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Episode 103: Four Legal Essentials for Business

Are you unclear on how to be legally compliant and protected in your business? 

Today I want to answer some questions that have come in from students in my Passion to Profit business training program and from some of my private business coaching clients, about the legal essentials of business.

I’m sure you’re aware of why it’s important to operate your business in a legally compliant way, so I want to introduce you to some of the basics that you need to have in place to do that.

In this episode I’m going to list four legal essentials for business that you need to be aware of, so that you can operate your business in a safe, professional and compliant way.

Just a note that I previously published an episode on must-have legal agreements for coaching businesses, and you can listen to that episode here.

I am hoping to secure a special podcast guest on this topic in future – stay tuned.

1. Appropriate Insurance

Any practitioner needs insurance that’s appropriate to their profession and level of risk associated with it, which could include the sale of products. 

There are two types of insurance that you normally buy in a package:

  1. Medical Liability / Professional indemnity, and
  2. Public liability.

Let’s talk about the professional indemnity aspect first.

This is designed to protect you if someone sues you for loss, injury, omission or breach of duty from using your health coaching services. 

In partnership with taking out indemnity insurance, it’s essential that you work within your scope of practice and can prove that it’s your intention to work that way and that you actually ARE working within scope.

This is where formal policies and procedures come in. 

Policies state your intention and include statements of your scope of practice and the standards by which you deliver services and/or products. 

Any practitioner needs insurance that’s appropriate to their profession and level of risk associated with it.

Procedures back up your policies by outlining the specific steps you take to ensure safety, quality, privacy etc in your day to day operations. 

Note that policies and procedures are only evidence if you are actually running your business in alignment with them!

Now let’s talk about public liability.

This is designed to protect you if a third party sues you for accidental injury or damage sustained while using your service.

Imagine that you are holding a workshop in your home and someone trips on your extension cord and smashes their nose on the side of a table and needs costly medical attention.

OUCH! 

That person might decide to sue you to cover their medical bills, claiming that you didn’t take due care to provide a safe environment.

Apart from ensuring safety basics for any events or services you deliver, such as putting a slip-proof mat over your cords and tucking them away safely out of reach of people’s feet, it’s essential that you have public liability to cover you in this situation, and many others that fall under the banner of liability.

It’s important to ensure that your policy includes legal defence costs so that you have adequate legal support to defend allegations made against you arising from your Health Coaching advice or business operations.

If you run a coaching business, then I recommend checking out insurance cover via our industry association – Health Coaches Australia and New Zealand Association.

2. Website Disclaimers

Do all Australian websites need a disclaimer?

Your website needs disclaimers to prove that it is fit for purpose and to state the intention of how the information you provide should be used.

Remember that you can’t control how people interpret your words and ideas. 

So if you give opinions or advice, even inadvertently, a reader may decide to sue you because they experienced loss, misfortune or health issues after reading one of your blogs, or buying one of your DIY products, and misinterpreting the application.

Here is a great blog by Legal123 on this topic

They say that “every website contains information, and in most instances there is a specific intention for the information on the website. A disclaimer will help prevent a viewer suing the website and owner for any loss suffered from taking this information and interpreting it in the wrong way.”

3. Complying with Copyright

According to the Australian Copyright Council, copyright is free and exists the moment you create something in material form. There’s a great fact sheet that I’ll link to in the notes.

In other words, the programs, resources and client worksheets that you create automatically have copyright applied.

When it comes to your website, the whole website is not protected but all of the content you create and add to it IS protected by copyright.

And if you decide to quote somebody or use somebody else’s images or words, you need their permission to do that otherwise you are breaching copyright.

So, what about all those great free images that you get from places like Unsplash.com to use in your blogs or on your workbook covers?

Some sites like Unsplash say that you can use images for free, but they do prefer you to attribute authors in your blogs, and they have a couple of conditions on use.

In the design platform Canva, you can access free images and have freedom of use, but there may be conditions on how paid images may be used in a commercial setting.

The takeaway is – if you are using images, text or music that someone else created, you may need permission to use it but you will need to check the terms of use for that item.

In any case, make sure you include a references section with a hyperlink to the source in any published material that draws on others’ work.

4. Client Data Storage Security

Life was easy before the internet. You simply needed a lockable, fireproof filing cabinet and a pledge to keep records safe and secure for 7 years, before archiving them until the 15 year mark at which point you would shred them.

If you operate in the hard copy world, this is still valid.

But if you’re working online in any capacity, you need good digital security.

There are two parts to client digital data storage and security: 

  1. Making sure that clients sessions are stored on a secure cloud platform if using, and 
  2. Ensuring security of your own PC.

