching, or what good coaching, is.

The programme involved a pretty deep level of personal exploration and got me thinking deeply on questions like: What do I stand for? What is it to support someone else? What is it to be the best version of oneself? I both found this both challenging and rewarding. In a sense, asked a lot more from me and gave a lot more to me than probably any other programme I've been part of. "

Harry Taussig

" If you want to become a coach, that shit's hard.

I couldn't have done this alone. I couldn't have done this, and trust that it would feel aligned, without people I trusted as much as Tee and Emily — people who deeply care, and have a similar worldview to me.

I couldn't have done this without a team of collaborators and friends doing it along my side.

There's a ton of fears that come up for everyone in the process to becoming a coach, or even just becoming self-employed, marketing yourself, or selling your presence for an hourly rate. All very vulnerable things to do.

I could have gotten stuck at 10+. different places. Making my website, having my first session with a paid client, having first sessions with friends, imposter syndrome etc.

But instead of being alone, I saw a bunch of other coaches in training going through and sharing about the exact same problems, and I had the support of Tee and Emily who have both been through it and seen a lot more shit than me.

And so all the fear was still there, and I was able to move through all of it to feel good about aiming for coaching full time now, and feeling good about that.


The biggest thing is that the structure and the logistics of the program as solid as hell. Tee and Emily tell you and help you figure out how to present yourself, how to get your first clients, etc. The centralizing marketing is huge for overcoming the fear of working with your first paid client. People know your a coach in training, and you only need internal marketing competing with the 8 other coaches in training instead of the whole entire world.

Emily's curriculum and modules were perspective-shifting and have seriously changed how I view myself, my relationships, and the world. Especially around emotions and embodiment.


This shit is hard. Most people in this program went through a depressive episode, including me. Good luck trying to do this alone. Emily is super compassionate and coached me through a lot of my pain and shit that I came up, as coaching others opened me up to my own problems, trauma, pain, whatever you want to call it.

If you're in the EA / rationalist space, there's not a better bet. People are hungry for this shit because it's important and needed, especially with how fucked up both our culture and our subculture is.


It's not perfect, but there's a ton of love, support, direction, leadership, and effort being put in here. Radically changed my life for the better, and I feel stabilized and excited on my path to self-employment and coaching. "

Jana Meixnerová

" TBCT was an invaluable experience for both my nascent coaching practice and my personal development. The intensive program methodically combined a state-of-art coaching, psychology curriculum, and an intimate learning environment, with an experiential deep dive into coaching under close to real-world market conditions. Growing up to the challenge meant I had to get over my insecurities, learn the basics of the craft and start applying them in a relatively short amount of time. This was not easy but I was wonderfully supported by Emily Crotteau, Tee Barnett, and the rest of the cohort.

Emily is a brilliant thinker and scholar with a depth and breath of knowledge rare to find among coaches (or elsewhere for that matter). She designed and led the spectacular TBCT curriculum modules whose cross- and inter-disciplinary scope reached far beyond the standard coaching theory. These modules, as well as Emily's takes and worldviews, greatly expanded my knowledge on many diverse topics and, perhaps most importantly, aided my own personal self-inquiry. Beyond her impressive scholastic aptitude, Emily is a highly sensitive and compassionate coach and body worker. The coaching sessions with her have reached into the depths of my Heart and soul.

Tee is a fantastic coach and a kind, supportive mentor. I've greatly appreciated his conscientiousness and rigor, the structure and organization he breathed into the program, and how clearly he communicated his expectations and held us all to a high standard. Tee's openness and vulnerability with the cohort at all times was truly remarkable as he shared with us his smooth and elegant coaching moves, his experiences, his humor, and his business acumen insights. Coaching sessions with Tee were deeply transformational for me and an essential aspect of my developmental journey as a coach.

