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Coaching is the new corporate therapy

Coaching, coaches, results, business, personal, psychologists, programming

About three years ago I had arrived at the inevitable crossroads in my life and sought a life coach to help me decide whether to take that all-important left or right turn. Enter Garth (not his real name) who facilitated a three-hour ‘power’ session (R1000) complete with a money back guarantee. After some superficial probing to determine what I wanted and an annoying number of examples of other peoples’ success, I arrived at some dubious conclusion. I would become the proud owner of a B&B. Oddly enough, three hours and four phone calls on a once-a-week basis later, the universe did conspire to bring me what I wanted, okay it came pretty damn close. Except for the fact that the bond on the property was declined and I was fired, I was a few breaths away from signing the deal, rendering any thoughts of a refund unjustifiable. Looking back I can’t imagine why I thought I wanted to enter the hospitality industry.

More recently I agreed to be a guinea pig for a life coaching launch aimed at the corporate sector as a value-added service to a recruitment company. Ruth (not her real name) clearly rattled by the presence of six seemingly solid individuals, briefly mentioned her ‘training’ background and presented the ‘Wheel of Life’ to illustrate balance, along with some very basic goal setting ideas. Ruth claimed the two-day course material was original, written in conjunction with her friend, a psychologist. It reminded me of a goal setting course I had done in the 80s. That was six weeks long, themed ‘motivation’ and provided a lot more substance and value.

So it seems life coaching is to the 21st century what motivation was to the 80s. Not so, says Wayne Ellis, life coach of ten years and international president of The Motivation Club. ‘Motivational speakers offered a ‘feel good’ temporary outcome, an industry characterised by ‘bums in seats’ while life coaching is a sustainable process complete with tools, where the coach ensures the use of those tools.’

As part of my research I completed a five-minute test online and with a score of 38 out of 50, I was affirmed ‘a suitable life coach’ and have been plied with emails of encouragement and weekly offers to take the next step. So can anyone be a coach?

Aviva Baran, a trained mental health occupational therapist and practicing life coach who trained with the Coach Training Institute (USA) in 2002 in the United Kingdom, completed a five module course which offered ‘experiential training and a focus on our own growth and mastery. We also had clients to coach.’ There were no pre-requisites, and about 30 people from all walks of life, ranging in age from 30 to 60 attended the course. It set her back by about £4000.

Farryl Nafte who has evolved from coach to change agent and has added numerology and a deeper knowledge of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) to his offering, began his training in 2002 with a one-week course costing around R6000. ‘It introduced me to NLP and how the mind and body are connected. Although the content was superb, providing skills and the process of how to coach, I didn’t feel competent. The majority of people who attended were awarded a certificate of attendance. He spent a further R20 000 on international courses, locally available. Ellis spent R100 000 on various courses.

While the range of coaches vary from the heavily invested to the trying it on for size, the focus of life coaching is common within a quadrant of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well being. It’s not a quick fix. Nafte says, ‘A one day course may present ideas of what to change, monitor and measure but offers no real value.’

Coaching is about change. A person must have the willingness and desire to change in order for coaching to work. It is outcomes based and helps to establish where you are now in relation to where you want to be. ‘Coaching can only facilitate – you are responsible and the coach is there to hold you accountable,’ he says.

There are three major areas of coaching: specialist coaching where the need is specific eg, weightloss (measurable); performance or business (measurable); and transformational.

‘The transformational need is usually felt at a time of crisis due to death, loss, health threat, or divorce. Alternately clients arrive at a juncture where “my life is not working” and they do not know the cause or how to change it.’

‘Gatvol’ is how Ellis puts it.

Life coaching works with the mind, focussing on the goal and the reasons why you want it. These can be discovered with a coach who will guide you through a process to identify possible obstacles, negative thoughts and the cause of blockages. ‘The series of questions takes goal setting to a level never gone to before,’ Nafte says. ‘It does play in the realm of psychology but only to help understand the person not to attach a label – that is psychology.’

A coach, Baran says, provides honest feedback and supports a person in moving forward by setting action steps. ‘With my method of coaching there is exploration and reflection but people who are stuck in issues of the past, may need therapy. It’s useful to have a psychology background but coaches who don’t are practical and goal oriented.
The CTI philosophy is that each client is creative, resourceful and whole. It’s a collaborative process, I’m not trying to fix anybody.’

Clive Kaplan, a business executive who has had six sessions (R300 each) with a coach who is also a trained clinical psychologist, rates the experience 8/10. ‘It’s eliminated confusion around my passions and I now have a clearer perception of what I want.’

‘It’s powerful,’ says Tumi Moloto who recently resigned from corporate life. She signed up for three months with a coach who charges R4000 per month (one session per week). ‘My coach is my manager and mentor and is 100 per cent there for me providing feedback to get results.’

Le Sar, who has been coaching since 2002, says performance coaching in the corporate world is often the last intervention before firing someone. By then the individual has a sense that there is a problem and the outcome is not likely to be a success.

