Life and Personal Coaching[
Being self-employed has its advantages in any area of business. Having the luxury to choose the hours you work, where you work and how much to charge for your service is a huge motivation for anyone considering joining the profession.
Coaches can choose how many clients they want – one client, or twenty.
And there are no overheads involved – working from home is a big incentive for people who want to enter the coaching profession.
The flexibility of the coaching role, along with the rewarding aspects of the job, is likely to ensure that coaching and the number of practising coaches grows considerably in coming years.
Coaching, as well as being hugely satisfying, a means of personal development and very flexible, is also financially rewarding. Clients value and benefit from the support and are therefore happy to pay for it.
Coaches are attracted into the profession because it gives them:
- accelerated personal growth and understanding of self
- a lifelong journey of personal excellence and knowledge
- the ability to enhance any job-role in any organization and industry – coaching brings out the best in people and motivates them to be the very best in whatever they do – in all manner of jobs and careers
- more options in life – important and rare choices of when to work and with whom
- a right and good purpose and meaning in life, measured in real value terms of effort and reward, not lost in a corporate fog
Little can compare to really making a difference in another person’s life.
The ability to help people make lasting, positive changes in their lives is very special. Good coaches have this very special ability, and it is therefore no wonder that people are attracted to the coaching role.
Typical motivations for becoming a coach are explained in this example:
“It’s a wonderful experience when a client makes a breakthrough, has a ‘light bulb moment’ and takes action on something they have been putting off for a long time. It’s a fantastic feeling for both me and them.” (Pam Lidford, a UK-based qualified coach and trainer)
On a day-to-day basis, coaches face many challenges. Coaching is an ongoing process, a method of continuous development and a significant learning experience for coaches and clients, so it’s important to learn from ‘mistakes’
The key to this is realising that these aren’t ‘mistakes’ or failings in the first place.
What many people regard as mistakes are lessons, experiences, and opportunities to learn and develop.
Cherie Carter-Scott in her book ‘If Life Is Game, These Are The Rules’ has some helpful things to say about mistakes and learning. So does Don Miguel Ruiz in his book ‘The Four Agreements’. See also the inspirational quotes, many of which help to approach mistakes and learning experiences positively. Perhaps one of the most powerful examples is “What does not kill us makes us stronger.” (attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche, based on his words: “Out of life’s school of war: What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.” from The Twilight of the Idols, 1899).
A coach must demonstrate resourcefulness and help people to see that if they think they have failed in the past, this bears no bearing to what they can do in the future.
John Cassidy-Rice is a qualified coach who has been working in personal development for many years. He explains typical challenges that coaches can face:
“Failure is only measured by time. If you look at the bigger picture, it’s the ‘failures’ in our life that can actually turn out to be our greatest successes. What we learn from failure is invaluable. To give an example, when a football team loses an important match, they may regard themselves as failures; it’s a natural thought process to go through. However, if they take it one match at a time, and look at where they went wrong in the game, and indeed, how they can improve for the next one, it means that these mistakes won’t be made again – and they’ll be successful in the future games they play. It can be a challenge to remove the ‘failure’ thought from clients. And showing them that it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve success in the future.”
Listening skills, and resisting the urge to give advice are key attributes and methods of successful coaching, and central to truly helping people find their own direction and solutions.
Listening is the most important ability and behaviour of a coach. This takes patience, tolerance and practice, especially in order to develop real empathic listening techniques. See the section on empathy, which explains more about the different types of listening.
Communicating fully and expertly is a quality that most good coaches will possess. Many coaches draw on the techniques and principles of Neuro-Linguistic Programming to assimilate and master these important communicating capabilities.
Understanding the client’s needs is also pivotal to the coach-client relationship, and a prerequisite for avoiding difficulties in the relationship and coaching support process.
It is essential that coaches coach and do not give advice. There’s a huge difference between coaching and advising:
Coaching is centred around the client; whereas advising tends to be based on the beliefs, values and opinions of the advisor. In this respect a coach is most certainly not an advisor. The coach’s role, and the coaching concept, is to help the other person find their own solutions, not to have them follow an advisor’s recommendations or suggestions. This is a fundamental principle.
Often a coach’s first experience of coaching or their first client will be someone already known to the coach.
