Coach Interview Series: David Taylor-Klaus

by Brandon

David Taylor-Klaus

Entrepreneur Coach, Executive Coach, Team Performance Coach

Our main objective here at the National Coach Academy is to enable aspiring coaches to reach their full professional potential. One of the most effective ways to educate students about the world of coaching is by offering them a window into the world of real, practicing coaches and showing them all the different ways coaches make a difference in the lives of their clients.

We hope today’s interview adds another insightful glimpse into the dynamic world of coaching.

Today we are interviewing David Taylor-Klaus. David is an Entrepreneur Coach, Executive Coach, and Team Performance Coach based in Atlanta, Georgia. His book Mindset Mondays with DTK: 52 Ways to REWIRE Your Thinking and Transform Your Life will be released in April 2020.

NCA: Can you describe your coaching practice and the kinds of clients you typically work with?

David: My work is around reintroducing successful entrepreneurs and senior leaders to their families. I coach the leaders and the teams that they lead. As I watch my clients begin to shift their internal culture, their choices, and therefore their behaviors, they start to notice that the teams they’ve been leading and the culture of those teams are a match to their own previous (or pre-coaching) behaviors. It’s been a “Wow, look at all of the work we’ve done. Now, what can we do with the team?” It became a natural evolution of the practice to move from coaching the leader to adding in coaching the teams that they lead.

NCA: In working with those leaders, you can see success with the transformation happening with your client directly, but does it often happen that this change isn’t cascading down on their team? Do you see that often?

David: It’s kind of the opposite where sometimes they don’t notice the transformation that’s happening until they get a reflection back from their team. They start to see the cascade effect on the team. They’re like, “Wow, what’s going on?” [laughing] “We’ve seen your behavior change and that’s what’s changing us.” It’s more often that the cascade reflects back for them more of an accurate representation of a change that they’ve gone through.

I work in the environment where there’s a cascade. That’s one of my deepest values—that idea of cascade. There are plenty of coaches out there doing work with some phenomenal people and I choose to work in an environment where the people I touch, touch others. That’s how I expand my impact footprint. When I develop content for a talk or a presentation or a workshop inside one of these companies, it’s always with the idea that “compelling programs cascade.” I design for that cascade. Working with leaders allows me to have more of that cascade impact.

There’s nothing wrong with working with folks that aren’t going to have an impact on anybody else. It just doesn’t light me up. That’s a super important thing for people going into coaching. If you don’t get off on that energy of transformation, don’t do this. Because when you hit the times where it’s hard or when you’re finding any of those points of struggle and you’re really uncomfortable, the one thing that always gets us through is that moment of epiphany or transformation for a client. That energy, that juice. That’s why I do this. If it doesn’t feed you, why are you doing it?

I’ve had some coaches that I’ve mentored that are doing trauma work and that is incredibly powerful and transformative for the person they’re working with. The people doing that work couldn’t care less about the cascade. They’re there to help and heal a person who’s navigating trauma. Great! That’s brilliant. I’m not a good coach for them. I’m not trained in that end. That’s not what lights me up.

NCA: What got you interested in this kind of work? Did you initially start with a one-on-one basis or did you know from day one that you were looking to impact larger teams?

David: Yes, I started with one-on-one, but I always had an itch for a bigger impact footprint. I moved into the team coaching two years after I started the one to one. Part of that was I was still doing the coach training and the certification and the leadership program and I just didn’t have time to take on one more damn modality. [laughing] But then it became apparent very quickly that when you’re coaching a leader, whether it’s a founder/operator, somebody who’s running a small company, or a senior leader, the cascade impact on the team is immediate. After referring folks out to team coaches for a while, it became apparent that it was going to be a systemic need.

NCA: What have been some of the challenges that you faced in your own coaching career, or some aspect of coaching that you weren’t fully prepared for when you first started that you’ve learned to overcome?

David: I think our coaching schools, particularly the three larger ones, are doing their clients a disservice by perpetuating the myth that you should coach anyone. Every one of the top three schools in terms of size and age, I have heard them say to their folks in certification, “Coach anyone. Coach anyone. Coach anyone. It’s how you sharpen your sword.”

It’s terrible advice. Because what happens is you get coaches that are building their book of business on that idea. They get through certification and they look at the people they’ve been coaching and they realize that book of business doesn’t inspire them at all. In fact, it’s often quite draining. I have seen so many new coaches leave coaching and go on to something else because they conflate a shitty book of business with “This was a terrible profession for me.”

