8 Ways to find a ‘Life’ Coach

With the fallout from the trauma of covid-19, and the effects of lockdown, this crisis has marked each and every one of us, in some way. None of us will be the same person coming out of lockdown, as went into it, for numerous reasons. We have all shifted. We can’t unsee what we have seen, or undo what has been done.

Our relationships may have been affected, finances impacted, employment in question, child mental health eroded-83% of young people have said the coronavirus pandemic has made their mental health worse.(www.youngminds.org.uk), experiencing anxiety & depression, and bereavement & loss.

There will be an increase in people needing support regarding their mental health.

‘The Covid-19 pandemic is likely to lead to an increase in mental ill health in the UK, as a result of both the illness itself and the measures being taken to protect people from the virus. If the economic impact is similar to that of the post 2008 recession, then we could expect 500,000 additional people experiencing mental health problems, with depression being the most common’. (https://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/)

Demand for talking therapies such as counselling & psychotherapy, was already at saturation point, with mental health providers such as CAHMS, IAPT etc. unable to meet demand, already with long waiting lists, before this crisis.

People may also now be now questioning themselves, their personal goals, their identity, their life-‘What do I want?’ ’Where am I heading?’ ‘Who am I now?’ ’Is this it? Is this what I want?’

Some people may now see that they don’t want what they thought they wanted, and are doubting their choices. They may be lacking in motivation, clarity & direction, not knowing what road to take.

These issues are the kinds of topics that a Life Coach might work on, with their client to resolve.

Life Coaches are increasingly becoming the ‘go to’ people.

Clients who I work with, often choose coaching over counselling, believing there is less ‘stigma’ attached.

Coaching is often viewed in a positive, admiring, ‘wanting to be the best you can be’ sort of way, whereas counselling can be viewed in a negative, shameful, you are ‘broken’ and need ‘fixing’ sort of way.

As a coach myself, I am becoming more and more concerned for the industry, and the people who seek coaching.

Life Coaching is becoming big business which makes it attractive as a career choice. The estimated market size of the Coaching Industry is $15 billion in 2019 with a total of $7.5 billion worth market value in the US alone. It’s expected to reach $20 billion by 2022 (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/coaching-industry-statistics-umesh-venkatesh/)

The biggest challenge facing coaches today is that untrained and incompetent coaches are damaging the reputation of the industry. It is unregulated. Anyone can become a coach….and often anyone does, without training or qualifications. No license is required.

Only yesterday an ad popped up on my social media feed, tempting wannabe coaches, with a quick route to the career of their dreams.

The first lines of this ad read as follows:

‘Many people think you need to be officially “anointed” to become a coach by getting a certification or degree. Like you need someone else’s permission or blessing to achieve *YOUR* goals and dreams (crazy, right?). Unfortunately, this idea is common in the coaching industry’.

Anyone who knows anything about coaching, can see there is so much to be concerned about in this first paragraph alone.

Firstly, I was intrigued by the word ‘anointed’ which means –

‘to ceremonially confer divine or holy office upon (a priest or monarch) by smearing or rubbing with oil’.

I’ve never been ‘smeared’ or ‘rubbed with oil’ to achieve my coaching qualification, though it might have been cheaper, easier, more fun and faster!

But what I did do to become qualified, is register with a trusted and accredited training provider, study for 3 years, attend training days, practice my craft with a variety of clients, built case studies.

I was mentored, supervised, assessed. I sat exams and passed with distinction.

I have insurance, a supervisor and 18 years’ experience, working with thousands of clients, learning and honing my skills, with the best teachers of human behaviour.

Currently, there are more than 500 training and ‘certification’ programs worldwide, and many of them will certify you if you simply pay them a fee.

Exploiting people who are seeking to become coaches, by offering advice, guidance & and unregulated training by an unqualified trainer, that suggests they will be ‘qualified’ (without a qualification) to support other people with life problems, as well as exploiting the potential clients who might pay for their services, suggests lack of ethics, integrity and morals.

Not great ingredients if aiming to produce successful coaches, nor for the coaching industry’s reputation!

The final part of the ad concludes:

If you want my secrets to get started in coaching quickly and easily this training is for you!

 Would you want a surgeon operating on you who had started practicing ‘quickly’ and without qualification? Would you feel confident about stepping on board a Boeing 747, with an airline pilot who might have taken a quick ‘crash course’ in flying lessons, from an unqualified instructor who’s never been up in a plane?!

‘Ok,’ I hear you saying, ‘coaching is a little different to surgery or flying a plane’.

But coaching without proper training can cause damage and distress to the client. Clients can bring complex, interwoven, tangled issues, where there can be many factors morphed into one problem. Coaching deals with people’s lives, so has to be treated professionally and with respect, integrity, care and consideration.

