My Honest Assessment of the Coaching Industry

Episode 15

Life Coaching is a bit of a controversial industry. There’s a lot of people who think it’s filled with charlatans who sell snake oil. There are also a lot of people who have had life changing transformations after working with a life coach. Today I’m going to share my honest reflections on working with life coaches from the perspective of someone who is both a seller and a consumer within this industry. There are 3 specific concerns I have with this business and I’ll share those with you in this episode. Plus I’ll share my #1 tip to make sure your experience working with a coach is a powerful, transformative experience.


I’m going to jump right in and address the #1 concern I hear people say when they talk about life coaches.

It is this:


1 Anyone who has ever solved a problem calls themselves a “life coach” and tries to sell their services


It’s true, coaching is an unregulated industry. It’s really trendy to be a life coach right now. With a low-barrier of entry, lots of people are hopping on the coaching bandwagon these days.


Does this mean the entire industry is junk? Not at all. Every industry has some people who are phenomenal at what they do and others who are full of hot air. As always, it’s up to us as consumers to do our own research before we spend our dollars to hire a coach.


Not long ago, in episode 11 I cover the 4 questions to ask before investing your money in a program or coach. If you’re thinking about this type of investment, I suggest listening to that episode.


If not all coaches are equal, this leads us to the next logical question. What about certification? Should we only work certified coaches? I hear this a lot. If someone posts inside a Facebook group asking what to look for in a coach, it’s inevitable that the topic of certification comes up.


As a certified coach, here’s my opinion - some of the best coaches I know are not certified and some of the worst I know are certified. This tells me that working with a coach based on their certification alone isn’t the primary factor. Finding the right coach is much more important than finding a certified coach.


Right now, there are some certified coaches who are not happy with me saying this about certification. If you tell a certified coach that their training is not necessary, they’re going to get defensive. I’m here to share my honest opinions, and this is one of them. I’m not apologetic about that.


If certification is not a deciding factor, how should you choose a coach? This is really simple. The right coach is one who has a proven track record of helping their clients get the results that you are looking for. Look for a coach who aligns with your value system, has a process that guides you to your desired outcome, and has experience in helping other people overcome your exact struggle.


Then hop on a call to see if you have a natural connection with them as an individual. Coaching is a personal relationship between people. It doesn’t matter how great they look on paper, there has to be a spark of connection.


If the truth is that certification doesn’t directly correlate to being an impactful coach, you may be wondering why anyone would take the time and spend the money to become certified. I can tell you why many of the coaches I know choose to become certified. It’s the same reason I decided to make the investment. I chose certification because I want to be the best life coach I can possibly be. I want to step into my potential. I saw certification as a way of diversifying my skills and expanding my expertise. It was the right choice for me.


Which brings us to another question, is one certification program better than another? Again, the answer is not necessarily. Coaches choose a program that aligns with their values. It’s a personal choice.


I chose to become certified through The Life Coach School because I like the tools and methods that they teach. This was the right decision for me but I acknowledge that it is not the right program for everyone.


I support and encourage all of us to make decisions from the lens of “what is right for me?” which can be a real challenge to do.


One of my frustrations as a consumer within the life coaching industry is that we have to learn how to side step those who use manipulative marketing tactics. These marketing strategies are designed to disconnect us from our innate wisdom and discernment and instead ping our fears.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scheduled a Consultation Call only to find myself at the receiving end of a high-pressure sales tactic. It only takes one of those experiences to make us reject scheduling a call with anyone ever again.


These days I have a specific process that I use when I find myself in the cross hairs of an overly aggressive coach. I’ll share that with you at the end of this episode when I share some of my best insights.


Moving along, there’s a common misconception about life coaching that I would like to clear up. It is this:


2 Life coaching has become synonymous with the positive thinking movement.


This is one of my personal frustrations. There are so many celebrity life coaches who focus on the “think positive” part of coaching and fail to genuinely teach people how to uncover what’s really going on inside of them and how to transform it from limitation to empowerment.


The idea is that we can use will power to maintain positive thoughts, and if we do that, our life will change. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s not how life coaching works.


This specific type of life coaching has become known as “toxic positivity.” Toxic positivity is a focus on feel-good thoughts while stuffing down or ignoring the difficult and challenging emotions. It provides temporary relief from those hard emotions but doesn’t provide a tangible way to overcome and heal them. It’s simply taking an in-the-moment strategy and applying it in an unhealthy way in an attempt to get long term results.


In all fairness, I will say that for many people, this is what they need to get them started in changing their life for the better. An intentional shift in perspective can be easy to implement and helps build the habit of exploring a new, more inspiring point of view. Positive thoughts have their place, and they’re important, but artificially inflating positive emotions is not a viable strategy to create the life you want.


A good coach will help you learn when to use positive thinking strategically and teach you how to navigate the natural ups and downs that are a part of life. A balanced life includes an emotionally balanced life. We can’t avoid tough moments but we can avoid the unnecessary suffering that comes when we try to push away our negative emotions.