The cohort stood out to me as incredibly diverse, with the aspiring coaches hauling from all walks of life and bringing different talents, motivations and visions, yet everyone was brilliant and showed up with authenticity, determination, and grit. This enabled us to learn from each other and form an ecosystem of coaches where each of us was encouraged to find our own unique coaching style and target audience. I formed new unexpected friendships and collaborations that I look forward to nurturing going into the future.

Overall, the TBCT program challenged and supported me in my professional and spiritual quest to realize my vocation, helped me understand what it really meant to be a coach, and accelerated my journey beyond what I thought was possible.

What I appreciated most of all, however, were the purity of intention and love with which Tee and Emily infused the program: Embodying the transformational and healing powers, proactively envisioning and building a better world for our communities, genuinely doing good and alleviating suffering right where it originates deep inside the human soul, those were all at the core of our conversations. I think there is immense potential for TBCT bringing more integrated developmental practices and more wholeness into the EA community, which can often be overly mind-focused, disembodied, and efficiency/hustle-oriented. I look forward to supporting TBCT going forward! "

Milan Patel

" The TBCT programme has been simply transformational for my life, worldview and coaching practice.

On many different levels and across a rich array of domains, Tee Barnett and Emily Crotteau have led this programme with grace, excellence and love. I am astounded by the scale and quality of what has been achieved in just the 6 months of the pilot program; TBCT was an Odyssey into the development of ourselves and coaching crafts at the deepest and richest levels.

The TBCT programme surpassed all of my initial conceptions of what coaching is, what is possible within it, and what it means to embark on a journey to becoming a deeply skilled coach. A journey into the self and Theory of Mind. The heart of this excellence was an incredibly mind-expanding and spiritually nourishing learning curriculum led by Emily. Her breadth and depth of knowledge related to development spanned domains such as psychology, sociology, philosophy, psychotherapy, spirituality, epistemology, rationality, phenomenology, plus so much more that is simply inadequate for the recognisable 'neat domain containers'. TBCT possesed a quality of creativity, rigour and passion similar to what I’d imagine a Stoic school of Philosophy would have, with a Major in 'Applied Wisdom of Coaching'. TBCT has left a lasting impression of immense profoundness and respect.

Tee and Emily are masterful coaching trainers. They guided us with the poise, love and capability that any skilled craftsman has, plus added dimensions of meta-modelling and playing many roles: Despite competing interests and multidimensional challenges to deliver TBCT, they had this phenomenal capability to 'hold many containers'. For each of us on the cohort, Tee and Emily deeply recognised each of our unique circumstances, 'meeting us where we were at', in our journey’s Odyssey, and then empowered us to meaningfully show up, embrace the depths of our experience, and grow through it. It was a superheroic feat for two people. Together as coaching trainers, Emily and Tee brought together many elements like skilful composers bringing together a symphonic masterpiece. It was beautiful to experience.

As trainers, Emily and Tee truly went above and beyond for the cohort. Their presence wasn’t overwhelming, nor was it distant. It was gentle but strong, like a deeply reassuring current of wisdom and energy that could be continuously felt. This was my source of inspiration and encouragement to fully immerse myself in the programme; to embrace this journey’s Odyssey of learning the craft of skillful coaching. They are world-class exemplars of how to lead and support others on a rich and visceral development journey. Tee and Emily have set an extremely high bar for other serious coaching and development programmes out there. It has simply left me in awe of what they have achieved.

As individuals, Emily and Tee are both master coaches and deeply kind humans. The sorts that go about their business with utmost humility given their astonishing brilliance. Their sharpness of mind, embodiment of virtue, and repertoire of coaching modalities were phenomenal to witness. I have never met two individuals with such depth: In empathy, intellectual rigour, perceptiveness, playfulness, love and generosity. It's hard to describe in words to do it justice. I simply regard them in very high esteem, for these virtues and their manifestations through TBCT.

Tee, Emily, you have my deepest gratitude, admiration and support. What you have done in pioneering TBCT, and what you are planning to grow the programme is a visionary and noble quest. I have first-hand experienced how deeply you have supported each of us to grow, and I am excited for many more future cohorts, to experience and benefit from this visceral bounty too. I see an intensely bright future for you both and for TBCT. I wish you all the best!