Regarding platform security, I want to share this blog that seems to be independent and gives a great comparison guide. It rates OneDrive as the best for security and privacy as compared with Dropbox and Google Drive at the time this podcast was published.

Even if you’re not using the cloud to store client information, you need to ensure that your computer and digital data are secure.

Individual businesses may be less likely targeted/attacked by hackers, but it’s no guarantee.

Two things you can do to beef up your security are:

  1. To share files with clients via a secure upload/transfer program like wetransfer, then move them to your C drive (off the cloud) or a plug-in external drive that you can lock away in a cabinet.
  2. It’s also critical to have a firewall, virus and malware software to reduce or eliminate the issue of hacking. Malwarebytes is a free online, trusted tool for scanning for and eliminating malware.

Summing it Up

Aside from business law, which I’ll discuss in a future podcast, and legal contracts, which I discussed in a previous podcast, there are four essential ways to ensure that your business is legally compliant and protected. They are:

  1. Appropriate insurance, backed up by policies and procedures
  2. Website disclaimers
  3. Complying with copyright, and
  4. Client data storage security

I have included links in the notes that will help you with these areas. I’m not a lawyer but I’ve been in business and around contracts for a long time and have seen things go pear shaped for others – as well as having a couple of near-misses myself and am grateful I’d done the right thing in both cases to protect myself from client misuse.

Putting the necessary legal infrastructure demonstrates that you’re serious about your business and about operating to a high, professional standard. 

Let me be clear – most of your business activities are probably safe, compliant and harmless. 

But I encourage you to safeguard that by putting the necessary legal infrastructure in place to get your business up to an appropriate standard of legal compliance and protection.

Aside from anything, it demonstrates that you’re serious about your business and about operating to a high, professional standard. 

Ready to get savvy about all aspects of your coaching business?

Knowing what to do can make it easy. If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 77: Three Ways to Be a More Compassionate Coach

Learn how to be a more compassionate coach so that you can maintain your own emotional and energy in the session, AND help your clients get into more of a creative, optimistic and motivated state.

If you are a coach, especially a new coach, then sooner or later you will learn that your clients will show up in various states of excitement, fatigue and motivation.

Sometimes they’ll come into the session feeling flustered and agitated.

Sometimes they’ll show up serene and calm.

Sometimes they’ll show up stuck, demotivated and negative.

And unless you have a way of facing whatever comes up, you will probably struggle to maintain your own focus, energy and sense of self-confidence in that session.

You might take their emotions personally, or you could start feeling like you need to ‘give them something’ or ‘fix them’ by the end of the session. 

But none of those are true.

What is true is that emotions are contagious.

So when a client shows up in any given state, you need to be present in your own space, resilient, and able to meet them where they are at.

If you want to remain neutral, open, objective and empathetic – to be focused and in the moment, thinking only of the client’s agenda….

…..then you need to know how to show up to the session the right way AND how to handle a client’s negative emotions in your coaching sessions.

This episode explores three ways to be a more compassionate coach, so you can do just that.

Why Emotional Balance Matters

Your emotional state has an enormous impact on your brain’s capacity for learning.

More specifically, if you or your client go into a session feeling frazzled, self-critical, angry, sad, exhausted or frustrated, or any other negative emotion, then it reduces the ability to learn new skills, listen, take in knowledge and remember things.

If you are thinking things like “I’m no good” or “I don’t know what to say – help!” then you will bring your focus to that and be less present, attentive and focused.  

Using self-compassion and compassion are great ways to maintain your own emotional and energy in the session, AND help your clients get into more of a creative, optimistic and motivated state.

If your client is verbalising things like “I’m no good”or “I failed”, then they will bring their focus and attention to what isn’t working and their negative feelings, effectively sapping brain resources and becoming stuck.

Our prefrontal cortex is impaired by negative emotions, and this stifles creativity, cognitive ability, curiosity and strategic thinking.

And unless you manage this properly, you risk being sucked into the vortex of your – or your client’s – emotions!

When I started coaching, I sometimes took on the client’s state at the start of the session. 

Sometimes I took their emotions home with me or expected the worst from some sessions when I had clients who were stuck or overly negative.

This didn’t do me OR the client any favours. 

It distracted me from their agenda. And finally, one day, I had a powerful aha moment after feeling particularly miserable – that these feelings were all about me and how I felt, and I needed to switch into focusing on the client instead!

I needed to develop some strategies to help me get into that ‘all about the client’ headspace so I could truly serve them as a coach.

When you and your client are able to be emotionally neutral or positive, your prefrontal cortex is activated and you are both more ready, willing and able to listen, reflect and learn.

