THE BLOG

The 7 Keys To Finding A Perfect Life Coach (For You)

06/08/2016 11:37am ET | Updated June 9, 2017
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

So you'd like to hire a life coach...

You are doing ok, yet something is missing in your life and you have a desire for an unspecified change. Perhaps, you are dealing with some challenges in your personal or professional life -- with your relationship, finances, health or career -- feeling off kilter, unsure how to restore the balance as nothing seems to work. Or you feel restless, having outgrown your comfort zone, and seek to step up to the next level of your amazing life experience.

Whatever the driving force and reasons for seeking professional help, you have decided to hire a life coach.

What is life (personal) coaching

While coaching is a professional relationship bound by a coaching agreement or contract, it is also a deeply personal, if not intimate, relationship at the same time. Think of your coach as a blend of your best mate, an authority figure, a teacher and your guardian angel. They know you and understand you better than you understand yourself; you can tell them your darkest secrets without being judged; they will guide you through your heaviest storm to the safety of the shore, and their job is -- in essence -- to build a high level of self-awareness and self-empowerment within yourself.

I think you would have noticed here a strong emphasis on the "self," which is the key secret to the coaching success. It is not a passive process of being "fixed," like taking drugs from a doctor. The liberating, transformational outcome of a coaching program begins and ends with YOU.
Personal coaching will not fix your problem; it will help you become the person you need to be to overcome your problem.

It is an important, often life-saving investment in getting back on track, so I will share with you the seven keys to finding your ideal coach:

Key No. 1 -- Coaching qualifications

There are many life-coaching training programs out there, popping up like mushrooms after the summer rain on the bandwagon of popularity of life coaching as a career, some of which can be completed over one weekend online. A suitably trained coach would have obtained (as a minimum) a nationally accredited qualification at Certificate IV or Diploma level, or an equivalent recognized training of at least 6 - 12 months (in Australia).

Key No. 2 -- NLP certification

This key is as important is it is controversial. Coaching based on Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is exponentially richer and more effective than standard coaching without NLP, although not everyone agrees with this point of view.

A standard coaching approach (without NLP) is what can be described as "surface coaching" which deals with the symptoms the client brings to the coaching session. The results are usually short lasting, as the underlying issue in most cases remains unresolved. Sooner or later, that same issue creates a new symptom for the client who, even more frustrated, comes back with "another problem" to their trusted coach.

By contrast, an NLP-trained coach is focused on what lies underneath the client's problem, and works with them to identify, unpack and resolve the real issue which often has no apparent connection with the symptom the client seeks to address. The outcomes of NLP-based coaching are long lasting (usually permanent), as the changes are programmed in the unconscious mind.

Key No. 3 -- General education and training

While not critical, general post-compulsory (academic and vocational) qualifications of your coach will strengthen their credentials. The higher the level of education (especially when relevant to their chosen niche), the greater the level of the client's comfort and confidence in their coach's skills. For example, a coach specialising in health and wellbeing would ideally have some training in alternative medicine, diet and nutrition, fitness or a related field.

Key No. 4 -- Professional membership and accreditation

At present, life coaching is unregulated in Australia (although this may soon change), which means that there are no professional benchmarks, regulatory bodies or professional standards to give clients the level of confidence and protection they have when they see an accountant or a doctor.

However, there is a number of non-regulatory alternatives such as professional membership and accreditation by global industry bodies such as the International Coach Federation (ICF) that issues three levels of accreditation based on the level of training and coaching experience.

Key No. 5 -- Coaching experience

The hands-on experience of your coach can be gauged by the length of their coaching practice and the total number of coaching hours.

This is a more flexible criterion, generally reflected in the coaching fee: the more experienced the coach, the more they will usually charge. This criterion, however, should be assessed in conjunction with the level of training, as some coaches run full-time practices, while others engage in coaching only on a part-time basis.

As a rule of thumb, your coach will have a good level of experience if he/she has at least 100 - 150 coaching hours under the belt. So how, you ask, do I take this into account in my selection? In the end, it's a balance between your budget and the level of expertise and experience you want in your coach.

Key No. 6 -- Client testimonials

Word of mouth is the best form of advertising. Everyone knows that, including life coaches who collect and display on their websites testimonials from clients. If you can't see testimonials on their website, ask the coach to show them to you.

If they can show you a written endorsement, that's even better. Endorsements are testimonials signed by happy clients with their full name and contact details, which serve effectively as passive referrals. You can contact those clients directly and ask them to elaborate on their endorsement of the coach.

Key No. 7 -- Specialisation and personality

Last but not least, you want a coach who (i) has the appropriate background/specialisation and training required to meet your needs, and (ii) has a matching personality and coaching style to ensure an enjoyable coaching experience (for both of you).

A professional coach will usually offer you a free, no obligation 30 - 45 minute diagnostic session, during which you will discuss your expectations and objectives for the coaching program, find out about the coach's methodology and style, and address any other relevant issues such as your physical and mental health.

This session will also allow both of you to establish good rapport and select the most suitable coaching program for addressing your issues. If all goes well, the session will end with the signing of The Coaching Agreement. A professional coach will always refer you to another practitioner (psychologist, doctor, financial advisor, etc.), or even to another life coach, if they are unable to meet your needs.

Above all, communication is the Master Key, so use it to make a well-informed decision whether or not to hire the coach.

This content originally appeared on Anna's blog