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Kat Knecht: On Spirituality and Finding a Meaningful Career with Co-Active

  • POSTED ON JUNE 08, 2022

Kat Knecht is the owner of Soul Driven Success, a business academy for professional coaches. She is the author of the book Evolve Your Coaching Business. She is also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach and a Co-Active Training Institute faculty member. Kat uses her 23+ years of coaching experience to help professional coaches make a positive change in the world and find the delicate balance between their soul’s purpose and business demands.

As an ordained interfaith minister, Kat is deeply connected to the spiritual dimension of being. Her coaching programs assist clients in forming a strong business framework and transitioning their employment from a part-time practice to a lucrative, meaningful lasting profession. Join us as we speak with Kat about her experiences as a spiritual leader, writer, entrepreneur, and coach and we explore how she uses coaching to assist people to connect with their soul’s purpose to create meaningful work.

Hey Kat! Could you please tell us more about your background? What were you doing in the years before you discovered Co-Active?

I was working for the United States Postal Service. I was on an executive team, and our main job was to be a bridge between management and the craft workers. I did conflict resolution, training, and team building. We had a coaching organization come in to coach my team, which was really dysfunctional, and the coaching worked. It was surprising to me, and I liked it. I liked the process of coaching.

I was really interested in human potential, and I have a whole spiritual way I view the world. I was taking courses on Chinese philosophy. One of my teachers, when I told her I was interested in coaching, recommended Co-Active.

I was also looking for a new career because, although I loved my work, I didn’t really love the postal service. The people who actually do the groundwork and the people managing them — there was just a huge disconnect between the two. In the United States, there was this saying, “going postal.” It was clearly a thing — there was so much anger and resentment in the system. That’s where the saying comes from. What I found is how simple it was when I got people to look at what they wanted instead of feeling like a victim; there was a shift, and new options became possible. The conflict disappeared. So that’s what got me so excited when I found Co-Active. I thought, “This is a way to keep people focused on what they want, so that they can be creative, and they can go for something positive, as opposed to breaking things down and wasting time, energy, and effort.”

When did you discover Co-Active? And I’m curious about this teacher of yours who specialized in Chinese philosophy. Could you tell us a little bit about her?

My first Co-Active course was in 1999, and that was 23 years ago. I was taking a course called SOPHIA, the School of Philosophy in Action. My teacher was an acupuncturist — she actually had a Co-Active coach. I started talking to her about what I envisioned for myself as a career and what I loved about the coaching. She encouraged me to check out CTI. She said, “You have to go to this course. You have to go.” She was very persistent. I was researching other coaching schools, and even 23 years ago, there were a lot of them, but she kept on saying, “No, you actually have to go to CTI; that’s going to be the place for you.” Well, I trusted her enough to say, “Let’s do it!” Then I went and I talked a friend of mine into coming with me. At the time, CTI had leaders who did an evening event to give people an idea of what the course was like.

I walked in the door, and they had this big sign up that said Nobody Gets to Be Wrong. They said that’s one of our rules, and I was just like, okay, I get it. I knew this was going to be the right place for me.

How quickly did you go from learning about Co-Active to becoming a certified coach?

It was probably about a year because I went all in. I did the core curriculum and then Certification and signed up for the Co-Active Leadership program at the same time. I decided not only that I was going to be a coach but also that it was going to be my business. I’d always wanted to have my own business. I was also attracted to the idea of being a Co-Active leader. I just decided that right from the start. I told myself, “If this is what I’m going to do, then I might as well go all in with it.” So, I devoted my life to it. I had a full-time job. I had two kids. But it was so right and so rich for me. I was with my people, and I found how to bring the practical and spiritual together. So, I went the whole way.

You were hooked by Co-Active right away. What do you think it was that drew you in so deeply and instantly?

This is a language that makes sense to me. I think it was the language that was used — how we humans really are — that I had always known. I think of it as a spiritual knowing. It was how I was being treated and spoken to in the courses — a language was used that I felt like, “This is right.” I believe this is how we can be our best. It wasn’t about approval. I was really good at getting approval in my life, and I know how to do that. Really. At that time, I’d been married for a long time, and I had wonderful kids and a great job. I was successful. And yet there was this missing piece for me. That’s why I was studying acupuncture and Chinese philosophy and kind of thinking maybe the whole Eastern religion part was what was missing.