You will be calm and present, mindful and truly hear the needs so you can respond appropriately.

Your client will remember more and be able to come up with more of their own solutions. 

And when a client starts talking about positives and opportunities, it gives you an opportunity to broaden and build those positive emotions so that your client gets more out of the session.

I’m sure you can see why emotional balance matters for both the coach AND the client.

As the coach, your priority is to learn how to manage your own fears, insecurities and inadequacies, and to be able to handle your client’s emotional state, however they show up to the session. 

So let’s talk about how to be a more compassionate coach.

Using self-compassion and compassion are great ways to maintain your own emotional and energy in the session, AND help your clients get into more of a creative, optimistic and motivated state.

Self-Compassion Being Skills – How You Show Up

The first thing you can do to be a more compassionate coach is to show up to each session with a compassionate coaching presence.

The being skills of compassion are warmth, patience, mindfulness, calm and empathy.

Showing up with these skills helps you to be fully present for your client, and to put your own beliefs, judgements and bias aside so you can truly focus on their needs, wants and agenda.

I would like to share the process I use for building self-compassion.

This really helps me to avoid being sucked into my client’s energy and emotions and get into a more compassionate headspace, so I can be present and maintain the client’s agenda.

Here are the FOUR things I do to build and maintain the being skills of self-compassion:

  1. I work with my own coaches for my own personal development
  2. I use a pre-session ritual, and
  3. I intentionally practice my being skills. 
  4. I manage my own emotions through compassionate self-coaching.

I am always banging on about working with a coach, so for now, I just want to talk about the last three of these things.

Let’s start with pre-session rituals. 

1. Pre-Session Rituals

There are LOTS of different things you can do as a pre-session ritual to help you develop the skills of compassion. 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Spend 5 – 10 minutes meditating (e.g. Headspace app)
  • Spend 5 minutes doing a breathing exercise e.g. 4 7 8 breathing exercise
  • Take a short walk in nature, standing upright, striding purposefully and breathing deeply
  • Visualise yourself being present 
  • Listen to calming music

Basically, you are looking for any ritual that quiets the inner voice and brings you into a calm, present state.

What could you do to relax and become present?

What would best suit your learning style?

What equipment, resources or tools would you need?

2. Intentionally Practising The Being Skills of Self-Compassion

Here’s a fact – when you radiate warmth, patience, mindfulness, calm and empathy, then you will show up with compassion AND those feelings will rub off on your clients.

Remember, emotions are contagious!

Your clients will be better equipped to settle down, let go of the past, to accept themselves and to feel self-compassion.

Then, they will be more able to make peace with their challenges and move forward.

If you are self-compassionate, you will be better equipped to help them zoom out of any emotional reactions so they can objectively review events and see things as they are, and start seeing opportunities for change. 

Here’s what I do to intentionally practice the being skills of self-compassion.

  1. At the start of each calendar month, I choose a being skill I would like to focus on.
  2. I write that in my diary.
  3. I find at least one opportunity each day to intentionally practice that skill in a conversation with a friend or family member.
  4. I reflect on that skill before a coaching session and look for opportunities to bring it into the session, to either
  • Help a client move into a neutral place, or
  • To help a client to broaden and build on a positive moment.

This is my personal practice – what would you do to strengthen your being skills?

3. Managing Your Own Thoughts – Being Self-Compassionate

Those of you who know me know that I am a big advocate of self coaching using the Model that Brooke Castillo created.

That is about changing your internal dialogue – to stop catastrophizing, criticising and blaming – so that your self talk becomes more neutral and factual.

I can’t stress enough how important this is. 

The analogy is that you are learning a new language – one that is more empathetic, nurturing and compassionate.

You can learn more about the model at the Life Coach School Podcast.

So the first thing I do to be more self-compassionate is to use the Model to rewire my thoughts.

The second thing I do is to use the tools of self-compassion both as a regular practice and in those moments that I feel emotional pain.

You can learn more about self compassion in episode 76 and you can visit self-compassion.org for some useful tools 

My practice for those more intense emotional moments of suffering is as follows:

  1. I watch my self talk
  2. I catch my inner critic in the act, calling me a name, judging me
  3. I practice self-kindness by replacing my negative thought with something kind – and to do this effectively, I imagine that I’m talking to a friend who felt like this
  4. I remember that other people feel like this. I consider others I know who have suffered.
  5. Then, I bring myself to the present moment by focusing on my breath, or even better, something in nature.

I find that nature helps me to zoom out and get perspective, to feel gratitude and then warmth, and to become calm again.

