Figure Out What's Next

Hiring a Life Coach

coaching mark gleason May 26, 2009

by Mark Gleason

photo via pixabay 

Bernie Siegel is a professional certified coach and president of the New York chapter of the International Coach Federation.

What is coaching?

Professional coaching is a collaboration between a qualified coach and an individual or team that supports the achievement of extraordinary results, based on goals set by the individual or team. Through the process of coaching, clients focus on the skills and actions needed to successfully produce their personally relevant results.

The client chooses the focus of conversation, while the professional life coach listens and contributes observations and questions as well as concepts and principles that can assist in generating possibilities and identifying actions. Coaching accelerates a client’s progress by providing greater focus and awareness of possibilities leading to more effective choices. Coaches concentrate on where clients are now and what they are willing to do to get where they want to be in the future.

Clients who engage in a coaching relationship can expect to experience fresh perspectives on personal challenges and opportunities, enhanced thinking and decision making skills, enhanced interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence in carrying out their chosen work and life roles. Consistent with a commitment to enhancing their personal effectiveness, they can also expect to see appreciable results in the areas of productivity, personal satisfaction with life and work, and the achievement of personally relevant goals.

Can anyone be a professional life coach?

A number of schools and organizations around the world provide classes and training to would-be coaches, and then provide certification to qualified graduates. The leader among certifying organizations is the International Coach Federation, with more than 17,000 certified members. Schools around the United States and the world work with ICF and align their curriculum in order to be certified by the ICF. There are three levels of ICF accreditation:

  • Associate Certified Coach
  • Professional Certified Coach
  • Master Certified Coach

Other organizations offer their own certifications. Keep in mind that anyone can call himself a coach; there is no legal requirement for certification. However, the ICF and other institutions in the coaching field strongly encourage clients to seek out a certified coach. Don’t be afraid to ask a coach about his or her training and certification.

How do I know if coaching is right for me?

Start by summarizing what you would expect to accomplish in coaching. When someone has a fairly clear idea of the desired outcome, a coaching partnership can be a useful tool for developing a strategy for achieving that outcome with greater ease. Since coaching is a partnership, also ask yourself if you find it valuable to collaborate, to have another viewpoint and to be asked to consider new perspectives. Also, ask yourself if you are ready to devote the time and the energy to making real changes in your work or life. If the answer to these questions is yes, then coaching may be a beneficial way for you to grow and develop.

Is coaching best done in person, or can it be done over the phone?

The public may be surprised but more than 75 percent of coaching takes place between the coach and client over the telephone. Coaches are trained to listen deeply to what their clients are saying and are able to pick up on areas that may be a challenge for their client. The use of emails may occur when a client wants to let the coach know that what they agreed the client would be held accountable for has in fact taken place, or if a client gets stuck and wants the coach’s help in between sessions.

How should I select a professional life coach?

The most important thing to look for in selecting a coach is someone with whom you feel you can easily relate and create a powerful partnership.

Here are some questions you may want to ask prospective coaches:

  • What is your coaching experience? (number of individuals coached, years of experience, types of situations)
  • What is your coach-specific training? Do you hold an ICF or other credential, or are you enrolled in an accredited training program?
  • What is your coaching specialty or client areas you most often work in?
  • What specialized skills or experience do you bring to your coaching?
  • What is your philosophy about coaching?
  • What is your specific process for coaching? (e.g, how sessions are conducted, frequency, duration)
  • What are some coaching success stories? (examples of individuals who have done well and examples of how you have added value)

How long does a typical relationship with a coach last?

The length of a coaching partnership varies depending on the individual’s needs and preferences. For certain types of focused coaching, three to six months of working with a coach may work. For other types of coaching, people may find it beneficial to work with a coach for a longer period. Factors that may influence the length of an engagement include: a client’s goals, the ways individuals or teams like to work, the frequency of coaching meetings, and the financial resources a client has available to support coaching.

How much does coaching cost?

Coaches generally charge by the hour for coaching. Fees can vary widely, from $50 per hour on the low end up to $500 per hour on the high end. Among the variables affecting a coach’s price are experience, geographic region, area of specialty and types of clients. Some coaches will lower their hourly rate based on a commitment for a certain number of sessions. Some coaches, typically those newer to the profession, may offer a free session upfront. Seasoned coaches typically do not. Like other professionals a coach will likely want to chat with a prospect to determine if they can be of help and also to let the prospect determine if there is the right chemistry. That is known as a consultation. If you’re concerned about a coach’s fee, you may want to ask for client references so you can hear whether others found the investment in coaching worthwhile.

What are the keys to having a successful coaching experience?

To be successful, coaching asks certain things of the client, all of which begin with intention:

  • Focus—on one’s self, the tough questions, the hard truths, and one’s success 
  • Observation—the behaviors and communications of others
  • Listening—to one’s intuition, assumptions, judgments, and to the way one sounds when one speaks
  • Self discipline—to challenge existing attitudes, beliefs and behaviors and to develop new ones that serve one’s goals in a superior way
  • Style—leveraging personal strengths and overcoming limitations in order to develop a winning style
  • Decisive actions—however uncomfortable, and in spite of personal insecurities, in order to reach for the extraordinary
  • Compassion—for one’s self as he or she experiments with new behaviors and experiences setbacks, and for others as they do the same
  • Humor—committing to not take one’s self too seriously, using humor to lighten and brighten any situation
  • Personal control—maintaining composure in the face of disappointment and unmet expectations, and avoiding emotionally driven reactions
  • Courage—to reach for more than before, to shift from being fear-based to being in abundance as a core strategy for success, to engage in continual self examination, to overcome internal and external obstacles

How is coaching different from therapy, consulting or mentoring?

Professional coaching is a distinct service that focuses on goal setting, outcome creation and personal change management. It also enables the client to solve problems themselves.

A consultant has formal qualifications or direct experience in a specific field and advises and solves problems for a company.

A mentor has been in a similar situation that you are in, can share what action they took and how it worked out and will discuss with you options that might be more beneficial given his or her experience.


The Inside-Out Career Design Podcast

Join Us as We Search for Answers to the Age-Old Questions of 
"What Should I Do With My Life?" and "What's Next for Me?"

Check Out Our Episodes