Life coaches have become quite the business tool in recent years. Why? A lot of reasons: they help leaders become more effective by unlocking their potential through coaching programs, and even help workers and business people meet their personal goals. But what exactly is a life coach?
In a nutshell, life coaches are individuals that help people in their professional life and personal life by encouraging them and pushing them to reach their full potential.
Life coaches will help people with major life transitions, such as a period following a major career shift, divorce or marriage, a new addition to the family, or even a death in the family. Life coaches will also help people that struggle with low self-esteem find the courage and confidence they need to tackle any roadblocks in their way. For example, if you’re anxious about starting a small business, a life coach could potentially help you make that major career change and become the business owner you want to be.
How do life coaches differ from others in the coaching industry?
It’s easy to confuse life coaches with business coaches, executive coaches, and others in the coaching business. What sets life coaches apart is their focus on the person and what makes that person tick. A certified life coach will help you with your overall life, assisting in your growth as a person. So what about the other types of coaches?
- Executive coaches: These professional coaches focus on executive coaching or the act of helping those in higher up roles. These coaches work primarily with those in large corporations or executive roles, helping them deal with the stress that comes with that responsibility. Often times, these coaches have professional business experience themselves.
- Career coaches: A career coach (or business coach) focuses on general career help. Imagine a career adviser and a cheerleader in one. These specialists use their coaching services to help people with general career struggles. For example, if you’re having trouble finding the right role or moving up in your company, a career coach could be just the person you need.
- Health and wellness coach: These coaches are the fitness and health gurus of the coaching world. A health and wellness coach will work with you to better your overall health. They will help you come up with exercise and diet plans, analyze sources of stress in your life, and help you become a healthier person in general. While not directly linked to business, these coaches can be used in a company to promote overall wellness. Healthy employees are more productive employees.
Each one of the above coaches serves a very different purpose — with some having a little overlap in their focus areas. Surprisingly, each one can be effective in your business depending on the type of employees you have and the problems they’re experiencing.
If you’re interested in pursuing professional coaching for your staff, consider giving a survey to your employees to see what kinds of problem areas they’d like to address, then find the best coach type to fit those needs.
Life coaching as defined by an expert
Do you call a life coach to navigate life’s challenges or help with career issues? Does a life coach help you understand your goals, how to reach them, and prioritize them? Do you need a life coach to boost your self-confidence?
We called Kenji Oshima of San Francisco, AKA Coach Kenji (pictured), to find out the answers. He said, “All of the above!” If after reading our interview, you’d like more information about life coaching, to inquire about a free sample session, or to enlist Kenji’s services, visit Coach Kenji’s website.
QuickBooks: What does life coaching focus on?
Coach Kenji: Life coaching focuses on an individual’s entire life as it relates to goal setting, outcome creation, and change. In coaching, the assumption is that individuals are capable of generating their own solutions while the coach provides a supportive, discovery-based framework. While positive emotions are the natural outcome of great coaching, the primary focus is on creating strategies for changing your work or personal life.
In addition, the true emphasis in coaching is on action, accountability, and follow-through. It supports personal growth, professional growth, and development based on individually-initiated change, since coaching is forward moving and future-focused.
Coaching is for self-actualized people who have known success in their life, and choose to add that extra edge in order to move forward to make the changes they want in life.
QuickBooks: What kinds of clients use you as their life coach and when do they call you?
Coach Kenji: My clients include housewives, managers, administrators, and grad students. The individuals I partner with are ready for a change in their lives. They want to step into a life of choice and action that’s aligned with their goals and values, so they’re “thinking about” how life can be amazing, excellent, and wonderful, and are now ready to make it happen.
QuickBooks: Why should you consult a life coach and why do your dreams matter?
Coach Kenji: I always tell prospects and clients that coaching is a giant sandbox where we get to explore how your dreams become attainable goals. We discover, together, a sense of purpose and direction for you to explore. Sometimes we need clarity, sometimes we need accountability, and sometimes we need both.