Summary – Charity Begins at Home

To wrap things up, I ask the question – how can we show up with empathy for our clients, and put judgement aside, if we can’t be compassionate with ourselves?

I truly believe that charity begins at home.

If you want to be a more compassionate coach, then you need to do two things: 

  1. To manage your own emotions and self compassion, and
  2. To show up with compassionate being skills in your coaching sessions with clients.

When you radiate warmth, patience, mindfulness, calm and empathy, then you will show up with compassion AND those feelings will rub off on your clients.

I described my own practice of four things that I do to build self-compassion and compassion:

  1. Working with my own coach
  2. Using pre-session rituals to enhance my being skills for my client’s benefit
  3. Intentionally practicing being skills every month, focusing on one at a time
  4. Managing my own thoughts with self-coaching and self-compassion tools and practices.

If you would like to become more self-compassionate, visit melaniejwhite.com and click the Free Chat page, to enquire about a good fit session with myself or another coach in your area.

Ready to be a more compassionate coach?

Both coaches and clients are better off with compassionate coaching! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 3: What is health and wellness coaching?

What is Health and Wellness Coaching?

I had such a relaxing weekend this last weekend…

I spent a lot of time in the garden, outside, walking on the beach and doing a few chores.
The weather is warming up here finally and although it was really windy, it was so pleasant to be outside.  
One of the things I did was to reflect on how I was spending my weekend in my mind.
You see, I have my own coach and a self-coaching practice of actively working through the challenges, or anxieties or issues that come up. I am so much better at this than I used to be.
So now when I have a weekend, it’s like I immediately enter the cone of silence, like Maxwell Smart used to have, where nothing touches me except the joy of what I am doing and how relaxed I am feeling.

This is only possible for me now because of the coaching I’ve gone through.

That’s what I want to share in this episode – to answer the question ‘what is coaching?’ and how does it work? And at the end, if you’re thinking about getting a coach, I’ve included some tips on how to find the right sort of coach for you.

What is coaching and why do we need it?

We humans live 95% of lives on autopilot – driven by a brain that craves efficiency and automaticity.
 
Our unconscious thinking and doing habits therefore define who we are, how we live, what we do and our state of heatlh.
 
Over time, first world nations have shifted away from the simple things. We have more negative influence than ever before that affect our health and wellbeing – a new era of processed fake food, alcohol, drugs, soft drink, rapid technology, greater expectations and technology…. As a result we suffer from stress, insomnia, emotional reactions and anxiety, and a litany of health issues and chronic diseases, not in the least, overweight and obesity.
 
In short, hundreds of different Stressors have been woven into our automatic habits and they’re making us progressively sicker and unhappier.
As a result, we have an emerging industry that tackles these things head on – coaching.
 
There are lots of different types of coaching and they operate differently in different countries. But their common goal is to get people to change their habits so they can be healthier, happier and live better quality lives.
 
On the surface it sounds simple but It’s a topic worth exploring for those of you who are shopping around for a coach, or, looking for the right coach for you.
 
I will explain where health coaching and health and wellness originated, the different types of coaches and how they differ between countries, and what to look for in a coach.

Health Coaching and it’s counterpart health and wellness coaching, have been longest established in the mainstream in the US at over 20 years, more recently in Australia, around 10 years, and most recently in the UK around 5 years.

As you can see, the different  terminology and definitions can make things confusing and they vary between countries.

But let’s start very simply and say that there are two perspectives on coaching.

There is the kind of coach who is an expert in a specific area, like gut health or nutrition, and who tells you how to do make a change in their specific area. The training courses usually teach nutrition principles (about 85% of the course) with a little bit of coaching methodology – say 15% of the course – and that’s the current state.
So, this type of coaching is pretty much teaching. In the US it’s known as Health Coaching and it’s quite mainstream. They may indoctrinate you into their method or style of doing things, they teach you how to fix a specific problem in a certain way.
Health coaching in the US at least typically involves teaching people way of eating or exercise, or to buy into certain products. This is not always the case, but it’s the common theme.
Then there is the kind of coach who works more with the principles of psychology, who assumes the client is the expert, and makes no suggestions or offers no opinions or judgement at all. 

There is no advice or teaching in this setting, and the method is evidence based (theories and models from psychology, coaching psych, sports psych, positive psych, psychotherapy and life coaching, such as the transtheoretical model of change, CBT, Motivational Interviewing, Appreciative Enquiry).