This leads me to another common belief that people have when it comes to life coaching and self-development. It is this:


3 You don’t need a coach because you can find everything you need online to be your own coach


It’s true, we can find guidance to any problem online. In fact, sometimes we don’t even need external guidance. We’ve all coached ourselves in one way or another to overcome some pretty tough circumstances.


In those experiences, something inside of us shifts so that we can have the fortitude and determination to move past it. We experienced the powerful transformation of being a coach for ourselves and also reaped the rewards of that transformation.


Regardless of what struggle we are having in our life, we are one Google search away from hundreds of blogs, videos, podcasts and books that address our specific problem. We are blessed to have a world of knowledge at our fingertips. Many powerful transformations happen from consuming this type of content. It’s a beautiful and amazing process.


But sometimes, we are so caught up in the struggle and strife of our circumstances that we lose our ability to think clearly. Even if we have access to tons of expert advice on how to overcome our problem, the information overload can become overwhelming. We spend a lot of time learning and consuming information but not making any real progress.


This is when it’s time to consider working with someone. A good life coach can help you step out of the emotional spin cycle. They will guide us towards clarity on how to find the right solution to our particular problem. The best coaches teach us how to do this for ourselves. I have no doubt that everyone listening to this could figure out how to do this on their own in time. A coach compresses the timeline so that you get there quicker and easier.


Again, finding the right coach is critical to this process.


I often get asked by people for advice on what to look for in a life coach. I tell them to get on a call with the coach they’re considering and the first question they should ask is, “who is your life coach?” The person they’re talking to should be able to answer quickly and specifically. This may catch them off guard but they should be able to provide an almost instantaneous answer.


Here’s my opinion: a coach who is not willing to invest in their own coaching, seems highly suspect to me. Even the most skilled life coach has areas of their life where they struggle. In fact, I don’t know a single successful life coach who doesn’t work with at least one coach.


For me, as of this recording, I have 4 coaches at the moment. Plus there’s a 5th one that I really want to work with, I’m just waiting for the right opportunity to get in with her. I am very intentional about hiring coaches with specific expertise to help me with specific problems in my personal and business life. I work with them for all of the reasons I mentioned earlier, they help me expedite my desired results.


What can I say, I’m a coach who believes in coaching.


As I wrap up this episode, here is my biggest tip to make sure your experience working with a coach is a powerful, impactful experience.


Find the right person. Take the time to talk with several coaches who have experience helping clients with the specific problem you want to solve. It’s like dating, where you need to explore and keep exploring until you find your person. I know this is a lot of work but it is well worth your time and effort.


The only way to know if you’ve found your coaching soul mate is to hop on a call with them. I mentioned this at the beginning of the episode. Most of us want to avoid a Discovery Call because we expect they’ll try to pitch us at the end. More specifically, it makes us uncomfortable if the person doesn’t know how to take No for an answer.


Those calls always remind me of the Saturday Night Live “What is love?” skits they had in the 90’s. In those skits, Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell were hanging out in a nightclub wearing shiny suits, shaking their head to the music, waiting for a pretty girl to come close. When a woman would get close they would attempt to dance with her by bouncing her back and forth between them, causing her to spill her drink all over herself. She would eventually escape and leave as fast as possible. Discovery calls that turn into aggressive sales pitches leave me feeling like the woman in those skits.


Before I share how I handle those calls, I want to point out that not all Discovery calls turn out that way. I’ve had Consult Calls with many coaches who were lovely and gracious and offered their services in a way that felt like they were offering me a plate of hors d'oeuvres at a dinner party. Would you like this? And then they would give me space to decide if I wanted what they were offering.


When I think about how I want to run my business, I firmly believe that a discovery call should be exactly that, a chance for us to discover if working together is the right choice for both of us. I don’t bring up my packages and offerings on that call. This allows me to be fully present in the discovery process, not thinking about me at all. Working together has to be a heck yes for both of us or it’s a heck no. And yes, I do turn away clients if they’re not the right person for me.


But not every coach has my values and there’s almost no way of knowing what the experience will be like before you sign up for the call. So, it’s a lot easier to not sign up at all.


If you’re not signing up for consult calls with coaches you’re interested in working with because the hard sell is uncomfortable for you, then let me share how I handle those situations.


Here’s what I do, at the onset of the call, I address the elephant in the room.


I directly tell them, “Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. I have a lot of questions for you. Also, full disclosure, I would like you to know that I’m here to learn more about you and what you do but I will not be making any decisions about working with you on this call.”


That’s it. Short and sweet and to the point.


This is an opportunity to see how they respond to my direct statement. Some will be respectful and acknowledge the statement. They may still tell you about their services and ask if you’re interested. Others will forget you ever said it and still try to hard sell you at the end. The really aggressive ones will try to change your mind around this “limiting belief.”


Regardless of how they pitch themselves, I always respond with, “thank you but I am not making any decisions on the call today. I will get back to you on such-and-such date to let you know what I’ve decided.”


Their response will reveal to them how attentive they are to honoring your values.


If this tactic resonates with you, I invite you to adopt it for yourself.



There you have it my friends. My honest assessment of what’s right and wrong about the coaching industry.


I’ll be back next week with more practical insights to help you reach your potential and become the next best version of yourself. Bye for now.


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