During the initial interview, I use a “Discovery Packet” that asks essential questions about who you are and what you want out of life. The poet Mary Oliver said, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” That’s what life coaching is — finding out what makes your toes wiggle and making it happen. If you don’t dare to risk going for your dreams, how will you ever know if you can attain them?
QuickBooks: What’s an example of a client’s dream?
Coach Kenji: If writing short stories is a passion, but you’re stuck in a boring desk job, a talented life coach will glean that out of you and help you move toward fulfilling that goal of doing something you love. It’s important to stress that the client comes to each coaching session with the agenda, and it’s the coach’s job to help them reach their goals.
A coach isn’t a consultant who “provides expert advice,” but an expert who provides the framework, questions, exercises, and accountability for you to make the positive changes you want out of life. But if you don’t know what those are, a great coach will help you discover just that.
QuickBooks: What kinds of questions should you ask yourself to determine if life coaching is right for you?
Coach Kenji: Questions I ask include: Are you ready to focus on yourself and nurture your personal development? Are you prepared to work toward your goals? Do you feel collaboration and accountability will help you become unstuck? Are your commitments to yourself and others out of balance? Are you willing to let go of limiting beliefs and negative self-talk? Would you like to increase self-confidence and resilience?
QuickBooks: What kinds of questions does a coach ask to help people sort out their issues?
Coach Kenji: I typically ask: What are you passionate about? What’s another way of looking at this? What are your next steps? What will this get you? What would make this effortless? What do you avoid?
QuickBooks: What other roles does a life coach fulfill?
Coach Kenji: I like to say that a life coach wears many hats, as a facilitator, advocate, friend, navigator, partner, sometimes consultant, but it’s a dramatically different relationship from other improvement processes. In coaching, you share that power. People expect us to tell them what to do. In reality, we prompt them to tell us what they want to do. It’s the synergy in our relationship that creates opportunity and change.
QuickBooks: What other advice do you have for people interested in life coaching?
Coach Kenji: Here is some advice I would offer: Always take a free “sample session” from the coach you’re considering. It’s a personal relationship, and it should feel both supportive and challenging. Remember that coaching is about forward action and positive change. While we’ll prompt you and “hold you accountable,” you’re the one making the changes — be ready, willing, and able to do that.
Ask a potential coach about his or her training and experience. An accredited training program, certified by the International Coach Federation, will provide the likelihood of a better coaching experience. Also, are the two of you the right fit? How do you feel working with this coach?
Be honest, open, and brave. The more you jump right into coaching, the better your experience and outcome will be. Watch out for “advice giving” — a good coach is trained to help you find your answers, not impose theirs.
QuickBooks: How blunt should a life coach be?
Coach Kenji: A good coach will help hold you accountable and be blunt when necessary, and I follow these four cornerstones from the Coaches Training Institute:
- You are creative, resourceful, and whole. If you don’t have the answer, you’ll figure out where to find it, and your coach will help you in doing so.
- The coaching agenda comes from you. You’re in charge, while the coach helps guide. You’re powerful and capable.
- Coaching addresses your entire life and helps you find balance to live by your beliefs, ethics, morals, hopes, and dreams.
- We synergistically “dance in the moment” together, but a good life coach lets you lead. It’s like Ginger Rogers dancing backwards with Fred Astaire, down the stairs, in heels. He always led the dance, but she made him look good. Not only will a coach make you look good, but you’ll feel great — and the high heels are optional.
Life coaches and your business
Life coaches clearly bring a lot to the table. They can help your employees become happier and more productive, and can ultimately improve the overall wellness of your company. Happy employees are more likely to stay with your company and can be more productive than unhappy employees. Consider this when weighing the cost of a life coach versus the cost of not having one.
Ultimately, it’s your decision. If a life coach or coaching service is out of the question, consider at least educating your employees on the perks these specialists can bring. Many of your employees could be interested in pursuing a life coach on their own after learning about them. Who couldn’t use a little booster every now and then?