The term ‘life coach’ was invented in Hollywood. No kidding, it was part of a ‘fad’ and quickly became a buzzword that had everyone talking. Stars and celebrities had coaches for workouts, career, acting and now, a personal choice ‘guru’ to give them advice. Even before the fad got started, it was on the wrong track.
At the same time, leading figures in the mental health industry were developing courses not for the sick, but for the healthy, the over achiever who wanted more and was willing to put the energy behind their goals, ‘no matter what’. Sales seminars, already popular and intending to get increased production from ‘producers’, were embracing the idea that a ‘coach’, oftentimes a sports coach who could extend the metaphor to other fields, increased in popularity and somewhere along the line, the ‘life coach’ term jumped from ‘flash fad’ in Hollywood to viable career choice for those with the background and real life experience to carry the task off.
But along with the good always comes the ‘bad’ and over the past 10 years the field has expanded to a billion dollar industry. Get rich quick ads have promised people life coaching training to ‘turn your life around’ and have ironically targeted their ads to people who are themselves ‘stuck’, people who are looking for a new opportunity to make ‘big bucks now’. People get to call themselves a life coach if they just place an ad in the paper or on-line.
The value of coaching when done well is documented. Lots of credible, professional and dedicated coaches are helping people get their goals, overcome bad habits, create new positive habits and let go of limiting beliefs. It is a field that relies on trust, but not on naivete, so as with all fields; let the buyer beware.
Here are 5 signs that you have a ‘Bad Coach’:
1. Coaching is not psychology, psychiatry or therapy. Coaching is about behaviors and beliefs, not about finding the root or the source of an issue. If your coach is spending time talking about the past, about what happened to you as a small child or suggesting hypnosis, regression or any other ‘therapy like’ activities they are not a life coach, they are a danger to your mental health!
2. A non specific, ‘touchy feely’ generic approach is OK for some things, but not for coaching. A good coach will create very specific, time bound goals and keep track of them with you. If there are no discussions about goals, time lines and specific actions to achieve those goals, then what are you paying for?
3. The conversation must be about YOU. A coach who tells stories of their past successes, interrupts you, spends too much time ‘chatting’ is more like a paid friend. A coach is only successful when you are successful and should be listening more than talking. you’ll know you have a bad coach if you walk away from a session with the impression that you weren’t ‘heard’. Make sure you leave each session with an actionable concept that came out of you sharing what is most urgent for you.
4. Behaviors are everything in a coach. A coach who is late, even a minute late, who cancels meetings often, shows up unprepared, sloppy or distracted, is not ‘walking the walk’. Coaching doesn’t work if it’s theory from a book or other’s concepts regurgitated as ‘advice’. A coach has to be actively engaged in learning and growing in their own lives and a model of the coaching they offer.
5. The biggest ‘bad coach’ sign is when the coach’s agenda replaces yours. A coach who is applying ‘cookie cutter’ lessons, following a model they learned in ‘coaching school’ and who says ‘trust me’ while overriding what you need to talk to, what you want to talk about, is acting out their own agenda. Like a good football coach a life coach needs to know that YOU are the player on the field and that you hitting YOUR goals is what the game is about.
There is a lot of value to be had by using a life coach, an executive coach or an entrepreneurial coach, and the excesses and misbehavior of a few endangers the good effect of the many so, even if you have a bad coach, don’t give up. Most coaches will agree to a free screening interview before you agree to engage them and you can ask for references and interview them like you would do for anyone you were hiring to work for you.
The issue here is that while a life coach does work for you, they need to be able to have ‘tough love’ access to you, the ability to tell you things you may not want to hear without worrying that you won’t show up for the next appointment. I engage clients for a 3 month minimum period and we set up measurable and clear goals in the first meeting. At the end of each session I ask them ‘What are you walking away with?’ A ‘good’ coach should do the same.
Most of all, the true test of hiring a coach, good or bad, is you asking yourself: “Am I up to something so big that it would require a life coach to achieve”?