In summary, it’s fair to conclude that Tee and Emily are those rare kinds of luminaries that you would be lucky to encounter once in a lifetime. I feel extremely grateful to have learnt from them both and for sharing this journey with them.

Because of TBCT, I feel emotionally, spiritually, and cognitively enriched, and more beyond what intellectualisation can do justice. TBCT has imparted an immense bounty of wisdom, revealed a plethora of phenomena underneath the surface of our perceptions, and shown the possibilities that beauty and love provide in our shared lived experiences. TBCT has deepened my respect for skilled advisors, mentors and practitioners healing and developing others. TBCT has directly illuminated a path within me, to deeply support others in meaningful ways. Thank you for this very rare and special experience, that has left a deeply positive and lasting impression in my life, and the many others I hope to help. "

Natalia Dashan

" Talking about Tee’s coaching program with the people in my life has been pleasantly difficult. The way that the program made an effort to build on the best of disparate social and teaching arrangements meant that it was difficult to describe in ways that represented what it was; people often didn’t have a reference frame for something like it being able to exist. Tee and Emily wanted to make something new and wonderful, and they each have a resume filled with many life experiences, such that when they are building something new, it actually is new. And that meant that most conversations about TBCT went like this: “I’m in this pilot program. It’s an experiment and it’s very wonderful. There is nothing quite like it.” It doesn’t feel like going out on a limb to say that it was one of the most formative intellectual and social experiences of my life.

If I make a bold statement like that, it would be natural for the next question to be, “What made it like that?” Several things. One is the genuine friendship between Tee and Emily, and the ways they are able to work together. One is their genuine care for people’s development – meeting people where they’re at isn’t a goal for them, but rather is a prerequisite under which they build more things. Thus the place that most people end up, if they are lucky, is the place where they start. One is a genuine respect for the ways that people learn and grow, and genuine commitment to building a program with both the structure and flexibility to provide support even as the participants learn and bring their own experiences and outside learning into the program. Instead of having people “phase out” as they develop, there was built-in intention to accommodate this advancement and give further guidance for the participant.

Those seeking a technical challenge would not be underwhelmed by TBCT. Those who care about spiritual well-being or a grand picture would also not be underwhelmed. No question seems to be too technically minute or too expansive to be considered with care, and understanding about how the large ripples down and the small ripples up has been in the priority lens of Tee and Emily for many years.

I’d conducted PhD-level work at the Yale and Harvard psychology departments, with a serious eye toward staying in academia, and I found this work to be intense and rigorous.

I had also worked at the Harvard Business school, and had taken the internally beloved Interpersonal Dynamics course at the Yale School of Management. With these intellectually important experiences and standards in mind, I continued my search for psychology experts as I navigated my professional and social circles.

The work of Tee Barnett and Emily Crotteau does not merely meet the standards of my previous work experiences – they surpass it. Their constant observation and learning means that they will continue to be hard for any entity to keep up with! I am very confident when I say that Tee and Emily are truly world class. "

Pavitthra Pandurangan

" Neither Tee or Emily flinch from complexity, confusion, or conflict. They are even-keeled, thoughtful, and highly compassionate, which makes them excellent as leaders. They are also wonderful as teachers and guides. Throughout the program I had the distinct feeling of being in good hands.

Emily is highly knowledgable about coaching, and is amongst the greatest thinkers I’ve met in my life. She weaves together strands from therapy, development, spirituality, philosophy, phenomenology, somatic therapy & bodywork, societal dynamics, and science with ease. I walk away from every class and conversation with her with novel insight and whole new angles. Without exaggeration, interacting with her is mind expanding.

Tee is a great executor as well as coach. He is well-planned and thorough, in addition to be flexible as unforeseen situations arise. He conveys intentions and expectations with clarity and in advance. He brings a high level of rigor to coaching, which is bar-raising in the best way. His emphasis on creating feedback loops for learning has certainly accelerated my own development.