I’d give folks the guidance from early on to do the work on beginning to figure out what it is they want to be doing in the world, what impact they want to be having, and who’s the audience they want to be serving. You’ll fine-tune your niche all the time. At the beginning, start off with an understanding of what you’re here to do, the impact you’re here to have, and who you want to serve. Coach them. Build your certification and client based on them and tweak it as you go. But don’t just coach anyone.

I went to one training weekend and I heard them say, “If you don’t have somebody to coach this weekend, coach one of the bellhops in the hotel.” That’s fine if you need a practice client for half an hour before the next day, but that’s not how you build your practice. Too many people are building practices they don’t like because they listen to that advice.

If you don’t get off on that energy of transformation, don’t do this. Because when you hit the times where it’s hard or when you’re finding any of those points of struggle and you’re really uncomfortable, the one thing that always gets us through is that moment of epiphany or transformation for a client. That energy, that juice. That’s why I do this. If it doesn’t feed you, why are you doing it?

NCA: Can you talk a little more about your intake process?

David: I look for two things in the initial conversations with the client. One, that they’re willing to do the work. I don’t need to babysit. I don’t need to chase them. I’m not an accountability coach who’s going to call them every afternoon. I want people that are actually going to do the work. And, two, I want people that I can fall in love with, whether it’s how they see the world, how they are with their family, how they are with their business, what it is they believe about this, what it is they feel about that—something that I can connect to.

You’ve got to have a connection with these folks. When those two things are in play — that they were going to do the work and they were somebody I could fall in love with — that is an amazing client relationship.

One of the other snafus that happens to a lot of coaches is there a lot of folks that are selling to coaches. The “Six Secrets to Six Figures” and programs like that. I noticed that all of these programs talk about six figures of revenue, but they never talk about income. These people are spending 125 grand in marketing just to make 100 grand. That doesn’t work. All of these people that are pitching their secret sauce and the perfect steps and the hidden secrets, the challenge is that so many of those folks are pitching a system that, even if they flawlessly documented exactly what worked for them and gave it to somebody else to run, the person running it is not the same person who created it. It’s not the time or the place or the conditions that that person built their business in.

These programs for coaches that are telling them how to do it are terrible almost across the board because they’re telling folks to do it a certain way. There are very few of them that are saying, “This is what I did. This is how it worked and why it worked for me. How do you adapt it for you, your style, and your audience?” That’s different and there are a precious few out there. People get so caught up in the stunning marketing, the time limit, and the money-back guarantee and these coaches sign up to work with people who are just telling them what to do.

I once worked with what we thought was a high level coach and really, it’s a high level consultant that said, “This is the best way to do it.” What I didn’t do was adapt what I was learning to who I knew my audience was and who I know I am. I played that out and it cost me two years of rebuilding my business. I’m watching so many coaches do the same thing. They just blindly follow instead of adapting.

NCA: One of the most common challenges new coaches face is self-doubt. Some coaches call it Imposter Syndrome, where early on they feel somehow inadequate to take on the role of coach. What is one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who is in the beginning stage of their coaching career and dealing with these doubts in their mind?

David: A coach is not a mentor and a coach is not a consultant. Those are different skill sets. A mentor has to have been there in order to do it.

Eric Schmidt, then the Chairman and CEO of Google, was approached by the board who said to him, “We think you need a coach.” He was like, “First of all, what do I need the coach for? I’m running the largest company on the planet.” If a coach had to run a company that was the same size or larger in a similar space in order to be able to coach Eric Schmidt, they never could have found him a coach.

Bill Campbell ended up serving him very well. And here’s the thing: Bill doesn’t have to have had the same experience because his job is not to mentor him or consult him. His job is to coach him. A coach’s job is to reflect the system back to itself and then create a container for him to make better and truer decisions.

It’s a drastic oversimplification of one line of coaching, but the point is you don’t have to have been there in order to coach them because you’re not mentoring them. That’s one of the things that new coaches have to wrestle with because there are times when I’ve coached CEOs that are running and have run much larger companies than I have ever run. Even when I’m coaching them around issues they’re bringing up about their business. It’s not about going for the presenting issue, but what’s underneath it and what’s underneath that and so forth.

The second thing is, if somebody is having imposter syndrome, thank God. If they ever lose that, they’re dead. A good coach never loses their imposter syndrome. They’re always growing. They’re always stretching. If you lose the imposter syndrome, you begin to get what Whitney Johnson talks about being stuck in the mastery end of the learning curve. You end up feeling stagnant. May they never lose their imposter syndrome.

Third, nobody should ever hire a coach who doesn’t have a coach. If you’re feeling that imposter syndrome come out, bring it to your coach. Have a conversation about it. Get some coaching around it. Don’t hide it. It’s natural. You’re human.

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