My problem with the term ‘Life Coaching’

‘What’s in a name’, William Shakespeare’s Romeo once famously asked.

Perhaps on a cellular level not much. However, we live in a visual age where the optics have become far more significant than they used to be. From LinkedIn profiles to Facebook Pages and Product launches and logos, design has become big business and marketing has reached heights never previously imaginable. Interestingly both of those concepts are at the heart of Apple Inc, now the most successful company in the history of business.

The concept of coaching is obviously something we are very passionate about at H-Training. It is the extra layer of management that includes the employee in the process of development, establishes boundaries and seeks to support while maintaining accountability. Used properly it is a very compelling and powerful force. However, when you are dealing with individuals their ‘lives’ must be at the forefront of everything. Yet why is it that the term ‘Life Coaching’ evokes the idea of trivial advice pushers with over-wrought smiles telling you how you should live your life. There is a sense of weakness inherent in the phrase. What has life got to do with it. Well everything, but it’s almost too obvious like saying someone is a computer-IT specialist or a Managing Project Manager or even a HR Fairy. You are over stating your case.

And again it harkens back to our old friends the pseudo-coaches selling themselves as omnipotent purveyors of all that you want and need to be really, really happy in ‘life’. In H-Training’s opinion the ‘life’ part dilutes the message and pits coaching in with the sort of shamanic new-age healers of the pseudo-spiritual world who want you to give them your money in return for salvation. Life is difficult and real professionals have to burnish themselves against that and almost come to expect struggle. Yet with enough practice efficacy can be realised, where we fret less about struggles and rest assured in our own ability to overcome them. Too many life coaches are vague gurus, who over promise and under-deliver. The problem with this is that integrity is at the heart of everything H-Training does and calling a problem a problem and empathising with real-life difficulty is a very real necessity in the coaching exchange before we embark on solutions. This is a professional activity that seeks to build people up in to practicing professionals who deliver, as easy as that is for us to write. But it is still possible and made much more achievable through coaching.

It must be acknowledged that we are only talking about a word here, but again, the semantics of it weaken a powerful message and a meaningful practice. What’s wrong with just coaching? Is there a difference between a coach and a life-coach? We would argue not, because every coach must take the life of the coachee into consideration. But saying so is an unnecessary frill and these quirks and nuance matter as much as anything else when we are trying to deliver a strong and deliberate message in a visual age, where optics reign supreme.


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