Tee and Emily managed to attract an incredible group of people, all ripe with coaching potential and full of interest for the subject. The quality of the cohort was one of the most enriching parts of being in TBCT.

The past few months in TBCT were intense and deeply rewarding. It plunged me into the world of coaching with a speed, depth and rigor that I imagine is rare amongst coaching programs. I was encouraged to form my own style of coaching and a custom curriculum. Both were tall orders for a complete beginner, but I am better off for it. TBCT is a true coaching accelerator: I accomplished in a matter of months what could have taken two years.

My personal development was also greatly affected by being part of this program. The theory and techniques I learned through classes, books, and conversations (not to mention the coaching sessions themselves) empowered me to develop parts of myself that no previous technique could reach. I also have better conversations and relationships as a direct result of learning to be a coach.

I hope TBCT continues to raise the bar on coaching and unleash untapped or misdirected human potential. It is impossible to experience this program and not be imprinted with the incredible transformative power of a *great* coach. "

Signe Savén, Coach & PhD student in philosophy @ Lund University

" Applying for TBTC turned out to be one of the best things I did in 2023. I believe that it would have taken me at least a couple of years to level up to the extent that the program helped me achieve in about six months (and some things might never have happened without it). The experience of coaching different people, the program modules and the external programs played a major part in this, as did the relationships with the other cohort coaches that developed throughout the program and the constant support from Tee and Emily.

The program helped me become a much better coach, not by overloading me with input (e.g. coaching tools and readings etc., though it provided plenty of those), but by helping me become a better me. Emily’s modules played a key part in my development by providing me with a few key insights that I took with me and allowed to transform my world. Her one-on-one support helped me navigate through the program and through a difficult personal time. I’m impressed with the width of her knowledge and skills, and she is one of few people that I would call wise. She has helped open up a whole new world to me and encouraged me to take steps on paths I didn’t think I would walk on. Tee’s feedback and his way of engaging with me throughout the program has also played a key part in my development. I learned a lot from a bit of friction that arose between us because we dared to address it and Tee continued to push me through it even though it was uncomfortable. I have deep faith in his communication skills and I’ve come to trust him to be honest with me, which has made me more comfortable to experiment, and this has helped me to learn more quickly. I’m impressed with Tee’s ability to see the best in me and my work and grateful for all the work he has been doing to help me bring forth more of it. My fellow cohort coaches also played a key part in the development I went through, whether it was in terms of pointing out something important, sending something my way that I really needed at that time, showing up for an exploratory adventure or letting me give them my gifts. Most importantly, they showed up to co-create a retreat experience that was transformative and that could not have happened without them. For that, I will be forever grateful.

TBCT offers something rare. It’s an interesting mixture of structure and freedom, of intention and adventure, of science and spirituality. To my understanding, the first version of the program was intended to be a trellis for coaches in training, and it’s fair to say that it was. But it was more than that. It was a playground where it was safe and fun to play and learn in ways that impact the world positively. And it was a community of people who supported each other’s growth and cared for each other’s well-being, and who wanted to help others. I feel blessed to have been a part of the first cohort and I hope that the program continues to grow and evolve so that it can play an even larger role in increasing the well-being of this world. "


You can find my in-depth gratitude for participating contributors to the program in the Tee's Experience section. 

My sincere thanks to those who took the time to leave comments and give me their impressions of this piece. I'm still struck by their generosity in doing that. 

Thank you's include alphabetically by first name: Adam Tury, Amber Damn, Anna Weldon, Charlie Rogers-Smith, Elliot Billingsley, Damon Pourtahmaseb-Sasi, Harry Taussig, Ivan Burduk, Isabella Baquerizo (illustrations!), Johnson Hsieh, Kaj Sotala, Kerry Vaughan, Milan Patel, Natalia Dashan, Olof Fägerstam, Paul Rhode, Pavitthra Pandurangan, Rajeev Ram, Sebastian Schmidt (noted philosophical reservations), Sicong Shen, Signe Saven, Tyler Alterman

(If I've missed anyone, please do let me know!) 

