To be an effective life coach, a person needs many different abilities. Sometimes so called life coaches are lacking in one or more of these abilities, and therefore may end up giving bad advice to people who need the opposite. In this article, a professional life coach explains how to choose a suitable one.
Well worth reading for anyone interested in life coaching.
That message seems to be reaching more and more people nowadays. With increasing regularity, I find myself receiving enquiries from people asking how they should go about choosing a life coach.
Being in the business of training people to be great life coaches, I find it very gratifying to know how the demand for high quality personal coaching services is growing.
Frankly, it’s hardly surprising, given the state of our world today and the huge toll that it is talking on people’s sense of personal freedom, self-confidence and ability to grow and develop.
But life coaching has been around for a while now and potential clients are, quite rightly, becoming more choosy about who they entrust their coaching to. After all, someone who is going to become a trusted partner in helping you to achieve your goals and dreams, has to be someone you can connect with and work with naturally.
“Coaching is all about having someone believe in you and encourage you, about getting valuable feedback, about seeing things from new perspectives and setting your sights on new horizons.”
– Author unknown
A key question, then, for many individuals already convinced of the benefits of life coaching, is: “How do I choose a life coach just right for me?”
In responding to such a question I would advise as follows:
Make your choice in four simple steps, applying four ‘filters’ to ensure you get the best match.
The first and relatively easy step is what I call ‘matching the demographics’.
Proximity … or not
If you’re set on face-to-face coaching then you’ll need someone who you can reach within a reasonable traveling distance.
Now, before I move on, let me assure you that being coached by telephone (Skype is very popular for those with broadband internet because it is a free service) is an option that you should certainly not discount lightly.
Believe it or not there are actually a number of benefits to being coached by ‘phone – but that’s a topic for a separate article.
If you work best with people of your own – or the opposite – gender, then this too will influence your choice.
Age and experience
There are many excellent and vibrant young coaches around, but you may feel uncomfortable with having a coach who is half your age. Alternatively, as a young person, you might prefer to have a coach who has more extensive life experience to draw on; someone who’s ‘been there and done that’!
Bear in mind that life coaching is different from mentoring. A mentor is someone with greater experience (and normally more seniority in the corporate field) who aims to impart some of that to you through wise counsel and advice.
On the other hand a life coach should treat you as an equal and with respect for the fact that nobody knows you and your life better than you do. The life coach’s job is to introduce you to various tools and techniques to help you get more out of your life. You’ll come up with the plans and your life coach will hold you to account in achieving them.
Coaching fees come into the ‘demographic’ equation too, of course. But my advice would be not to restrict your choice of life coach by applying this filter right up front.
It may sound counterintuitive as nowadays, in tough economic times, we tend to look at ‘how much’ before we look at
‘how best’ … but this is often a big mistake.
Look past the advertised fees if you can, find the ideal match using all the steps I am outlining here and then negotiate with your preferred coach if you need to, to fit your budget.
Many coaches are negotiable and some will offer substantial discounts for payment in advance. Some of the best coaches will even offer money back guarantees!
My advice is to look at what you will pay over, say six months, and then consider how valuable that will be if you achieve one or two of your most desired goals.
The next step is more difficult. I call it ‘matching the niche’.
Let me ask you this …
If you own a house that is built out of timber on the side of a steep hill and you decide to add an extension with an overhanging deck, who would you be more likely to contract with, a general builder or a builder who specialises in timber homes and cantilevered decking?
When you hire a life coach, you generally have a good idea as to what part of your life you specifically want to focus on improving or the nature of the goals that you want to achieve. And it may well be that you’ll find a life coach whose specialist niche matches perfectly.
I recommend to all coaches who want to build substantial and self-sustaining practices that they choose a niche market based on their underlying skills and passionate interests.
Many of our certified life coaches have been very successful focusing on niches like ‘personal empowerment’, ‘relationship intimacy’, ‘self-confidence’, ‘youth development’, ‘career building’, ‘retirement planning’, ‘spiritual growth’, ’financial freedom’, ‘childbirth’, and so on and so on.
OK, so once you’ve decided on a rough demographic profile of your ideal coach and the niche (if any) that you fall into, you can move on to step 3. I call this ‘matching the skills’, although this is about more than skills.
Remember that there is, at least currently, no form of regulation governing the coaching ‘profession’.
To my mind this is a good thing in that there are no barriers to entry into an industry where having a passion for people and a gift for helping others achieve their dreams is far more important than a raft of highfalutin academic qualifications.
The not so good
On the other hand its a bad thing that any Tom, Dick or Harriet can write ‘coach’ on their business card and set themselves up in practice without having the necessary skills, techniques, experience and structure to back up their coaching.
Now, I firmly believe that good quality life coaches are self-selecting. As a life coach you won’t survive long in business without quality word-of-mouth endorsements and client testimonials. Let’s face it, you can’t be halfway pregnant! You’re either really effective at helping people transform their lives, or you’re not!
The proof of the pudding is in the ‘eating’
And this is my point. Always ask any prospective coach for testimonials or references – and check them out. This is by far your best assurance of a quality coach.
You should also consider asking the coach where and in what method they have been trained. Ask to see their certificate and do some research on the coach training provider to see if they are reputable. Check how passionate the coach is about their calling. Do they subscribe to any code of ethics? Are they registered with a coaching body that promotes ongoing coach development?
The final step is, I think, the most important of all. I call it ‘matching the vibration’.
Choosing the ‘right’ (as opposed to ‘good’) coach is, arguably, a more important decision than choosing the ‘right’
doctor or dentist.
Whereas a ‘good’ doctor will make the correct diagnosis and prescribe effective medication without necessarily doing it in a way that has you warming to him or her, a ‘good’ coach (i.e. a well trained, equipped and ethical coach) with whom you are unable to build a great rapport, will be unlikely to do much for you.
Rapport and ‘The Edge’
Rapport is vital to the coaching relationship. Establishing an emotional bond with your coach based on mutual liking and respect, trust, and belief in each other is the foundation for the achievement of great things through coaching.
Great coaches will have that something special that allows them to empower their clients to go well beyond the normal and yet still be compassionate and caring. At New Insights we have a term for that. We call it ‘The Edge’!
How do you establish whether there’s a ‘vibrational match’ with your coach?
Great coaches worth their salt will offer a free first session that may range from a basic introduction to a client assessment or in some cases even a full blown goal-setting session. This is a great opportunity to see if you and your coach are an ideal match.
Coaches need coaches
A final thought.
If you’ve ever doubted the power of coaching think about this. Every great coach will tell you that the one thing crucial to their success is having their own personal coach! Ask your prospective coach who their own coach is.
So there you have it.
SOURCE (article originally written by Bill Burridge)
Take a look at our section on Life Coaching. As well as articles by Robin Sharma and other thought leaders, we have advice and tips written by the experiences Life Retreat team.