Then I realized, the piece that’s missing is really seeing each other, listening, hearing, and being with each other.

Did you start a coaching practice right away after that realization?

I’m very big on calling it a business so I’m clear on that with myself — because I decided this is going to be my work and career, and I have to make money out of it. I gave myself a year to build my business up to the point that I could afford to quit my job. At that time, it felt like a long time. I thought to myself, “Am I ever going to get there?” So, I started doing all the business building pieces, the marketing and learning about how to talk about coaching, and I started my own groups early on. I kept asking myself, “How do I make this a career? How do I make a living at this?” I love the philosophy, I love what I’m doing, and I wanted to do it forever. So, I knew I needed it to be sustainable. Once I went full-time with coaching, it took about three years until I was on solid financial ground.

Can you give any advice to folks who have really enjoyed coaching or taking the Co-Active courses – but are afraid to think about making a profession out of it? 

First thing I’m going to say is that “I love coaching” and “I want to make this a business” are two different things. A good friend who was a doctor had the same issue. He was like, “I love being a doctor. But I actually want to make money as a doctor, which means I have to have patients or work for someone else.” It seems like that would be natural, right? But he had to figure it out. So, the first thing you should be asking yourself is these questions: What kind of coach do you want to be? Do you want to have your own business? Do you want to be an executive coach? Do you want to work for another organization? Or do you want to tie coaching into something else?

There are other things that you can do and bring coaching into it. So, think about the way you want to use your coaching to earn a good living. Whatever you choose, you will need to do marketing of your services.

The good news about marketing as a coach is that it is simply relationship building; it’s a way of communicating and connecting with people on that deep level and getting who they are and what they want. Coaching and business building are two separate things that are connected. I would recommend looking into the business part. I know it’s scary for some coaches, but they must remember, whether they’re going to be an entrepreneur or work for someone, they have to think about how that part is going to work and how do they want it to work.

Is it your opinion that everyone should find their own niche?

It makes sense to me that one of the first steps in building a coaching business is to identify exactly who you want to work with and the situations they are seeking coaching to help them change. This is one thing I teach a lot in my work with coaches. Having a niche makes everything easier, no matter what type of career you are seeking. You need to find out what the problems are that you most want to help people with, even though we coaches don’t solve problems.

We need to name the pain, because this is where coaching really helps people. When people are in pain or experiencing a challenge, that’s when they reach out to a coach. The pain is a sign of an unrealized dream.

Another tip I would offer is that you need to really hear the challenges that people face and be able to speak about them in the language your ideal clients use. That’s the key to effective marketing, and that’s why having a niche is so helpful. You can be specific in your messaging, which helps people to understand even if they are not in your niche. You want to talk to people about who they are and what’s important to them. This is the thing coaches get really bunched up about — they think about themselves instead of getting over there with their ideal clients. All you have to do is talk to people about how great they are, what their potential is, and how you can help them reach that potential.

Another important piece is vulnerability, to admit that you’ve been there, you’ve been challenged too. We as coaches are not putting ourselves on some pedestal and saying, “I know it all, and everything I do is fabulous.” It should be, “I’ve been down that path. I’ve been down into those deep, dark places. I can help you not just because I have the tools, but because I’m a person.”

How did you approach the complex question of your coaching business category? Do you have a specialization or a niche?

I do, and it’s been a winding path. When I started, I chose entrepreneurs as my niche, mainly because it was a low-hanging fruit. So many people I knew when I became a coach were entrepreneurs, and this doctor — the one I was talking about earlier — was one of them. He was challenged by his work, and he wanted to have his own business. There was a massage therapist, a bookstore owner, a contractor, a caterer, and a yoga teacher who were all interested in getting support. I thought to myself that entrepreneurs are a group of people who have a need for coaching, because running a business is challenging. They’re passionate about what they do, and there’s something practical they want to accomplish. So that was my original niche.

Then I studied relationship coaching, and around this time my first marriage ended. So, I got really interested in how I could help people in the relationship area.

