What to Look For When Choosing a Life Coach

Life coaching and life coaches have hit the mainstream in recent years.  Once reserved for athletes and executives, coaching of all kinds is now accessible to everyone.  There are coaches who specialize in health and wellness, business and career, relationships, parenting, leadership, retirement – the list goes on.

Because of the growing popularity of coaching and the growth of the profession in general, how to go about choosing a coach can be confusing or unclear.  And what, exactly, does a life coach do, anyway?

A life coach can be a powerful partner in helping you take your life to the next level.  Life coaching is NOT therapy and a reputable life coach will usually refer a potential client to a qualified professional if he/she feels this is necessary.

A life coach can help you to achieve your goals and move forward in your life more directly and purposefully.  A qualified coach will assist you in assessing your values, strengths, and deepest interests, and help you to create a plan to move forward with realistic steps and strategies.  A coach will also support you and help you to navigate the pitfalls and challenges that inevitably occur on the way to making a significant change or achieving a dreamed-of goal.

People who come to coaching do so because they have been unable to make a change or reach a goal on their own.  They may be successful in many aspects of their lives, but have a particular area that continues to frustrate them.  A properly trained coach can be an invaluable resource when it comes to achieving your aims.  So what’s the best way to find one?  Here are some suggestions.

  • Be an informed consumer and get educated.  There is an abundance of information about coaching out there – articles, websites, professional organizations.
  • Know your goal.  What is the result you are seeking from working with a coach?  Knowing your objectives is key in determining the type of coach you choose.  A coach that specializes in executive and leadership coaching will not have the same approach as one who specializes in small business coaching.
  • Interview a prospective coach before you decide.  Many coaches offer a complimentary session, in which you can ask questions and determine if you might be a good fit.  Be sure to ask about his or her experience, qualifications, skills and approach.  You can also ask a prospective coach for references.
  • Ask the coach about any specialized training they have or certifications they hold.  Not all certifications are created equally.  Some require months of training, some may require 2-3 years or more.

The International Coach Federation (ICF) is the leading globally recognized coaching organization, and requires that its members have  “completed stringent education and experience requirements and a dedicated commitment to excellence in coaching,”  including adherence to its standards and ethics.  The ICF website contains a wealth of useful information about coaching in general and can be found at http://www.coachfederation.org/.  Some universities, such as Columbia University, also offer their own certifications.

  • If you know the type of coach you are looking for (i.e., career, health and wellness) there are professional organizations and certifying bodies specifically dedicated to particular coaching niches.   Try the http://www.wellcoachesschool.com referral service.  Most reputable coaching programs, as well as the ICF, also contain referral databases.  Ones to try are the MentorCoach Training Program at http://www.mentorcoach.com/index.html; also the Coach Training Institute, http://www.thecoaches.com/.  Any professional organization should provide you, the prospective client, with the assurance that you will receive quality coaching so be sure to do your homework.
  • Ask for a referral.  If you know someone who has been working with a coach and had positive results, ask that person for the name of the coach they have been working with.  As mentioned earlier, most coaches will offer a 15-30 telephone consult to give you a chance to get to know them and how they work.

The coach you choose will be an important relationship, and you will be working closely with him or her.  Take your time and talk to more than one to get a feel for their philosophy and approach.  Selecting the right coach   can make all the difference in your success.  It’s an important decision and an investment in yourself.  Approach it as you would any important decision.  Hiring the right one could change your life for the better.

Coach’s action step:   Is there something in your life that you would like to change?    Maybe you are not feeling as fulfilled in your career as you once did.  Do you struggle in some area (losing weight, exercising, quitting smoking, relationships?)  Consider whether it might benefit you to have outside support in the form of a coach, group coaching, or accountability partner. If the answer is yes, make it a point to take one step forward this week towards finding the support you need.

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