Life Coaching – A Wonkie Guide

Life coaching is a term that is bandied about quite loosely these days and it seems that anybody and his three-legged donkey can become one. Wonkie thought it would be useful to provide a clear definition of what life coaching is and to strip away some of the fluff that’s floating about in public.

Definition of Life Coaching

Life coaching is the practice of supporting an individual or team through the process of achieving one or more specific goals. Both the goals and how they might be achieved are necessarily determined by the client. If you are a client and get told what to do, then it is not life coaching.

How does life coaching work?

Life coaching works in a similar way to solution-focused counselling. Coaching sessions typically begin by determining what the goal is for the individual or team. Once the goal is articulated, the life coach, through a process of asking open-ended questions (i.e. questions that cannot be answered by a simple yes or no) supports the client in determining how he or she can best use the resources available to them to achieve that goal.

“So wait – life coaches don’t give advice?”

The life coaching process is a strictly non-advisory one. Very often, the public and even some practitioners gloss over this important distinction. If as a client you want advice about what to do – do not see a coach. A mentor, friend, family member, guru, therapist or many types of counsellors may give you what you want instead.

How to choose a life coach?

There is currently no formal regulation of the life coaching industry. Unfortunately, this has resulted in anybody being able to call themselves a life coach and going out and practising their personal brand of “coaching”. This places the onus on the individual to do their due diligence and seek out a suitably qualified, professional life coach.

Depending on where you’re based, there are coaching professional bodies such as the International Coach Federation (ICF) in North America, the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), and COMENSA in South Africa that provide some level of recognised accreditation for coaches.

Since much of the success in a coaching relationship is dependent on rapport, it is important to meet or at least chat with your prospective coach before signing up for a package. Many coaches give discounted or free preliminary sessions – use this to help establish whether you will enjoy working with them. Extend your due diligence past just academic credentials and be sure to check out testimonials, references and the coach’s profile – at worst, you should feel that he/ she can relate to you and at best, that they will inspire you to achieve your potential.

Who needs a life coach?

Life coaching can be an effective tool to achieve any personal or professional goal. These goals can be quite diverse from dropping bad habits to increasing creativity at work. Some common uses for a personal life coach are:

  • Improve the quality of a relationship
  • Managing stress and anxiety
  • Quitting smoking
  • Adopting a healthier lifestyle
  • Defining what you want your legacy to be
  • Improving your time management
  • Spiritual growth and addressing personal development needs

Some common coaching themes for business coaching and executive coaching are:

  • Sustaining employee motivation
  • Managing your career progress
  • Onboarding for new executives and managers
  • Maintaining a healthy work-life balance
  • Effective team work (group coaching)
  • Improving creativity and innovative thinking
  • Developing personal and professional development plans
  • Employee performance management

Since there is an abundance of potential coaches available for both business and personal coaching, Wonkie recommends that you request a trial session before engaging someone as a coach. Establishing a fit in coaching relationships generally requires a look at more than just somebody’s experience on paper. A great CV is no guarantee that there will be sufficient rapport to make it effective. Coaching is very much a buyers market, so shop around and make sure you’re fully satisfied with what you’re going to get before signing up.

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