Health Coach Networking: The Benefits of Connection and Collaboration for Coaches

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by Will Welch, A-CFHC, NBC-HWC

“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” — Mother Teresa

If you were a fly on the wall in my office every day, you wouldn’t imagine that I am part of an extensive network of connections. I run an entirely virtual health coaching practice, and I am behind a computer for much of the day, but my success is a reflection of the people that I connect with every week in my health coach network. Among the important connections are those with fellow coaches, allied health professionals, and other business owners in various industries.

These connections have numerous benefits. I talk about coaching skills and techniques with my colleagues, and we build our practices and our community together. My relationships with allied professionals not only generate opportunities for collaboration, but they also create a referral network that I can tap into when my clients need services that I cannot provide. And my professional connections help me in areas in which I have little expertise, offer new ideas and perspectives, and refer me to clients that I wouldn’t get to work with otherwise.

Health coaching is an emerging profession—so how can you create a vibrant professional network? Check out this article from health coach Will Welch for tips. #changeagent #kresserinstitute

Practicing coaches and those who are considering becoming coaches share a passion for helping people. It’s easy for us to bond and create a community around this shared passion. And when we share this passion with allied health professionals and others outside of coaching, we can create connections that extend our reach and help us build sustainable, robust practices that help as many people as possible. None of this is possible without a network of health coaching connections.

Below are some of the benefits that I’ve experienced from connections. Much of what you’ll read is an outgrowth of my training in the ADAPT Health Coach Training Program and the people I met as a student. The program offers a wealth of guidance around building connections with coaches, practitioners, and other professionals who can help you in your career and with your health coaching business.

The ADAPT Health Coach Training Program is a year-long, virtual course designed to equip, support, and train the next generation of Functional Health coaches. Our curriculum dives deep into the art and practice of coaching, Functional and ancestral health, and professional development for health coaches. We offer our students everything they need to build careers as successful, effective health coaches. Find out if the ADAPT Health Coach Training Program is right for you.

How Health Coach Networking Creates Connections and Builds the Industry and Your Business

I enjoy being part of an emerging community of health coaches. We are part of an exciting movement that is tackling chronic illness and helping people change their health behaviors. As part of something new and growing, we have an opportunity to define both the health coaching community and how the public understands what we do.

Despite being in different locations and having different practices and niches, health coaches share many of the same challenges:

  • How do we create thriving businesses?
  • How do we explain our purpose and the services that we offer to a client base that may not know we exist?
  • How do we practice self-care to ensure that our work is sustainable for us?

Discussing the answers to these questions with one another not only helps us master our craft and effectively run our businesses, but it also fosters a sense of community and togetherness that keeps us grounded and whole.

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Creating Connections with Mentor Coaches Can Help You Grow as a Coach and Practice Ethically

For coaches, strong relationships with our peers are essential to our success, but we also need mentorship from experienced health coaches. Coaches benefit from being coached. Mentor coaching shines a spotlight of awareness on how we engage with our clients, and it is a component of practicing ethically.

Often, mentor coaches see what we can’t see or highlight blind spots that may take us years to uncover ourselves. “What’s holding you back, Will?” asked one of my mentor coaches when I described the challenge of providing compassionate accountability for my clients. It was a simple but powerful question that pushed me to dig deep and consider how I relate to my clients. Her question effectively brought my awareness to an element of my coaching practice, and it led me to change how I coach for the better.

Mentor coaching is also essential to practicing ethically because professional development is part of practicing ethically. Mentor coaching not only creates opportunities for skill development, but it also allows coaches to discuss ethical concerns with an experienced coach. Sessions with a mentor coach provide an opportunity to address questions such as:

  • Did I handle that client’s concern as well as I could have?
  • Should I refer this client to another health professional?
  • Is this a red flag that I need to address?

Working through the answers to these and other difficult questions with another coach helps us develop as coaches, practice ethically, and serve our clients better.

