Who are your coaching clients? This basic question about how we practice coaching can be the most critical factor in determining our impact on the world around us.

If we choose to coach anyone who can afford to pay us, the likely result is that those with the most disposable income will receive the most coaching. Is this truly the impact we would like to have on the world? On the other hand, when we decide to coach a population whose increased success creates a shift we would like to see in society, we become positive agents of change.

Over the past decade as the coaching profession has matured, coaches have begun to realize our potential impact on the planet. Instead of simply focusing on our own survival, many of us are now seeing a much larger role for coaching, and coaches, to play.

Cindy Reinhardt and Donna Zajonc saw a new way for coaches to make a difference when they founded an ICF Special Interest Group for political leadership coaching in 2004. Cindy and Donna envisioned “a world where political leaders regularly call upon the expertise of master coaches as they grapple with the challenges of public leadership.”

Patrick Williams launched the initiative “Coaching the Global Village” in 2005, with the goal “to create positive social change for the underserved, undervalued, underfed, undereducated, and underappreciated in many of the villages and towns of the world… using the coach approach.”

In 2005, Virginia Kellogg became a project partner for the “Coaching and Philanthropy” venture initiated by several major U.S. foundations. The project aims to advance the application of coaching in the nonprofit sector “as a strategy for cultivating strong leadership and building effective nonprofit organizations.”

The backdrop behind each of these prominent examples is that of individual coaches making the decision to target a new population as clients — one that they recognized would create the change they wanted to see in the world. This is a decision any of us can make.

For coaches to make the greatest positive impact possible, we need to choose our clients with that intention. This is one area where the coach most definitely gets to have an agenda.

Copyright © 2008, C.J. Hayden. All rights reserved.

This article was first published in the Sept 2008 issue of Choice Magazine, and has not been reprinted elsewhere. If you would like to reprint it in your publication, please contact me for details and permission.