Many other coaching relationships will result from recommendations or referrals by clients’ or from past clients.
Integrity and trust are significant factors in successful coaching relationships, so it is logical that personal referrals and introductions are at the start of many coach-client relationships.
It is a fact that most coaches are recommended by existing or past clients.
Aside from this, coaches can and do market their services like any other professional provider, using a variety of appropriate methods, including internet websites, directories, brochures and leaflets. Many coaches offer free trial sessions.
Publicity from various media also helps to spread the word, and promote the reputations and availability of many coaches. Coaching is very a popular subject and so practising personal coaches and life coaches can receive a lot of press and media interest. Coaches are seen by the public as having special skills that not everyone has – so it’s not unusual to see coaches being interviewed on local radio or asked for their advice in newspaper articles, etc.
The reputation of coaching is growing along with the use of the concept – and coaching is becoming increasingly associated with modern recognised requirements for success in life, work, business and organizations, notably the qualities of excellence, integrity, humanity and facilitative learning (as distinct from traditional ‘training’)
As previously stated, coaching is increasingly sub-dividing into specialist and new applications. There is already a considerable coaching presence and influence in the following areas:
- spiritual coaching
- parent coaching
- corporate coaching
- financial coaching
- business coaching
In the future coaching is likely to incorporate and attract skills, resources and new coaches from many different areas, such as: teaching, human resources, training, healthcare and nursing, the armed forces, the police, counselling and therapy, etc.
Scientific research will improve cognisance throughout the profession, the processes performed and the reputation of coaches themselves. We will progressively understand more about why coaching works so well, and more about human behaviour and human response in the coaching context.
There will be a clearer definition, understanding and acceptance of life coaching and personal coaching, and its role in helping people to reach their goals.
Just as coaching is not the same as advising, so neither is coaching the same as consultancy. Coaching and consultancy are two very different disciplines, with different methods and aims.
Significantly, a consultant is a specialist in his or her field; whereas a coach is a specialist in coaching, and need not be a specialist in any other field.
That is not to say coaches do not benefit from having expertise in a particular field, in fact approaching coaching from a particular expertise or niche is becoming more prevalent among newly-trained coaches.
There will always be a demand for good coaches. And because coaching skills are so transferable, the coaching capability is hugely valuable for all sorts of other jobs and roles.
Coaching and Careers
The very nature of coaching means that coaches will recommend it as a career. Coaches are passionate about what they do and want to ‘spread the word’ about the benefits of coaching from both the coach’s and the client’s perspective. Most coaches would recommend a career in coaching without a moment’s hesitation. Helping people to be the very best they can be, touching people’s lives, as well as guiding them to help them reach their goals provides immense job satisfaction. Coaching is a relatively young skill and service area and yet in recent years its growth is only exceeded by that of IT.
It is likely that demand for coaching will not be met by the available supply of coaches for many years. Compare this with management consultancy, which has been established as a service area for many decades, and is relatively well-supplied with management consultants.
Compared to established professional services, such as management consultancy, training, accountancy, legal services, etc., coaching is a much newer discipline. Coaching is fast growing and still relatively under-supplied, which is why many people are attracted to learn how to coach, either to become coaching professionals, or to add coaching skills to their existing role capabilities.
People seeking new career direction, or seeking to add new skills to an existing professional service capability are increasingly turning to coaching.
Coaching is unlike training, consultancy, advising, or providing a professional service in which work is completed on behalf of a client. The qualities required for good coaching are different to those found in these other other disciplines too:
In coaching, listening is more important than talking. By listening, people can be helped to overcome their fears, be offered complete objectivity and given undivided attention and unparalleled support. This leads to the intuitive questioning that allows the client to explore what is going on for themselves.
Coaching is a two-way process. While listening is crucial, so is being able to interpret and reflect back, in ways that remove barriers, pre-conceptions, bias, and negativity. Communicating well enables trust and meaningful understanding on both sides.
Coaches are able to communicate feeling and meaning, as well as content – there is a huge difference. Communicating with no personal agenda, and without judging or influencing, are essential aspects of the communicating process, especially when dealing with people’s personal anxieties, hopes and dreams.
Good coaching uses communication not to give the client the answers, but to help the clients find their answers for themselves.