Mentor coaching is not just for professional coaches. It’s also essential in coaching training. I first discovered the value of mentor coaching in the ADAPT Health Coach Training Program. The ADAPT program helps coaches develop not just through learning coaching concepts and techniques, but also through hands-on guidance from experienced coaches—much like that of a piano teacher, guiding their students to better technique, and ultimately to better music. If you are a coach or considering coaching, ADAPT faculty members and graduates may be great candidates to mentor you as you progress in your coaching career.

Creating Connections with Allied Health Professionals Can Broaden Your Reach and Help You Practice Responsibly

The Mother Teresa quote at the beginning of this article highlights the advantage of coaches partnering with allied health professionals. When coaches are clear about what they do, stick to their scope of practice, and partner with others who complement their skills, then they can be an integral part of a network of care that serves a multitude of client needs. These partnerships can be informal, like referral networks, or formal, like employment in a hospital or clinic. For coaches trained in the ADAPT program, the ADAPT “ecosystem” imparts a common language and philosophy that can serve as a foundation for collaboration between ADAPT coaches and ADAPT practitioners.

Health coaches are needed in the current healthcare landscape because we fill a gap in care. We are trained in behavior change. When we collaborate with clinicians, nurses, or nutritionists, we allow them to focus on what they’re trained to do—practice medicine, develop nutrition plans, etc.—while relieving them of the responsibility of facilitating behavior change. Whether you’re exchanging referrals or working in a hospital or clinic, this clear differentiation of strengths between coaches and other health professionals presents an opportunity for fruitful collaboration.

Working with allied health professionals also fits hand-in-glove with a health coaching scope of practice and ethical coaching. The clearer coaches are on their scope of practice—those unique and specific skills and abilities that make coaches effective, including what coaches can and can’t do—the more likely they are to identify a client’s health concern that is better addressed by someone else (e.g., a clinician, nutritionist, or therapist).

Having a network that includes these health professionals means that they’re a call away if I see any red flags in a coaching session. For example, if my client tells me that they want to get off a medication, that they want a nutrition plan, or that they have anxiety that gets in the way of daily activities, then I can connect them with a clinician, nutritionist, or therapist in my network. Trying to tackle these issues myself would not only be outside of my scope of practice, but it would also be unethical.

For ADAPT coaches and those considering the ADAPT Health Coach Training Program, a natural collaboration is with graduates of the ADAPT Practitioner Training Program. ADAPT coaches have complementary skills to ADAPT practitioners and are obvious partners, given the overlap in material between the two programs. ADAPT coaches and practitioners share a common language and philosophy and are natural partners, whether in exchanging referrals, consulting on cases, or working together in a clinic.

Creating Connections with Other Professionals Can Grow Your Business

As health coaches, many of us are so passionate about health and wellness that it can be easy to spend most of our time talking to like-minded health professionals. However, there are numerous benefits to breaking out of our health and wellness bubbles and building relationships with people in other industries. Mastermind groups and referral groups offer two structured ways to make connections with professionals in unrelated fields.

Joining with three or four other business owners from different backgrounds or industries in a mastermind group can be a useful professional development endeavor for health coaches. In these mastermind groups, coaches partner with other business owners to get support, accountability, and expert advice from outside their industry. From my own experience, meeting regularly with a group that holds me accountable can make the difference between spinning my wheels on an idea for a couple of weeks or taking a necessary step forward in my business.

For coaches who want to extend their reach to new markets and client pipelines, referral groups are a great resource. I am part of a weekly referral group in which I deliver a weekly elevator pitch, make yearly presentations, meet regularly one-on-one with other members, and provide warm referrals. As a result of these activities, I have received client referrals from other members that I would have been unlikely to find through my other professional and social networks.

Partner for Success

When coaches partner with others, they set themselves up for greater success than when they work alone. As coaches, our connections generate community, help us grow professionally and practice ethically, provide opportunities for powerful collaboration, and broaden our reach to clients who we could never imagine meeting. And these connections can also lead to interesting conversations, some laughs, and lasting friendships with great colleagues.