  1. ^

    We went with “Choose your own Odyssey” instead of “adventure” because each section could jump off the page by meaningfully affecting your real life. Our program also often invoked the language of “odyssey” to depict the type of journeys of development and personal growth that all of us embark(ed) on

  2. ^

     More of my personal reflections on my experience of the program in the Tee’s Experience section

  3. ^

     When I refer to the group of participating cohort coaches, it’s safe to say that I’m not always claiming that each of them had the same experience, or always shared the same sentiment. In most cases, I’ll specify the rough amount of coaches I’m speaking about. Otherwise, you can assume more general statements about the cohort are referring to most or nearly all participants, not always accounting for outliers.

  4. ^

     These designations aren’t clear-cut because there are several pathways to becoming a coach, where the intensity of commitment and final decision can be staked to how things seem to go when trying it out (i.e. leaning into good feedback). Therefore, cleanly categorizing where people stand on this is tricky.

    To my knowledge, there was only one instance where a person had their heart set on being a coach full-time, but was disappointed when ultimately ending up not seeing how that could work out for them. I've confirmed with this coach that they don't hold the program primarily responsible for this, however.


  5. ^

     Natalia Dashan, one of the cohort coaches, wrote up her own account of what each of the modules were like that she attended.

  6. ^

     Her partner James Dama also delivered a handful of module sessions, and I’m told played an important role in the formulation of the modules by Emily. Tee also participated in running module sessions.

  7. ^

     Tee: Oh yeah, I can appreciate how my description could be a bit abstract. As examples, in some cases that meant grappling with: 
    • Coaches can understandably get caught up in various ways outlined in the Open questions about coaching, the industry & craft section 

    • Complexity and conflictedness underlying “can I actually help anyone this way?” and / or “who am I to presume helping people in this way?” Also “how do I feel morally about being paid to help people with real problems while I’m still not very good at this?”

    • Knotty moral questions related to trying to make a living by providing this level of intimate care (e.g. "how can I make a steady income without having people consistently depend on me?" or "how do I not let the desire for income cloud my judgements about their care (duration)?") 

    • Whether coaching / therapy fulfills a vital role in society, and what it means about society if it does

    • Conceptions, models and ethics around ‘change’ and ‘growth’. (e.g. "am I simply playing off of people's insecurities in order to have them pay me for something so that they can 'get better'?") 

    • Settling their own lives and emotional states enough to be able to hold space and help others (e.g. "it's hard to consistently show up for somebody else when I have different things affecting me in my own life.") 


    [ Resume the fireside chat


  8. ^

     That’s not to say self-discovery outside of the mission / work isn’t worthwhile. That kind of inner work is quite valuable too. But purpose can serve as an enduring touchstone to inform and modulate inner work. Without it, appropriately scoping inner work is a big challenge.

  9. ^

     A concrete example of this is the spiritually taxing experience of working with others based on a model of change / growth that you only half-heartedly, unexaminedly, or don’t any longer,  believe to be true or moral (e.g. a productivity coach that specializes in building elaborate technical systems no longer believing that technical systems are the main ‘hinge’ or intervention point for improving productivity)

  10. ^

     In many cases, personal growth insights attained along a mission-focused path also generalize to other domains of experience. For example, Nonviolent Communication (NVC)-informed improvements to one’s communication in management that can be useful for personal relationships.

  11. ^

     You might not be surprised to hear that the process of figuring out how to present oneself as a person who provides this type of care as a practitioner can lead to perceptual tangles of all sorts. It touches on how and what you think about so many things. To name a few: your identity, your capabilities, how the world works, how change and growth is supposed to work, etc.

    As shorthand, I’ve been calling these tangles “emotional cruxes” though cognition and other things play an important role.