A coach’s ability to build rapport with people is vital. Normally such an ability stems from a desire to help people, which all coaches tend to possess. Rapport-building is made far easier in coaching compared to other services because the coach’s only focus is the client. When a coach supports a person in this way it quite naturally accelerates the rapport-building process.
Motivating and Inspiring
Coaches motivate and inspire people. This ability to do this lies within us all. It is borne of a desire to help and support. People who feel ready to help others are normally able to motivate and inspire. When someone receives attention and personal investment from a coach towards their well-being and development, such as happens in the coaching relationship, this is in itself very motivational and inspirational.
Curiosity, Flexibility and Courage
Coaching patterns vary; people’s needs are different, circumstances and timings are unpredictable, so coaching relationships do not follow a single set formula. Remembering that everyone is different and has different needs is an essential part of being a coach. Ultimately, everyone is human – so coaches take human emotions and feelings into account.
And coaching is client-led – which means that these emotions have to be tapped into from the very beginning of the coaching process. So, having the flexibility to react to people’s differences, along with the curiosity and interest to understand fundamental issues in people’s lives, are also crucial in coaching.
The coach’s curiosity enables the client’s journey to be full and far-reaching; both coach and client are often surprised at how expectations are exceeded, and how much people grow.
All this does take some courage – coaches generally have a strong belief in themselves, a strong determination to do the best they can for their clients, and a belief, or faith that inherently people are capable of reaching goals themselves.
Coaching Maxims and Principles
Typically good coaches will use and follow these principles:
- Listening is more important than talking
- What motivates people must be understood
- Everyone is capable of achieving more
- A person’s past is no indication of their future
- People’s beliefs about what is possible for themselves are their only limits
- A coach must always provide full support
- Coaches don’t provide the answers
- Coaching does not include criticizing people
- All coaching is completely confidential
- Some people’s needs cannot be met by coaching , and coaches recognise clients with these needs
Life coaches and personal coaches come from all kinds of backgrounds and professions. Not surprisingly, coaches tend to like people, and many coaches come from ‘people’ and ‘caring’ professions.
Coaches come from backgrounds as varied as these, and the list is certainly not exhaustive:
- Prison Service
- Complementary Therapies
- Human Resources
- Personal Trainers
- Voluntary workers
- Charity workers
- Armed forces
- Emergency services
- Service industries
And many people on business, institutions, management, and organisations of all sorts learn how to become coaches so as to enrich their existing roles with the very special skills, methodologies and philosophies that coaching entails.
Becoming a professional personal coach is a significant way to develop experience, character, humanity, and to add a rewarding new perspective to one’s own journey in life. Typically, seeking a new outlook on life, a willingness to learn, and a passion for helping other people are the first steps in the process towards becoming a coach.
Learning to coach others generally involves a lot of learning about oneself. Coaches almost always find that they have had to explore and resolve a number of new personal issues themselves, before they are ready to begin helping others to to do the same. Some of this experience can be surprising; it can also be a little scary, but it is usually ultimately rewarding.
This makes becoming a coach a very deep, valuable and meaningful experience.
Learning to be a coach is a serious step and a serious commitment. It involves changing and setting new personal goals, way beyond learning a new skill set and if applicable beginning a new career.
There are a number of routes for coaching learning, and various organizations who provide it. Accreditation and standardisation of coaching skills and qualifications are increasingly becoming formalised, all over the world, although because coaching is still in relative infancy, there is some way to go before these standards reach international harmonisation and uniformity.
If you are interested in learning more for yourself, or for your organization, a good place to start is UK-based The Coaching Academy, whose contribution of the technical content of this coaching guide article is gratefully acknowledged. The Coaching Academy specialises in the training of coaches throughout the UK, Europe and the rest of the world, and is the longest established company of this type in the UK. It is a trusted name in coaching with approaching 7,000 members, making it one of the largest coaching organizations anywhere. In the UK you can phone them on 0800 783 4823. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Life coaching and personal coaching skills, methodologies and principles offer a radically new perspective to organizations looking for effective and innovative training and development solutions for their people, managers and executives.
The nature of life coaching as a learning and development model enables a different and effective approach to developing traditional ‘intangibles’ – for example positive behaviour, integrity, humanity, ethics, mentoring, culture, emotional maturity, etc – which are so vital for successful performance of modern organizations.