I must admit that while I’ve heard of life coaching, I’ve never been sure what it is and how it can help. Is it similar to mentoring? Or counselling? I asked newly-trained life coach, Helen Williams, some questions about training and working with clients.
Helen Williams had been working full time at YouthNet (now The Mix) for over ten years when she decided to train as a life coach. Now she coaches clients alongside a part-time role for the charity.
What Made You Decide to Train as a Life Coach?
I was starting to get itchy feet. I wanted to learn a new skill that wouldn’t be the world away from my existing experience but would give me some new perspectives and energy.
I’d started to learn about ‘life scripts’ and how the stories we create about our reality and ourselves are more likely to be a barrier to reaching our goals than time or material wealth – I found this fascinating. We so often believe that not having enough time, not having enough money or other people’s actions hold us back from doing what we want to do.
I was keen to learn about working with others, to challenge their perception of themselves and their capabilities.
How Does Life Coaching Help Clients?
It helps them to move from a place of contemplation to a place of action. It gives them an opportunity to explore new ways of approaching a goal with the support of someone impartial who will be their cheerleader and their confidante. It also helps clients to develop a strong sense of accountability. This helps them to maintain momentum while moving towards their goal.
What Training Did You Do and How Did You Find It? Did It Change Your Own Perspectives in Any Way?
The first three days involved some intensive self-reflection followed by learning about models and approaches. I really valued the premise of the training – first, you need to be willing to look at yourself and what might be holding you back from your aspirations before taking the plunge to support others.
The next step was coaching practice – learning through the process of doing. This involved seeing a number of clients and writing up detailed case notes with a willingness to self-evaluate and develop as I went.
I would have put ‘listening skills’ high on my list before I started to train as a coach, but since my training, I’ve realised my listening wasn’t actually very good. So much of what we choose to hear is based on what we’ve heard before and it’s rare we listen with a completely open mind. The course has led me to work on this skill much more proactively.
What Was It Like When You Started Working with Your First Client?
Terrifying! My first client was very high-flying and the experience really challenged me to define the role of coach as opposed to mentor. While a mentor can provide very specific or specialist advice and guidance to enable someone to achieve a goal, a coach’s expertise relates much more to being able to motivate someone to act on the opportunities they can see before them but are struggling to commit to.
This first experience was really confidence-building as I was able to pinpoint my role very specifically within the context of my client’s broader experience.
And it looks like she needn’t have worried. Helen has had some great recommendations from her clients…
‘Helen is thoughtful, patient, perceptive and insightful, and I’ve definitely seen significant results while working with her; with Helen’s support I was able to successfully fund and develop my first play, identify and implement several measures to integrate my creative ambitions and other commitments, and generally get to a much more balanced, mindful, healthy and happy place. She’s been an invaluable source of cheerleading, understanding and advice, and I couldn’t recommend her more’
What Are Your Hopes for the Future When It Comes to Coaching?
I’d love to coach many more people from a wide range of backgrounds, particularly the third sector. I’d also really like to coach young people and potentially run events for different groups with different ambitions.
Thanks so much to Helen for chatting with me.