What is a Coach? Why would anyone want to become one and, more to the point, if they do then what makes a great one? These three questions all deserve very different answers so let’s look at them one at a time. To start with, the dictionary doesn’t give much away, stating that a coach is “a tutor who gives private or specialized teaching”. In the world and context that we are talking about i.e a ‘Life-Coach’, I would define it as a person who can offer qualified and valuable support that assists someone in steering their life in a more positive direction.
This can take the form of advice, insight, accountability and motivation and can be as hands-on as a direct intervention or as hands-off as just offering a space or mirror for the ‘client’ to reflect back the right choice for themselves. As you can see, there is a lot of scope for what the term ‘Life Coach’ can mean and what it can offer.
Let’s go to the second question: Why would anyone want to be one? And here we see the first clues that lead to the different levels of application. There are now literally dozens of ‘accredited’ courses on the market, all of which promise that by the end of their training, you will be a ‘certified’ and professional coach, able to go out into the market place and attract paying clients with your new credentials. While there are many different personal reasons why people decide to become a coach, there are some very common patterns that can lead people to take that journey. In my experience, the most common tends to be people who, having had some exposure to the personal development market, either quickly or over time realize that there is a much bigger sense of meaning and purpose to life when focused on growth and contribution and not significance, certainty and self (a classic case of ego-centric moving to ethno-centric consciousness or above). This is a well meaning and a great starting point. After all, who does not feel the authentic difference between putting a smile on our own face versus putting one on someone else’s? However, while the motivation is noble (just as most doctors who recommend chemotherapy truly believe they are helping their patients), the inherent problems with that usually come because the person drawn to coaching is doing so as a conscious way to justify their ethnocentricity while unconsciously covering up some of the very same patterns that they intend to help people get over. This is a subtle but (in my experience) very common scenario. To put it another way, there seems to be many people who hide their own insecurities behind a coaching diploma on the wall and the big challenge is that those insecurities get played out in both the clients they attract and the methods they use to help them. (i.e, have you ever given some great advice to someone and then thought afterwards, ‘wow, I should really listen to that myself!’?). And, just as there are a lot of people who fit that profile, there are now a lot of companies and courses that are happy to offer the coaching and training required to help others without necessarily giving too much emphasis on the background of the people who sign up.
So, if you are looking for a coach how do you find a great one? Well, for a start, I think that asking a few basic but direct questions would give potential clients a far better picture than just checking qualifications or accepting a friend’s recommendation etc. It doesn’t have to be a formal interview but it should go far beyond just asking for a resume. Find out what has been their journey in personal development? Why did they choose this career and what is their motivation? What brought them to that conclusion or awareness? What is their definition of success? How many testimonials of previous clients can they provide you with and that they are happy for you to talk to? More importantly, what is it about THEIR life that would inspire you, especially in the areas you would like to emulate? If you are going to someone for relationship advice and they are in the middle of their 3rd divorce then you may wish to ask yourself why you would pay them. If you are having challenges in the area of finances, don’t hire someone who has trouble paying their mortgage. If you are looking for more fulfillment and a sense of purpose for your life then don’t hire someone who seems stressed or who just doesn’t seem to have any sense of passion and direction. How much of a deeper spiritual or energetic side to they seem to have, or are they all just about numbers and goals? And if so, does it seem interwoven holistically into their character, or do they hype up their ‘gift’ to the point where it has likely been hijacked by the ego? Another great give away is to look at how much they charge. If you ever want to see the most glaring indication of unresolved self-worth issues, look for what someone values themselves or their time at. Now, I understand there maybe budget restrictions and I am not saying that you should hire the most expensive coach, nor am I saying that the more they charge the better they are. I am simply pointing to a potential warning sign and saying that if you are wanting to improve your self-worth, your net-worth or both, then be sure to hire someone who is a great example. Conversely, if you are a coach reading this then have someone (preferably another coach or close friend) run through these points with you to see you if you can uncover any blind spots. Avoid the tendency to disassociate from this along with what could be potentially helpful insights by sweeping it away as irrelevant or not applicable to you (a sure sign your unconscious is unwilling to let go of some hidden or ingrained patterns or issues).
So, finally, what does make a great coach? Well, after 10 years of working directly with people from suicidal drug addicts to high-level super achievers across 4 continents, I can only share with you some of the experience, insights and self-reflections of my journey. However, if I were to encapsulate that into the top 5 attributes I would say it was these:
- Sincere Empathy: The ability to relate to the client by entering their world and seeing the world through their eyes to the point where you would acknowledge that you would have taken the same actions. Note, this does NOT mean that you agree with it or that you should get sucked into their ‘story’! What it DOES mean is that you can fully understand their journey to this point (not the details as much as the psychological pathway) and therefore appreciate where they are at, rather than judge them from your model of the world.
- Faith in the outcome: Another way of putting this would be to have ‘heart-felt confidence’ in producing the right result for them. Many times as a coach you will not know what is about to happen next, what pattern will surface or what direction the conversation or interaction will take. When working on one issue that you think is handled, it may uncover a completely different issue of more significance. Never be thrown off balance and never question your ability to resolve something with a client. Self doubt here can be fatal to the outcome. This is where trusting in a higher power, a higher level of intelligence and surrendering your ego to a more divine sense of guidance will keep you on track and allow you to be the magical channel you are for the miracles that you do.
- Willingness to be unpopular for what you believe will serve their highest good: A coach can be a good friend, however a good friend is someone who will put your needs before the insecurities of the fear of losing the friendship. Never be afraid to call someone on their ‘stuff’ and use ‘tough love’ where necessary.
- Never take things personally: This is where people who get into coaching with unresolved personal issues can have their buttons easily pressed. Remember point 2 above and your ego can be let off the hook. If things don’t go the way you wanted them to, if the client doesn’t get the outcome you wanted them to get (a warning sign in itself), if they don’t come back or even if they threaten to sue you – Don’t take it personally and never judge yourself on the results of each client! Remember you are in the business of guiding and helping and if people choose to stay on their path regardless of that then you can sleep well at night knowing you did your best. Do not confuse your self worth by the results you get, this can be fatal to your confidence!! Many true masters have reached the place where they can make a distinction between their teaching and their students learning.
- Be the example you wish to be: A paraphrase on Gandhi’s famous quote and as pertinent to this industry as any other. The key word here is ‘Authenticity’. When you can see a situation first through compassion before judgment, when you look deeply in the mirror and authentically reflect back the love you have for yourself in a way that touches you peacefully, then you will walk, talk and vibrate in a way that radiates as a living example to others you can be truly proud of.
The coaching industry offers an incredible opportunity to contribute to the well-being of individuals, communities and the planet as a whole. It can provide both a journey of expansion, joy, challenge and self-reflection like no other and as representatives of that industry it is our responsibility to be both a beacon of integrity and a conduit for miracles.
May 2016 bring you everything you deserve!