‘Coaching’ seems to have become a general term to describe any process of helping others improve their performance and achieve success. There are hundreds of advertisements for jobs referencing the term “coach” as part of the title or “coaching” as a key ingredient of the role. It seems that coaching is very much the current trend and the expectation is that people in organisations will be able to coach others with little more than a short training course, if that.

There are now so many different styles, models, and theories of coaching that the process of finding a credible coach can feel more daunting, than the idea of facing problems! Coaching has become increasingly more sophisticated and layered, with different levels of competence and ability, and different approaches.

You first must identify which kind of coach you seek, so I am going to differentiate between the two main coaching approaches

  •  Transactional Coaching
  • Transformational Coaching.

transactional coach is purely focussed on getting the client from A to B. Total goal setting. Transactional coaching helps the client to achieve their short term goal, and with the clients’ improved performance in relationship to that goal. Transactional Coaching can be delivered with less regulation, training or qualification, and I’m hoping that’s the kind of coaching the ad I referred to was promoting.

It focuses on the external symptom or problem and can be very practical style to use. Transactional coaching facilitates the client to arrive at his/her own problem solutions from an external action which often results in a shift in doing. Ultimately, we can predict that although the client may achieve some short-term changes and make some progress any change has a limited chance of becoming sustainable if the focus remains on the symptom and not on the cause, we run the risk of not actually solving the problem, but just temporarily bandaging / fixes the external symptom of the problem. Without this deeper focus, we may also miss the chance to see the client enabled and empowered to handle similar issues in the future or ideally being able to avoid the issue happening in the first place.

Transformational coaching transcends, yet includes, transactional coaching. It is more about personal development and psychological growth, taking a client from “Point “A” to Point “D’. There may not be a clear, specific goal initially. The goals come after the deeper work has been done. Transformational coaches DO need professional, regulated, accredited training and qualifications.

In the transformational coaching session, as a thinking partner the transformational coach asks the client to go deeper, to deal with the underlying problem, and as such can deal with similar issue in the future. They work on the cause, the source, the underlying issue.

The client is asked to consider their values, strengths, beliefs & assumptions, and to adjust focus to align deeply with who they really are.

It is about building a meaningful and solid foundation upon which the client can build their future upon, by focusing on changing the way that they think, and therefore feel, rather than just on the way that they act.

‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’

Because the process of transformational coaching focuses on changing thinking and perspective, we get to really see an individual meeting their greatest potential. (https://coachmastersacademy.co.nz/)

For those of you who may be considering hiring a coach, especially a Transformational Coach, I have offered 8 points to consider when choosing a coach:

1.Do they offer a free chat before you commit to a session? Speak to them on the telephone or video call. What kind of questions do they ask you? Do you feel heard? Are they drawing answers out of you or are they advising? (Coaches don’t advise) Do they seem interested in you or just a sale? Do you feel you could work with this person? Did they call when they said they would-are they reliable?

I never accept a new client until have spoken with them and discussed what they would like support with. This enables them to make an informed decision, as to whether I am the right person for them. I never ‘hard’ sell, as the client has to be motivated. Coaching is a ‘process’. The relationship, rapport & trust between coach and client is crucial to success.

2.Qualifications-Are they qualified? Where did they do their training? Was it with a credible, professional training provider? How long was their training?

3.Experience- How much do they have? Where have they gained it? (family, friends and their pet dog does not count)

4.Do they have a supervisor? This is to ensure that the coach has psychological support, so that they can support you in the best way they can to maintain ethical standards in the field

5.Do they have insurance? Some clients bring insurance claims against unethical, incompetent practitioners.

 6.Are they a member of a professional organisation? e.g. The International Coaching Federation (ICF), The Association for Coaches (AC), European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP)

7.What do they do for their own Continuous Professional Development? (CPD) It’s important that the coach you choose also invests in & develops themselves, by attending seminars, training & workshops to learn new skills and keep up to date with new coaching approaches.

8.Look at their promotional material:

  • Website- Get a feel for their style and approach from their website. Is it professional? Does it resonate with you?
  • Testimonials-What kind of testimonials have clients provided? What kind of clients have commented?
  • Case studies– What kind of issues have they worked with? What was the resolution
  • What do they post on their social media-Do they offer rehashed affirmations, quotes & curated pictures on pretty backgrounds, or do they offer depth & substance? Do they share articles they have written themselves? Which topics do they address? Do they demonstrate knowledge of their industry?
  • Professional contribution-Have they written any books? Any articles? Magazine interviews?

Don’t get me wrong. There might be many fine coaches out there who have not had formal training or got qualifications, they may be ‘naturals’. Some people are.

This post is more for guidance when navigating the coaching landscape, to ensure you spend your hard earned pennies wisely, and get the most value and benefit from your coaching experience.

Coaching can be the best investment you ever make, enriching your life, realising your dreams, and offering a greater experience of living, than you ever imagined, but it’s important that you find the right ‘Fit’ for you.

Decide what it is you hope to achieve from coaching, and use that information to guide you in your choice.