Baran says employees often wait for the point of breakdown before seeing a psychologist, then claim from medical aid but are usually unwilling to pay coaches for their own personal growth. ‘Coaching can work proactively to manage stress and create the balance in life that you want. Coaching is not therapy but can be therapeutic especially if a coach has good people skills and self-mastery.’

So what does it take to be an effective coach? Nafte who ‘lost everything in the physical world’ and has ‘done the impossible’ and Ellis who speaks of a callipered childhood and an equally challenging adulthood that saw the issue of a R5 million summons and divorce papers in the same week, concur that a coach must have survived the pain barrier and done the work to lift themselves out of a rock bottom experience. Ellis asserts that 80% of life coaches come from a bad place and needed help themselves.

While coaches undergo deep personal examination to grow and implement coaching principles in their own lives in order to become coaches, psychologists qualify through years of academic study, Ellis says.

‘However, there’s a stigma attached to psychology. In affluent society it’s quite fashionable to say ‘I go for coaching’ as opposed to ‘I go for counselling’. It’s an issue of branding – a psychologist is associated with mental instability while a life coach is associated with success and growth.’ According to Ellis, many psychologists are making the change to life coaching.

‘Le Sar stresses, ‘You must be able to support yourself otherwise it’s the Beverley Hills syndrome where you have a life coach for all areas of your life. My job is to make myself redundant. We all know what we need to be doing and a coach can support the implementation of these things by monitoring continuity. Fathers coach children, bosses coach staff – it’s about enabling.’

But, Ellis points out, ‘Tyger Woods has about four coaches at any given time. The more successful someone is the greater their number of advisers. A coach helps break bad habits.’

All coaches agree that when choosing a coach there must be rapport. Baran advises requesting a sample session and enquiring about their training. Ask about their own self-development and supervision, their membership of professional bodies. Baran tried three coaches before choosing one for herself.

‘The relationship is critical. There must be trust and commitment from both sides,’ Le Sar says. It’s important to have an explorative session first. Maybe the individual needs a business course or a skills upgrade that is more appropriate for what they want to achieve.

The International Coach Federation estimates that there are approximately 16,000 part-time and full-time coaches worldwide, with an average annual income ranging from $35,000 to $100,000 and up.

Here in South Africa, only a handful of coaches is making money – 90 per cent of people who complete coaching courses do not last a year due to lack of skills and confidence, Ellis says. ‘Bad coaches will be weeded out by the public. You must have high expectations, know what you want and why.’

Clinical psychologist and lecturer at Wits, Stacey Liebowitz-Levy says, ‘Life coaches must be aware of their training and its limitations and are less likely to be a danger if they refer clients on to psychologists where appropriate. A profession like psychology is more likely to be consistent and sustainable. Life coaching is a trend in society, the level of training is open to poor ethics and may lead to misdiagnosis. It is the responsibility of society to regulate the coaching industry by asking for referrals, exploring track records and the basis of training of potential coaches in order to make informed decisions.’

Le Sar, aware of coaches practising on the basis of a two-day course agrees. ‘Clients will vote with their feet. They will not tolerate bad service and non-delivery - South Africans are becoming tough clients.’

Until the establishment of Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (Comensa) there has been no regulatory body and this has given the profession a bad name. John Paisley, Chairman of the Comensa Steering Committee knows of a number of cases where people scratch out their current profession on their business cards and replace it with ‘life coach’. ‘There are many people with no training offering the services of a life coach. In one case a coach demanded two per cent of a client’s future income,’ he says. ‘There are rip-off artists out there and only about 600 to 800 well trained coaches in the country.”

‘Le Sar points out, ‘There are no unit standards for coaching. Fees may range from R200 to R3000 a session. One of the banks paid R3000 per hour for a coach to work with the executives and R400 an hour for the middle managers for similar coaching. Coaching costs are determined by what the market will bear.’ Ellis says the rate ranges from R100 to R10 000 per hour.

‘Money drives the commitment and implementation’, Le Sar says, ‘but conducted on a one-on-one basis, fees are unaffordable for a lot of people who need help. We live in an age where we need to find meaning in what we do. Employees have a different perspective from 20 years ago and have gone beyond ‘do your job and get your salary’. Employees are constantly upskilling and seeking job enrichment.

‘Big companies have wellness centres complete with an industrial psychologist, resident coach and mentoring facilitators. Companies that fail to provide these facilities will lose valuable staff members.’

According to Ellis, internal corporate coaching is the next phase, and with about a third of the coaching clients I spoke to wanting to become coaches themselves, who can argue with his conviction that, ‘It is the career of the future - the industry will be double that of IT in the next two decades.’


By Iza Goldwasser
Published: 2007-06-07
Author: Iza Goldwasser

About the author or the publisher
BA English with over 15 years' experience in marketing and communications. I have had exposure to a variety of industries and written on a vast number of topics. I adapt my style to suit the content and have an award for Enterprising Journalism. I love to write about advertising and the media, travel and cutting edge issues especially in pyschology eg. manifestation theories, trends in human behaviour and changes in the workplace.

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