I created a card deck for relationships, and I even wrote a book on relationships. I loved working with people around relationships. But then about 6 years ago, I felt something was missing. I was still working with entrepreneurs who were leaders in their own communities. Then a shift came when I started doing sermons for the Unity church in my town, which is very aligned with the Co-Active philosophy.

It was exciting to get up and talk about what I believe about the human potential and what’s possible, and have people really get it. That led me to go into an interfaith seminary, and in 2016 I was ordained as an interfaith minister. I studied all the religions in the world, how they all got started, and what they all care about. It added an important dimension to my coaching and my life.

What do you think was the common thread that you discovered while studying all these religions? What were you able to incorporate into your own practice and life?

In most religions, there is something about an inner light that humans have. In one religion, they call it a “divine spark,” which I love. So, there is this human spark — there is something spiritual in us humans. Some religions think there is a God in us. In other religions, there is a whole different concept about what that spark is. But they all have, at the heart, the desire people have to bring something good into the world.

All the religions, at their heart, believe there’s something good in people, in how we love each other and how loving we are.

It was fulfilling to keep finding this common theme as I studied very different religions. Then I saw how they often went off the rails because people want to have power and to control people. But at their hearts, at their origins, religions are really about what makes us tick, and what is it that we’re here to do on this planet. Having this perspective brought a deeper meaning to my coaching and inspired me even more to teach coaches how to have soul-driven businesses.

How did you incorporate your spiritual learnings into your coaching from 2016 onward?

I wrote a book called The Soul Search. Every time I get a new niche, I write a book and I keep integrating all I have learned. I started doing sermons all over the country, based on the teaching in my book, and I always brought in the coaching philosophy. That was part of the sermons I did. I talked about my coaching clients and what I found worked to help people to achieve their dreams. At that point, I had decided I was going to focus on the spiritual path. I had my book, I was doing sermons, and I was loving it. But then I realized I wanted to speak to this spiritual component, and it wasn’t really working for me, because what I want most is to help people use spiritual guidance to make something real — something that is good for them and benefits the world.

I really got frustrated with some of my spiritual work where people would take in the message in the moment but not actually take it into their life and make a difference.

That’s when I got the guidance to go full circle with entrepreneurs, and specifically coaches. For me, it’s bringing that full self-expression through work and through a business, and specifically through coaching businesses. I really believe that coaching is a modality that is changing the world in subtle and wonderful ways, evoking that divine spark in people, offering a way to fully express yourself in your work and life.

If someone were to ask you “Why should I choose CTI over all the other coaching schools I see on Google?”, what would you say?

I do not have a succinct answer. I wish I could share a nice little answer with you. I think it comes back to this spark that I talked about.

People have goals they want to achieve in life and work, but Co-Active actually grows the person to be able to achieve the things they want to achieve.

Sometimes we want a thing, and we get it. For example, you want a job, a car, or something. You get it, but you haven’t grown yourself to be the person who can handle that, or you find out what makes you happy is not what you thought it would be. Well, with Co-Active, I can bring my full self to inhabit and enjoy what I create. Co-Active grows the person into being able to do what they really want to do — and to do it well. Because once you grow into that person, you realize that you can do all the things you thought you couldn’t do, or you can make the changes that you wanted to make. That, to me, is the difference between other coaching schools that say, “We’re going to teach you how to help people get what they want or achieve something like making it to the C-suite.” But at the Co-Active Training Institute, we actually help the whole person evolve and achieve what they really want most.

How has your relationship with the Co-Active model and its philosophy evolved over the last two decades?

This is the thing about Co-Active: it’s alive; it’s not nailed down.

I can see why it would be challenging to tell people what it is, because you can’t nail it down. It’s alive. That is how I understood it 23 years ago and how it has evolved in me. I’ve had conflicts with it, and there are times I’m like, “Oh, I don’t know, is this really what I believe?” I will explore and tussle with it until it makes sense to me and who I am now. This is where it connects with spiritual learnings too. It’s a practice. It’s applicable. It’s relationship work. It’s always changing because it’s alive and growing. I was fulfilled when I discovered it because it worked, and it still works. Yeah, it has evolved, as have I, and I’ve taken it all in and found my own interpretation and way of applying the Co-Active philosophy and practice.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Co-Active Training Institute. Any solutions offered by the author are environment-specific and not part of the commercial solutions or support offered by CTI.

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