Coach Interview Series: Matt Mills

by Brandon

Matt Mills

Certified Professional 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 Matt Mills. Matt is a Certified Professional Coach, race trainer, speaker, and writer. He is the founder of Coaching On The Run based in Los Angeles.

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

Matt: My practice is called Coaching on the Run. It bridges life and leadership coaching with running and race training. I coach runners and leaders who are ready to take bold action for a major change in their life. By using running and race training as a way to help provide life coaching in other areas of my clients’ lives, they experience more fulfillment, accountability, inspiration, and motivation to stay committed to their goals.

NCA: Why is it, in your experience, that helping your clients train for racing and running in general has such a positive effect on their personal and professional lives?

Matt: There’s a personal connection for me. Throughout my entire life, I’ve always been a runner. It’s gotten me through any time I’ve encountered a challenge or wanted to accomplish a big goal that I’ve had. In one way or another, I have always relied on running as a way for me to have a sense of power to be able to do that. I’ve been a runner for 25 years (since I was 12 years old) and what I realized was every tool that I’ve used as a runner has also been applicable to accomplishing other goals in my life—whether that’s in my career or it’s having more of that sense of fulfillment in my life.

It’s also about that idea of self-leadership. If you want to accomplish anything, it requires self-leadership. For me and for a lot of other runners, running is one of the greatest forms of self-leadership that you can take. It takes a lot of leadership to strap on a pair of shoes and get out the door. It takes a lot of leadership if you decide you want to run a 5k or if you decide you want to run a marathon.

Every goal that you have—whether it’s running, whether it’s in your career, or whether it’s in your personal life—requires that same degree of self-leadership. If you’re able to take that self-leadership and training for a race, you can apply that to accomplish any of those other goals that you have in your personal and professional life.

Even if my clients run a few times a week, that’s a way for them to feel really energized and it gives them that sense that they’re working towards something. That can be a really powerful goal that they set and when they accomplish that, it gives them that motivation to take a bigger step in another area of their life. It doesn’t necessarily have to be running a 5k or “I’m going to complete my first marathon.” It could just be, “I just want to be more in shape.”

With everything that we do as coaches—whether you’re working with high-powered executives, whether you’re working with someone who wants to change careers, whether you’re working with a working mom that just wants more normalcy—all of that requires having the right mindset, having the right goals set, and the right strategy. Even the act of going out for one run requires that same process as well.

NCA: What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of your coaching work? Perhaps it’s a part of coaching that you didn’t foresee when you first started, and how have you worked to overcome that?

Matt: Number one, trying to figure out exactly who it is that you really want to serve and finding those people. The business-building part of it isn’t always something that comes naturally or easily to every coach.

The other thing, too, is knowing your style and your approach that you feel will serve your clients powerfully. That takes time to build. When you’re starting out as a coach, you might not change every person’s life. You’re still learning your skills and those tools that you have.

As trained and as ready to go as you might feel that you’d be, it does take some work and it’s important to have that growth mindset of thinking, “I am also growing as a coach with each client that I serve.”

NCA: Can you think of a mentor or a coach that has made an influence on you in your own coaching career and how has this individual helped you get to the point you’re at now?

Matt: There’s so many, but I’d have to say my current coach, Kate Neligan. The reason why I started working with her was because I was curious about how she was using a tool—in her case, it was horses—to help provide coaching. I knew that I wanted to provide running as a tool, so I was interested in that.

She’s been really inspirational. Number one, she’s a great coach. She’s been incredibly inspiring and motivating for me and has just been of incredible service. But she’s also helped me discover my message, what my voice is, to take this idea that I’ve been passionate about with my coaching and be able to make it a reality.

It’s so important that coaches have a coach. Someone that they can rely on for support, accountability, and someone to keep inspiring and motivating them. Of course, we want to do that for our clients, but it’s also important that we have that for ourselves.

It’s something valuable that we have at our fingertips to help each other and it’s important that we all take advantage of it.

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?

Matt: I think every coach has that self-doubt and will always continue to have it to some degree. I think it’s a sign of what you need to step into. That’s how I’ve always overcome self-doubt: really acting on it. When I feel self-doubt, it’s usually a sign that I need to keep going in an area. When I try something new, whether it’s, “Can I coach someone at this particular level?” I would go out and I would try to find someone that I could coach at that level, whether it was an executive or someone who I didn’t know if I had the skills and abilities to do that.

It’s about facing those fears and acting in spite of them and overcoming that. That’s always how I’ve been able to encounter self-doubt. Self-doubt is just a sign that I’m on the right track and that I need to act on what that self-doubt is trying to tell me. Instead of running in the opposite direction, you need to face it head on and know that every single coach will always have self-doubt.

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