    Along the journey of becoming a coach, unaddressed emotional cruxes can make it quite difficult to even make initial progress. Nearly all of our coaches found that authoring a few paragraph bio about themselves and their offering was an emotionally fraught endeavor.

    In not-so-bad circumstances, neglecting emotional cruxes leads to delays in getting set up. In the worst of circumstances, people never make it, or commit long-term to personas that don’t sit well with themselves and / or those they aspire to serve.

    A quick example – under pressure to make a living, coaches can stake too much of their offering to concepts and competencies that they have as they currently understand them. (e.g. various conceptions of ‘put-togetherness,’ or particular approaches to productivity and efficiency). Defining the offering too narrowly can make it difficult to evolve. In extreme cases, people are stumping for things they no longer believe in largely because so much of their livelihood is staked to it.

    What happens when you have an experience that fundamentally changes your understanding of what it means to be productive? How about a realization that productivity, as you previously understood it, isn’t the way to being the way you want to be?

    These are some of the ways that internal emotional cruxes can compromise aspiring coaches in the short-, medium- and long-term.

    [Resume the fireside chat]

  12. ^

     We also got snapshots of the cohort coaches’ experience via feedback surveys about the program from coaches, feedback about coaches from clients, client outcomes, exit calls, rich testimonials and the final presentations. Nearly all of the coaches closed out the program by delivering a final presentation that we called a “celebration of odyssey”, which included their account of what it was like for them to move through the program, what they take from it, and what effects it had on their lives.

  13. ^

     As will be documented many times throughout this report, Emily was integral to making this program happen. There’s perhaps no better display than the parts of the testimonials with nothing but glowing things to say about Emily and her efforts.

  14. ^

     The curriculum modules also encouraged the surfacing of emotional cruxes and attempted to provide tools and a setting for working through them. 

    Actual example of crux brought by a cohort coach: “I’m scared to ask my clients for an hourly rate increase and I feel conflicted about if/how to do that. Because of what little confidence I had in being able to coach others in the beginning, I only asked for the bare minimum hourly rate ($50/hr.). After a couple of months, I’ve since realized that this rate is unsustainable and that my coaching is worth much more.”

  15. ^

     With the primary wave of applications coming on August 1 of 2023, it meant that actually most client commitments were taking place in late August, September, and even October.

    This had the effect of ramping up the volume of sessions for most coaches during the final third of the program, rather than the middle third. Some coaches felt that they were finally well-positioned with client acquisition just as the program was winding down.

  16. ^

     Logistical complexity that extended the client decision-making process included the exchange of introductory emails, setting up introductory calls with multiple coaches, and decision-making time between coaches, and informing coaches who were not chosen (where applicable).

    It could also have been very well be the case that the matchmaking pool was less committal than a prospective client reaching out to a single coach individually.  

  17. ^

    In most cases, cohort coaches missed their client and revenue targets by ~30 – 50%.

    These could be seen as big misses. The gap between our expectations and what actually happened in this space is large enough to take a very close look at, especially when setting expectations next time around. 

    On the other hand, I probably don't need to expound very much in the inexact science of getting new freelance coaches up-and-running with paid clients. 

  18. ^

     Though I’d wager the level of quantitative tracking and emphasis on multiple forms of reflection and guided feedback was on par with some therapist training programs

  19. ^

     On brand with how TBCT prizes getting clarity on what happened no matter the outcome, explanations for client acquisition outcomes ranged from being a function of how the pipeline was designed, how coaches and clients reacted to the design of the pipeline, circumstances and dynamics between the coaches and prospective clients, and purely coach-side emotional cruxes that needed to be worked through.

    A quick example – the competition dynamics engendered by the matchmaking service were quite activating for some cohort coaches, but others spiraled pretty quickly if they were not chosen by clients. A fine-grained interaction is required to get a viable interpretation as to why each of the coaches reacted so differently.

