By Luis S. R. Vas
Life coaching is a relatively new profession that supports personal and professional growth uniquely. friend, philosopher and guide, a life coach lights the way, turning you into a star
Life coaching is all about turning a CEO into a star,’ says Robin Sharma, life coach, motivational speaker and author of The Monk who Sold His Ferrari. And apparently the definition is not restricted to just CEOs.
Sushma Sharma, a behavioural scientist who is also a certified life coach, says, ‘A life coach must be able to facilitate the growth of individuals on a one-to-one basis, tap their potential, unblock their energy and work on all aspects of their lives, not just the professional. Life coach-client interactions usually occur about once a week over a period of six to nine months. Initially starting with a face-to-face encounter, later they are held over the phone, by email or SMS as convenient,’ she discloses. Her clients, while mostly corporate leaders, also include individuals outside the corporate world. Their interactions entail various aspects like self-discovery, designing the future together, logistics of interaction, providing the client with tools and following the client’s – not the coach’s – agenda. Unlike counselling, which reaches out to clients who are stuck or unable to cope with life, coaching focuses on hiking performance. The fees charged range from Rs 10,000 to Rs 30,000 per month.
Vikram Bhatt, another life coach, emphasises that he works on expanding a person’s boundaries, including his or her value system and thus helps the person perform better, overall.
‘To become a star at work and to start seizing some of the matchless opportunities that are out there, in what I believe to be the most exciting time in the history of humanity, you first need to make the decision to raise the standards that you will work and live by,’ writes Robin Sharma and, as a life coach, he helps you do precisely that.
According to The Coaching Academy, UK, coaching is the world’s second-fastest growing business skill. Coaching is now a profession, and one that is seeing rapid growth, primarily because for many people it is a uniquely satisfying career. All coaches have something in common – they are people who want to help others be the very best that they can be.
Life coaching is about getting the very best out of someone and enabling them to make decisions that will improve their life. Coaches are hired for very many different and diverse reasons, for example: to climb the career ladder, to feel more fulfilled at work, to improve relationships with family and partners, to learn parenting skills that benefit both the child and parent, to gain a spiritual meaning to life or just a desire to ‘get sorted’.
The profession is growing and coaching is becoming widely acknowledged, because people realise just how effective it is. Coaching is a relatively new and different profession – different from psychology, counselling or therapy. The big difference between these professions and coaching is that coaching doesn’t claim to have the answers. A coach’s job is not to go over old ground, be past-oriented or to force-feed information, but rather to work with clients with a view to helping them find the answers themselves.
Thus it follows that listening skills and resisting the urge to give advice are key attributes and methods of successful coaching, central to truly helping people find their own direction and solutions.
Listening is, in fact, the most important ability and behaviour of a coach. It requires patience, tolerance and practice, especially in order to develop real empathic listening techniques. Communicating fully and expertly is another quality that most good coaches possess. Many draw on the techniques and principles of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) to assimilate and master these important communicating capabilities.
Understanding the client’s needs is also pivotal to the coach-client relationship, and a prerequisite for avoiding difficulties in the relationship and coaching support process. It is essential that coaches coach and not give advice. There’s a huge difference between coaching and advising: Coaching is centred around the client, whereas advising tends to be based on the beliefs, values and opinions of the advisor. In this respect, a coach is most certainly not an advisor. The fundamental principle behind coaching and the coach’s role is to help the other person find their own solutions, rather than have them simply follow an advisor’s recommendations or suggestions.
A coach’s ability to build rapport with people is vital. Normally, such an ability stems from a desire to help people, a quality coaches tend to possess. In fact, rapport building is far easier in coaching compared to other services, because the coach’s only focus is the client. When a coach supports a person in this way it quite naturally accellerates the rapport building process.
Coaches motivate and inspire people. The ability to do this lies within us all and is again born out of a desire to help and support. People who feel ready to help others are naturally able to motivate and inspire. When someone receives attention and personal investment from a coach towards their well-being and development, such as happens in the coaching relationship, this in itself is very motivational and inspirational.
Coaching patterns vary; people’s needs are different, circumstances and timings are unpredictable and so it follows that coaching relationships do not follow a single set formula. Remembering that everyone is essentially different with differing needs is an essential part of being a coach. Ultimately, everyone is human – and coaches take human emotions and feelings into account.
Coaching is client-led – which means that these emotions have to be tapped into from the very beginning of the coaching process. So, having the flexibility to react to people’s differences, along with the curiosity and interest to understand fundamental issues in people’s lives, are also crucial in coaching.
The coach’s curiosity enables the client’s journey to be full and far-reaching; both coach and client are often surprised at how expectations are exceeded, and how much people grow.
All this does take some courage – coaches generally have a strong belief in themselves, a strong determination to do the best they can for their clients, and a belief or faith, that inherently, people are capable of reaching goals themselves.
A qualified coach who has been working in personal development for years explains typical challenges that coaches can face: ‘Failure is only measured by time. If you look at the bigger picture, it’s the ‘failures’ in our life that can actually turn out to be our greatest successes. What we learn from failure is invaluable. To give an example, when a football team loses an important match, they may regard themselves as failures; it’s a natural thought process to go through. However, if they take it one match at a time, and look at where they went wrong in the game, and indeed, how they can improve for the next one, it means that these mistakes won’t be made again – and they’ll be successful in the future games they play. It can be a challenge to remove the ‘failure’ thought from clients. And showing them that it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve success in the future.’
Coaching is increasingly sub-dividing into specialist and new applications.
There is already a considerable coaching presence and influence in the following areas:
o spiritual coaching
o parent coaching
o corporate coaching
o financial coaching
o business coaching
In the future, coaching is likely to incorporate and attract skills, resources and new coaches from many different areas, such as teaching, human resources, training, healthcare and nursing, the armed forces, the police, counselling and therapy, etc.
Life coaching is a seven- to eight-year-old concept and practised worldwide, according to Sushma Sharma, and is even younger in India. Although it is showing every sign of growth in the country, it hasn’t yet turned into a fad, Vikram Bhatt stresses. Nor has there been any conscious attempt to Indianise it, though local conditions necessarily have to be taken into consideration in coaching.
Aymen Fares, a life coach from Melbourne, Australia, maintains that what you need for a successful life is the following:
1. Master your mind and thoughts. Don’t let them control you.
2. Discover and learn to use your personal compass, feelings and emotions.
3. The awesome power of focus and concentration. Eliminate distractions.
4. Be organised and utilise your most valuable resource, time!
5. Your health is the most valuable thing you own.
6. Become action- and result-oriented
7. Question limiting beliefs and uncover the truth!
8. Learn the real secret behind goals: affirmations.
9. Face fear and destroy it!
10. Communication. Ask for what you want, say what you feel and convey what you mean.
11. Ego is a dirty word, clean yours.
12. Be yourself, there is only one YOU.
13. Most importantly put it all together and put it into practice.
Can a life coach deliver such a life to you? No harm in finding out.
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o Listening is more important than talking
o What motivates people must be understood
o Everyone is capable of achieving more
o A person’s past is no indication of his future
o People’s beliefs about what is possible for themselves are their only limits
o A coach must always provide full support
o Coaches don’t provide the answers
o Coaching does not include criticising people
o All coaching is completely confidential
o Some people’s needs cannot be met by coaching, and coaches recognise clients with these needs