Monday, October 19, 2015

Preparing to be a Life Coach

About seven years ago, Mark Tidsworth invited me to become a coach as part of Pinnacle Leadership Associates.  When I replied that I had no experience in life coaching and was not even sure what it was, he noted that I had really been coaching for years and affirmed my gifts for the task.  I agreed to consider the possibility. When I accepted, one commitment I made to Mark was that I would not only start coaching but that I would immediately begin my training as a coach. 

Since then I have coached over 500 individual hours and I have completed over 100 hours of coach training.  I have also taught Disciple Development Coaching and several seminary classes in coaching.  I am currently taking a MOOC (Massive Open Online Class) titled “Conversations that Inspire: Coaching Learning, Leadership and Change” and a telebridge class on group coaching.  I also meet monthly with a mentor coach.  I do all of this because I see myself as a professional in the field of coaching.

Candidly, I know there are people who hang out their shingles and just start coaching without any preparation or support; however, I believe these individuals are not serving others to the best of their abilities.  The call to serve is also a call to prepare.  I encourage anyone who is interested in becoming a coach to do several things.

First, begin coaching.  You learn to coach by coaching.  I began coaching by contacting some friends and asking them to be “guinea pigs.”  There would be no fee involved but I was asking them to invest some time in the effort.  I found several friends who graciously accepted, understood that I was an amateur, and helped me to gain experience.

Second, begin training.  I talked to people who were already coaches and got their suggestions, then selected a foundational course in which to enroll.  Please note that coach training is not cheap but you get what you pay for.  Know your budget but don’t just select the least expensive program.  Make sure that the course will lead to some recognized credential such as Associate Certified Coach (International Coach Federation), Board Certified Coach, or a widely recognized in-house certification.  Correspondence courses with no personal interaction with an instructor will probably not lead to a recognized certification.

Third, set goals for credentialing.  This follows from number three.  Know what the options are and how they prepare you for the type of coaching you want to do.  I have found that clients usually don’t know anything about certification, but you and your coaching colleagues do.  If you expect to be part of the larger coaching community or receive referrals from other coaches, you need to be certified or working toward certification.

Fourth, secure a mentor coach.  A mentor coach is a person who is certified as a coach and understands the type of coaching you are doing.  This person can help you to sharpen your skills as a coach, reflect on ethical issues, encourage your continued training, and serve as a sounding board as you develop your practice.

At this point, you may be saying that this sounds like a lot of work and it is.  When you take on the responsibility of serving people as a coach, you have accepted a significant responsibility in relationship to another person.  This should not be taken lightly.  If you want to do coaching, plan to do it well.

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