  20. ^

     In addition, cohort coaches establishing foundational aspects of their practice hamstrung client acquisition efforts. Disclarity in what’s being offered and how it could be offered was responsible for some number of hangups in execution. Some coaches crafted optimistic client acquisition targets for the purposes of training and getting in session repetitions, while at the same time puzzling over deeper questions related to their practice. For one or two coaches, setting loose targets while still entertaining this career path as a whole contributed to lower numbers.

  21. ^

     All numbers in this section were reported and verified by the coaches themselves. These numbers are best interpreted as nearby approximations. Reporting can be tricky due to the shifting status of clients, reliance on coaches’ record keeping, etc. The original plan was to have a centralized system that tracked these metrics automatically on Coda, but it proved inconvenient for many of the coaches to use and the coaches were encouraged to use whichever means of tracking their practice felt most effective for them.

  22. ^

     Here is the presentation worksheet outlining what coaches were to present in their Celebrations of Odyssey

  23. ^

     Program timelines are the second image in the Program Design section

  24. ^

     Not to be confused with currently coaching full-time. Due to clashing definitions surrounding what ‘full-time’ means for coaching, this designation seems more accurate.

  25. ^

     4-5 sessions was emphasized by the program as a natural check-in point for the coach and client to collaboratively assess how the coaching relationship is going. This was not mandated or enforced by TBCT as a requirement. Coaches that did this reported that it added quite a bit of clarity, including exchanging feedback, potential for course correction, opportunities for bringing the relationship to an elegant close (offering referrals to other coaches), reinforcing what had gone well, setting up future sessions were things to move forward, etc.

  26. ^

     These numbers omit one cohort member who exited the program midway through who had ~6 clients by that point. For some quantitative answers, clients wrote in a range (e.g. “the coaching is worth $150 – $200/hr.”). When this occurred for simplicity, Tee took the midpoint of the range.

  27. ^

     From January 2023 – January 2024

  28. ^

     Averaged across all reporting coaches

  29. ^

     In more academic language, TBCT was set up to be a learning project that hovered between "multi-method eclecticism" and "postmodern interpretivism" while striving for "cooperative ecological inquiry.” We definitely included elements of empirical positivism, but mostly as guardrails or signals for interpretation. Terms from Bill Torbort’s description of social scientific paradigms published in Torbort’s Listening to the Dark.

  30. ^

     In some cases leaving the door open for an eventual transition to full-time coaching

  31. ^
  32. ^

     In one case, from part-time to full-time. And in another case, from potentially full-time to very little part-time work as a coach.

  33. ^

     Some coaches are still deciding what to do in this regard

  34. ^

     A great example of this was the cohort coaches' use of the Session Rating Scale (SRS), originally developed by Scott Miller as a quantitative scale for client feedback in therapy. Rather than taking at face-value the scores representing the quality of each session delivered, Tee advised the coaches to treat the scoring as quantitative signals that could be qualitatively addressed (based on Miller’s recommendations). Receiving a lower than expected score along one of the axes is a great opportunity for the coach to potentially course correct, including the option to directly address the feedback with the client in the next session. (Miller also advocates for using the SRS in this way).

  35. ^

     The target was roughly 30 - 40 surveys. It was hard to say what the totals ought to have been in the first cycle of a program like this, but 2/3 of the cohort (6 coaches) having coached 5 clients past 4 sessions = 30 surveys. Add in a few surveys for the other 1/3 of coaches to = ~40. Coaches collectively reported that ~33 clients completed more than four sessions, though only 25 filled in a long-form survey upon doing so.

    There are interesting potential takeaways related to the shortfall in completed long-form surveys related to things like cohort coaches' reluctance to distribute surveys and the difficulty of getting clients to complete them. 

  36. ^

     Some have gone admirably further than our program did in trying to discern in a more academic, empirical, positivist sense what doses of which forms of feedback lead to the most rapid upskilling. I’d recommend The Cycle of Excellence as a great example of this. 

    TBCT was trying to get a sense of how it goes when aspiring coaches are embedded in a whole multi-component feedback apparatus.

