Anyone can be a life coach, so how do you find a good one?

When Carla Mangles’ travel agency went bust last year, she used skills she’d learned from her life coach to pull her through.

“When Covid hit, I owned a travel agency specialising in South Pacific weddings.

“I was so thankful that I’d done the mental work prior because I honestly don’t know where my head would’ve been,” she recalls.

The 35-year-old mum of three had worked for World Travellers King Country for 15 years and owned it for the past seven.

She “called things early” and dissolved her business in August, laying off three staff members.

“That’s when the Covid-19 wage subsidy ended. With no income for who knows how long, I closed my office.”

It was “gutting” but she pulled through thanks to skills learned a year before from her life coach Cassandra Hogan, of Fontein Coaching.

“I’d had a few stressful years; then the mum gig, it’s a 24/7 thing.

“You get to a point where you’re like ‘who the heck am I anymore?’

“There was something missing and I needed help to figure out what that was.

“I didn’t have any major problems where I needed to see a counsellor, it was that I just felt a bit lost and I wanted a plan.”

The biggest thing she got out of seeing Hogan was overcoming limiting beliefs.

A life coach’s job is to help a client through a life change or obstacle in their personal or professional life.

They hold you accountable for your goals and dreams and check in regularly to make sure you’re on track.

The process was so rewarding for Mangles she became a life coach herself last November, setting up CJM Life Coaching, after completing a diploma in life coaching at the New Zealand Institute of Business Studies (NZIBS).

Her experience as a business owner helped others in tough Covid times.

Next month, she’ll host an inaugural Reinvent Yourself Wellness Weekend at Karioitahi Beach.

“I think there’s a stigma that you’ve got to have major problems to go to a life coach, but that’s not what it is at all. It’s personal development.

“If you want to improve areas of your life, you go to a life coach. It’s like a sports coach. If you want to become a good rugby player, you need a coach.”

Who's really coaching you?

But caution lies in finding one who is reputable.

In New Zealand, life coaching is unregulated and unlicensed. Anyone can set themselves up as a life coach and charge up to $150 an hour, or thousands for block courses, for helping Kiwis achieve their goals.

At the same time, the coaching industry is booming during Covid.

A 2020 report released by the International Coaching Federation shows there are approximately 71,000 life coaches based in 161 countries worldwide.

This is a big increase on the 53,300 coaches that were in the industry in 2018 and a 33 per cent increase on the 2015 estimate.

So how do you go about finding a life coach worth your time and money?

Former medical corporate Cassandra Hogan, 34, works as a business and life coach in Pāpāmoa and has an NZIBS diploma in life coaching.

She wants to see the industry regulated.

“I think it’s really important to go with someone who has done some decent study and/or is accredited with a professional body,” giving the example of the ICF or Australia and New Zealand Coaching Alliance.

“Google (the coach) and take your time to read through what they’re offering, and their testimonials. Have that free consultation that most provide.

“There are so many out there and you need to find the one that will fit right for you,” she says, explaining a lot specialise in different areas.

She coaches mums around identity, self-confidence, work-life balance, and moving forward after a toxic relationship: “That has been a big one, especially after Covid.”

She says the job is different from that of a psychologist or counsellor and it’s important clients realise that.

“The stuff psychologists are dealing with can be very, very heavy, whereas life coaching is a lot more of a lighter, empowering ‘get this stuff done’. It’s very different but it can be seen as the same – you have these people calling themselves life coaches with no regulation, and there is some stuff that comes up that is scary about the types of people that may be trying to help.

“Coaches can only really guide you, we can’t advise you.

“We want you to come to your own conclusion, so we ask careful questions that allow you to get to the answer yourself.

“The people I work with just want to live their best life. They just need a little bit of help. It’s such an empowering thing to do.”

She offers ongoing support to her clients (some she’s had for two years) in between sessions so that they can text and email her whenever they like.

“It keeps them on their game, and that’s what they want.”

In comparison to countries like the United States, life coaching is relatively new here.

“It’s still that ‘she’ll be right’ attitude,” says Hogan.

“Give it another five years, I think life coaching will become a lot more mainstream.”

A new way of living

The trend is igniting because people are ready and willing to live their lives differently now, says life coach Deborah Workman, who owns Illuminating Lives in Tauranga.

“They get to a crossroad moment in their life where they can go down a road they always go down and get the same results they always get, or they can make a different turn and get different results.

“People don’t want to get to 95 and look back on their life with regrets or blame on how they could have lived their lives differently.”

Workman, 41, is a certified neuro-linguistic programming trainer and coach, which means she uses techniques to improve thinking, communication and behaviour.

It can be “scary” to invest the money in yourself, but when you do you show up and have “skin in the game”.

Clients are more committed to their own personal development and assigned exercises when they value it, she says.

“This is where they discover new insights about themselves by illuminating any blocks which are typically unresolved negative emotions and limiting beliefs about themselves that do not serve their highest health and greatest good.”

Annie Canning, of Canning Life Coaching in Rotorua, says since Covid-19there’s been a “massive shift” in Kiwis embracing self-development.

“So many things came out of Covid that had people reaching out saying: ‘Hey, I need support with this’.”

Canning, 50, held senior leadership roles in HR and compliance before becoming a business and “lifestyle” coach in 2018.

Her niche is coaching businessmen and women who are experiencing issues with balance, or they’re at a crossroads in their career and it’s “groundhog day”.

While it’s mostly women who engage the services of a life coach (“women are biologically and psychologically wired for change”), men are coming around, she says.

One of her clients, Kiri Tahana, 48, managing partner of Kahui Legal, says working with Canning gave her insights into herself and how she might be able to better identify and achieve her life ambitions.

“Success to me is being open to continuous growth and development so getting help to achieve that is a no-brainer.”

Canning also works alongside senior management teams.

“If you train up your managers to develop their emotional intelligence and coaching skills, you are going to have a much happier workforce. Particularly in business, people are promoted into management roles because they’re good at what they do but they’re not given any tools to then step up and be leaders. It’s quite subtle, but the impact is massive.”

Canning is an accredited member of the Australia and New Zealand Coaching Alliance, which sees her undertake professional development every year, and she pays to work with an American life coach online, once a fortnight.

“That supports me to keep myself and my business on track.

“If you are not continuing to evolve and grow yourself and take yourself to the next level, how are you going to sit there with any credibility and say ‘you need to make some shifts here’? There’s this perception that life coaches have their s**t together and you kind of go: ‘No, I’m absolutely perfect in my mess, and I get support with that’.”

Like Hogan, she wants the profession regulated.

“I have heard some horror stories and some cowboys that charge thousands and the clients just don’t get the results.

“However, I also believe it’s about you getting in front of a life coach and you interview them.It’s a two-way street, and if you’re spending your money it is the responsibility of the coach to be adding value.

“People have so many opportunities to access information and support in various forms but what I will say about life coaching, whether it’s through group coaching or premium one-on-one coaching, you have someone who is your own personal cheerleader and accountability buddy.

“You’ve got 90 per cent more chance of achieving your goals if you have a life coach on board because a good life coach is going to hold you to it.”

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