This second type of coach, assuming the client has all the answers, simply holds the space, asks thought provoking questions and reflects what they hear in a non judgemental way. We support the client to step up and learn to take responsibility for their own thinking and doing habits. We achieve this by inviting the client to examine their own habits, thoughts and beliefs openly and completely, and craft their own experiments around a series of new habits before finally settling on the healthier routine – physical or mental –  that works best for them.
This is commonly called Health and Wellness coaching and it operates similarly in both Australia and the US.
Schools like WellCoaches and Wellness Coaching Australia are at the forefront. And they offer a fairly aligned curriculum that is at least 95% coaching psychology. I liken the philosophy of HWC to Zen Buddhism!

Just to muddy the waters, in Australia there are  people who are trained as health coaches. They have either done the first kind of training base around advice, or, they have done more like the second type of training and work in the medical or nursing sector bringing people up to baseline health. Health Coaching Australia is a reputable organisation that teaches evidence based coaching curriculum in the medical arena.
As you can see, on title alone they sound the same, but as you can hear the roles are very different.

Are you still with me?

One reason for all these differences is that there’s not much in the way of regulation in our industry. That’s set to change. In 2018, an ICHWC formed in the US to create a credentialling system for HWC who must now sit an exam to prove the adequacy of their evidence-based training. A line is being drawn in the sand.
In the US at least, the HWC industry will move toward a having a prerequisite health science or related degree if you want to be a coach.
Australia is not far behind.

What does this mean for someone looking to choose a coach?

If you want someone to tell you what to do, what to eat, how to fix your gut or get any sort of advice or opinion, then a health coach is the better choice.
A good health coach will ask you to make most of the decisions; usually it will be a decision based on their recommendations or choices they offer. They accept your decisions and goals without judgement and with full support.
A less skilled health coach will try to tell you how you should do things and may tell you off or get irritated if you don’t do things the right way.
If you hate being told what to do and wish simply to have an objective observer to facilitate you making your own discoveries and habit changes, a health and wellness coach is the better choice. Look for someone trained by Wellcoaches US or WCA. Full disclosure, I contract to WCA, and I did my training with both schools. They’re the longest established and industry leaders and therefore the logical choice.
If you are in Australia and have a diagnosed disease that requires behaviour change in order to regain baseilne heatlh, look for a health coach qualified by HCA. As the longest standing industry leader they’re the logical choice.
A good health and wellness coach will have a conversation with you basically to help you make up your own mind about what you want, why and how you’ll get it, They accept what you decide without judgement and with full support. They may offer ideas or choices only if asked by the client and with their full permission.
Often a person’s thinking and confidence need to shift before they’re willing and able to stick to their new habits, so goals aren’t necessarily always discussed in a coaching session. A full exploration of strengths and values often comes first, so you can become clear on what’s authentic and most important to you.

A less skilled health and wellness coach will find it hard to resist slipping in a few unsolicited suggestions or recommendations and may try to focus on getting clients to achieve goals (habits) without getting their client to do enough thinking work. It takes time to move past this after all, we all come from a place of being told or taught.

One of the biggest challenges with coaching is that marketing tells us we need to focus on actions – like meal planning, exercise, drinking water etc, yet we don’t have enough motivational buy in or values alignment to do these things ourselves. So we may make change according to what we’re told but it often doesn’t stick.

That comes from psychological theories that we all want to be our own boss and that we are wired to be suspicious of others, so we resist being told what to do. 

This is included in the evidence-based part of HW coaching which suggests that long term change is more likely when you are 100% in charge of it.
There is a fantastic saying that I love which sums this up.
The thing people love most is telling others what to do. The thing people hate most is being told what to do.
To succeed with changing habits, you must be willing to override the inherent wiring of your brain; which is to seek pleasure and avoid pain or discomfort. When you discover your values, reasons and desire to be the best version of yourself and to pursue that no matter what, you will find the more fulfilling, satisfying and authentic life you truly want.
In other words, coaching is for people who have a strong desire to be a better version of themselves and are willing to invest in qualified support to help them get there.
Examples – people who want to swap excess weight for a healthy body and body image. People who want to build a business that’s successful. People who want to manage their minds and emotions to find true happiness. People who want to swap stress for resilience and calm. People who want to feel confident in relationships. People who want to make money, people who want to feel better.
I’ve coached around most of these areas and have seen clients make massive shifts, have some backslides, and move forward again.

Coaching isn’t a magic bullet. 

Yes The results can be great, but I think more valuable is the coaching process That you learn that helps you get back on the wagon quickly and more easily. Life will always throw curve balls which shift you off course. The secret is having the skills to get back on track again. Being told what to do doesn’t necessarily give you those skills.

Interested in being coached?

If you need help with this process, or to learn how to self-coach, click here for more information on my self-coaching membership.

See you there!