  37. ^

     Why not all? In short, because there are some developmental arcs that clients won’t understand, or telling them about the arc can be disruptive to their growth. A classic example is when high-achievers strive to excel in non-achievement/restful activities.

  38. ^

    Great post cautioning against offering free services in the community. 

    From what I could tell, the article leaves out my position on when it can be good to support free services – where I do think that temporary funding or subsidization could help get projects off the ground. More importantly, I think this is a great way to nurture talented individuals. 

    There's ample precedent from the for-profit for this. It's exceedingly hard for certain would-be valuable companies to be immediately profitable from the very beginning, some need to invest in expensive fixed capital assets, etc. 

  39. ^

     See endnote 28 “Listening to the Dark”

  40. ^

      Most of the points below are derived from individual exit calls that Tee conducted with nearly every coach. Some points are derived from other sources of feedback.





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disclaimer: I've read in full only "Takes for Self-improvers, clients, people ‘bought into’ self-development" which I'm mostly interested in, skimmed the rest

Thanks for the writeup! I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on how I should figure out the value of getting coaching.

My current approach is to do a lot of self-coaching myself and only when I feel like I'm stuck for a longer period or feel overwhelmed I reach out to a coach/therapist. Then, I use the sessions not only to figure out the object-level problem, but also I try to learn how to become a better self-coach by reflecting on the sessions on a meta-level (so that I don't need them anymore).

There is of course an opportunity cost - I could just get coaching sessions regularly, regardless of whether I'm stuck, or not, and focus on my thing - engineering/parenting/founding/... But if I'm gonna save the time/effort by not learning to coach myself and instead outsource the coaching skills to others, am I not gonna need them in the future?

There is of course always the benefit of having another person check on my thinking and hear their perspective, but that doesn't need to be a coach, it can be a domain expert, if my self-coaching skills are good enough.

To sum this up, what am I likely missing with this approach?

Glad it was helpful! Happy to see that you utilized the 'playlist'-type function of this to kick off these thoughts

This sounds like a nice process you've carved out for yourself. Always pleased to see when people are at such an advanced position in being conscientious about their growth. 

Similar to what it sounds like your process is, my sense is that the best frequency for working with most coaches/therapists follows an 'organic cadence' that's tied to particular phases and occasions. It seems like, in most cases, consistent indefinite sessions are more likely to stray from addressing things that are (a)live

Things I'd suggest that could be helpful to think about: 

– There's a meta-skill to knowing when to bring in certain people to lean on / get inspired by in different situations. Viewing that as an ongoing learning project to reflect on could be good. (It could imply that you want to strengthen aspects of your network in case you want to call upon them, for example) 
– This project of knowing when to bring certain people in can be enhanced by more information about use cases associated with different people and frequencies. Maybe self-coaching is great for certain territories of your experience, but consistent founder-coaching while you're in phases of creation, scaling up, management, etc. are almost always useful. A lot of this is tied to seasonality and phases in my mind. Bringing in a coach 'to thrive' in winter, when you're likely to be more introspective, etc., could be better than doing so in the summer, when you might want to be having experiences in the outside world to bring back for yourself later. 
– I don't want to assume things about your process, but self-coaching/-therapy is tricky even for coaches and therapists. If you want to get really good at this, it's likely some time refining that toolkit (*focusing explicitly on getting better at self-coaching*) would be a good investment of time and resources
– Getting coaching/therapy when you feel stuck is a reliable signal of need and/or comes with a higher likelihood of getting value from individual (sets of) sessions. The downsides are that you can lose momentum getting stuck, you could get stuck for longer than it needed to be, some people struggle to ask for help in low-powered states. Consistent coaching aimed at the medium- to long-term can 'head off' certain tangles/hangups. More on this here

Hope that was helpful! Curious how what I mentioned landed for you

EA Forum note: I've cleared with the Forum team that I can offer free 20-minute calls as a 'thank you' for the first 10 people that leave thoughtful and engaging private or public comments. These short calls can be mini-sessions, coaching AMA, a catchup, or used any other way you'd like! 

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