Professional Life Coach or Seat of The Pants Coach; What are You?

Important Distinctions of a Professional Life Coach

One issue the coaching industry wrestles with is that anyone can hang up a shingle and call themselves a  Professional Life Coach. Fair enough, as currently, coaching is not a regulated profession. As a matter of fact, right now the only place that has any requirement is the state of Colorado, which requires all coaches to register and pay a yearly $150 fee.

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However, while coaching is a non-regulated profession, how should we look at non-trained people jumping into the coaching arena? Let’s examine this from a few perspectives.

First, understand, everyone has some natural coaching skills. I don’t know anyone that has not sat down with a friend or family member, had a heart to heart and tried to help them solve some problem. They may have even had a good outcome, giving the person some kind words or even advice that helped them with the issue. Now the question is, based on this experience does this person have a method, a way to produce results, meet the expectations of a client and take money for their services? I would say in most cases, probably not. They merely conversed with their friend or family member, filtered it through their experience or gut reaction (what they would do) with the issue and then basically responded by the seat of their pants.

To compare the value of a Professional Life Coach vs. the seat of the pants coach, we need to keep these distinctions in mind. The professional coach has a method and probably several methods. The Professional Life Coach also follows a ICF  code of conduct and ethics. The professional life coach understands that by taking a client on, and accepting payment, they now have a contractual obligation to be skilled in the life coaching services they are offering.

Please understand I am not negative towards “seat of the pants” coaches, as that is where every coach including myself got our first taste of coaching. These experiences are where we became bitten by the coaching bug, and realized what a pleasure and honor it is to work and help others.

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As the director of an ICF coach training school, I receive emails daily that are similar to the above scenario. They say something like, “I love helping people… others like it when I coach them because I give such good advice… but now, I want to learn how to coach better, by becoming a certified coach”.

What I admire about these emails, is that these inquiries are heartfelt and also come from a humble place of knowing, they can be better at what they do. They have not interpreted helping a friend, brother or sister to mean they are now a skilled Professional Life Coach and ready to charge for their services. They are writing our school, enquiring about training because they don’t just want to help people, but become much better at it, to take some time and learn the craft of coaching professionally.

As a professional life coach and coach educator what I feel sad about, is the people that take a positive experience of helping a friend, family member, or co-worker to mean they are ready to start a business as a professional coach. Unfortunately, when they do so, what often happens is they have poor results offering their services to the public. This positive experience then becomes discouraging, with the negative consequences of deciding either coaching is not for them, or believing no one makes a living at coaching, or even they are just a bad coach. When in fact, the real lesson to be learned is they lack Professional Life Coach skills in methodology and business. While they have a strong passion to coach, they do not understand the process of becoming and being a professional coach.

If you compare a talented musician or singer receiving accolades from their family and friends, you have a pretty close comparison. The distance from entertaining an impromptu audience, to becoming a professional musician is a big leap. To make this jump requires both excellence at their craft as well as the ability to handle many business hurdles.

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Now are their exceptions, of course. Some people, from life and professional experience &/or training can and do become professional life coaches. However, I would say that if you spoke with most any of them, they had other training that mirrored many of the skills required of a professional life coach.

Professional life coaches are “people change artists”. We are paid handsomely by clients with personal &/or professional struggles and stresses that want support to make changes in their life. Coaching as some “seat of the pants” coaches incorrectly believe, is NOT sitting at Starbucks, chewing over a problem and telling the person what they should do. This type of coaching gives coaching a bad reputation. Why? Because, rarely do changes in these kinds of chat sessions stick, create long term results or create a process of support.

We human beings are complex creatures. We create success in many creative ways, and we also create failure, in many creative ways. Rarely is personal change as simple as giving someone a few words of advice? By using professional processes and methods, real transformation can occur. Great frustration, fear, and worse, self-deprecation can happen when an unskilled coach utilizes the wrong process or method.

Professional Life Coaching is a distinct, elaborate process of helping a person become the leader in their life. This process is very different than therapy, consulting, training and even mentoring. It is a process of exploration of both personal and professional values and beliefs that often result in life altering decisions.

Because of this lack of knowledge and experience, the "seat of the pants" life coach can easily harm the profession of life coaching. When someone inadvertently hires a poorly trained life coach with few skills, then has a poor experience, it often results in the person (client) blaming the profession of life coaching (coaching does not work) and not just the ill-trained coach.

This is a shame, why? So many excellent training opportunities exist for people excited and motivated to help others. Professional Life Coach training is offered in many varieties; traditional brick and mortar, full time, part time, online, webinar, short/concentrated and even some university degree courses. Cost range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. In any case, many great opportunities exist for at least basic training in becoming a professional coach.

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For those wanting to investigate various coaching schools, the largest coaching organization in the world, the International Coach Federation often referred to as the ICF, provides an excellent resource.

One of the ICF mandates is to accredit coach training schools. These are schools that want to stand out from the pack; to be known for offering professional life coach training. The process to receive accreditation is rigorous, where a panel of ICF professional coaches review the school’s curriculum, ensuring it meets ICF standards. We at TheCoachTrainingAcademy.com are proud of our ICF accreditation and take the education of coaches very seriously.

For the new coach, exploring ways to improve their skills and become a Professional Life Coach, ICF accreditation is an assurance that you will be attending a top ranked school.

My hope in writing this article is not to appear negative towards “seat of the pants” or non-trained coaches. I wish to give a fresh, new perspective about the Professional Life Coach, the value of training, and give those looking to join in this wonderful profession, a short guide of where to start.

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