Before you jump in and sign up for a training that looks good, take yourself out for coffee and ask yourself ‘What do I want to do this for?’ Take a piece of paper, and jot down some of your key thoughts or words. When you’ve done that, here are some ideas to think about before you go further.
First of all, what’s your motivation? If your answer uses the word ‘help’, then be careful. Coaching is about being an equal, a sounding board, a thinking partner, if you like. You’re not so much there to ‘help’ people, because that implies they need (your) help, and you are in some way in a position to help them. Potential clients aren’t needy, they are ‘creative, resourceful and whole’. Your job is to ask them what they want to achieve, elicit their resources and keep them on track to achieving what they said they want to achieve.
Next, if you want to be a coach, what do you believe coaching is? The International Coach Federation offers this definition: ‘partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential’. How close does that come to your own thinking of what you want to be doing? The idea is that people are able to do their thinking for themselves, and they already have what they need to answer their own questions (or at least they know or can think of places where they can go and find answers). What the coach therefore does not do is share their own life experience or give handy, helpful hints. Coaching is all about the client, and not the coach. The coach manages the process (makes sure the conversation is going in the agreed direction) and does not contribute to the content.
Then, what about the term ‘life’ coach? There are all kinds of coach, business, transformational, life, executive, etc. Personally, I think that ‘life coaching’ is a pretty good term. It implies that you want to coach people on their lives, so what you would offer is a generalist approach rather than a specialist. I think that’s great, there’s no statement of quality or ability in ‘life coach’, and no grandiose claims of skill or expertise either. And after all, everyone you work with in whatever context has a life (or wants one)!
Choosing a training course. Before you get lost in choices, ask yourself a couple of things. How serious am I about becoming a coach? If you seriously want to become a certified life coach, then you’ll need an accreditation. The market place knows that there are many coaches out there, so you’ll need to be different and serious enough to be attractive. Short courses won’t help you. To gain the ICF’s (www.coachfederation.org) Professional Certified Coach status, for example, you’ll need more than 125 hours of training. Note that other associations such as the Association for Coaching (www.associationforcoaching.com) and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (www.emccouncil.org) have different requirements.
- Pick a training body which is widely accredited.
- Pick one which offers theory, practice and experience.
- Go along to an open day.
- Ask yourself how you feel about learning from these people.
- Ask the trainers what their philosophy of training is and
- Ask the trainers what their own qualifications are.
- Ask to speak to previous students.
- What status does the course have with accrediting bodies?
Ask the hard questions. Make sure you get clear, concrete and sufficient answers, especially around formal accreditation. After all, you’re buying a product.
On a similar note, courses train you to do certain things. Do you want to ‘do coaching’ to people, or do you want to ‘be a coach’? There is a huge difference.
- How much attention do the courses you’re looking at pay to your personal development as a coach?
- What opportunities to they offer you to practice your coaching skills during the programme?
- What opportunities do you have to be coached (even by your peers)?
A last point on training courses in coaching. Business development is not coaching. No association regards business development training as coach training. So be aware that if a course offers business skills, it is not offering you coach training. To learn about building a business, join one of the associations and go to their webinars. There are also a lot of other places you can go to get proper advice and sound information on how to develop a business, such as the British Library.
Finally, the future. I think the future for life coaches is bright. We face an increasing social isolation, and people need someone to talk to. Family and social structures are changing and we no longer have the relationships which give us space and time to sort out what’s important to us. The world is changing so quickly that the ways we used to do things don’t work any more, and we need a place to go and sort our lives out. We need people who can help us access the wise parts of ourselves, untainted by well-meant advice from outside. Social media doesn’t help us think deeply about who we are and how we can create a life that is right for us. Life coaches can do these things. To become a certified life coach can be personally very fulfilling. In the years to come, I believe life coaches will be in demand.