When I hear the words ‘Life Coaching’, I imagine a cheesy, thumbs-up and an over-dramatic American accent telling their client how amazing they are (Good Job!) and that they should be positive despite how badly their life might suck at that point in time….

Stereotypes come in many forms, and to be honest that was mine in regard to life coaching some years back; Hollywood has clearly proven its influence over me! That all changed when I started working in business development for a corporate training company, and witnessed first-hand the true value and effectiveness of coaching.

First, it is important to understand what coaching is and what it allows you to achieve. Coaching differs from mentoring, counseling, therapy and consulting in many ways, predominately, because you hold an equal power relation and do not provide one single crumb of advice in helping to achieve your coachee’s objectives. It is also important to take on board that we assume any person embarking on coaching is ‘Naturally Creative, Resourceful and Whole’ (CTI). Many people perceive coaches as what is really a mentor’s responsibility, to advise, or assist you in getting to your goals by telling you ‘you should do this’, ‘ this is how it worked for me’, and ‘this is how I did it when I was your age’.  A coach however, or what might be referred to as ‘pure coaching’ settles around the following definition:

“Coaching is the ability of an individual (coach) to raise the awareness of their coachee (client), so that they, the coachee can make a well-informed, conscious, progressive decision towards the outcomes they wish to achieve”.

So you might now be thinking, if a coach does not advise, how then do they progress their coachee in helping them to reach their objectives? Well, coaching is a pretty comprehensive ability made up of a multitude of Skills, Knowledge and Behaviors (Beckett-McInroy, CoachME). You will come across tools such as NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming), effective communication skills, effective listening, building alliances, building rapport, coaching models (Oscar, Grow), meta-view, semantic coaching, anchoring, effective questioning and much, much more.  These tools enable a coach to deepen their coachee’s learning experience and enable them to organically develop avenues to achieve their objectives.

So that’s coaching in a nutshell. All the while, you may still be asking yourself is it really for me? Who actually uses coaching? How might it benefit me in reaching my goals?

Coaching is widely applicable and it can be applied to pretty much any industry, should that be for organisational executives, youth career development, health and fitness enthusiasts or a stay at home mum.

Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO of Google, said that his best advice to new CEOs was "Have a coach. Once I realized I could trust him [the coach] and that he could help me with perspective, I decided this was a great idea...". CEO’s use Executive Coaches like Elite Athlete’s use sports performance coaches, to break down barriers, enable you to reach new levels of performance, improve cognitive mind-set, and help you to explore aspects of your life that may affect your daily performance. That could be exploring the source of undue stress, ill-managed work-life balance, confidence, fears, anxieties and/or much more.

Moving away from elite athletes and the CEO status, life coaching is hugely effective for those of us who are simply working through our fast paced, ill-balanced lifestyles (I’m making some assumptions here). Fitness is already held in high merit for reducing stress, improving lifestyle and positively impacting one’s mood. Coaching is a supplementary service that helps to enhance the same, and assist you in achieving SMART objectives, pursue actionable development areas and sustaining such attributes in the long-term; life coaching is synergistic with a healthy lifestyle.

On a final note, people are sometimes under the impression that coaching is always an activity for an issue or problem area. Coaching comes in many forms and yes while coaching is usually found to be tackling areas of distress, or areas that require personal or professional improvement, coaching is also found in the form of ‘fulfillment’. Fulfillment coaching requires a coach to help a coachee harness what worked well for them, what got them to this position of fulfillment and how might they sustain these positive qualities moving forward.

Some facts and statistics about coaching:

  • Life and Executive Coaches should be qualified to operate under the same principles as mentioned above – awarding bodies include International Coach Federation (ICF), the Association for Coaching (AC), the Institute for Leadership and Management (ILM) to name a few.
  • Typically coaching operates over 8-10 sessions at a time, lasting 1 hour each, and ideally every 2 weeks to sustain impact.
  • There is estimated about 41,300 active professional coaches worldwide generating nearly $2 billion in annual revenue (ICF,2012).

The International Coach Federation (ICF) commissioned a survey conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers of executives around the world using coaching. They found:

  • 70% had improved work performance
  • 80% improved self confidence
  • 73% improved relationships
  • 72% improved communication skills
  • 67% improved life/work balance

The benefits of a coach are real and quantifiable, particularly when you know why a coach is there and how to most effectively utilize them.

Written by Lloyd Parks, Tribal Fitness Coach, professional Life and Executive Coach, and all-around nice guy.  Follow him on Instagram at "lloydy_p"