Coaches come from all walks of life. Most have started their careers in very different professions before becoming coaches. Observing this variety of origins, we can conclude that the coaching profession appeals to very different types of people. We can also conclude that from one coach to another, there is a very wide variety of motivations to choose this profession. Having met and trained a number of coaches and would-be coaches, I can attest that I have observed that there is a wide range of reasons why people are attracted to learning the skills, or to say they are coaches. Of course, some reasons can be better than others. To cover a few, consider the following:
Money: Some people perceive that coaching is a trade in which one can earn a good living. Some even think that it is a good way to get rich. Like in most trades and artistic fields, that may be true for the few best professionals in a given country, and for those who have achieved international recognition. If one considers the field of music, for example, for each pianist that earns good money, you can count at least a hundred who have to live off their parents, who struggle for a living, or who have to accept secondary jobs to survive. This is especially true during all their years of training, which may last for two thirds of their career.
Consequently, when the mirage of quick and consequential financial gains is the principal motivation to become a coach, we often see that the candidates are first very impatient, and then will rapidly face disillusion. These candidates try to go too fast, by charging too high a price and too rapidly aiming for top executive coaching contracts. They often abandon their efforts within one to two years.
Getting started as a coach is like in any other profession. The qualitative learning experience takes years and requires strong personal commitment and resilience. If one perseveres and considers that every mistake made on the road to professionalism is in fact part of the road, success may be progressively achieved. And to earn a lot of money, it is advised to become an entrepreneur, and to hire a very good coach.
Dissatisfaction: Numerous candidates come to the coaching profession because they perceive that their current professional situation is unbearable. They want to get out of a dead end career track, or get away from a dissatisfying professional context or company. Fundamentally, however, these candidates are running away from dissatisfaction. They are just hoping to find more comfort elsewhere. This motivation brings them to coaching in the same way that it could take them to any other job. These candidates also often perceive that coaching can be easy. They hear that a coach can have clients without even having to offer them solutions. What a comfortable way of life!
In general, these candidates to coaching do not survive too long in basic training. As soon as they realize that to learn the trade, you have to practice, invest, commit, get organized, market, sell, invoice, get paid, etc., they go back to finding an easy salaried job, in a large company, in the most comfortable position they can find.
Transitions: Some candidates want to operate a major change in their career and transform their personal lives. They may be dissatisfied with what they are doing, but their fundamental motivation rests on a deep aspiration towards an enriching future. When this is the case, candidates have more energy to fuel a profound and lasting personal and professional transition. This process will be all the more significant for their future competencies because coaches very often accompany clients that are going through the same kind of personal and professional transformation.
In some cases, these candidates need to take care not to burn the bridges that link them to their history, background and original profession. Beginning coaches need their historical networks to get started in their new professions. Sales managers who become coaches can coach sales people, sales managers and sales teams. Accountants who become coaches can coach clients on financial issues and projects. Nutritionists who become coaches can use their historical client database to coach these on their health issues, etc. A heritage is never good or bad in itself. It can always be profitably used to transition into a new activity. Burning bridges when changing professions makes it much harder to succeed in the begining years.
Acquire complementary skills: Numerous participants in coach courses and workshops are attending to satisfy their curiosity or thirst for new tools, methods and techniques. These coach trainees usually just wish to add a new slant to their existing jobs, but have no real intention of operating a fundamental change in their professional activity. These candidates perceive coaching as a set of very practical techniques or complementary tools to become more effective in what they already do. They do not perceive coaching as a profession they would really want to practice on a full-time basis. This is often the case for managers, leaders, consultants, trainers, recruiters, entrepreneurs, salespeople, etc.
In itself this motivation can be very useful. Coaching techniques can indeed be effective in a number of professions where the quality of human communication is an important factor of success. These candidates need to be clear about their professional objectives. If they do not want to become coaches, they should not pretend that their profession is coaching. Managers, consultants, salespeople, journalists and trainers are not coaches. They do not make a living from coaching. All these people can also gain in training in other complementary techniques, such as public speaking, but their profession is not public speaking.
Fashionistas: The trouble starts when candidates in the above category insist in calling themselves coaches. Learning a few tools in the coaching profession does not make one proficient in that trade. One may know enough to take an aspirin for a headache and put a band-aid when cut, but that does not make one a doctor. It is important to make the distinction between having some knowledge and some skills in a given field, and being able to make a decent living by officially practicing a profession to the point of making a comfortable living from it. Unfortunately, coaching has had such international success that many people from very different professions are claiming to be coaches when they make a living from a totally different activity. Okay, saying that one is a coach is socially very cool.
Independence: The coaching profession is perceived to allow people to become independent contractors and liberate themselves from the constraining context of a salaried position. A coach can set up a personal company, work within a loose supportive network and develop professional autonomy. Other liberal professions, consultancies and freelancing professions have offered the same possibilities in the past, and still do.
