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Tips for choosing a life coach

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If you want to be the best you can be in sport, you get a coach.  Ditto for Life.  I’m wise and cool to have a coach… but wait, does this make me wiser and cooler if I am also a certified professional coach?  Not only that, if I’ve had the experience of being coached by a number of coaches?   Okay, maybe I’m not wiser and cooler, but I am delighted to offer these tips in your pursuit of enhancing your life (and your joy) through coaching.  If you were googling and came across this article… I hope it helps to know it’s written from honest to goodness experience, and not a copy of a copy of a generic copy of a copy of ‘tips to hire a life coach.’

In a nutshell:
Tip #1:  Ask for a trial session.
Tip #2:  What coaching is not.
Tip #3:  Searching by Niche
Tip #4: Training
Tip #5: Is your coach being coached?
Tip #6: A “big name” doesn’t necessarily mean good.

The nutshell burst open:

Tip #1
Trial session:  It doesn’t matter if you are considering hiring the ‘best’ coach in the world  (Is there one?) or Oprah’s coach or the coach your friend down the street told you about:  You cannot know if a coach is the right ‘fit ‘ for you without experiencing one-on-one coaching with them.  

Choosing to get a coach alone tells me you are already one wise puppy.  And if you choose to ignore the rest of this article, please do choose to use this one tip:  Ask for a trial session. 

Consider this: If 75% of your community elected your mayor, but you think he/she is a ninny…  why would you even consider getting a coach (who is about to become the biggest supporter of you), without testing the relationship?   We, as individuals, are all unique.  Coaches are all unique.  Pick the one that is best for you, and that may not necessarily even be Oprah’s coach.  (Although, I suppose I wouldn’t kick at that opportunity.)

You will likely know by the end of the first session if this is the coach for you. You’ll feel good, empowered, and maybe even have more energy than you’ve felt for awhile. (And if you are singing, “I feeeeel good, na na nanannnana,” choose this coach.)   If you are uncertain, try other coaches.  This will give you the experience to help you feel comfortable with your choice. 

Offering trial sessions is a common practise for coaches.  It gives you the opportunity to explore coaching before commiting to the process.  Some coaches offer complimentary sessions, some offer reduced rate sessions.  Don’t hesitate to pay for a trial session if the coach seems like they may be a right fit.  Often you will get a lot out of even that one session.

Tip #2
A good coach does not advise or counsel you.  If your coach sounds like your mother telling you what you should and should not do – well, this isn’t cool.  Moms may give advice believing it to be in your best interest, and you know, that’s a mom’s prerogative.  Your coach, though, recognizes that you are a creative resourceful being and helps you to discover and implement your passions, processes, and motivation.  Not theirs. Not those that other people expect of you.  Yours. 

If it is counselling you need, a good coach is going to help you find that resource and will graciously bow out, or work closely with the counsellor to move you forward.

Tip #3 
About Searching by Niches:  

Do you want to build a business? Find balance in life? Find/enhance a relationship? Develop parenting skills? Are you seeking executive coaching, spiritual coaching, creativity coaching?  It’s important to note that no matter what your purpose for coaching is, a good coach is able to, and will, help you to move forward in all areas of your life.  As much as we might like to think our work is separate from our family life, our creativity is separate from our parenting style, and our financial success is separate from our spiritual success – this is simply not true.  Let’s say an executive intends to double the company’s income; but shows up for coaching drained from a chaotic home front;  he/she may choose to be coached around improving their home life in order to reach their executive goals.

A good coach does not need to be an expert in any specific area. They need to be an expert in coaching.  A good coach understands the concept that you are the expert of you and has the ability to bring this out in you.  

Why then do coaches choose a niche?  As a potential client, you are often most concerned about addressing a certain issue in your life.  It makes sense that you are going to go looking for a coach who has expertise in that area.  Coaches choose a niche to help you find them, and ideally, it is an area they are passionate about and have gained extensive experience. 

There is a point to this meandering:  Do you want to have a number of coaches for a number of areas of your life?  Some people do this.  That method all seems a little too time consuming and overwhelming to me.  Consider looking for a coach who is willing and able to pay attention to all aspects of your life, as you work towards your ideal vision – whether it be to build your business, to make transitional changes in your life, or to explore your spiritual and creative self.    Look for a coach who ‘gets you’.  If you are a creative soulful being, look for the coach who understands that. If you are a high-powered executive who thrives on getting to the top floor of the building at all costs, look for that.

Tip #4
Training:
   Although no longer a new profession, becoming a life coach generally does not legally require certification.  Unfortunately, this means there are people who simply ‘hang a shingle’ announcing they are a life coach.  They may or may not be good coaches.  Even worse is that there are fly by night ‘be a certified coach in a weekend’ programs offered all over the internet.   Check your potential coach’s training.  One way of ascertaining their training credentials is to check if the training institute is accredited by the International Federation of Coaches.   

Tip #5
Is your coach being coached?
  This demonstrates that your coach understands the value of coaching, and not simply in monetary terms.

Tip #6
A big name doesn’t necessarily mean good
:  I have in the past committed to very expensive coaching based only on the well known name, much to my disappointment.  Some coaching groups are based more on following a program, than on coaching you and your unique ways of moving forward. This can set you up for failure, if you don’t ‘fit’ with what might be considered the general population’s way of setting and achieving goals.  Certainly, there are excellent ‘big name’ coaching groups too – Just ask for that trial session before committing.  

by Janet L. Whitehead    www.musingsandmud.com    ©2009

Janet L. Whitehead, is a certified professional life coach, creativity coach, and published author who inspires others to think creatively and soulfully to discover their unique answers and most empowering ways to move forward. Janet offers personal coaching, creative thought workshops, and unusual self coaching work(play!)books. She recently published “The Demise of Noshud Hafta” – a storybook illustrated in clay that fits the not yet existing genre of fantasy self-help. www.musingsandmud.com

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About Janet

Artist/writer with a tall ship and mystical twist, Certified Professional Life Coach (ICA), Master Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach (KMCC), empowerment workshop leader and creativity group facilitator trainer. Outdoor enthusiast and Tall Ship sailor. Healed from breast cancer using her own tools of play, lightness, creativity, nature, thinking differently and visualization to speed the healing, and ever ever so grateful for all the wondrous people she is surrounded by.

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