Like a great mentor, a life coach is supposed to be someone you turn to whenever you want to do and be better. But how in the world do they actually help? What do they do, and is it all worth the price tag?

First, let's clarify what a life coach isn't. A life coach is not an adviser. They're not going to tell you authoritatively what you should do or what goals you should have, and they don't act as professional consultants. They can lend a listening ear as a friend would, but they're also not therapists or counselors.

The biggest responsibility of a life coach--the thing they really spend their time on for you--is helping you identify the need for specific change and then bringing that change about. To do this, they give you balanced information and help you figure out objectively what your values are, what you want and what your strengths and weaknesses are. They offer realistic encouragement, structure and synergy along the way and help you determine what actionable steps you can take to move you in the direction you want. They also can hold you accountable and provide ways to assess your progress. Through all of this, you gain a better understanding not only of your history and tendencies, but who you are and can be.

Now, on the one hand, entrepreneurs often are told that they have to rely on their own grit and moxy to really make it. Work hard and be persistent and creative enough, the idea goes, and success will follow. If you embrace this idealogy, it's easy to convince yourself that you shouldn't technically need a life coach if you're made of leadership material. But as you climb higher and higher, you'll quickly find that, even with those traits, you have moments of doubt, confusion and overwhelm. In those moments, your life coach offers the invaluable clarity and direction you need to take even the biggest of ideas from start to finish with significantly less struggle. And when you do what you really feel like you're supposed to do, you don't have regret, and life ultimately is filled with greater joy.

All this said, let's level. Life coaching, at its very core, is all about pushing you out of your comfort zone, to be something you weren't or do what you haven't done. Most people understand that getting out of their box is a good thing, but actually climbing over the top still is hard--there's comfort in familiarity and predictability. So don't be surprised if there's some healthy tension between you and your coach. You're always in the driver's seat at the end of the day, but the life coach's entire job is to make you different! Be open-minded and prepare yourself for real mental and behavioral shifts.

Secondly, don't make the mistake of thinking that others will look down on you for having a life coach. When it boils down to it, people typically appreciate a leader who is able to admit that things could be better, that they don't have all the answers, and who are willing to take a little help. The more humble you are, the more others see you as real and relatable, and the less defensive to you they become as a result.

Ideally, you'd let everyone on your team have a life coach. But if that's just not in the cards or budget, then model. Take the skills you learn and try to pay it forward as best you can. When the student becomes the master and teaches the lessons again, gains become exponential.

Published on: Jan 25, 2019
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