In this domain, there is also room for dangerous illusions. A large number of consultants, trainers and coaches primarily work as sub-contractors for larger consulting companies that take a substantial percent of their potential income for often sloppy go-between services. The emotional dimension of this subordination to a purveyor can be quite costly especially if quality is missing. Some so-called independent contractors actually heavily depend on single supplier who specializes in retaining the profits while externalizing all the work and the risks. This situation is sometimes more difficult in terms of personal stress and real independence than that of being a plain internal employee, for the same job.
To really be truly an independent professional coach one does not only need to become competent in the field of coaching. One must also be a good marketer, salesperson, administrator, accountant, write, get continuous training and supervision to continue to develop, belong to a professional network, etc. In short, becoming an independent coach is becoming a one-person company and developing competencies in numerous domains, often with much more stress and solitude.
To become a successful independent coach, it is useful to learn how to self motivate, be strategic, set personal ambitious goals, have effective action plans, be ready to invest in training for years on end, and never confuse independence with individualism or solitude. Achieving this form of well-rounded professionalism is probably the best way to get intrinsic credibility in order to coach success-oriented high-level executives.
For some coach candidates, another option is to consider becoming an internal coach within a well-chosen large organization. This professional choice can provide financial security, a supportive environment and structure, an available market, an emotionally stable professional context. This stabilty can offer a good coach the possibility to concentrate on really developing a high level of professionalism in their coaching skills.
Vocational calling: Some candidates almost effortlessly come to the coaching profession as if they were following a personal destiny. In their preceding professions, whether manager, lawyer, banker, salesperson, etc. they very naturally accompanied clients and employees in the development of their own resources to achieve their own ambitions. These people are naturally delegating managers, naturally respectful partners and natural listeners. For these naturally inclined coaches, adopting the profession is an obvious way to officially practice what they have always intuitively done, no matter their activity. If these candidates were also independent professionals, they can transition into a coaching practice in a very smooth, natural and progressive way.
Idealist transferance: Some people come to coaching after having a strong transformational experience with an impressive mentor or coach that they truly admire and take for a role model. These idealized role models have accompanied them through important transitions to a very satisfactory personal outcome. The experience has left these candidates with a powerful motivation to in turn help others also truly achieve their personal goals and professional success.
This is often observed in sports environments when a well coached champions gradually mature and then decides pass on what they have received, by becoming excellent coaches for younger generations. In this way also, a well-coached nurse may later choose to train to become a coach to accompany younger hospital staff to fully develop in their professional environment.
Marketing Strategy: Numerous professionals in relational fields such as consultants, trainers, therapists, team-builders, psychologist, counselors, T.A., Process Communication and N.L.P. specialists, public speakers, etc. become coaches to better position themselves on the market and sometimes significantly increase their clientele, or public.
Of course, if these specialists train in the field and really become coaches, this would correspond to any other fundamental professional change. If they just change their label after reading a few books, without shifting their frames of reference and without getting certification from a coaching organization that has nothing to do with these historical methods, then they most probably do not practice coaching. In general, these candidates to the coaching profession superficially acquire a general knowledge of the coaching philosophy. They even can very knowledgeably talk about coaching. But they do not realize that coaching rests on a fundamentally different professional posture than the ones that were required to practice other historical relational professions.
These candidates to the coaching profession add to the blurring of the image of coaching. Indeed, clients do not understand what coaching is when they experience an approach that has been on the market for the last thirty to fifty years under a different name. Their conclusion is often that coaching is just a new gimmick or branding name for old techniques or speeches, but at a higher price.
Play monopoly: In some countries, professional lobbying by older professions (such as psychologists) have pretended that they are the only ones that can rightfully be coaches. Some have even attempted to have laws passed to corner the coaching profession. One such strategy is to require that all coaches must have psychology degrees and be recognized therapists to open a practice. This type of lobbying to corner a profession is generally proposed by incompetent people who have no real practical knowledge of the concerned profession. It would be the equivalent of unemployed university graduates lobbying for a law requiring that all entrepreneurs must first have a university business degree, before they start an enterprise
These monopolistic strategies have no chance of succeeding except in totalitarian states that pay little heed to international laws. Today the coaching profession is globally recognized. It will be very difficult for any country to pass such restrictive laws, generally tailored to benefit those who are perceived as incompetent on a free market.
One good point for coaching today is that it cannot be turned into a procedure, standardized, controlled, packaged and sold in exclusivity contracts. There are no sole distributors and no trained coach needs to pay royalties to any Anglo-Saxon company. to open a practice This healthy open competition is developing quality, doing wonders for the growth of the profession and bringing added value to clients. All a potential coach really needs to do is to train to develop real coaching competencies, and then continue training to become excellent.