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Knowing how to Choose a Coach (or any service provider)

I recently listened to a podcast, in which two presenters discussed whether or not life coaching is a sham.

As a coach myself, it was a good exercise in hearing some different perspectives. You see, anyone can call themselves a life coach! It's not a regulated industry. And because it's not regulated, it's been growing thanks to "multi-level marketing" (MLM).

MLM people are exceptionally good at marketing - through online media advertising, and very personable-looking presentations, they will attract clients who are looking for something new:

  • They promise wealth, while not having to get out of your pyjamas.

  • Their presentations are slick, but feel very energetic and real-time (as opposed to pre-recorded).

  • They engage "members of the audience" to demonstrate techniques, and in doing so, they demonstrate the "effectiveness" of those techniques.

Now, I'm not saying that was my experience (nor am I saying it wasn't). What I am saying, is that it's easy to be convinced by these online marketers. They know how much someone will pay for a course, and they price-match with lots of additional benefits. They get you in.

You do the course, thinking it's the answer to your prayers for the vocation of your dreams - as well as a great income and flexible lifestyle. They offer you free marketing on their website, giving you a look of legitimacy; this is part of the MLM approach. The more hits your internet searches receive, the more traffic will be directed to their website, and they benefit from your name.

I listened to this podcast - on a well-respected network - and thought, there must be a lot of shonky dealers out there! I, in my little cloud of naivety, had no idea that there could be so many "life coaches" to give the industry a bad name. I've been concerned with doing the right thing by my clients and potential clients.

But, the guest on the program had some great advice.

We'll get to that great advice in a tick, but first, I want to just consider why you might try a coach, and what they can and can't do.

  • You might be facing a life transition (like retirement, redundancy, separation, marriage, new job, new baby, empty nest), and you want to find a path that works for you.

  • You might have a specific goal (like changing physical activity levels, getting a qualification or better job, improving health), and you want to discover what will work best for you.

A coach is not usually an expert in mental health, diet, or exercise physiology (though sometimes these credentials work alongside their coaching techniques).

A coach should be good at the following:

  1. Asking the right questions (to get at what your goals are, but also your barriers and enablers),

  2. Reflective listening (showing that they hear and respect what you say), and

  3. Not telling you what to do.

Some other techniques come in handy, like being able to guide you in visualisation meditation, but that's not as important as those three listed above.

A good coach should preferably have some other training in a regulated field. But really importantly, and I cannot stress this enough, they need to know their limitations.

Coaching is a bit like Motivational Interviewing, in that the coach never tells you what you "should" do. They help you find the answers for yourself, within, by using appropriate questions. They work with you in the present, to find tiny steps you can take toward the future you want.

A good coach will not pretend to be a psychologist, dietician, or any other allied health professional. They will not pretend to fix your traumas, or prescribe you treatments.

They will recognise when you need specific help, and suggest you see your GP for an appropriate health care plan and referrals. If your GP knows the coach and their ethics, they might suggest continuing with your coach while you see health professionals (or while you wait for an appointment, as some allied and specialist health professionals have long waiting times).

So, what advice did the podcast guest offer, that I can endorse?

  • A good coach will have appropriate professional indemnity and public liability insurance.

  • They will offer a free session, so you can find out if this is the right course of action and the right coach for you.

  • They will have good ethics - in terms of privacy, limitations of expertise, a procedure if anything goes awry.

  • They can provide a contract for services (contract law accepts invoices and receipts, as well as more formal contracts that stipulate a period covered for a particular service and consideration).

Get a feel for who you are dealing with, and if they have what you're looking for. If you seek someone with all the answers, then you should not engage a life coach. But, if you want someone who provides you with the time and space to think about your options, who respects your autonomy and hopes that you'll exercise it, and who ticks the boxes above, then a coach could be a great option for you.

You're very welcome to book a free strategy session with me, as much as you are welcome to research who I am and what my credentials are. You can check my ABN, my qualifications and anything else you think is relevant. Then, when you're ready, let's start working together!

Let's take it from there ...


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